When Big Men Go Down Who Tells Them To Get Back Up?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

With Yao going down - and the Houston Rockets looking at the remainder of the season where the trade deadline has past and there's been significant moves in the Western Conference (Jason Kidd, Pau Gasol, Shaq) - things could just be getting started.

ESPN's Henry Abbot asks the question in a new article of who makes the decision if Yao plays in the Olympics:

The relationship between the NBA, the Houston Rockets, and the Chinese government figures prominently in any and all matters Yao Ming. Even picking him first in the draft was not simple. Now, with Yao Ming slated to be the superstar showpiece of perhaps the most important sporting event in China's recent history -- the 2008 Beijing Olympics -- there must be a hundred new ways these international relationships can be tested. With something this bad having happened, there will be blame to spread around, and future questions to work out. Will Yao Ming be ready to play in the Olympics? Whose decision will that be? Are the Rockets prepared to let the Chinese team make that call? And what about next season -- now that China's national basketball treasure has injured himself repeatedly Houston's watch (he has also had a broken tibia) might there be concerns about his returning to the NBA at all?
Yao's injury could heal with surgery in three months, technically giving him another 3 months to work out and prepare for the games - but NBA teams would rather have a franchise player of his caliber sit out from any formal play until next season.

While the Chinese national team is preparing for an Olympics without Yao, when asked about not playing, he said this from a recent article:

If I cannot play in the Olympics for my country this time, it will be the biggest loss in my career to right now
Yao didn't say anything about an NBA championship for Houston, or the dearth of playoff successes for the team. What happens if he and the Chinese government are adamant on him playing no matter what the cost to his NBA career? Will Rocket fans still support him?

I don't think there's anything in the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement that quite covers this situation.