Posted: Tuesday December 26, 2006 12:09PM; Updated: Tuesday December 26, 2006 3:25PM
Yao Ming (right) played an outstanding all-around game against Tim Duncan and the Spurs one night before sustaining a serious knee injury.
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images
Watching Houston's Yao Ming crumple in a heap on Saturday night was bad enough, but it was especially painful in light of his sublime play the night before. Yao, who will be out six weeks with a broken bone under his right knee, played about as complete a game as he'd ever delivered against the Spurs on Friday night: 22 points, two blocks and seven rebounds in just 26 minutes. And his long arms forced Tim Duncan into missing nine of 13 shots in the Houston win.
Meanwhile, the Rockets will not only field the most offensively challenged roster in the NBA, but they'll also have coach Jeff Van Gundy to steer them through the tough times. Van Gundy could turn the 1984-85 Nuggets into an 85-point per game outfit, so it remains to be seen what he'll do with Dikembe Mutombo, Chuck Hayes, Shane Battier, Luther Head and Rafer Alston. Tracy McGrady is set to return and could go off at any time, but so could his lower back. Should McGrady take to the shelf again, there's a possibility of a 52-point evening for Houston.
Having a hard time trying to figure out just how the Cleveland Cavaliers are "underachieving." The team's hot start masked its offensive limitations, and when LeBron James' internationally drained legs start to go out on him, who is he supposed to rely on? Zydrunas Ilgauskas is starting to fade; he could use more shot attempts, but that's not the answer. Larry Hughes, who turns 28 next month, is who he is (inconsistent, and not a great shooter), and guys like Eric Snow and Daniel Gibson don't belong in a 55-win team's rotation. The Cavs are 15-11, on pace for 47 wins, and that sounds about right.
Boston rookie Rajon Rondo, as expected, is off to a poor start, averaging 3.6 points and 2.2 assists in 15.5 minutes. We'd heard about him dominating one-on-one workouts leading up to the 2006 draft, but those sorts of competitions often hide a player's weakness from the perimeter. In five-on-five matchups, teams can slack off the poor shooter, which stinks for Rondo, because he can't shoot. However, the kid's defense, as promised, is phenomenal. Boston is a much better defensive team with him on the floor.
Midway through the second quarter of Charlotte's "clash" with New York last Wednesday, a fan chosen from the crowd nailed a three-pointer during a timeout that netted him $10,000. The fan, clad in a Stephon Marbury jersey, then tried to pump up the crowd before dashing over to the Knicks' bench, flicking his jersey at the hometown cagers and exhorting them to do better (New York ended the half down 11 to the Bobcats). The exhibition was pretty silly, but quite poignant and telling. Coupled with the standing ovation the MSG crowd gave to Michael Jordan a little later, it's clearer than ever that New York fans know what good basketball is all about, and they deserve much, much better.
By the way, the Knicks won. In double overtime. Against the Bobcats. Bully for the bullies.
Clothes make the man: Gilbert Arenas hardly ever misses in the Wizards' alternate duds.
Mitchell Layton/NBAE via Getty Images
We're not sure what to think of Washington's new alternate uniforms; we've had an uneasy feeling about alternates (of the non-throwback variety) since the Chicago Bulls debuted their black-and-pinstripe road get-ups during the 1995-96 season. Though the idea of the old-timey two-color scheme seems appealing on paper, Washington probably shouldn't have chosen black and gold.
Gilbert Arenas, on the other hand, seems to be fully in favor of Washington's cash grab, er, stylistic departure. In the five games the team has played in the alternates (road contests against Philadelphia, Phoenix, Houston and the Lakers and a home game against Cleveland), Arenas has averaged an astounding 46.4 points on 61 percent shooting. Washington has won four of the five games.