Suddenly, Yao Ming is running the show. Since his rookie year, the perennial All Star has kept his team grounded. Jeff Van Gundy's system - the only NBA offense Yao's ever known - gave the center a predictable and unchanging role: stay on the block and look for the ball.
But new coach Rick Adelman's system has derailed Yao's rigid role. Adelman's is a free-wheeling offensive scheme, full of pick-and-rolls and open space. And none of the offensive cogs work without the center. Almost every offensive play is now initiated through Yao, who usually finds himself floating around the top of the key, setting screens and receiving the ball 19 feet away from the hoop, far outside his comfort zone. Going into the preseason last month Yao was ready to embrace Adelman's free-flowing system. But as Yao revealed in a recent interview with Titan Sports, by the end of the month he had some misgivings about his role in the new offense. The old offense, Yao said, "was like a tramcar, running on a fixed track. Now that fixed track has been removed", forcing the Rockets to play a much more cerebral game, relying on picks and passing and movement without the ball.
Not that Yao isn't up for the challenge. Once he settles into his role as the conductor of Houston's new offensive train he will find it's a system that takes full advantage of his unique skills. An exceptional passer capable of knocking down perimeter shots, Yao will find his groove sooner rather than later. Growing pains are inevitable and Yao is probably being too hard on himself so early in the season.
After four games, Yao's stats have indeed taken a bit of a hit. He's more than five points-per-game off of last year's 25-point average, which does suggest he's in a bit of an adjustment period. But in the new system, Yao doesn't necessarily need to score for the Rockets to win - they can win with his passing too. The Rockets came up short yesterday as a late Mavericks' rally led to Houston's first loss of the season. But Yao's versatility was on full display, as he hit nine of 12 shots from different spots on the floor. It's this versatility that will make him so effective in Adelman's offense.
When Adelman coached Vlade Divac and the Sacramento Kings earlier this decade, Divac's savvy passing skills helped turn them into one of the NBA's highest-scoring teams. Yao's skill set is similar to Divac's, and with sharpshooters like Tracy McGrady and Mike James to pass to on the wings, the Rockets should score more this season than they ever did under Van Gundy. That's a train they can ride deep into the playoffs.
Source: China Daily