Saturday, November 16, 2002

Yao feeling pressure

By Bob Baum
The Associated Press

PHOENIX - Yao Ming admits he's feeling intense pressure to succeed for his homeland of China, and knows he hasn't played well in his first few NBA games.

"There is a lot of pressure on me," the 7-foot-6 inch rookie said before his Houston Rockets played the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. "This is the most pressure I've ever faced in my life, but it's something I have to deal with."

Yao, the NBA's No. 1 draft pick, has averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in his first six outings.

He said that the professional game is far different than the international one, where he was far more successful against the U.S. team at the world championships.

"Before I was on the Chinese national team, and I was used to their strategy," Yao said through his interpreter. "The NBA is a different game, and I have to get used to it.

"I don't think I have been able to show the best of my abilities yet. I'm not quite used to the speed of the game, especially on offense."

Because of the international entanglements involving China, Yao was not able to join the Rockets until just before the regular season started.

"I've missed out on a lot of opportunities," he said. "I've missed out preseason games, preseason practices, so it's been tough. I don't think there are any other first-year players that have had to do that."

The Rockets will be in Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Sunday night, but Yao will not get his first matchup against Shaquille O'Neal, who is injured. The rough inside play of lesser NBA giants already has made an impression on Yao.

"I know if he plays, it will be more difficult for us against the Lakers, but I would also be able to gain more experience. I think everybody who is playing against me is being very physical."

Yao said he had nothing to offer his critics, many of whom already have labeled him an NBA bust.

"There's nothing I can really say," he said. "Basketball is not something that you can talk about, it's an action through which you can show people. I just think I need to show them on the court."

In a somewhat cryptic answer to a question about his NBA highs and lows so far, Yao indicated that his highly scrutinized pro debut has not been an enjoyable experience.

"The happiest moments are when I get to go home in the evening and the hardest are when I leave the house," he said.

But he showed his sense of humor on several questions, usually at the expense of interpreter Colin Pine.

"I try to eat a lot of Chinese food," he said. "Up until yesterday, I've been able to eat my mother's cooking almost every day. Obviously when I'm on the road, I can't eat my mother's cooking, because my interpreter can't cook."

Asked if he can speak English better than he lets on, Yao told Pine, "I still don't understand a lot of things. If I did you would have been fired a while ago."

And as for Charles Barkley's assertion that he would kiss Yao's posterior if he scored 19 points in a game, the Chinese center said he would pass on such an opportunity.

"When I heard him say that, I knew that the most I could score that night would be 18 points," Yao said.

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No. 4 Texas 77, No. 16 Georgia 71
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Beechwood 28, Holy Cross 6
Highlands 52, Scott 0
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LexCath 29, CovCath 27
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Roncalli 17, East Central 10 (OT)
Mason Co. 49, Lloyd 21
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