Due to injuries, Yao Ming has played in an average of just 59 regular season games over the past four seasons. This, obviously, isn’t ideal for his employer, the Houston Rockets. So, they’re going to do something (somewhat drastic) about it.
Next season, no matter what, the Rockets say Yao will not be allowed to play a nanosecond more than his allotted 24 minutes per night.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the only possible exception when it comes to the big fella’s playing time, would be during the Playoffs:
Yao’s playing time will not average 24 minutes; it will end there. If he plays 22 minutes in one game, he will not play 26 the next. For that matter, if he plays two minutes one game, he will not play 26 the next. When Yao reaches his 24 minutes, he will be through for that game. When Yao plays one night, he will skip much of the practice the next day, with the Rockets so determined to limit the demands on Yao that Jones and associate athletic trainer Jason Biles have already outlined Yao’s workout schedule from the start of camp Sept. 25 through the last game of the regular season.
“Twenty-four is his number all year,” Jones said. “Playoffs come, things could change. We’re trying to get him through April. We’re trying to give him the best chance to play the whole season by limiting stress. Even practices, if we play on Monday and play again on Wednesday, can he practice on Tuesday? No. He’ll practice, but he won’t scrimmage.”
Yao also is likely to be held out of the second half of back-to-backs, though that might not be the policy for the entire season … Jones is certain, however, that Yao’s expected lobbying efforts will not change the plan. “Yao is his own worst enemy,” Jones said. “He feels good and wants to go. We will be fighting him every day. I know we will. He’s going to feel good. He??s going to want to do more. He’s going to question us. He’s going to question the doctor. That’s Yao. He’s a competitor. We’re just trying to reduce the stress.”
This will certainly be a fascinating experiment to observe in Houston throughout the season, with the team trying so desperately to limit how much its best player can contribute night in and night out (while simultaneously fighting for a high Playoff seed).
The Rockets say they may also try to reduce other veterans’ minutes — Shane Battier and Luis Scola, for instance — during the regular season.