Fall of the (Yao) Ming Dynasty

by June 29, 2009

by Ryne Nelson

Exactly how avid are Houston’s fans? Take a quick look at their forums when big news hits. Hot topics finish with more pages than the collected works of John Updike. It’s impossible to read all the reactions, but for something like this, you know from the start…

After re-aggravating a hairline fracture on the top of his left foot in Game 3 against the Lakers, Yao has rested the injury. But a bone scan last week revealed the bad news — the foot was not healing after two months of immobilization.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports sees that bad news and dishes out worse:

For now, the Rockets have privately told league peers it could be a full season before Yao might be able to return to basketball. Multiple league executives, officials close to Yao and two doctors with knowledge of the diagnoses are describing a troubling, re-fracture of his navicular bone. Three pins were inserted a year ago, but the foot cracked in the playoffs and isn’t healing.

“It sounds like he’s missing most of next season, if not the entire 82 games,” one league executive who has had recent discussions with the Houston front office told Yahoo! Sports. “That’s all that [the Rockets] will concede quietly, but they know it’s probably much worse.”

The fact of the matter is Yao’s been treated like a commodity for most of his athletic career. Every summer, China plays Yao in various tournaments including the Olympics and the Asia Games.

In fact, it’s amazing Yao’s 7-6, 320-pound frame has held up this long, and his body has not succumbed to the usual drawbacks we’ve seen time and time again in abnormally tall players. But the signs have become all too clear. Yao’s early exit after Game 3 of the Western Conference semis marked his third consecutive season ending with a fractured bone.

The Rockets say a new course of action will be recommended after he sees three more specialists this week. But odds are these doctors will give the same prescription: inaction… for a very long time.