Rockets Over China

by Ben Sin

Kyle Lowry said he felt like a member of the Beatles. Chuck Hayes made the same comparison but swapped the Fab Four with Jackson 5.

No, the Houston Rockets haven’t let their 95-85 exhibition win over the New Jersey Nets in Guangzhou, China, get to their heads. They were referring to the day before their game, when the entire Rockets team and staff, along with Clyde Drexler, Darryl Dawkins, and Micheal Ray Richardson, showed up at the Guangzhou Sports University for a basketball clinic with children in need. The team bus was hounded by screaming fans two blocks before they arrived at the location, and although their 7-5 center got top billing, it was obvious everyone on the team got the rock star treatment.

From being greeted by screaming fans to doing basketball drills with children from the Guangzhou School for the Deaf, this trip was an eye opening experience for the team, said Rockets coach Rick Adelman at a press conference later.

Inside the gym, star-struck and giddy children shot hoops with Yao Ming, worked on their defensive stance with Clyde The Glide, and, if they were able to, probably would have mouthed off with the Chocolate Thunder as well.

Including their first stop in Shanghai, the Rockets and the Nets were in China for nearly two weeks, and many got a better understanding of why the League focuses intensive marketing efforts on China.

“I never thought I’d ever be in China as a kid,” said Terrence Williams. “But man, am I glad I came here, I went to the Great Wall and everyone was saying hello to me, they all watch the game here.”

As for the exhibition, considering Yao only played 19 minutes and was often the last man jogging back up court, perhaps it’d be a stretch to say he is back. But the center—whose foot problems have knocked him out of action for more than a year—hasn’t lost his soft shooting touch (5-8 FG, including a couple of smooth skyhooks) and, with over 16,000 fans chanting his name during the game, is still going to be the face of the team.

Despite going 0-2 to the Rockets in China, Nets coach Avery Johnson said postgame that he was satisfied with his team’s performance. “We need to work on our offense a bit, but I thought we played hard and stayed competitive,” he said.

Brook Lopez dropped an easy 20 and 9 and much heralded rookie Derrick Favors (0-1 FG, 0 points, 1 rebound in 8 minutes of play) looked very raw.

But, as much as players and coaches hate to admit this, the truth is that exhibitions are almost meaningless and hardly a barometer for judging a team. The only thing we can take from this set of exhibition games is this: basketball is the most popular sport in China.


Ben Sin is a California-raised, Hong Kong-based journalist currently writing for Time Out Hong Kong. His true passion, some say obsession, is basketball. Visit his blog at