Houston, We Have a Problem
Gee, that phrase doesn’t get old. However, in this case it certainly rings true. Houston does, in fact, have a problem. Nobody in the league is hotter than Houston right now. They are in the midst of a twelve game winning streak. They’ve moved to 2.5 games back from San Antonio in the Southwest Division. They are currently the 7th seed. Ordinarily, they wouldn’t have a problem making the playoffs. Their .643 winning percentage is easily good enough to make the playoffs. In fact, if they were in the East they would have the second best record behind the Celtics. However, they do not reside in the Eastern Conference. They have Golden State (.600) and Denver (.589) breathing down their neck. They have 26 games remaining. Now is not the time to lose your big man.
Yao is leading the Rockets in scoring (22.0), rebounding (10.8), and blocks (2.0). Those are hard numbers to replace. What Houston will need to do is either turn to small ball, relying on Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, Shane Battier, and Tracy McGrady to do the rebounding or they are going to have to clear the dust off of Dikembe Mutumbo and ask him to go to war with them again. Either way, I don’t see Tracy McGrady sniffing the second round of the playoffs for another year.
This is the third consecutive year that Yao has played fewer than 60 games. It’s a shame because those are the seasons that he really began to establish himself as the one of the game’s best big men. It’s clear what Houston needs to do in the long term. They need a suitable backup to Yao. Even if Mutumbo chooses not to retire yet again, they’ll just have to assume that at some point Yao will have to shut it down. It’s a shame when someone continually gets hurt. Bill Walton and Bernard King come to mind. How good could they have been? Then there are physical freaks like Gerald Green who have all of the skills, but can’t translate them to the actual game. How frustrating it must be to Yao to be forced from the game while so many are merely letting their talent go to waste.
What does it mean to fantasy owners? You’re probably screwed. Sorry, but replacing the numbers Yao puts up is too tall of an order. Perhaps if you were dominating in points, steals, threes, assists, and free-throw percentage you’ll be OK. If your team is geared for rebounding, blocking, and field goal percentage, you’ve got a tall order to fill. Check the waiver wire or try to put together a last minute deal. Trade away your players that are dominating the categories you’re weak in, and try to focus on your strengths. Most of all….good luck.