Yao Ming is set to take the court in front of his home fans for
the first time since the 2009 playoffs. The Houston Rockets are
more motivated by trying to avoid their worst start in 11
Yao is expected to return for the winless Rockets in Saturday
night’s home opener against the Denver Nuggets.
Houston is seeking to avoid its first 0-3 start since losing its
first five games in 1999-2000. This will be the first appearance at
home since Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against the
Lakers for Yao, who missed all of last season after undergoing foot
surgery and is being limited to 24 minutes per game in 2010-11.
Yao fouled out after playing just less than 24 minutes in
Tuesday’s season-opening 112-110 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles.
He finished with nine points and 11 rebounds. The Rockets chose to
rest him as a precaution the following night, when they lost
132-128 at Golden State.
The winless start has created an early sense of urgency for the
Rockets, the only team in the Southwest Division yet to post a
“We need to follow the scouting report a little bit better,”
guard Aaron Brooks told the Rockets’ official website. “Some of the
stuff we did was just uncharacteristic as far as letting shooters
get into a groove and get open shots. We just have to get
The Rockets started 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes in Yao’s place. He
performed admirably, with 16 points, eight rebounds and six
assists, but Houston still made a move to bolster its frontcourt
Friday by signing 15-year veteran center Erick Dampier.
The 6-foot-11 Dampier played the last six years with Dallas. It
is unclear if he will be available Saturday.
Houston was disappointed with its defensive effort Wednesday, as
Warriors guard Monta Ellis scored 46 points. The Rockets know
they’ll have to be better against Denver’s array of scorers led by
“You have to understand your defensive spacing,” forward Shane
Battier said. “For guys like Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and
Chauncey Billups, you have to know how far you’re able to help off
your man but still recover if they make the swing pass to your man.
And you have to do it all within the framework of the team
Battier had trouble last season against Anthony, who averaged
41.5 points in two meetings. The Nuggets (1-1) won two of three
overall matchups with the Rockets. Anthony missed one of the wins
due to a sprained left ankle.
Denver has lost its last five games at the Toyota Center with
Anthony in the lineup. The Nuggets have won two of three at Houston
in that stretch when the superstar has not played.
With trade rumors continuing to swirl around Anthony, Denver
opened this two-game trip with a 101-95 loss at New Orleans on
Friday. Anthony had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, who
led by five early in the fourth quarter before faltering.
“We made too many mistakes late in the game – too many turnovers
in the fourth quarter,” coach George Karl said.
The Nuggets will try to slow down Rockets forward Luis Scola,
who is averaging 27.0 points and 16.0 rebounds.