Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey probably has one thing to say to Yao Ming right now: Shut up.
The Houston Chronicle reported earlier this week that the Rockets were going to acquire forward Ron Artest from the Sacramento Kings, bringing a much-needed scoring threat and a strong defensive presence to help Yao and Tracy McGrady.
Yao should have a simple response to a trade for a proven veteran who would give the Rockets one of the NBA’s best trios and a shot at an NBA title: “Good move. I can’t wait to play with him.” Leave the speculating about Artest’s past to the media.
But when Yao got word of the trade in Nanjing, where he is getting warmed up for the Olympics with the Chinese national team, he didn’t sound too excited. Artest has been involved in some controversial situations, most famously a brawl four years ago at the Palace of Auburn Hills in a game against the Detroit Pistons, which resulted in Artest getting the longest ever NBA suspension for an in-game fight.
Apparently the fighting has Yao concerned. Here are his widely reported comments from Wednesday:
There’s worry. Obviously, yes. We will think about it, of course. Hopefully, he’s not fighting anymore and going after a guy in the stands. I haven’t talked to Ron yet, so it’s hard to say. I have to find a way to talk to him and see what we can do as a basketball team. He has a history. But we know he is a physical player. He is a good player. He really can help us. And Ron is on a contract year, too. I think Ron Artest is a good player if coach (Rick) Adelman can control the team well.
The Rockets are Yao’s team, but on this one he probably should have followed the lead of teammate Luis Scola, who is also in Nanjing playing with Argentina’s national team and had a more positive reaction. “I don’t know anybody that knows him personally. So I’m not gonna judge him for anything that I don’t know,” Scola said. “It’s always a help. Great players are always welcome.”
It should be noted that the guys Yao is playing with right now — the Chinese national team — have also been known to throw some blows when things get heated on the court. The team was involved in a fray in a game against Lebanon at the 2001 Asian Championships in which Li Nan, who is still playing with the national team, reportedly brandished a pair of scissors. Yao was on the bench at the time and not involved in the fight. More recently, and documented with video evidence, China had a good dust-up with Puerto Rico in the 2005 Stankovic Cup (56.com video).
Artest and Yao finally spoke yesterday, Artest said on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption. “It was great,” Artest said of the conversation, adding, “I can’t wait to be a part of that team. I don’t care if I have to come off the bench. I could be a sixth man, a seventh man. All I want to do is contribute and win a lot of games.” Listen to the interview here.
For more China sports news, check out China Sports Today.