Updated: Nov. 13, 2006, 4:10 PM ET

Winning is Yao Ming's thing

Rousing Shaquille O'Neal in November is a dangerous thing.

But my old teammate Tracy McGrady did it anyway.

"I don't care who you try to match up against him, I don't care who you say is the most dominant," McGrady said after Friday's win over the Knicks. "No. 11 on my team, hands down, is the best center in the league."

I didn't think this was a great idea by Tracy. But Yao Ming still got the better of this matchup, dropping in 34 points with 14 rebounds as the Houston Rockets pulled away from the Miami Heat, 94-72.

I know Yao and Shaq respect each other, and they've had some good matchups over the years. Early on, it was seemed like Shaq's calendar was set for June, putting in his first four hoops. His spree slowed down, and he finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

We saw Yao running the floor well, shooting with a soft touch and playing unselfishly. We saw him shaking off an inadvertent Shaq elbow to the head without missing a beat. We saw him showing off his well-rounded game.

Advantage, Yao.

Maybe T-Mac was right, because Yao is playing better than any center in the league. To say he is better is harder to say. But Yao has been sensational as the Rockets have been off to a 5-2 start. For this team to have that mark and not be at its best offensively, they've got to feel pretty good.

I've always believed Yao was going to be one of best to play the game because of what he can do at 7-5. I think some tabbed him unfairly because he's not a Shaq, a player who will just mow you down inside. He's a finesse big man, a very unselfish player. His skills were on full display Sunday night.

The other half of the Rocket superstar tandem is not playing his best. McGrady says he's feeling pretty good, and it seems awfully early in the year to be mentally tired. I'm not sure what's going on.

But even when he's not shooting the ball well (6-for-18) Sunday night, T-Mac's playmaking ability (seven assists) is always good. I thought he took over this game without shooting, setting up Luther Head for open shots, and Yao too.

When he returns, Bonzi Wells can be that third guy that could pick up when one of the superstars is struggling. Shane Battier can be that guy, and some nights it's going to be Luther Head. There's a lot of pieces there.

Miami's not playing with a lot of passion right now. It looks like complacency set it. I think they believe they can just switch that light on, and you can get in trouble that way. They better turn it around quickly.

You saw how Pat Riley went to Jason Kapono. He was looking for someone who was hungry.

Putting it on cruise control is a dangerous thing. Shaq can do that because he's Shaq.

I would be bit concerned because this team made no moves in the offseason, and it's a team with older players who just got one year older. Even Dwyane Wade played all summer long.

I still look for them to make a deal. They are the champs, after all.

As for the Rockets, they've got the pieces filling in nicely. Let's see how this develops.

ESPN analyst Jon Barry, on the call for Wednesday's Grizzlies-Kings game (9 ET, ESPN), played 14 NBA seasons for eight different teams before retiring this season.

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The Long March
Yao Ming
Victor Baldizon/ /NBAE via Getty Images
Yao Ming, limited to 57 games last year by injury, takes his red-hot game against Tim Duncan and the Spurs on Tuesday and Ben Wallace's Bulls on Thursday.


Observation Deck: Carolina Shines
Emeka Okafor

EX-CONN MAN: Quick-name the player who is in the top 5 of the NBA in both blocks and rebounds. Three ... two ... one ... Bzzzzz. Time's up. Not Yao. Not Dwight. Nor any player on that powerful Jazz frontline. Try my "below the rim guy," Emeka Okafor. He is the lone bright spot in Charlotte, and looks like an All-Star. First in blocks, fifth in boards. -- David Thorpe

THINK PAD: Bobby Knight once said that in basketball, "mental is to physical as 4 is to 1." Watching Adam Morrison both in college and now suggests that the mental game is even more important to him. His confidence is non-existent, and he is shooting shots because he thinks he should rather than for the only reason a player should ever shoot -- because you expect to make it. . -- Thorpe

ROCKY START: One casualty of Denver's poor start is its new offense. That is to say, it is wounded and perhaps dead. They are back to what they did last year; a whole lot of 'Melo and lots of running. . -- Thorpe

GUARD THIS: Chris Bosh is a right-hand attack dribble away from being totally unguardable. He's close now without one. -- Thorpe

BACKING VINCE: You see a guy that is known to be "soft." I see a guy who is so talented, and productive, that he is impossible to evaluate fairly. Who am I speaking of? My fellow Floridian, Vince Carter. And while he partners great with Jason Kidd, it's Lawrence Frank who Carter should thank as much as anyone for his resurgence. He gets the most from his players, and from a mega-talent like Vince there is a lot to give. -- Thorpe

SPHERE OF INFLUENCE: The jury is still out on the new ball, but the anecdotal evidence is in -- the ball looks like it plays very softly on the rim and backboard. And Sunday, that cost the Wizards a game, as Vince Carter's desperation 3 at the buzzer hit the back of the rim and flopped over into the basket to send the Nets-Wiz game into OT. -- Royce Webb

EX-CONN MAN, PART 2: At 20, Rudy Gay is ahead of the curve defensively -- Sunday he stayed in front of Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom, stuffed a Kobe jumper, and grabbed two steals. He's long and active. But on offense he's still a little lost, as his scoreless night showed. When he figures things out on that end, he'll fill up the box score on a regular basis, a la Shawn Marion. -- Webb

BEANIE, BABY! Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he has ordered a set of David Stern University T-shirts, and he seemed to like my suggestion that he wear a beanie for an upcoming game, seeing as he's a freshman at DSU. Keep an eye out for it down the road. -- Chris Sheridan



Redd's 57 Variety
Michael Red

Michael Redd scored 57 points in Milwaukee's 113-111 loss to Utah. It was the most points scored by a player in a game his team lost since Michael Jordan scored 64 points for the Bulls in an overtime loss to Orlando in Jan. 1993. The last player to score that many points in a non-overtime loss was also Jordan (April 1987, 61 points vs. Atlanta). The NBA record for most points by a player in a regulation loss is 73 by Denver's David Thompson on April 9, 1978 (139-137 loss at Detroit).

Redd did not record an assist in Saturday's game. Only two players in the last 40 years scored 57 or more points in a game in which they did not have an assist: Golden State's Purvis Short in Nov. 1984 (59 points, 0 assists) and Kobe Bryant in Dec. 2005 (62 points, 0 assists).

Elias Says




Loving The Microfiber

Nets guard Vince Carter sent the game into OT with a 3-pointer that bounced like a waterlogged Nerf. New Jersey went on 105-93 win over the Washington Wizards.

Carter embraces this ball's bounce.



Missing Action
Delonte West
Kent Smith/Getty Images
It's hard to dribble around Nuggets guard Earl Boykins, but shooting over him is usually easier. Not for Bobcats rookie Adam Morrison, who made but one shot in a 108-101 loss to the Nuggets.



Extreme Behavior
Jason Kidd

Sunday's Best
Nets guard Jason Kidd: Yao and Vince were impressive, but let's give Kidd his due on the night of his 77th triple double (18 assists, 15 points and 11 rebounds). He's now third behind Wilt on the list (no, not that list).

Adam Morrison

Sunday's Worst
Bobcats forward Adam Morrison: Heavy is the head that wears the Larry successor crown. Missed 7 of 8 shots in 22 minutes of action as the Bobcats remained with the Celtics and Grizzlies as the only NBA teams with one win.

Quote of the Day
"If it would've hit like that? Heck no. No way."
-- Vince Carter, who figures his buzzer-beater against the Wiz would not have gone in with the old ball.

See how all 138 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres



Aldridge Excels In Portland Debut

LaMarcus Aldridge looked so good in his NBA debut for Portland, coach Nate McMillan left him in for the entire fourth quarter of a 103-96 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. McMillan was most impressed with how well Aldridge executed the backcourt trap without ever having practiced it, while Aldridge himself said he was happiest with his defense but not his offense.

He'll get a lot more minutes on the upcoming road trip as the Blazers will be without Brandon Roy (heel injury), Joel Przybilla (groin injury), Raef LaFrentz (calf injury) and Darius Miles (upcoming knee surgery).

-- Chris Sheridan in Portland



The Underachievers
Steve Nash

Chris Webber, 76ers: I don't mean to take anything away from Chris Bosh, who made an incredible shot to give the Raptors a win over Philly on Wednesday … But let's face it, every other power forward in the league would have blocked that shot. Bosh shoots from way out in front of his face and basically dribbled right up to Webber and uncorked it, because he knew that Webber couldn't get off the floor.

That's not going to change as the year goes on. Webber is dragging the leg around even more noticeably than a year ago, and his numbers back it up. While the rest of the Sixers have overachieved, he's muddling along at 10.0 points per game and 34.3-percent shooting. The Sixers could replace him if they had a bench, but instead they're forced to look on in horror.

See the full John Hollinger story Insider



Harmless Walking Violation
LeBron James

The hangover from LeBron James walking away from the Cavs loss to the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday night with seconds remaining was petering away. Yo, the CHOSEN didn't even leave the floor, heretics. He just quit in that NBA-the-game's-over style.

Dumb, yeah.

Criminal, not.

So what did Donyell Marshall and the other Cavs think of LeBron's transgression?

See the full Rick Telander blog Insider

 

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