Staff Writer: Ryan Ward
There is always a lot of pressure on a player when he or she represents an entire country coming into one of the professional leagues in the United States, but even though most international imports do not fair too well in the US, some shine and become superstars.
The three players in the NBA today that have been most successful and are the biggest represents for their home country are Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers) of Spain, Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks) of Germany and Yao Ming (Houston Rockets) of China.
All four of these superstars have had great success in the states and are perennial All-Stars in the NBA. Gasol has helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to one of the best, if not the best, NBA franchise in the league. Nowitzki has completely turned around the one time worst franchise in the NBA in the Dallas Mavericks from perennial loser to possible title contender and finally Yao Ming has become one of the best centers in this league and continues to improve with every passing season when he can stay healthy.
Even though Yao Ming has arguably been one of the best centers in the NBA when he is healthy and on the floor for the Houston Rockets, the 7’6” center is rarely healthy and seems to always be watching from the sidelines as a much younger Houston Rockets team moves on without him.
Last season the Houston Rockets were able to get past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in a very long time and the first time in the Yao Ming-Tracy McGrady era. Even though this is a very promising attribute an end to last season, despite the loss to the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, Yao Ming went down with a broken foot in game six of the Rockets series with the Lakers and hasn’t played a single game this season much like his superstar counterpart Tracy McGrady over the years.
Before the NBA trade deadline went down this season on February 18th, Houston Rockets made a deal with former face of the franchise Tracy McGrady that they would trade him before the deadline if they could find a taker and a team willing to take on his $23 million contract which expires at season’s end.
It took a while, lot longer than expected, but the Houston Rockets finally found a team willing to take on such a huge contract and the New York Knicks and Tracy McGrady finally got his chance to get back on the floor again in a starting role on their head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Now the Tracy McGrady’s out of the picture there has been somewhat of a youth movement in Houston with players like Aaron Brooks and new comers Trevor Ariza and Kevin Martin taken over the team and giving the franchise hope for the future.
With all these changes going down in Houston it seems like Yao Ming might not be the team’s long-term plans and for good reason as they cannot depend on him being healthy on a regular basis just like Tracy McGrady.
With that being said, Yao Ming does have the option of becoming a free agent after the season and with many teams looking to upgrade this summer with all the big name free agents on the market Yao might have his best opportunity to land with another title contending team.