I actually woke up at 8am yesterday to watch Yao take on the United States... aka "the Redeem Team" (which just may be the dumbest moniker ever). Not that I expected China to compete with the U.S. team - I just wanted to see how Yao looked in his first real, true game action since February.
How'd he look? Pretty good for a guy playing at 60%!!
Yao even buried a 3
to start the game! (link is terrible video quality... sorry 'bout that). For some unexplainable, crazy-ass reason, Yao played 30 minutes yesterday. Or, put another way, 75% of the game. Why the hell would China use Yao so extensively in a game they could not reasonably expect to win? If China is that interested and serious about making it to the Medal Round, over-using Yao in Game #1 probably isn't the best idea. You are going to need the big fella for your other handful of games... why potentially ruin a good thing on the first day?
In the end, China got fatigued (such a surprise!), the United States went on a couple of big runs and put the game away in the third quarter
Yao finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds -- and look at that, he made 6-6 from the FT line! Eat that, Dwight Howard! Not a bad start for a guy playing on a bum foot still. Of course, Yao falling down and clutching his ankle in the third quarter made me cringe and start cries of "get up, Yao! Get up!" - yeah, I was a bit scared. He looks to be okay though...
Other thoughts? The U.S. team is not going to win the gold. They still do not play like a team unless they have a 30 point lead and want to try alley-oops. Simple half-court offense is difficult for a team when they have 4 Type "A" personalities on the floor each demanding the basketball. As much as I love Kobe... even he got shot happy yesterday. For no reason. Unless you think he's trying to justify being the most popular player in China
. I just have a weird feeling the U.S. LeBrons are going to get tripped up by Lithuania, Argentina or Spain in the Medal Round. Those are teams that are used to playing close games and having to grind it out in the 4th quarter. The Americans have no such experience to date.
Then again, I hope they prove me wrong and get to face Yao again in the Finals. (Though a matchup with Argentina and resident badass Luis Scola would be entertaining, too. Even though Scola's gang surprisingly lost yesterday...)