The moment the Houston Rockets beat the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 6 of the first round of the 2008-2009 NBA Playoffs, and the moment that I got a picture of Yao Ming walking off the court to loud cheers, wearing the world's largest smile on his face and exchanging congratulations with teammates, I had an odd thought pop up in my head: Yao Ming has to finish his career as a Houston Rocket. It's simply going to happen.
Times change. Though an actual roster change has yet to be made, according to Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets are trying to trade Yao Ming. Never thought this day would come, at least not after that moment following Game 6.
It's going to be difficult to trade the enormous contract that Yao possesses, but I think the Rockets are in the mood to take on a similarly bad contract should the opportunity arise to acquire a young talent in an attempt to sort of begin a miniature rebuilding process.
Wojnarowski details the details:
The lure of acquiring Yao for potential suitors is the $8 million in savings that insurance will provide for his $17.7 million expiring contract this season. Some teams are considering re-signing Yao on a short-term deal with hopes of restoring him to playing health, while others see his contract as a cost-saving measure.
The Rockets are dangling Yao to acquire a good young player with an upside, if not an established talent. Despite offering Yao in trades, the Rockets haven't ruled out the possibility of re-signing him to a short-term contract extension.
It's the right move to try to make a trade. Yao is a thing of the past, and whomever the Rockets could potentially acquire would present a step towards a brighter future. Should the Rockets find a way to trade for a young talent, it would be a necessary indication to the fans and to the players that the Rockets are no longer living in the past, and that a step forward has been made, allowing everyone to finally remove the burden of playing or rooting for the Rockets despite Yao Ming. That's a tough way to put it, but it has sadly been the case for the past two years.
We can talk about the financial implications of moving Yao, but there's no denying a few things: A) The Rockets have maintained popularity in China on their own, despite Yao sitting on the bench. Players are still getting shoe deals in China that they would never get in the United States, and B) The NBA has made its mark in China as a league, and why many others have ascended above Yao. Regardless of the financial technicalities, it would be foolish for the Rockets to hold off on rebuilding to win in order to pocket more money to lose.
I'll have more on this as it develops, but I'm glad that the Rockets are willing to look past personal ties and settle on a direction. Knowing Yao, if this is a perk of bettering the organization, he's all aboard.