Who would have guessed that the first signs of a rift in the Houston Rockets locker room wouldn’t involve Ron Artest or Rafer Alston, but in fact mild-mannered Yao Ming and Officer Friendly Dikembe Mutombo?
A day after we learned of Yao’s (alleged) desire to see Tracy McGrady shipped out, today’s Houston Chronicle has an item from Mutombo regarding Yao’s defensive shortcomings:
Don’t count Dikembe Mutombo among those who are applauding Yao Ming’s recent penchant for stepping in front of driving opponents to draw a charge.
“I’m very critical,” Mutombo said. “Those are bull. I told him that. He’s too tall to be taking charges. He needs to learn to play defense without using his chest. You don’t block a shot with your chest.
Maybe Yao is listening to Shane (Battier). Maybe he wants to be a guard or something. Maybe he’s planning to lead the league in charges. So I have to stop him. I have to teach him to lead the league in blocked shots, not charges.”
Without the availability of a sound clip or video of the interview, I’d have to go off what I know about Dikembe, and there’s a strong chance he said what he did more in a playful, ribbing manner than a harshly critical one. But depending on how he approached Yao, this could cause some tension amongst a team that, at 24-16 and in seventh place in the West, already isn’t living up to their preseason expectations. Yao is averaging 1.8 blocks per game — good for 12th in the League — but if he can be humble, he’ll be able to handle some tough love from maybe the greatest shot-blocker the game has ever known.
Source: Houston Chronicle