As NBA stars go, when healthy Yao Ming is a game changer. We all know this to be true. He's as skilled an offensive big man as there is in the league, he draws double teams, and what he lacks in footspeed defensively, he makes up for in effort and sheer size.
The problem has been the fact that we need to caveat everything with Yao with the words "when healthy," to the point where we say it so frequently it feels like Yao could apply for a name change to put "When Healthy" on the back of his jersey (because China needs another Yao jersey to buy). To say Yao's foot has been problematic is like saying Lindsay Lohan has some issues. Having Yao is like having a kick-ass, tricked-out SUV that is driving on four of those mini-donut spare tires.
And now Yao is saying if the mini donuts blow out one more time, he may call it quits, which for Yao, would be the worst business decision of all time.
Why should Yao Ming listen to me? Well, apparently I am really influential in NBA circles. If I may, let's go look at the "Sean Advice" NBA scorecard...
Two weeks ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers signed then-restricted free agent Kyle Lowry to an offer sheet for four years and $24 million. I spent several hundred words explaining why matching the Cavaliers' offer to Lowry was a no-brainer. Literally, within like 48 seconds of my post going up, Daryl Morey tweeted to his followers that the Rockets would be matching the offer.
Obviously, Daryl was waiting to see what my thoughts on re-signing Lowry were before doing anything. Once he read them (he reads fast), he knew he should pull the trigger. I commend him for his decisiveness and for placing his trust in me. Fist bump, D.
Then over the weekend, news came out of Chicago that the Bulls were kicking the tires on Tracy McGrady -- not literally, because kicking anything on Tracy would (a) hurt his feelings and (b) potentially shatter that body part into a million pieces, but you get my point. The Bulls were pondering adding Tracy as a role player, provided he was healthy and, more importantly, provided he was ready to accept a bench role.
I wrote yesterday morning that it would never work out with Tracy in Chicago, that he had too much "look at me" in him, that he's just not wired to be anything other than the center of attention.
Well, thankfully/apparently the Bulls read my blog posts because yesterday Tracy arrived in Chicago for his workout. Maybe the fact that the Clippers were not totally sold on Tracy after meeting with him last week should have been enough to predict how the Chicago visit was going to go. I mean, the Clippers are like a bug zapper for dysfunction -- delusional, uncommitted players gravitate toward them like mosquitoes to the blue light.
If the Clippers stamp of non-approval wasn't enough, Tracy clearly didn't grasp the whole "we want you as a role player" thing. Observe....
"I won't have a problem, but that's not what I'm really shooting for. I think, yeah, if I was the player that I was in a Knicks uniform [at the end of last season], I would have no problem coming off the bench. But I've worked extremely hard and I'm far from being that player. Trust me....It's up to me in training camp to prove I'm a starter."
Then Tracy dropped this beauty...
"Without me, without Boozer, they're a .500 ball club. And with the guys that they added, if they add me, I think we'll be 30 points better. I think we'll be a better defensive team with [new head coach Tom Thibodeau], who I played with for three years [in Houston]. So [the Bulls] have a really good chance of being good. The city should be excited about this team."
Yes, Tracy just equated himself to the near maximum dollar, 20 point-10 rebound power forward that the Bulls just signed. And referred to the Bulls as "we" without having signed a contract or gotten confirmation from the team that the meeting even went okay.
Perhaps Tracy inadvertently summed it up best....
"Thibodeau was with me for three years, so if I was a bad locker room guy I don't think he would have had any interest in bringing me here."
Apparently, the Bulls are not real interested in bringing him there. Boom goes the dynamite...
So basically, I personally got Kyle Lowry his new deal and kept the Bulls from making a drastic error on Tracy McGrady. Crises averted. Now for my next trick, I will convince Yao Ming what a drastic business mistake he would be making by retiring if his donut tires start acting up again. Because if Daryl Morey and the Chicago Bulls read my stuff, clearly Yao must also.
If you missed the story, the skinny is this -- if Yao gets into this season and his feet (which have been about as reliable as the human resources department in CTU) aren't cooperating, he's very likely to call it quits. At the very least, he's planted the seeds that he's not going to be playing for China in the 2012 Olympics. His most compelling quote about the Chinese national team situation...
"We are paying for what we didn't do leading up to 2008. We skipped the development of a reserve team and the CBA league and focused only on the national team and the Olympics. It's like you are killing the goose that lays the golden egg. I'm 30. As an athlete, I am not the future of China basketball anymore."
Somewhere, the Chinese Drayton McLane is like "So what's the problem, Mingy?"
Anyway back to Yao, this is where I go into "speaking directly like it's an open letter" mode. Yao, you've played 237 of a possible 410 games over the last five seasons. The one season in which you played more than 57 games (2008-2009, 77 games), you couldn't make it through one round of the playoffs. When you played, you were really good. You just didn't play much, or in 2010, play at all.
For this, you were compensated $63,261,556. You will be compensated over $17,000,000 this season regardless of what happens.
And here's the thing -- even if you have foot issues, someone will pay you for another few years (maybe the Rockets, maybe not) based on (a) spec that they may magically win the lottery of being the team where Yao gets healthy feet (I'm having a Forrest Gump "magic legs" flashback) and (b) Chinese people will still buy your jerseys even if you are rolling around using a walker as long as you're on an NBA roster.
Will it be $17,000,000 per year? Probably not. Will it be more than you can make signing autographs at some Chinese memorabilia shows or doing some sort of, you know, real job? Hell yes. Even if it's the mid-level exception (around $5.8 million per year -- granted I know like 132% of that goes to the Chinese government, but still) you're getting paid millions for the following job description:
-- play 40 games
-- get hurt
-- get your annual surgery
-- high-five teammates on the bench while wearing street clothes the rest of the year
-- tell everyone that you feel great going into camp
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There used to be maybe two jobs like this in the whole world, and now that Tracy's contract has expired, you really have the only one. Get paid millions with everyone knowing you're going to get hurt. It's almost too good, Yao. Why give that up?
So, Yao, be like Daryl Morey and the Chicago Bulls. Listen to me. I won't steer you wrong.
Take the paycheck. For as long as humanly possible.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.