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Yao Gets NBA Feel in First Practice

October 22, 2002

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HOUSTON (AP) _ Yao Ming walked onto the court for his first NBA practice Monday and promptly missed his first jumper. He did make his first shot at the free throw line, however.

Before long, the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick was chatting with Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis during stretching exercises. Later, he was exchanging high-fives with his new teammates, who can’t wait to get him ready to play.

The 7-foot-5 center joined the team prior to Sunday night’s game against Orlando and said he’d be ready to play in Wednesday night’s exhibition at San Antonio, or else Thursday, when the Rockets host the Philadelphia 76ers in their final preseason game.

``I think so, but it’s best to ask the coach,″ Yao said.

Yao noticed immediately that the NBA is a quicker game than international basketball.

``It’s really fast,″ he said. ``How quickly? I guess every time we (the Chinese team) were waiting for the shot clock to get to eight seconds. Here, maybe only 10 seconds or maybe 15 seconds to shoot. But I like it ... a lot of shooting.″

Yao was with the national team until Oct. 13, when China was upset by South Korea in the championship of the Asian Games. After working out an agreement with the China Basketball Association that will guarantee his home country the right to bring him back for international tournaments, Yao received his visa and reported to the Rockets on Sunday night.

Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich won’t say when Yao would get into a game. ``We’ve got to be careful not to throw the weight of the world on this guy,″ Tomjanovich said.

But the coach did have Yao on the court for the scrimmage portion of Monday’s workout, and he was an attentive student. Although he spoke frequently in English, interpreter Collin Pine was by his side to lend assistance.

``We have to understand that, even (for) the players that have played in the U.S. and been through summer league and in their towns working out, it’s still a big jump to the NBA,″ Tomjanovich said. ``I’m sure he’s going to have some adjustments to make.″

Yao is quickly adjusting to the idea of living in America.

``Yesterday (Sunday) in San Francisco one guy asked, ‘Can I have your autograph?’ and he said ’I live in Houston,‴ Yao said. ``I told him I live in Houston too. I just haven’t been there.″

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