Yao Ming made his return to the floor this year for the Houston Rockets, but it was short-lived.
Yao left early in the season with a bone bruise and is just now getting back towards being back on the floor for the Rockets. He's been the heart of the franchise for years, but is it time to say enough is enough and admit that the Yao Ming era is over?
Inside, I give five reasons why the Rockets should give up on Yao, and why they should cut bait and look to the future. Leave any thoughts or comments below.
To be honest, I'm really surprised with how Houston's season has gone so far.
The Rockets have a lot of people on the team who can make plays. Luis Scola is a great player for Houston and one you know the San Antonio Spurs wish they still had on their roster. Not to mention Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks (even though he's banged up).
It's been a nightmare start to the season.
Yao Ming is not only a big man who has outside touch, but he's also an expiring contract.
If a team is looking to make a run in free agency this summer, Yao's salary of a little over $17 million would be a great way to clear some cap space and would allow Houston to gather even more assets, which the Rockets have been doing for some time.
There will be some teams that will be interested for his contract alone.
Yao Ming is a giant out on the court, but it doesn't mean he's limited to a post player.
The biggest strength of Yao's game has always been his ability to hit that outside jumper, which he can get going at any time. There isn't a man alive who can really contest that shot, and he's going to spread the court for guys like Kevin Martin to get to the rim.
He's a huge asset for Houston's offense.
Everyone, including Yao Ming, knows that he's not the future of Houston.
He's 30, which isn't bad, but his body can't take much more of this. It just can't. It's sad to see, but his legs and especially his feet are just shot, and he can't handle the grind of an NBA season anymore. If he's not the future, how much is he worth to the team at this point?
This isn't a situation like in Phoenix, where Steve Nash is still productive though not the future of the Suns.
If Yao Ming isn't on the Houston Rockets, who becomes the face of the franchise?
Who is going to be the guy that people flock to see? I know that Yao hasn't been on the court a lot and Houston has still supported the team, but Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin aren't exactly superstars. Luis Scola is getting there but that may take some time.
Yao is the face of the team, and it's hard to part with that.
The Houston Rockets are in a world of trouble right now.
The Rockets are 4-11 and are nowhere close to where people thought they'd be this year. Sure, injuries to Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks have hurt, but Houston needs to figure out if it still has a chance or if it's time to give up on the season.
If it's the latter, then exploring the market for Yao might be an option.
Yao Ming isn't guaranteed to be on the Houston Rockets past this year.
This is the last year on his contract, and it's a hefty price at a little over $17 million. If Houston wanted, it could package Yao with some of the draft picks and other assets it has on the roster and move him for more assets.
There would be plenty of teams that would be interested in shedding that much salary. Then again, the Rockets could always drop it and make a run in free agency. However, with a possible lockout, it's a gamble trying to bank on free agency.
Even when Yao Ming was active and playing for the Rockets, it's not like he was able to make a huge impact.
Yao has been severely limited after coming off of a major injury, and there was no wavering on that as far as the Rockets were concerned. He was in no position to make the type of impact he's been able to make in the past.
He was playing sixth-man minutes, and he's not exactly sixth-man material.
The Houston Rockets aren't exactly stacked up front this year.
Luis Scola is the best player on the roster up front for the Rockets, and he's a great player and very scrappy. But he's not exactly big enough to play with some of the bigger players out West. Brad Miller is on the roster, but he's not playing well this year.
The Rockets need Yao's size if they want to hang around out West.
Yao Ming isn't exactly a model of perfect health.
His body hasn't been able to handle the strain of an NBA season, and his frame has cracked under the pressure. It's a sad tale, but it's the reality. Big men struggle with foot injuries. Just ask Bill Walton. Yao won't ever be the same, and I think everyone realizes that.
If he can't stay on the floor, he's not worth much to the Rockets.
In the end, with Yao's struggle with injuries, the only way teams are going to take a chance on him is for the salary.
Maybe if a team with a great training staff thinks they can turn him into a productive player—even if it's not at the level he used to be at—they'll take a risk and pick him up for a stretch run. However, his contract is much more valuable than his actual presence on the court.
I think Houston will hold on to Yao and hope for the best. I don't blame them, either.