Rockets plan to be cautious with Yao Ming's playing time. No kidding.

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Yao_workout.jpgRockets General Manager Daryl Morey is a smart man. Not that it takes a smart man to realize they need to be cautious with Yao Ming’s health, to keep his minutes down and minimize the risk. I mean, I figured it out and I’m a blogger.

Yes, doctors have cleared Yao, his foot is fully healed after a year off and he is practicing in Houston to get himself and his game in shape for the season. But you still have to be a little nervous if you’re a Rockets fan.

Morey told the Sporting News that the Rockets would error on the side of caution.

“He is fully healed, and that is great news, of course,” Rockets GM Daryl Morey told SN. “But the doctors are still evaluating everything. There is no question we are going to have to be very cautious with his playing time…”

“He is going to be more limited, it is just a matter of how you get to that point, how you limit him,” Morey said. “Obviously, you start with less minutes per game. He won’t be out there for 35, 40 minutes per game, we know that. But then, things like back-to-backs, you might see him not play in the second part of those or something. Practice time, he might be limited. There are different ways to keep his minutes down. No one knows exactly right now…”

“He is such a competitor, there are going to be times when he absolutely won’t want to come out,” Morey said. “I know the first game that is close and he is playing well but his minutes are up, we will have to have (trainer) Keith Jones go on the floor and tackle him and drag him off. We have to look at the big picture here.”

It is all pretty simple: With Yao the Rockets are contenders in the West, a real challenge to the Lakers. Without him, middle of the pack and done early in the playoffs.

Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics provided the blueprint, sacrificing regular season games and keeping guys healthy and fresh for the playoffs, when they made their run. Houston can just build on that a little.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.

DeAndre Jordan dunks on Marcus Smart before Smart knows what’s happening (video)

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Marcus Smart went to tag DeAndre Jordan on the pick-and-roll, and Jordan took off from so far from the basket, he was dunking on Smart before the Celtics guard could do a thing.

Chris Paul finds brilliant counter to hack-a-DeAndre Jordan (video)

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I originally favored allowing Hack-a-Shaq as the NBA currently does. I found the strategy fascinated – why and when teams would use it and how their opponents would counter.

But it just became too common. Far too many games featured a parade of trips to the line, a boring stretch that made games too long. I thought the intrigue had run its course.

Then, Chris Paul pulled this move last night.

The Clippers guard saw Jonas Jerebko charging toward DeAndre Jordan to commit an intentional foul, so Paul stepped in front of an unsuspecting Jerebko and took the foul himself. That’s sent a good free-throw shooter to the line instead of the dismal Jordan.

Just an awesome heady play by Paul.