Yao Ming

Without Yao, does NBA’s profile in China shrink?

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Yao Ming was the face of David Stern’s dream of NBA globalization.

The 7’6” center was an eight-time NBA All-Star — a few of those years he actually deserved it — and a huge presence in America and China. Basketball is booming in China and Yao was a big part of that and the reason the NBA was able to start making inroads in the world’s most populous nation.

But now that he is gone, will China look away? Some people told the Associated Press yes.

“What’s the point of watching NBA now?” asked an online user called Lubingxia on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like site.

An online poll on Weibo by Monday lunchtime showed that 57 percent of respondents would stop watching the NBA after Yao’s retirement…

“It is Yao Ming who makes the kids in China like basketball and it’s also Yao Ming who makes the kids know how a real professional basketball player should be,” said Xu Jicheng, a longtime basketball commentator.

With younger generations, other NBA stars have made inroads — Kobe Bryant has sold more jerseys in China than Yao in recent years. The NBA has its foot in the door for future stars to walk through. What Yao did was open the door in a way that Yi Jianlian could not have. While some Chinese may now turn away, many will not.

There will never be another Yao Ming. But what he did for the NBA in China and other countries will not ever be changed.

Tony Parker wants to play six more seasons with Spurs

Tony Parker
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Tony Parker revealed a plan nearly two years ago to play until he’s 38.

Coming off his worst season since his rookie year, the Spurs point guard is sticking to that goal.

Parker, via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

“The Spurs know I want to play until I’m 38,” Parker told Yahoo Sports in a recent phone interview. “That will be 20 seasons for me. That’s my goal. This year is No. 15. And if I’m lucky enough and I’m healthy, hopefully I can play 20 seasons and then I’ll be ready to retire.”

That seems pretty ambitious, no matter how you handle the conflicting math. (Parker is 33. If he plays 20 seasons, he’ll spend most of his final season at age 39 and turn 40 during the playoffs.)

Parker is already showing signs of slippage. Many of his key numbers were down last season, including ESPN’s real-plus minus, where he quietly slipped from 12th to 67th among point guards.

But Gregg Popovich is very liberal with resting his players, and Parker won’t have to carry too much of the load. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will probably retire before Parker, but the Spurs will still have Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s possible Parker lasts that long.

Report: Pelicans signing Greg Smith

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The Pelicans starting center, Omer Asik, is injured.

Their backup center, Alexis Ajinca, is injured.

Enter Greg Smith.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Smith was part of the Rockets’ 2012-13 rotation, but otherwise, he has seen limited minutes in his four-year career with Houston and Dallas. In that small sample, he has looked alright. The 6-foot-10 24-year-old uses his big frame and massive hands to catch passes and finish efficiently near the rim. He has also become more disciplined defensively.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the regular-season roster behind the 13 Pelicans with guaranteed salaries.

But it’s also possible New Orleans signed him just an extra preseason body. That’d beat relying too heavily on the aging Kendrick Perkins and undersized Jeff Adrien at center. Anthony Davis is the Pelicans’ best option at center with Asik and Ajinca sidelined (and maybe even with them healthy), but the biggest drawback to playing him there is the injury risk. If Davis is going to deal with the banging at center, might as well save it for games that count.

Still, even New Orleans plans to keep Smith only through the preseason, this at least gives him a chance to impress.