Rockets retire Yao Ming’s No. 11 jersey (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — The first time Yao Ming ever watched an NBA game as a young boy in China, he wondered why there were jerseys hanging in the rafters.

“The cameras randomly gave a shot of the retired jerseys,” Yao said. “I slowly realized over time that’s the highest honor a player can achieve for themselves and for the team. I will always ask myself, `What is the story behind it?’ I hope people see the jersey there and remember the story. Not just myself, but my teammates, my opponents, we put a story together.”

The Rockets retired Yao’s No. 11 jersey in a halftime ceremony Friday night while hosting the Chicago Bulls.

A 7-foot-6 center from Shanghai, Yao was the top overall draft pick in 2002 and was an eight-time All-Star, playing nine seasons in Houston before retiring in 2011 because of mounting issues with injuries. He averaged 19.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in September.

“It was really sad for me that his career was cut so short because I think if he had been able to stay on, we would have been able to win a couple of championships,” Rockets owner Les Alexander said. “He’s a great human being and a great basketball player.”

Yao will become the sixth Rocket to have his number retired, joining Hakeem Olajuwon (No. 34), Clyde Drexler (No. 22), Moses Malone (No. 24), Calvin Murphy (No. 23) and Rudy Tomjanovich (No. 45).

Yao recalled his first home game in Houston in November 2002 when the Rockets retired Olajuwon’s jersey.

“We were sitting in the locker room and watching his speech and hearing people cheer for him, we were very motivated to hear that,” Yao said.

Reminiscing on his own times as a player, Yao said his favorite moment was when he first walked into the Compaq Center, the former home of the Rockets. He said he was taken aback when he saw his jersey with his name and number for the first time and realized it was the start of a special journey.

Along with other former Rockets standouts Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo and Shane Battier, Yao attended Thursday night’s game against Atlanta and received a standing ovation when he was introduced.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared Feb. 2 “Yao Ming Day” and welcomed Yao as the city’s goodwill ambassador, an appointment he received from former Mayor Annise Parker in 2013.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and other league officials were to attend the ceremony at the Toyota Center, which will be broadcast on NBA TV and in China on Tencent and CCTV.

“Thinking back on the years I spent here, I just think of the entire team, organization and the city as a big family,” Yao said. “I feel so welcome here, and tonight is very special to me.”

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.