Yao-za! Chinese center wows scouts at NBA workout

Vitale: Seniors getting lost in draft

Vitale: Iverson impresses, Ming shows potential

Vitale: Good reasons players declare for draft

Vitale: Wacky reasons players declare for draft

Early NBA draft entries

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Yao Ming participates in a series of drills before a packed gymnasium of NBA representatives.
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Yao Ming could be another LaRue Martin


May 22
The Houston Rockets have the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, and Rockets fans are getting excited about the possibility of improving their frontcourt. The Rockets have a talented backcourt with Stevie Franchise -- I mean Steve Francis -- and Cuttino Mobley. Now coach Rudy Tomjanovich and company can pick up a big man.

Yao Ming
Will Yao Ming be a slam-dunk NBA success? Or will he be another LaRue Martin?
Do I hear the name Yao Ming in Houston's future? Can you see another big man in that Rocket uniform at 7-foot-5? To me, this has the potential to be a pick just like one the Portland Trail Blazers made 30 years ago.

That's right, back in 1972, the Blazers drafted a young big man named LaRue Martin from Loyola of Chicago. The selection was based on potential. Boy, did that pick fail to pan out.

My gut feeling watching Ming is not positive. Maybe I'm not being fair, but I see a player who won't have the body strength to endure the kind of physical contact that takes place on the interior. He will face superb athleticism day in and day out in the NBA, especially if he's in the Western Conference. I feel he will be abused inside. Some say Ming can handle the basketball well and shoot 15-foot jumpers. But is that what you really want from a player his size?

Hey, could this be another Sam Bowie? It seems like I'm picking on those Blazers, but Martin and Bowie were two big men who didn't make the impact desired for such an early draft pick. Even if Ming develops, it could take several years and he could end up as a free agent by the time he becomes a star. He's also a risky proposition because of contract negotiations with his Chinese team.

Will the Rockets or someone else (if Houston trades the top pick) make a mistake by passing on J-Will? Jay Williams has superstar written all over him. Fans of the Chicago Bulls, who have the second pick, must be hoping and praying that Williams becomes their point guard for the next 10 years. With J-Will, the Bulls would have no problem at the point-guard slot, and that's an area where every team needs consistency.

In last year's draft, Chicago selected Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry, two high school kids with potential. GM Jerry Krause figured the Bulls wouldn't win for a while, but these two big guys could develop into potential stars in the long run.

The people of Chicago deserve better. Look at what has happened since Michael the Magnificent, the great Michael Jordan, left. It's sad. I firmly believe they need some instant help to get to the winner's circle. Remember, the Eastern Conference is not as strong as the West, so the Bulls could get healthy in a hurry.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the first pick of the draft. Will the Rockets trade down and get some help with veterans? The top pick is truly desired, and not just for Ming.

To succeed in the NBA these days, point-guard play is so important. You'd better excel in that area if you want to excel as a team. Look at what the Nets have done with the addition of Jason Kidd, baby! And Jay Williams will be a dominant point guard.

Would Houston trade Stevie Franchise to get help in the frontcourt and then use the top pick on Williams? Imagine getting a lot of help on the baseline in a deal for Francis! There are many intriguing possibilities. The NBA draft should be interesting. But something tells me Mr. Ming could be another LaRue Martin.

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