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Rockets to monitor Yao

HOUSTON, September 17 – The NBA's Houston Rockets will limit Yao Ming to 24 minutes per game this season as they seek to keep the towering Chinese star healthy, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday.Rockets vice president and athletic trainer Keith Jones told the newspaper that the plan had been put in place on the advice of Yao’s doctor and would be strictly followed.

"Twenty-four is his number all year," Jones said, noting that the 24 minutes wasn’t intended to be an average per game. Therefore if Yao plays 22 minutes in one game that wouldn’t make him available for 26 in the next contest.

The Chronicle reported that the plan has the backing of Houston general manager Daryl Morey and coach Rick Adelman.

That reduces the prospect of a management tussle over Yao’s playing time such as the one in Chicago last season, when Bulls vice president John Paxson and former coach Vinny Del Negro came to blows over limiting Joakim Noah’s playing time.

Jones said he expected Yao himself to be the plan’s biggest critic.

"Yao is his own worst enemy," Jones said. "He feels good and wants to go. We will be fighting him every day. I know we will. He’s going to feel good. He’s going to want to do more. He’s going to question us. He’s going to question the doctor. That’s Yao. He’s a competitor."

But Jones said the Rockets want to keep Yao healthy for the whole season, and hopefully the playoffs. He has missed all or part of the past five seasons to bone-related injuries, sitting out last season after undergoing surgery on his broken foot.

"We’re just trying to reduce the stress," Jones said.

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Houston begins training camp on September 25. They will travel to China in mid-October for two preseason games against New Jersey.

In seven seasons in the NBA, Yao has averaged 19.1 points and 9.3 rebounds. He was the Rockets number one overall draft pick in 2002.

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