Shanoff's W.U.C.: Who Needs Yao? Not Rockets

Today's Calls: Yao vs. the Rockets, Mike Vick and Plaxico Burress vs. Roger Goodell, Tim Lincecum vs. Roy Halladay, Rays vs. Dodgers, Brandon Jennings vs. the Internet, Ricky Rubio vs. David Kahn, Lane Kiffin vs. 13-year-old recruits, Spencer Hall vs. Ping-Pong and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: "Yao is the cornerstone of our franchise now and in the future." ↵

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↵That's Rockets GM Daryl Morey, saying what he HAS to say -- even if Yao's future looks pretty bleak right now. ↵

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↵Permit me the obvious question: Who needs Yao? ↵

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↵The last time I checked, the Yao-less Rockets were giving the Lakers a tougher challenge in the NBA Playoffs than any other team in the field. Repeat: That was WITHOUT Yao. (It was also without Tracy McGrady, but that's another story.) ↵

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↵Playing with an undersized lineup featuring undervalued gems like Carl Landry, Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, Aaron Brooks and even Shane Battier, the Rockets nearly KO'ed the best team in the league. I can't imagine any other team losing their leading scorer and rebounder -- then performing that well against the league's top team. The series was a validation for Morey's league-leading analytics savvy. ↵

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↵I am not saying that a talented 7-foot-6 center isn't a nice piece to have, but they obviously didn't NEED him to succeed. Based on this spring, it seems like the more valuable asset for 2009-2010 is unrestricted free agent Ron Artest, who thrived in Houston's system. The Rockets should be on the phone with him at midnight tonight, when NBA free agency begins. ↵

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↵Beyond that, the Rockets are doing all the right things: Finding gems in the draft, like Jermaine Taylor (who could be a 6-foot-5 version of 5-foot-nothin' Aaron Brooks), and becoming the first team to take over basketball operations of an affiliated D-League team. ↵

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↵Those are moves for the long-term. In the short-term (or even longer), they may be without Yao. But based on when we last saw the Rockets -- pushing the Lakers to their limits -- Houston can compete just fine without him. ↵ ↵

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↵Vick, Burress out for '09? It's up to Roger Goodell, and Florio thinks that there's a good chance neither will play in the NFL this upcoming season. (I disagree with him that what's good for the UFL is necessarily bad for the NFL, if the UFL would be lucky enough to land both. Put 'em on the same team!) ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points ↵

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↵• Dodgers walking off: On Ethier's HR in 13. ↵

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↵• Lincecum unstoppable: CG 2-hitter. ↵

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↵• Halladay stoppable: Rays solve Roy. ↵

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↵• Angels streaking: Win 6th straight. ↵

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↵• Lester rolling: 8 K in W (Won 4 of last 6 GS). ↵

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↵• Hamilton rehabbing: Slugger 1/4 in Class AA. ↵

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↵• Fantasy Stud: Miguel Olivo (3/4, HR, 2 RBI). ↵

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↵Brandon Jennings, Cont'd: Let Jennings say whatever he wants. I wish he had been in the Green Room of the draft, sat around for a while, then wandered over to the ESPN set to offer live commentary on teams' picks. Oh, and he needs to get himself back on Twitter immediately -- control that message! ↵

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↵(Meanwhile, I know that the Bucks need some depth at guard, but why would they pay to keep Ramon Sessions after using a 1st-round draft pick on Brandon Jennings ... but exile versatile forward Charlie Villanueva? Is it because of the Twitter thing?) ↵

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↵Rubio Watch: T'wolves GM David Kahn has no choice but to say he is happy to wait on Rubio for however long it takes. Does he really think that is some kind of leverage over Rubio and/or trade partners? ↵

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↵NFL Offseason: The 11 new head coaches? It's all about expectations management. Of the group, I think Detroit's Jim Schwartz is in the best situation -- how many wins does he have to get to top last year: 1? If he wins 2 or 3, he's already a miracle worker. ↵

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↵First NFL 2nd-rounder to sign? Eagles RB LeSean McCoy, who might turn out to be one of the steals of the draft (and part of Philly's overall stellar draft class of 2009). ↵

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↵SN's NFL Camping Countdown: I think the Bengals' moment has passed. Sorry, Who Dey Nation. (Coming today: Cleveland.) ↵

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↵CFB: Because it's Lane Kiffin, it's funny. Tennessee gets a commitment from a 13-year-old player. I can see a new trend starting where young kids "commit" to programs, just to get some media attention. ↵

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↵Tom Hansen leaves the Pac-10 tomorrow: Good riddance to one of the biggest obstructionists to a college football playoff. Read his flimsy justifications for that here. ↵

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↵This Week's Meme to Watch: Chris Cooley and the Cow. ↵

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↵The Last Word: You have to read Spencer Hall's first-hand account of competing in the nation's biggest Ping-Pong tournament in Las Vegas. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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