OAKLAND, CALIF. When the U.S. national team plays China in an exhibition game tonight, Yao Ming will get a rude welcome to the United States courtesy of the NBA's leading rebounder.
"We're going to beat him up," Ben Wallace said. "We're going to beat him up pretty bad."
The American players are anxious to get their first up-close look at the 7-foot-5 center from China who was chosen first overall by the Houston Rockets in the NBA draft last June.
To say that Yao resembles a 7-foot-5 target would only be putting it mildly.
Everyone on the U.S. team has heard a sketchy scouting report or two, with the common denominator being that Yao is not that strong in his upper body.
All of the U.S. team's big men Wallace, Antonio Davis, Jermaine O'Neal, Elton Brand and Raef LaFrentz are eager to judge for themselves the sturdiness of the Chinese mystery man.
In Wallace's case, he plans to be as physical as possible. Maybe even borderline dirty. It'll be his way of saying: "Welcome to the league, welcome to our country. This is our playground. This is how we play. We're definitely going to be up for the challenge." Wallace said.
The U.S. team went through its sixth day of practice Wednesday, with the pace picking up to the point where several players hit the deck hard either from taking charges or battling under the boards.
While other teams competing in next week's World Championships have already played several exhibitions, this will be the first for the Americans.
The U.S. big men play a physical brand of ball that will seem foreign to many of the Chinese. For Yao, it will be his first competition against a team of American players since China lost to the United States by 47 points at the 2000 Olympics.
Yao was plagued by foul trouble in that game, getting whistled for his fifth and final personal just 1:10 into the second half.
At the time, Yao was a 19-year-old getting his first taste of the toughest competition international basketball has to offer. Now, two years later, he is the object of everyone's curiosity as he is about to embark on his NBA career.
"We know around the league what the hype is all about. The hype, you know, they're trying to sell tickets," Wallace said. "It's going to be a good challenge for him, and I'm pretty sure everybody in the league is going to step up and make him work for everything he gets. Nothing comes free in this league."
Tonight's game against China, to be played at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, will not be televised nationally.
American viewers will not get their first lengthy look at Yao until the United States plays China on Aug. 31 in the opening round of the World Championships in Indianapolis.
The U.S. team's exhibition game against Germany in Portland on Sunday night also will not be televised nationally.
Meanwhile, coach George Karl is enthused about his team.
"I don't think any NBA team has 10 players as good as this team," Karl said. "When your 10th man is an All-Star ... "
Kansas University's Nick Collison is an alternate on the team.