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Archive for Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Gooden experiences Yao-mania at workout

May 28, 2002

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— Drew Gooden of Kansas gets most of the attention when he works out for most NBA teams.

Not the Houston Rockets, however.

When he visited Houston, the Kansas forward learned what other prospects had to learn that he might have to watch at the June 26 draft when Yao Ming is picked ahead of him.

"I think my game speaks for itself," Gooden said following his workout Friday. "I showed that and the rest I'll leave up to the general managers for them to dissect him (Yao) as a player. I've heard he's 7-5 and can shoot the ball."

Yao became the talk of the NBA as soon even before the Rockets won the NBA lottery and earned the No. 1 pick in the draft on May 19. While Yao is playing in his own country, the elite of U.S. players are going through their paces with the Rockets.

The players perform drills for coach Rudy Tomjanovich and his staff. After that, it doesn't take long for the conversation to get around to Yao.

Caron Butler of Connecticut got the treatment on Thursday. Butler made the best of his workout and dealt with the Yao hype.

"I understand that Yao Ming is the big target," Butler said. "I'm just trying to make myself an option. I feel that I fit well with Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley and Eddie Griffin. I could be the missing piece to the puzzle."

Yao hasn't been to Houston to work out with the Rockets and might not even be present for the NBA draft if he does not get approval of his government and sports association.

Dawson is trying to keep the Rockets' preparations for the draft normal. The Rockets also have the No. 15 pick in the first round.

"I've been trying to tell everyone there are other players in the draft," Dawson said. "There are people to pick. We can't ignore the 15th spot, either. We've been working out about four people per day."

While the Rockets saw Yao work out in Chicago, his skill is unknown to many players.

"Being 7-5, he's got the hype," Tayshaun Prince of Kentucky said. "Everyone is anxious to see him and see what he can do. We've seen what all these guys around here can do and now we want to see what he can do and what to expect from him."

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