- Henry Abbott, TrueHoop, NBA
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The New York Times' Nate Taylor talked to Yao Ming by phone. Lin and Yao are close, with Lin saying he spoke to Yao nightly during the "Linsanity" period this past season.
Yao makes it clear that he tried to let Lin make his own free agency decisions -- but is thrilled Lin ended up in Houston.
“I’m so glad the Knicks didn’t match the contract,” Yao said. “Houston is a good place for Jeremy to come to. It’s a good fit because both sides can provide the best opportunity for each other.”
Yao recalled that the environment in a smaller market helped make him a better player. In eight seasons, all with the Rockets, the 7-foot-6 Yao averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks as a center.
“In Houston, we have a very good community and great fans,” Yao said. “With less media coverage, I think it made me focus more on basketball. I think that’s one reason I played so well.”
The Rockets hope that Lin, who is of both Chinese and Taiwanese descent, can continue the franchise’s popularity in China, for which Yao was responsible.
“The people in China are very familiar with Houston,” said Yao, who, since retiring from the N.B.A. because of chronic injuries, has become the owner of the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. “The Rockets have been a symbol here for the last 10 years, and now that can be continued. It’s great for people here. I can’t imagine them being any more excited than this.”