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Published: Wednesday, 6/26/2002

Draft won't produce another Ming dynasty

Nine years ago, Shawn Bradley was Yao Ming. A 7-6 center whose dominating size and intimidating presence were going to revolutionize basketball.

Bradley's still 7-6, and we're still waiting for the revolution.

Everybody dunks on Bradley. He's a non-factor.

At 7-5, Yao is a combination of Bradley, Manute Bol and Gheorge Muresan, all of whom are 7-6 or taller and still don't add up to one legitimate center.

Yao is expected to be the No. 1 pick in tonight's NBA draft. The NBA must be in sorry shape.

I've read where Yao, who played professionally in China, is a work in progress whose best basketball is in front of him. He's supposed to be athletic.

But when you analyze Yao's chances for success in NBA, the best thing I can say about him is that he's extremely tall.

How can we get excited about this guy, the first pick in the draft, when we've never even seen him play? He dominated in a league where he was never challenged.

For all of his height, Yao's not a voracious shot blocker and rebounder. Even at 295 pounds, he's not tough around the basket.

Yao prefers 3-pointers. He's real good shooting the long ball.

Please not another one. Not another big man with a little man's game.

If the Good Lord wanted Yao to stand 23 feet from the basket, Yao would have been a foot shorter.

He needs to get his butt under the basket, and stay there.

I don't care about the NBA and its attempts to go global, or how athletic Yao is supposed to be. He's not as athletic as 7-4 Ralph Sampson, who just about ruined his knees trying to prove that a big man can be successful playing outside.

You'd think that after all this time, the NBA would finally get a clue when drafting foreign-born centers who aren't products of American colleges and universities.

If they're not drafting them too high, they're drafting them too low and signing them too late.

In 1986, the Portland Trail Blazers drafted 7-3, 290 Arvydas Sabonis of Lithuania in the first round, with the 24th overall pick.

Yet, Portland didn't sign Sabonis until nine years later, at the age of 31, when his knees were already shot.

When healthy, Sabonis was arguably the best center in the world, on a par with Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson. He helped the Soviet Union beat the U.S. in the 1988 Olympics in a game that was considered an upset but really wasn't.

Sabonis was that good. He could post-up, rebound, pass, and block shots plus he could also shoot the 3-pointer.

If Portland had invested money in Sabonis when he was in his prime instead of Kevin Duckworth, the Blazers would have won championships with Clyde Drexler and Sabonis.

Yao will play his entire career trying to be half as good as Sabonis.

Yao doesn't deserve to be the No. 1 pick. The NBA and its shrinking legion of fans deserve better.

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