HOUSTON — Dwyane Wade saw Yao Ming in a Toyota Center hallway before the Bulls’ shootaround Friday morning.
“It’s your day,” the Bulls veteran guard said.
He was right. Yao’s No. 11 jersey was retired at halftime.
Former Rockets stars Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Tracy McGrady, Steve Francis, Dikembe Mutombo and Shane Battier — and NBA commissioner Adam Silver — were on hand to watch the ceremony. The 2016 Basketball Hall of Famer was greeted by players from both teams as halftime ended.
The Bulls played a big role in the former center’s upbringing.
“The Bulls have a big impact, for sure, in China, especially on the second [title] winning streak,” said the eight-time All-Star, who averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
When he played in international exhibitions as a teen, he and his teammates would hunt down NBA-branded socks, including ones with Bulls logos.
“There were no Rockets socks,” Ming said to Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, drawing a laugh.
Michael Jordan made a major impact. Yao cited “mountains of people” who followed the former Bulls star when he visited China. He complimented Wade, too, saying it was “very fortunate that we still can watch him play.”
Yao’s impact was felt in Montenegro, where Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic grew up.
“He definitely inspired me,” he said. “Watching Yao, it was amazing.
“The big thing for me is he was so much a professional on and outside of the floor. You never hear anything bad about Yao Ming.”
Hoiberg and D’Antoni
Coach Fred Hoiberg almost played in Mike D’Antoni’s “seven seconds or less” system when D’Antoni coached the Suns.
“Unfortunately, I never got that chance to play in that system,” he said. “But I would have loved it.”
He thought he would.
“I almost played for him after my first open-heart surgery [in 2005],” Hoiberg said. “I went down and visited, and we pretty much agreed to terms. And then doctors stepped in and said, ‘What are you doing?’ ”
D’Antoni said Hoiberg “would have been a great fit with us,” calling him “one of the good guys.”
This and that
Forward Cristiano Felicio left in the second quarter with a strained right lower leg and did not return.
† Before the game, the Bulls had totaled 249 points in two wins this week, which Hoiberg chalked up to their ability to identify and quickly attack matchups that were in their favor.
“I think the recognition we’ve had has been really good the last two games, whether Dwyane has a smaller guy on him or guys have done a good job getting the ball before the defense gets set,” he said.
† Hoiberg said guard Rajon Rondo has been “terrific” leading the second unit, which features more cutting to the basket than the first.
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