Back in September, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle wrote that the Houston Rockets and their medical advisors have developed a plan to strictly limit playing time for center Yao Ming, who is coming back to the court after missing last season with a foot injury.
Yao will play no more than 24 minutes per game, Rockets vice president and athletic trainer Keith Jones said. There will be no exceptions. If Yao has played his 24 minutes and the Rockets have the ball and eight seconds on the clock to make up a one-point deficit, Yao will not play those eight seconds.
Yao's playing time will not average 24 minutes; it will end there. If he plays 22 minutes in one game, he will not play 26 the next. For that matter, if he plays two minutes one game, he will not play 26 the next. When Yao reaches his 24 minutes, he will be through for that game.
When Yao plays one night, he will skip much of the practice the next day, with the Rockets so determined to limit the demands on Yao that Jones and associate athletic trainer Jason Biles have already outlined Yao's workout schedule from the start of camp Sept. 25 through the last game of the regular season.
Earlier this week, Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times wrote that Lakers coach Phil Jackson was considering similar plans for center Andrew Bynum, who recently underwent knee surgery.
Bynum has experienced knee problems the last three years, each injury different but nonetheless representing a pattern that has forced Jackson to contemplate the big picture.
"We're hopeful that this is the time he's able to start playing consistently through a season," Jackson said. "If not, we're going to have to look at Andrew as a short-minute guy, somebody like Yao Ming who's going to be limited in the amount of minutes he plays."
"If his knee doesn't hold up after having this process, then we'll have to think about what kind of minutes he can play in a career," Jackson said. "This would be a [fourth] consecutive year that things didn't go well. We're concerned. That's why we're giving this extra time, or the doctors asked for extra time for this to heal, so when this heals, his career can go forward instead of having these stops in the middle of the season."
This brings us, of course, to Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden, who has suffered a pair of season-ending knee injuries. While the Blazers have not committed to a clear time table for his return, much less a plan for his minutes, members of management have said their desire is to have Oden ready to go for the playoffs.
Would a strict minutes limit help Oden get there, both physically and mentally?
The benefits would be less regular season wear and tear, reduced chance of re-injury, additional recovery time and a sense of knowing exactly what would be expected from you on any given night. The drawbacks would be less Oden and everything that goes with that: more miles for veteran Marcus Camby, more lineup juggling, potentially worse playoff seeding and, perhaps, even the possibility of losing home court advantage in a tight Western Conference race.
It's worth noting the most minutes per game Oden has averaged as a pro was 23.9 last season, but his career high for minutes played was 42 back in 2008-2009, and he played 24+ minutes 22 times that season. Last year he played 24+ minutes in more than half of the games he appeared in.
If you were Portland GM Rich Cho, would you pursue a strict limit on Greg Oden's minutes during the regular season once he returns to the court? Vote below and explain your reasoning in the comments.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter