Yao defends coach against media assault

By Zhao Rui (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-09-06 09:58

"Our chance to beat a European team is zero," the Basketball Pioneers said.

"We cannot move even one step if we cannot overcome those European rivals."

Neither were the players spared from the newspaper's spray.

"They know we will make Olympic roster as long as they stay healthy, so they won't play with hearts in the games this summer," the paper said.

Some players have expressed their frustration at the losing streak.

"To be honest, I cannot take it for granted that we will make some instant changes after Yao comes back to the team," Wang, the team's top scorer at the NBA Summers Games in July, said.

"Nobody knows how the team will be with Yao. All we can do is stay calm and learn from the games this summer."

"Problems are everywhere. We struggled everywhere on the court - from paint area to the backcourt. I cannot stay optimistic to the team's future."

"I think we are miles behind European teams overall - we have improved a lot, but I don't see there is any chance that we are able to catch up in a very short time."

Yao said last year that his goal at the Beijing Games was to make the top six, meaning China would have to beat at least two European rivals in the 12-team Olympic draw.

Despite the losses, Kazlauskas believes the summer was not entirely hopeless after discovering a re-energized Yi, who finished as the team's leading scorer in the Stankovic Cup and the European Tour by averaging 27 points and 8.9 rebounds.

"I think what delights me most in Europe is Yi," said the coach of his 20-year-old star. "He is a harvest for the team. The boy made tremendous improvement as he played great games against top teams in the world.

"I am very happy to see his confidence and technique have moved to a higher level. I'd say he is a role model for the rest of the team.

"Apart from Yi, we have made some progress in defense this summer but it is not enough. I don't want to use Yao as an excuse but I am sure we would be able to compete against European teams if Yao was in the team."

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