- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 9, 2010

HOUSTON (AP) - The hurting Houston Rockets are trying to find a way to get by early in the season.

They’re off to a 1-5 start, and coach Rick Adelman is still searching for the best way to maximize Yao Ming’s doctor-mandated 24 minutes. Making matters worse, the Rockets are already coping with injuries to point guards Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry.

The main issue is still Yao, whose minutes are limited to keep pressure off his surgically repaired left foot. The seven-time All-Star has had no setbacks so far, and he’s averaging 12.8 and 6.5 rebounds in 21 minutes per game.

But Yao only plays one game in back-to-back sets and has already sat out twice, leaving the rest of the Rockets adjusting to his status from day to day.

“We all have to figure that out,” said Lowry, who’s missed the past two games with back spasms. “It’s nothing that we’re going to jump up and figure it out. It’s going to be a process.”

Yao said Tuesday that the team may allow him to play consecutive games starting in January. For now, he and Adelman have to find the most effective balance of his time on and off the floor.

The Rockets open a three-game road trip in Washington on Wednesday night.

“It’s hard, it’s hard for everybody,” Adelman said. “It’s not only what I have to do, but the guys who are playing. Guys’ roles change, and that’s what makes it hard.”

Yao said he’s eager to increase his minutes for the sake of team chemistry.

“We need a consistent starting lineup,” Yao said. “With the starting center on and off, on and off, I think that’s definitely not good for the team. That’s why I think playing back-to-back games, for me and for the team, is very important.”

Shane Battier, in his fifth season in Houston, said the situation is not much different than past seasons, when Yao and Tracy McGrady missed chunks of games with injuries.

“We don’t really talk about it,” Battier said. “It sort of is what Yao is, so you just roll with it.”

Adding to the adversity, Adelman has been forced to break in rookie point guard Ishmael Smith with Brooks and Lowry hurting. Lowry said Tuesday he feels better, but Brooks is sidelined 4-6 weeks with a sprained left ankle.

Smith will start Wednesday’s game if Lowry can’t play. There’s no substitute for experience, though, and Adelman would feel more comfortable getting Lowry back.

“We want to be sure Kyle is ready,” Adelman said. “We don’t want him to take more steps backward. He practiced some today (Tuesday) and looked OK. We’ll see how he responds.

Story Continues →