HOUSTON — Lakers coach Phil Jackson and his staff had to adjust on the fly after learning late Saturday that Houston Rockets center Yao Ming suffered a broken left foot and is out for the rest of the playoffs. The Lakers’ coaches had only hours to prepare for Game 4 today. Jackson said he cautioned his players against expecting the Rockets to roll over and play dead. He also said he felt bad for Yao, whose game was better than ever this season. Here’s what Jackson had to say before Game 4:
“It’s too bad, it’s too bad. There’s a guy (Yao) who has been in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in this season. We always thought if you ran Yao 30 or 32 minutes, he was going to fade in the game. This year he has shown he can play a 40-minute game and still have an impact. So, I know it’s a great disappointment for him.
“My second reaction is I don’t want my players thinking it’s going to be an easy night. It’s not going to be easy. They have a different role they play without him on the floor. They have played without him in the course of the year This is a team that does well with adversity. My players better or else they’re going to be coming back here next week. They’ve had Mutombo in the background. But this is a much more mobile team. They’re probably play with a faster pace. We have to anticipate that screen-and-role is going to be a feature. I suppose a lot of fans on our side will say that’s great.
“I gave an example (to the players) when I was coaching against the Lakers in the first championship run, they were without Scott and Worthy in the last game of the Finals. And we had a bear of a game with Elden Campbell, who was out there, and Terry Teagle, who was a bench player that filled in for Scott. Things happen. Just because you have to replace a player doesn’t mean that there’s a void there.
“A person who was in physics once told me that if a man was 60-foot tall the first step he took he would completely crumble. Gravity is a bitch. The taller you are the more you have on you. It’s just the life of what it is. I’m a living witness to it.”