Yao draws them in

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

Toronto's large Chinese community was well represented at last night's game with the Raptors tipping off against the Houston Rockets and all-star centre Yao Ming.

Ming still drags interpreter Colin Pine around with him for media interviews, but the 7-foot-6 Chinese centre has picked up enough English during his two seasons in the league that he answers most questions in English.

Yao still attracts the largest media scrums in the NBA, no matter what city he is in and last night at the Air Canada Centre was no exception, as a throng of about 40 Canadian, American and Chinese journalists followed him about.

The Rockets may soon have two former members of the Chinese national team as former Raptors centre Mengke Bateer is in Houston training and may soon sign with the Rockets.

NOTES

First the publications, such as Sports Illustrated, placed the Raptors at or near the bottom in predictions this year. And now the NBA's general managers are dissing the Toronto team. In a recent survey, the GM's put the Raptors right at the bottom of the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division, behind the Knicks, 76ers, Celtics and Nets ... The Raps will kickoff the Read to Achieve program by visiting students at the CN Tower today at 2 p.m. Joining students from St. Gerard School in Mississauga will be Vince Carter, Rafer Alston, Morris Peterson and Roger Mason ... Peterson signed a multi-year endorsement with Reebok this week ... Jim Sann, an assistant coach in Toronto last season under Kevin O'Neill, made an appearance last night as an assistant with the Rockets ... Detroit head coach Larry Brown will be unable to make the trip to Toronto for tomorrow night's game between the Raptors and NBA champion Pistons. Brown underwent surgery to revise a previous hip replacement. The left hip, which Brown had replaced 15 years ago, was recently causing him severe pain.


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