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On Monday, we wrote the name Yao Ming for the first time since ... I can't remember when.

But we noted how the Houston Rockets had won 12 in a row and were back in the thick of the NBA Western Conference playoff hunt because for the first time in three years, their 7-foot-6 center had stayed healthy.  In fact, the only game Houston has lost in the last 18 was one that Yao missed.

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We noted that Yao had played in 55 games (just two short of his high over the last three seasons) and lauded his impressive, steady stats, an average of 22 points and nearly 11 rebounds a game. And then yesterday, the Rockets called a news conference to announce that for the third straight year, Ming will miss considerable time -- considerable meaning the rest of the regular season and the playoffs -- with a stress fracture in his left foot.

Without Yao in the lineup last night, the Rockets' hot streak continued as they trounced the Washington Wizards by 25 points. The venerable Dikembe Mutombo will be filling in for Yao and while he'll help with the rebounding and the defense, he's not going to come close to making up those 22 points a game.

Yao's main concern now is getting ready for the Beijing Olympics where he would be playing for his country.

One instance does not an SI or Madden video game jinx make -- but we're going to be careful about who we feature for a while and refrain from praising any key Orioles.

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