By the time you are reading this most of the folks in China will have put their heads to their pillows with a bit more pride in their hearts. They saw one of their chosen sons, Yao Ming, fall to the hardwood after a collision with Kobe Bryant. He laid there for what seemed an eternity, clutching a knee that supported the athletic identity of four billion people. Ming rose awkwardly, limped to the locker room, everyone wrote him off.

He gets hurt all the time, it’s like Yao and Tracy McGrady were doing a tag team move on the injury report.

But Yao came back out. Anger on his face, desire in his eyes, and a pure touch from 20 feet in his hands, he helped the Rockets beat back a Laker team that should be going undefeated in the playoffs.

This seems to be the new look Rockets, the “we don’t fly high, but we bang hard” version that is trying to make people think of something other than Kenny Smith and Hakeem when they think Houston basketball.

I wonder how much Ron Artest has to do with that?

Remember him, the “I beat up Ben Wallace and half the fans in Detroit in one night” while playing for the Pacers from a few years ago?

Apparently he got his act together, as well as shedding about 60 lbs in order to lengthen his All-Star career.

Now he is on the Rockets, using his defensive skills, offensive might and never-say-die attitude to take the Rockets out of the first round. For the first time since 1997, beating a young and hungry Blazers team.

Now Artest and Ming are taking on the Lakers – Showtime 2009 edition.

Kobe, Odom, Gasol, Ariza, Bynum, Jackson, names most basketball fans know for flying high, running fast, and racking up win after win on their home court.

The Jazz couldn’t stop them, and the Jazz always play good defense.

The Rockets however are another story.

For every shot Kobe makes, or play Odom orchestrates, or defensive stand Ariza helps out on, the Rockets have, and should continue to have a response for the rest of this series.

Yes, speed (and in a basketball sense, athletisism) kills, but power and defense trumps that any day.

Let Kobe throw all the punches he can, let him dunk and make highlights, Ron Artest will have that same crooked smile on his face that says “I just don’t care, keep it coming.”

And the Lakers won’t know what to do.