Sat, Jan 08, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Yao hints career could be over

FRAGILE:Yao Ming’s early exit from the current NBA campaign marked the sixth season in a row that he had his season interrupted or concluded by bone injuries


Chinese star center Yao Ming underwent left-ankle surgery on Thursday to repair an injury that ended his NBA season with the Houston Rockets and, he hinted, could possibly end his career.

Rockets team physician Tom Clanton performed the operation in Houston to repair a stress fracture that the 2.29m goliath suffered in a Nov. 10 loss in Washington. Yao has played in only five games this season.

“I know this will be another long rehab, but I am looking forward to beginning my recovery,” the 30-year-old Yao said in a statement. “I will use this time to consider all of my options and will make a decision regarding my career plans as I get closer to the end of my rehab.”

Yao is not expected to be able to begin major rehabilitation work for three to four months after having pins inserted to strengthen the cracked area.

“You knew it was coming,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “You just hope with the surgery that he can get back to where he can walk around and be ready to make whatever decision he needs to make at that point.”

Rockets team doctor Walter Lowe told the Houston Chronicle newspaper that surgery was the “usual” and “smartest” course of action for similar situations and estimated Yao would need seven to 10 months of rehabiliation to return.

Another factor in the situation is that Yao’s contract with the Rockets expires after this season.

Yao’s Houston teammates were hopeful to have him back on the court as soon as possible.

“You feel terrible for him,” Rockets forward Shane Battier said. “For being such a big guy and a hard worker, he deserves a break.”

“We hope this surgery is successful and he recovers quickly. You hope this is the last surgery for him. That guy has seen more hospital beds than Florence Nightingale,” he said.

Yao, who missed all of last season with an injury, averaged 10.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots, but his early exit marked the sixth season in a row that Yao had his season interrupted or conclude by bone injuries.

The historic top pick of the 2002 NBA Draft missed only two games in his first three NBA seasons, but has been undone by a series of setbacks, including reconstructive surgery last year to rebuild the arch on his left foot.

The Rockets had planned to limit Yao’s minutes in games this season after his absence the prior campaign and 91 games missed due to injury in the prior four seasons.

“You have got to feel for him, but it’s sounds like something he had to do if he ever wants to play again, or if he ever wants to have a quality of life,” Adelman said. “That’s the approach he is taking right now, and when he rehabilitates a little bit, we’ll see where he goes from there.”

The Rockets, 16-19 this season, are seeking NBA approval to allow a replacement for Yao on the active roster that would let them exceed the league salary cap by US$5.88 million to seek a trade deal or free agent signing.

Yao’s contract could also be traded to a rival club for a team trying to cut its salary by dealing away players on long-term contracts. Insurance will cover much of Yao’s salary for this season.

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