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Retirement for center Yao?
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Reports that a severe foot injury will end NBA all-star center Yao Ming's career have been quickly dismissed by his agent.

"I heard some reports say Yao's career might be over due to the worsening injury," said Zhang Mingji, who goes by the name of Eric Zhang in the United States. "I don't think it's the right time to say that.

"I can assure you the (Houston) Rockets have never come to a conclusion concerning Yao's career."

Zhang, however, did admit that the previous treatment on the superstar's broken left foot did not work as hoped.

"Obviously, the treatment on Yao's injury was not effective. The team is considering adopting new treatments. But it's yet to be determined."

The China Basketball Administrative Center said it's been informed of the news but a chief official assumed it would not rule Yao out of the World Championships next year.

"We have got the news from Team Yao that his injury is not recovering well," said Hu Jiashi, deputy director of the sport's governing body. "But they did not say if Yao will miss the NBA season, not to mention the possibility of missing the World Championships next year."

On Monday, Houston Rockets team physician Tom Clanton told the Houston Chronicle that the Chinese superstar's broken left foot could cause the popular sports figure to miss all of next season and could be a "career-threatening" injury. Clanton pointed out that the injury in Yao's left foot has worsened.

"One of the things we are trying to get is a consensus opinion on that, to make certain there is no option we are overlooking at that would provide an earlier return or would be an option for treatment that (Yao) would prefer rather than doing additional surgery," Clanton said.

Yahoo! Sports first reported that the Rockets as well as Yao's representatives were concerned that the 7-foot-6 giant would never play again. Yahoo! Sports quoted "multiple league executives, officials close to Yao and two doctors with knowledge of the diagnoses".

The hairline fracture was discovered following the Rockets' May 8 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals. The original treatment plan called for Yao to cease all physical training and to wear a walking boot to immobilize the foot.

Lingering injury

Less than two weeks ago, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said the team was committed to building around Yao.

"Yao is the cornerstone of our franchise now and in the future," Morey said before the latest test results.

Yao played in 77 regular-season games in 2008-09, his most injury-free year since 2004-05, when he played in 80. Before last season, Yao missed portions of the previous three seasons with leg and foot injuries.

He missed 21 games in 2005-06 after surgery to heal an infection to his left big toe, but then broke a bone in his left foot with four games left in the regular season.

In 2006-07, Yao missed 32 games after breaking his right leg and suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in 2007-08. He then underwent surgery and sat out 26 games.

Yao recovered from that foot injury to represent China in the Beijing Games. He made it through the Rockets' season and the first round of the playoffs before breaking his left foot late in the Rockets' 108-94 loss to the Lakers in Game 3 of the second round at the Toyota Center.

Two days after the playoff loss, Yao said he didn't believe the injury was as serious as any of his previous ones. The Rockets said he would miss only 8-12 weeks.

(Agencies/China Daily July 1, 2009)

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