Chinese star center Yao Ming might be able to recover from surgery on his broken left foot and play for the Houston Rockets in the 2009-2010 NBA season.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told ESPN that Yao is improving and that his career, once thought to be in jeopardy from the injury, is no longer at risk, the sport's network's website reported on Monday.
"Yao Ming is progressing well," Morey said. "I don't think that (Yao never playing again) is something that will happen, based on what I'm hearing from the doctors.
"They do know that the bone will heal and he'll get back on it and they have not ruled out (a return) this season. I think that's less likely than likely but they haven't ruled it out."
Yao underwent surgery in July after suffering a fracture in a playoff game against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers, having bone grafts to his tarsal navicular bone and a foot realignment to reduce stress on the area.
That should enhance Yao's chances of being back and fit in the 2010-2011 campaign.
"Next season, the outlook is very good," Morey said. "He just took off the cast for a short period (two weeks ago) so the doctors could examine it and everything is going well. Everything is on track.
"Once the cast is removed, he'll be able to start rehab on his foot and the cast has a little ways, multiple weeks, to go."
Yao, who has NBA career averages of 19.1 points and 9.3 rebounds a game, was set to make more than $16 million next season and he has an option for the following season that would bring him more than $17 million.
Morey has encouraged Yao to look to a future that includes an NBA Finals challenge.
"He comes to the gym pretty much every day," Morey said. "He has become pretty good at making shots from a seated position.
"I've been joking with him that when we're in the NBA Finals and he gets knocked down and he hits the shot falling backwards to win the game, all this hard work will have paid off."
(AFP via China Daily September 2, 2009)