Ding's NBA dream stays alive

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Ding Yanyuhang in action for the Dallas Mavericks during October's NBA China Games in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. The 6-foot-7 forward's hopes of playing in the NBA have been revived by surgery on his troublesome right knee. CHINA DAILY

China's Ding Yangyuhang is hoping to get his NBA dream back on track after undergoing surgery on a nagging right knee problem.

The 25-year-old, who plays for the Dallas Mavericks' G League affiliate the Texas Legends, has been sidelined for several months, but on Tuesday the Mavs announced that the reigning CBA MVP underwent arthroscopic surgery on the injury.

Ding will rehabilitate his knee at Baylor Physical Therapy in Frisco, Texas under the guidance of the Legends.

The news comes as a welcome boost for Chinese hoops after the Houston Rockets on Monday waived Ding's compatriot, Zhou Qi. The 22-year-old's release leaves China, at least temporarily, without a representative in the world's top league.

"I'm appreciative of all the support the Mavericks and Legends organizations have given me this season," said Ding.

"I'm getting great medical treatment here in Dallas. I look forward to a successful rehab process and hope to get back on the court in the near future."

Chinese TV basketball commentator Su Qun said that years of intensive training and competition had left Ding with "a 30-year-old knee" that had never been treated properly.

Ding received treatment on the knee this summer but rushed back into action for a tryout with the Brooklyn Nets, which exacerbated the problem.

"Taking a rest results in a longer journey," Ding conceded afterward.

He didn't heed his own advice, heading to August's Asian Games to help his country claim gold.

Team China doctor Li Dapeng, however, later revealed Ding was still struggling with knee issues.

Chinese fans will hope the surgery spells an end to his injury woes.

"Ding's successful return to the court is the number one goal for all of us," said Mavericks president of basketball operations and general manager Donnie Nelson. "Ding will start rehab immediately, and we all look forward to his full recovery."

Ding represented the Mavericks in October's NBA China Games, playing the second stop of the preseason series against the Philadelphia 76ers in Shenzhen, scoring just one point.

Upon his return to the US, the 6-foot-7 former Shandong player was waived by the Mavs and sent to play with the Legends.

"The NBA has been a dream for me. Even though I suffered from injuries and other difficulties, the heartfelt chase of my NBA dream never changed," Ding said at the time.

"As long as there's a tiny possibility, I'll try my best to fight for it."

Like Zhou, Ding has been touted as a possible successor to Houston's Hall of Famer and current Chinese Basketball Association president Yao Ming.

Both players have been blighted by injuries in their quest to become China's next major NBA star, although Mavericks captain Dirk Nowitzki reckons Ding could one day make it.

"If his health is OK, he will have a shot in the league," the 13-time All-Star remarked during the China Games.

Unearthing a new Chinese star has obvious commercial pluses for the NBA, with the league's deputy commissioner Mark Tatum remarking this summer: "We hope to have many more Chinese players in the future."

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