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China to Face Yao-less Olympic Training
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China, having taken gold at the recent Asian Games minus Yao Ming, is likely to miss the NBA champion's services in Olympic warm-up matches against European power sides in 2007, local media reported on Monday.

Excused from national duties at Doha, the 7ft 6in Houston Rockets centre has enjoyed a stellar start to the NBA season, averaging 26.5 points and 10 rebounds a game.

China basketball chief Li Yuanwei said the "post-Yao era" would continue in 2007, the Beijing News reported.

"We need to face two situations -- one team with Yao, and another without," Li told the paper.

"He will play some of the warm-up matches."

China, which coasted to a fifth basketball gold in six Asian Games on Friday with a 59-44 victory over hosts Qatar, would look to Europe to test its mettle before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Li said.

"The core of our basketball preparations will focus on playing the strong European sides. We will have at least 40 warm-up matches next year," Li said.

"The Asian championships are no a longer a challenge," Li said.

(China Daily via Reuters December 19, 2006)

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