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Rockets center Yao opts for operation
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China's giant center Yao Ming will undergo surgery Monday to fix a stress fracture in his left foot, the Houston Rockets announced on Saturday.

Yao, who is already out for the rest of the National Basketball Association's 2007-08 season and whose long-anticipated Beijing Olympics campaign is in jeopardy, will have the surgery at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston. Rockets doctor Tom Clanton will perform the surgery.

Before the injury, the 27-year-old Yao was enjoying one of his best seasons in the NBA, averaging 22.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

Numerous times this season Yao carried the Rockets on his giant shoulders, but his teammates have rallied in his absence winning their first two games without him and extending their winning streak to 14 games. The team is seventh in the Western Conference.

The injury could also impact Yao's availability to lead the host country at the Summer Olympics in Beijing in August.

Yao said on Wednesday that he is still hoping to be able to play in the Olympics.

"If I cannot play in the Olympics for my country, that would be the biggest blow of my career," he said. "I don't want to know how disappointed the people in China would be.

"I'll do the best I can to come back, get stronger, protect myself."

Yao was healthy during his first three seasons in the league but has suffered since the 2005-06 campaign, when a toe injury saw him miss 21 games between December and January. He also suffered a broken foot in April 2006, ending his season.

A year later, Yao fractured the right tibia in his leg on December 23 and did not play again until early March, interrupting a season in which he had put up MVP-caliber numbers.

(Agencies via China Daily March 3, 2008)

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