September 2, 2009 / 5:21 AM / 10 years ago

Yao return next season "not ruled out": Rockets

Houston Rockets center Yao Ming cheers on his team from the bench after picking up two early first half fouls against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 1 of their NBA Western Conference semi-final playoff game in Los Angeles May 4, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese center Yao Ming is progressing well after foot surgery and while a return to court for the Houston Rockets next season remains unlikely, it has not been ruled out, the NBA team’s general manager said.

The hairline fracture to his left foot is the latest in a string of injuries to the 7ft-6in (2.28m) Yao and was described as “career-threatening” by the team doctor with the Rockets saying it would definitely rule him out for the 2009/10 season.

However, the 28-year-old underwent surgery on the fracture in Houston in July and Daryl Morey said the prognosis was positive.

“Yao Ming is progressing well,” he told ESPN TV. “I don’t think that (the end of career) 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 actually ruled out this season. I think that’s less likely than likely, but they haven’t ruled it out.

“And next season, the outlook is very good. 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.”

Yao fractured his foot during the Western Conference semi-finals against the Los Angeles Lakers on May 8 and the operation to repair it also included procedures to “change the alignment of his foot” and prevent the injury recurring.

The Shanghainese is China’s most popular sportsman and topped the most recent Forbes China list of entertainers with an estimated income of 357 million yuan ($52.27 million).

Seven-times an All Star, Yao has averaged 19.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game since joining the Rockets in 2002. The 2009/10 NBA season starts on October 29.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney and Liu Zhen, Editing by John O'Brien

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