SHANGHAI — China’s NBA star Yao Ming said Friday his broken left foot was on the mend and he planned to return to the Houston Rockets for the 2010-11 season.
“I’ll be back next season,” Yao told reporters after a news conference to launch a public campaign to stop consumption of shark fin soup.
But Yao, who has been ruled out for the current NBA season, said his participation in the 2010 World Basketball Championships in Turkey starting in August looked unlikely.
“It all depends on my injury. It looks like my schedule is on time, but it looks like it will be a little difficult,” he said.
The oft-injured seven-time All-Star broke his foot in a home playoff loss on May 8 against the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers after playing 77 regular-season games, his most since the 2004-2005 campaign.
The injury has been of great concern to fans and sports officials in China anguished at having the nation’s biggest sports star sidelined and worried about his ability to compete in future for the national squad.
The 2.3-metre (7-foot-6) superstar declined to give a more specific date for his return to the NBA.
“The timetable for next season is not available yet,” he said.
Yao underwent surgery in July that involved a bone graft and realignment of his foot.
Yao said the fact he was able to return to his hometown of Shanghai to attend this weekend’s opening of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season showed he was on the mend.
“The recovery has been fairly good. The latest check allowed me to take the long trip to China,” he said.
Yao now owns the CBA’s Shanghai Sharks, the club where he first sprang to prominence.
Houston Rockets team doctors initially feared his broken foot could be a career-threatening injury, but Yao, who was still on crutches Friday, said that would not be the case.
Foot and leg injuries have dogged Yao in his NBA career.
He missed 21 games in the 2005-2006 season with an infected left big toe that required surgery and then broke a bone in his left foot four games before the end of the season.