Yao Ming says he is not done.
Injuries to his feet have kept the one time cornerstone of the Rockets franchise out of all but five games total the last two seasons. He’s had a couple of major foot surgeries in the last two years. But he told reporters Thursday at the Rockets annual Tennies Charity Gala that he is not done (video at Rockets.com, via CBS’s Eye on Basketball).
“I’ve been doing well. Once in awhile, seeing the doctors, checking to see how things are going. I’m happy about the progress and [I’m going to] try to make it back. They think I need about another 10 weeks until I can start running on the court… At that time the foot will tell me how much I can get back.”
Yao admitted it is possible that his body will not allow him to come back.
“That’s a sad question, first of all. If there’s a possibility that I’m not going to come back to play, I’m going to tell myself I already did everything I can.”
Yao will be a free agent this summer, but said getting back playing is the priority, there where will sort itself out (although he later added he really likes living and playing in Houston).
“Right now it’s more focused on my injury. About the future, it all depends on this foot.”
UPDATE 4:20 pm: Yao Ming released this statement after his surgery.
“I’d like to thank everyone for their ongoing support. I know this will be another long rehab, but I’m looking forward to beginning my recovery. I will use this time to consider all of my options, and will make a decision regarding my career plans as I get closer to the end of my rehab.”
The surgery was deemed successful. Yao sounds less confident about his plans here, but this is a public statement in which it would be smart to leave his options open. There are still the reports (listed below) that say his goal is to return.
1:04 pm: Yao Ming had another surgery today, this one to repair a fracture in his left ankle.
There is no timetable for a return — but he does want to return, according to Marc Spears of Yahoo, who broke the story on twitter.
Yao was previously diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left ankle, an injury that was expected to keep him out for the season. That after he missed all of last season following foot surgery.
Yao has been discussed in trades because he has a massive, $17 million expiring contract. However, nothing has yet come of that, and even if a team did trade for him they may well not want to re-sign him.
Yao said last summer he might just walk away from the game if he couldn’t get healthy, but now he sounds like he wants to give it one more shot. That may well be somewhere other than Houston — the only franchise he has ever known in the Association — but anyone showing interest in him would be taking a flyer.
Not a lot of players would have the desire and determination to continue doing all this rehab work to get back on the court. Yao, however, is not your average player. One thing he has always had is a fantastic work ethic. And he’s apparently not ready to give up on the game just yet.