The Rockets announced last month that Yao would miss the remainder of the season because of a stress fracture in his ankle. An official timetable for Yao's recovery from the surgery has yet to be established, but the Rockets' team physician has previously said it could take Yao up to 10 months to return to the court if he elected to have the procedure.
Yao, 30, weighed whether to retire after his latest injury, but a source close to him says he now intends to try to play next season.
“It’s a pretty strong certainty that he doesn’t plan on retiring,” the source said. “He doesn’t want to end his career like that. No doctor has told him he has to do it differently. At the end of the day, what else does he have to do?”
Yao is in the last season of his contract, and the Rockets have explored trading his $17.7 million expiring deal before the February deadline to help them better build for the future. League sources said the team currently doesn't have any significant trade discussions involving Yao.
One source said the Golden State Warriors tried to acquire Yao last season for center Andris Biedrins(notes), but Houston balked. The Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks also expressed mild interest in the past. For teams looking to cut costs, insurance will provide $8 million in savings for Yao's salary.
Yao will become a free agent this summer, though the source close to him said he would prefer to stay in Houston.
“He’s played on the Shanghai Sharks and the Houston Rockets. He’s not one for change,” the source said.
Yao has played in just five games the past two seasons. After missing just two regular season games in his first three NBA seasons, Yao has missed at least 25 games in five of the past six seasons as a result of injuries to his feet and legs.
The No. 1 pick of the 2002 draft has averaged 19.0 points and 9.3 rebounds during his NBA career.
- Houston Rockets