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September 3, 2009

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Rockets: Yao's return next season not ruled out

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 National Basketball Association team's general manager said.

The hairline fracture to his left foot is the latest in a string of injuries to the 2.26-meter 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 semifinals 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 2009/10 NBA season starts on October 29.

Meanwhile, China's national coach Guo Shiqiang will continue in his job despite a run of poor form which led to loud calls in the domestic media to replace him.

The former teammate of Yao became the youngest man to hold the national coach's position when he was appointed at the age of 33 in May, but had been expected to be fired after a meeting of the China Basketball Association yesterday.

"We should re-establish our confidence and boost our morale, and should not easily change a coach when the team is currently encountering temporary difficulties," said a summary of the meeting posted on the CBA Website.

Defeats to Australia and Turkey meant China only managed third place in the four-team Stankovic Cup last week and that followed a humiliating loss to Iran in the Asian championship final last month.


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