BEIJING (AP)—Houston Rockets center Yao Ming(notes) is considering quitting basketball after next season if he doesn’t fully recover from his lingering foot injury.
Yao Ming missed all of last season due to injury. (Click on photo for more images)
In comments to Chinese state media Monday, Yao sounded far from optimistic about his future and also made a rare criticism of China’s national basketball program.
“If the foot injury does not heal next season, I might choose to call it quits,” he said.
Yao turns 30 in September and missed last season following foot surgery. He is set to return to the Rockets after deciding not to opt out of the final year of his contract. Though he has said his recovery was going well, the Rockets have signed 7-foot veteran Brad Mille to share the work at center.
Yao told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday that he hopes to begin contract drills next month and resume playing full-court games by the middle of September. He’s optimistic that he’ll be ready by the time training camp starts in early October.
“I can’t tell you how much confidence I have, but I’ve felt pretty good up until now about the drills I did on the court,” Yao told Y! Sports. “I feel confident in that.”
After missing all of last season, Yao knows he’ll need time to get accustomed to some teammates he’s never played with, including Miller, Kevin Martin, Trevor Ariza, Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, Jermaine Taylor, Jared Jeffries and rookie Patrick Patterson. At the start of free agency, he tried to help recruit Chris Bosh, who decided to sign with the Miami Heat. In addition to acquiring Miller, the Rockets re-signed forward Luis Scola and point guard Kyle Lowry.
Bosh “made his decision and made the best decision for himself,” Yao said. “All we need to think about is moving forward. We have Kyle Lowry coming back and Luis Scola coming. Also, we have Brad Miller joining us. That’s still very good. I like this team. I think this team has a lot of good chemistry and the fans of Houston are really supporting us.”
Yao, who has been in China to promote some of his charity events, all but ruled out playing in the 2012 London Olympics.
“The chance is very small,” the 7-6 center was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency. “The foot injury will not allow me to play so many games anymore. Like I said before, I will quit the national team and the sport one day. It’s what happens to every athlete.”
Without Yao, the national team has played lackluster ball, including an embarrassing home loss to Iran in the final of the Asian Championship last year. Yao attributed the poor showings to China’s focus on the 2008 Beijing Olympics and neglect of development teams and the country’s professional league.
“We are paying for what we didn’t do leading up to 2008. We skipped the development of a reserve team and the CBA league and focused only on the national team and the Olympics. It’s like you are killing the goose that lays the golden egg,” he said. “I’m 30. As an athlete, I am not the future of China basketball anymore.”