Yao's Foot Could Spell Trouble For Rockets

Richard O'NealSenior Analyst IJune 25, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 06:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets reacts to a foul called on him in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 6, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Over the past several seasons, there has been a common theme in the Rockets' organization: "Yao Ming Out For Remainder of Season." Yao has shown that when he is healthy, he is one of the top centers in the NBA...he just hasn't been at that healthy stage as often as the team has expected him to be. 

Each year, the Rockets have had championship aspirations, only to be derailed by countless injuries to their star players.  Newly acquired Rocket, Ron Artest was supposed to be the injury-free complement to Yao and Tracy that would put them up with the elite in the Western Conference. Although Artest remained relatively health for the season, he still missed 13 games and played in other games on a bum ankle. Tracy McGrady started off the 2008 season on a bad knee that would force him to be in and out of the lineup for most of the year until he finally opted to have season-ending surgery.  Yao had a stellar regular season, but went down with an injury in the playoffs, when his team needed him the most. 

Yao suffered a hairline fracture in his left foot back on May 8 in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers.  Before the injury, he was averaging 19.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in the series and was carrying the team on his back. The team would go on to force a Game 7 without Yao, eventually losing. 

The Rockets' team doctors released a statement saying that Yao's foot has not responded well to the treatment program and is still not healed. Tracy McGrady will already be sidelined for the first half of next season and has been the subject of his trade rumors since last season.  Ron Artest has stated that he would like to be back in Houston but it's not a certainty. 

The Rockets could potentially be starting their season without any of the superstar players, which would really hurt them early in the season and make it very tough to recover from.  Yao's foot healing properly and responding to the treatment program that doctors have planned could very well be the sole determinant of the team's success through the first half of next season.