HOUSTON -- If Rockets fans have hope of Yao Ming returning during the 2009-2010 season, this may put a damper in their hopes.
The league granted the Houston Rockets an injury exception yesterday that would save the team approximately $5.7 million, money that they ultimately used to sign free agent Trevor Ariza to his five-year, $33 million contract.
General Manager Daryl Morey said that although the Rockets were given the exception, he wasn't completely ruling Yao out for the season at this point. Morey also revealed that the team contemplated applying for the disabled player exception with star Tracy McGrady but felt that they had a better chance of receiving the exception through Yao's status.
Yao tried to keep Rockets' fans in high spirits yesterday, releasing a statement reported by the Associated Press: "I am optimistic about the future and I will return to playing basketball when my foot has fully healed," Yao said in a statement released by his agent Wednesday. "My focus is on selecting the best treatment option for my injured foot and committing myself to do what I can to ensure a complete recovery."
Yao is expected to announce his decision within a week, choosing which treatment he will receive on his fracture foot and how long the recovery will take.
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.
The Rockets are still in need of a center, preferably one with size due to their tallest player being only 6-9. The Rockets tried to sign free agent Marcin Gortat but were unable to offer enough money, leading him to accept an offer from Dallas earlier in the week.
What the future holds for the Rockets is uncertain but at least they know that if Yao returns they won't have any issues from his standpoint. "The Rockets have kept me informed of what they are doing and why. I support them in their efforts to make our team as good as possible," Yao said in a statement released through his agent, John Huizinga.