Yao hopeful of return next season

Houston Rockets center Yao Ming was focused Friday on giving

every effort to get back to the NBA, and was certain that, when he

does return, it will be in a Houston Rockets jersey.

“I try continuing, I try continuing. It all still depends on

this foot,” Yao said at a Rockets charity event at Toyota Center on

Thursday night, his first session with the media since undergoing

season-ending surgery on his left ankle in January.

When asked if he believes he will play again Yao said, “That’s

the direction, that’s the direction.”

There had been speculation that Yao would not be able to play

again after the surgery and until Thursday’s charity event he was

yet to express his opinion on the subject.

Yao’s contract expires after this season, when he will become an

unrestricted free agent. But he insisted he has no desire to wear

another team’s uniform.

“I like it here,” Yao said. “I’m used to playing here. I feel

really, really comfortable here. I have my family here and I’m not

really planning to leave.”

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said he was looking forward to

having a fit-again Yao back as well.

“If you can find me a 7-foot-6 big man who’s great and is also a

great person and can play for you, of course if he’s healthy and

the doctors say he can play, of course we want him back again,”

Alexander said.

Yao said a big milestone in his recovery will come in May.

“I think I probably need another ten weeks until I can start

some running on the court as far as I know,” he said. “At that time

the foot will tell me how much I can get back.”

Asked how he will feel if the ankle surgery ends his career, Yao

replied, “That’s a sad question. If this is a possibility that I’m

not going to come back to play, I will tell myself I already did

everything I can.”