The end of Yao Ming’s career is much closer than the Houston Rockets want to publicly admit and Ming has probably played his last game in the NBA.
Ming, who sat out last year with a foot injury, is done for the 2010-11 season after he sustained a fracture in his left ankle. According to a story in the Houston Chronicle, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said Ming is still in Houston’s future plans.
How is that a possibility much less a reality at this point?
Ming has played a total of five games in the last two seasons and it’s unknown whether he can rebound from this latest injury. If he has the surgery on his ankle, Ming will have seven to 10 months of rehab before he even thinks about playing in a game.
Rockets team physician Dr. Walter Lowe said the surgery would prevent Ming from breaking his ankle again. However, it wouldn’t keep him from possibly fracturing the ankle if he returns to action.
Lowe was quoted saying that Ming would be prone to stress fractures in his foot for the rest of his career. That doesn’t bode well for a 30-year old center with seven years worth of NBA action on legs holding up a massive, 7-foot-6 athlete.
Ming hasn’t made a decision on whether to have the surgery or mobilize his left foot and hope that the ankle heals itself.
Can the Rockets hook their future to the hope that Ming won’t suffer another injury?
It’s hard to see Houston hanging on to Ming after their past issues with former forward Tracy McGrady.
The former scoring champion was traded away last season after trying to make a comeback from microfracture surgery on his left knee.
McGrady and Ming were teamed up together and expected to take the Rockets back to the NBA Finals. Even though the duo was successful during the regular season, they could never carry that success into the postseason.
In 2005 and 2007, the Rockets failed to get out of the first round behind McGrady and Ming. The Rockets failed to make the playoffs in 2006 due to injuries to McGrady and Yao.
Yao quickly became an NBA superstar and an icon in China after being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in 2002 by Houston. His global impact in the NBA was noticed when his jersey was consistently in the top five in sales early in his career.
The Rockets were certain Yao would bring back the glory days of Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon when he led Houston to consecutive titles in 1993-94 and 1994-95. Now the Rockets must regroup in a hurry and figure out what direction the team is going in to find success on the court.
The Rockets will have to make a decision on coach Rick Adelman, who is in the final year of his contract. That decision will play a big part in what the Rockets do with their three draft selections in 2011.
The Rockets have seen former coach Jeff Van Gundy and McGrady walk out the door without much success and, unfortunately, will see Yao walk out the same door.
The end is definitely here and way too soon for a dominant player like Ming.