Where Will Yao Play Next Season?

Yao Ming.Yao Ming has garnered a lot of attention over his eight-year NBA career, as he has been named to the All-Star team eight times, although a large part of that has been due to his popularity in the Asian community (a fanbase that really blossomed when he came to the NBA in 2002). However, Yao has suffered a number of nagging injuries throughout his career and played only five games last season and the major question surrounding the big center now is, will Houston take a chance and offer him a contract for next season?

Houston’s odds in most online sportsbooks over the last few seasons have been predicated on Yao’s health, and when he is healthy, we know he’s one of the best centers in the league. But Yao has played more than 55 games in a season just four times in his career, including last year’s low of five, and we don’t know if the Rockets are willing to go through this again. There are still some outside factors that both sides have to consider, such as the negotiation of a new CBA which is threatening next season, but Yao has started that he wants to remain in Houston as he has been there his entire career. We’re sure someone would take a risk on Yao if the free agent isn’t offered a new deal.

The market for big men in the NBA is slim at best, with Orlando’s Dwight Howard, the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum and Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut as the only true centers in the league that are worth talking about (you may want to consider the Clippers’ Chris Kaman, Dallas’ Tyson Chandler and a couple others, but the list is short). Therefore, someone (reports state Golden State) will put in an offer on Yao. But if we had to lay a wager, we would bet on Yao Ming spending one more season in Houston.

Kobe Bryant in China

Kobe Bryant is very popular in China, and now he’s becoming even more involved.

One of the great curiosities in modern sports is the Chinese people’s lavish affection for Kobe Bryant. During last year’s Beijing Olympics, he was greeted with a rapturous reception and mobbed everywhere he went. He appears in commercials and on billboards, has a popular Web site and had a reality show on Chinese television. He sells more NBA jerseys there than Yao Ming.

On Tuesday in Los Angeles, the love affair will reach a new level. Not only is Mr. Bryant accepting an award from the Asia Society for his work as a “cultural ambassador,” the ceremony will be attended by Liu Peng, China’s Secretary of Sport and a member of China’s Communist Party Central Committee.

China’s embrace is largely an appreciation of Mr. Bryant’s basketball talent—he won his fourth NBA title earlier this month with the Los Angeles Lakers. “He reminds everyone of Michael Jordan,” says Shen Zhiyu, a senior basketball writer for Titan Sports, China’s largest sports daily.

But it is also a reflection of a deliberate campaign by Mr. Bryant to make inroads in the world’s most-populous country. In addition to his frequent visits to China (a planned trip in late July will be his fourth in as many years) and his considerable work on behalf of sponsor Nike, he’s assuming another identity: philanthropist.

In an attempt to tap into the Chinese government’s growing interest in promoting charity, Mr. Bryant is establishing the Kobe Bryant China Fund. The organization will partner with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation, a charity backed by the Chinese government, to raise money within China earmarked for education and health programs. Mr. Bryant’s existing fund, the Kobe Bryant Family Foundation, will also work to strengthen ties between the two countries by teaching middle-school students in the U.S. about Chinese language and culture. Mr. Bryant declined to say how much he is donating to the fund.

We will probably see many more athletes get involved with China, as it’s one of the largest markets in the world, and it’s largely an untapped market. Chinese investors recently bought a minority stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers, so we can probably expect LeBron James to increase his exposure in China as well.

Yao Ming might miss entire NBA season

Very for Yao Ming fans:

As the NBA draft approached, the grim truth about Yao Ming’s(notes) broken left foot hung like an anvil over the Houston Rockets. The fear isn’t that he’s just lost for next season, but longer.

The Rockets and Yao’s reps are frightened over his future, and the concern is the most base of all: Does Yao Ming ever play again?

“The realization has hit them that this is grave,” one NBA general manager said.

For now, the Rockets have privately told league peers it could be a full season before Yao might be able to return to basketball. Multiple league executives, officials close to Yao and two doctors with knowledge of the diagnoses are describing a troubling re-fracture of his navicular bone. Three pins were inserted a year ago, but the foot cracked in the playoffs and isn’t healing.

“It sounds like he’s missing most of next season, if not the entire 82 games,” one league executive who has had recent discussions with the Houston front office told Yahoo! Sports. “That’s all that [the Rockets] will concede quietly, but they know it’s probably much worse.”

Houston general manager Daryl Morey refused comment on Monday and a team spokesman said the Rockets will not have further comment until Yao undergoes additional medical tests.

Liu Xiang pulls out of 110m hurdles

In a sad story, Chinese hero had to pull out of the 100m hurdles due to an injury.

China suffered a huge setback Monday to its hopes of winning gold on the track when superstar Liu Xiang sensationally pulled out of the 110m hurdles, taking the gloss off the hosts’ best Olympics ever.

The country’s 1.3 billion people had been banking on Liu to shine, but he has been troubled by a foot tendon injury and was clearly in pain when he lined up for his race and pulled up before the first hurdle in a false start.

The dejected star, one of the faces of the Beijing Olympics along with basketballer Yao Ming, limped down the tunnel of the Bird’s Nest stadium to a stunned silence from the 91,000 watching fans.

Liu, the defending champion, has been absent from international competition for most of the year and his coach Sun Haiping said the hurdler has been suffering from the Achilles’ heel injury for six to seven years.

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