Yao Ming's NBA career could be over: doctor
Rockets' centre fresh off most injury-free year since 2004-05
Yao Ming may have played his last game in the NBA.
A hairline fracture in his left foot suffered in a May 8 playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers could be a "career-threatening" injury, according to Houston Rockets physician Dr. Tom Clanton.
He told the Houston Chronicle on Monday that Yao's injury "has the potential for him missing this next season," and perhaps longer.
Yahoo! Sports first reported the Rockets' and Yao's representatives were concerned the seven-foot-six all-star would never play again. Yahoo! Sports quoted "multiple league executives, officials close to Yao and two doctors with knowledge of the diagnoses."
Yao suffered a hairline fracture of the tarsal navicular bone, which hasn't healed, the team reported last week.
Yao is coming off his most injury-free year since 2004-05, having played in 77 regular-season games in 2008-09. Before last season, Yao missed chunks of previous three seasons with leg and foot injuries.
He missed 21 games in 2005-06 after surgery to heal an infection to his left big toe, then broke a bone in his left foot with four games left in the regular season.
In 2006-07, Yao missed 32 games after breaking his right leg, and he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in 2007-08, underwent surgery and sat out 26 games.
Yao hurried back from that foot injury to represent China in the Beijing Games. He made it through the Rockets' season and the first round of the playoffs before breaking his left foot late in the Rockets' 108-94 loss to the Lakers in Game 3 of the second round at the Toyota Centre.
Two days later, Yao said he didn't believe the injury was as serious as any of his previous ones. The Rockets said he would miss from eight to 12 weeks.
Last week, the team said Yao would undergo additional tests and consult with other doctors to map out a new course of treatment.
Yao is set to earn more than $16 million US next season with a player option for 2010-11 that would pay him over $17 million. He was the top overall pick by the Rockets in the 2002 draft.
The Rockets already expect Tracy McGrady to miss at least the first half of next season after microfracture surgery on his left knee.
Houston acquired McGrady in a trade with Orlando in June 2004, hoping the all-star duo would carry Houston back to the NBA's top tier. But one or the other has been injured for almost their entire time as teammates.
The Rockets are 146-74 in the 220 games McGrady and Yao have played together, a low total across five seasons. General manager Daryl Morey said last week Yao's uncertain status wouldn't affect any of his off-season plans for trades or free-agent signings. He has said the Rockets are interested in re-signing free agent Ron Artest.
After last week's draft, Morey said he wouldn't comment on Yao's health beyond the statement released by the team that he was out indefinitely.
With files from The Associated Press