Yao Ming still with China cage pool; Yi, Wang returning
MANILA—Chinese superstar Yao Ming has retired from the NBA but not from the national team.
China’s American head coach Bob Donewald Jr. included the 7-foot-6 former Houston Rockets cornerstone in the team’s 16-man training pool for the 26th Fiba Asia Championship where the champion goes straight to the 2012 London Olympics.
Yao, who spent eight seasons with the Rockets, announced his retirement early this month, citing recurring injuries to his foot and ankle, including a third fracture on his left foot sustained near the end of the 2010 NBA season.
According to Fibaasia.net, Donewald trimmed the roster and left out big men Wang Lei, Meng Duo and Guo Ailun to reserve a slot for Yao, the NBA’s most successful marketing tool in Asia.
Donewald also announced in his twitter account that Yao, an eight-time NBA All-Star and three-time Fiba Asia Championship MVP, is one of four centers for China along with former NBA campaigner Wang Zhizhi, Su Wei and Zhang Zhaoxu.
Forward Yi Jianlian of the Washington Wizards is expected to join China’s training camp within the month. Wang and Zhang anchored host China to victory in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.
Yao, 30, announced his retirement but hasn’t made up his mind on future plans, which could include a return trip to the Asian championship in Wuhan, China, on Sept. 15 to 25 if health allows it.
But Smart Gilas national team head coach Rajko Toroman isn’t buying it, citing Donewald’s move as a psychological ploy to boost China’s buildup to the Asian championship.
“I honestly don’t think he (Yao) will play,” said Toroman. “I think it’s more of a psychological thing just like what they did in the Asian Games.”
Yao’s possible stint in the basketball competitions of the Asiad last year was also floated months before the tournament.
China and the PH five are clustered in Group D along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in the opening round of the Asian championship, a group Toroman believes could favor the Nationals’ bid to book the lone continental ticket to the Olympics.
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