HOUSTON, August 25- China's Yao Ming, who missed last season with injuries, returned to the court Tuesday after doctors gave him the green light to play basketball again.The Houston Rockets star underwent surgery on his left foot last year and on Monday team doctor Tom Clanton said it was fully healed, clearing the way for Yao to resume practices with the NBA team.
"I am very excited," Yao said Tuesday. "I am just looking forward to playing a great season. I think I can count on my foot now."
The 7-foot-6 Yao worked out at the Toyota Center arena with Rocket teammates James Cripe and Chuck Hayes. He landed awkwardly on the foot once and winced but then quickly resumed practice. Yao started running again two months ago and is pleased with the way the rehabilitation is progressing.
"That’s just the confidence," Yao said. "I think everybody would have that after a foot injury, and (I’m) just still a little bit weak on that. I just need to continue to build on that. Compared to two months ago, it’s really a lot better."
General manager Daryl Morey said they don’t want to rush Yao back in the lineup and his minutes would probably be limited to start with.
"It’s great news," Morey said. "It’s what we anticipated, but until you get over these milestones, you’re never for sure. He looks like his old self. He still has a ways to go on his wind and things like that. But it’s just good to see him out there."
Yao said last season he had doubts about his return but support from his teammates helped him recover sooner.
"That was really a hard month for me," Yao said of being told he would miss an entire season. "I got a lot of phone calls from the Rockets staff, coaches, players, teammates and my friends and of course, my family will always be there to stay with me.
"That was the hardest time, (and it’s) already passed. Now, we’re looking forward and making something good."
Houston begins training camp on September 25. They will travel to China in mid-October for two preseason games against New Jersey.
The seven-time all-star lost 40 pounds in the past few months and said he would work hard over the next few weeks to shed more weight and get in game shape.
"I’m really, really not in good shape right now," he said. "I’m probably a little bit away from game shape. The good news is we still have one month until training camp, and two months to the season."
In seven seasons in the NBA, Yao has averaged 19.1 points and 9.3 rebounds. He was the Rockets number one overall draft pick in 2002.