HOUSTON, January 15 – The NBA has granted Houston a disabled player salary exception after the Rockets' Chinese star Yao Ming suffered another season-ending injury.Yao had surgery on January 6 to repair a stress fracture in his left ankle.
The disabled player exception allows the Rockets to acquire a free agent or trade for a player to replace him without having to match salaries, up to about 5.76 million dollars.
The Rockets were granted the same exception after Yao missed all of last season in the wake of reconstructive foot surgery.
Yao’s contract with the Rockets expires at the end of this season. The historic top pick of the 2002 NBA Draft missed only two games in his first three NBA seasons, but has been undone by a series of setbacks, including the surgery last year to rebuild the arch on Yao’s left foot.
The Rockets had planned to limit Yao’s minutes in games this season after his absence the prior campaign and 91 games missed due to injury in the prior four seasons.
After his surgery this month, Yao said he was looking forward to beginning his rehabilitation, but would use his enforced rest period "to consider all of my options and will make a decision regarding my career plans as I get closer to the end of my rehab."
Yao is not expected to be able to begin major rehabilitation work for three to four months after having pins inserted to strengthen the cracked area.