Yao Ming Remains With Rockets
Had Yao opted out, he would have joined the most star-studded free agent class since 2000.
Yao didn't play a single minute during the 2009-10 NBA season owing to a foot injury suffered in Houston's second round playoff defeat against the Lakers in May 2009. Yao had reconstructive surgery on his foot last summer. The Rockets missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.
In December, Houston GM Daryl Morey told FanHouse's Chris Tomasson he was sure Yao would keep his contract and forgo free agency. Nonetheless, Yao was expected by many -- including myself -- to bite the bullet and opt out, even though teams may have been hesitant to ink the Chinese star to a maximum-level contract.
A major reason is the prospect of a more strict collective bargaining agreement in 2011; the league is seeking to tamp down salaries across the board, and perhaps especially for the NBA's highest-paid players.
Instead, Yao will hope to rebuild his reputation in the face of doubts he'll ever be able to remain healthy for a sustained period of time. Yao did play 77 games in 2008-09, but missed 86 games over the previous three seasons. He was remarkably dependable over the first three season of his NBA career before being beset by foot injuries.