Though it has long been assumed Rockets center Yao Ming's foot injury and extensive surgery would prevent him from opting out of his contract after this season, Yao said Saturday he was “not sure” if the uncertainty with the NBA's labor negotiations would lead him to become a free agent this summer.
Yao, 29, said he has not considered his options, but was noncommittal about whether he might opt out of his contract.
“I'm sure I'm not sure until after we discuss (it),” Yao said. “We have not started (to) discuss it yet, so I'm not sure, either way. I have to talk to my agent first before we start to decide where I need to go. If you ask my agent, he will say, ‘I have to ask Yao and we will start discussing it.'”
Yao's agent, John Huizinga, had no comment.
If Yao does not jump into the deep pool of 2010 free-agent talent, he is due to earn $17.7 million next season in the final year of his contract. The next collective bargaining agreement is expected to reduce the number of years and value of a maximum contract, making a contract signed this offseason potentially worth more than one signed in 2011.
But Yao is not expected to choose to become a free agent before making his comeback from his surgery or to seek to leave Houston.
But if the new collective bargaining agreement was to lead to a decision to become a free agent this summer, it could alter the Rockets' strategies this summer by unexpectedly moving the Rockets under the salary cap with a right to retain Yao by exceeding the cap.