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Could Yao Ming leave the Rockets?

Image (1) NBA_ming.jpg for post 1045

According to Hoopchina (the original article is in Chinese, but the good folks at The Hoops Market were kind enough to translate), Yao Ming and the Rockets could be parting ways in the not-too-distant future. The article states that talks about an extension between the Rockets and their center have become “delicate,” as Yao wants a six-year extension while the team is only willing to offer four. If the two sides cannot agree on a deal, Yao could walk when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

If these reports are true, the Rockets are in a tough spot. On the one hand, Yao is one of the league’s best centers when healthy, and his combination of hulking size, amazing skill, and marketability make him a hard player to let go of. On the other hand, he hasn’t shown that he can stay healthy, the team has never been a legitimate threat to win the title with Yao, and six years is a very long contract for a player with health issues as severe as Yao’s have been. After eight years in a Rockets uniform, it’s hard to picture Yao playing for any team other than Houston. But if Yao and the Houston management team can’t come to a deal soon, the Yao era in Houston could come to an end after next season.