Chinese officials critical of Yao for late arrival at camp

SHANGHAI, China -- China's official sports association has
issued an unprecedented public criticism of Yao Ming for reporting
late to national team training.

The Houston Rockets' star was faulted for taking too much time
off to recover from his last NBA season. The government's All-China
Sports Federation also said he spent too much time planning his
wedding and making appearances for the Special Olympics and 2008
Beijing Olympic Games.

"No matter how lofty public welfare activities are, they can't
be allowed to take first place in a player's life,'' the China
Sports Daily, a federation-owned newspaper, said in an article
appearing Tuesday.

"No matter how sweet personal life is, it can't be compared to
the exultation of capturing glory for one's nation,'' the article

Chinese Web sites later said Yao reported for national teaming
training on Wednesday.

The article quoted Li Yuanwei, the national basketball center
director, as saying the team's Olympic preparations were built
around their major star. Li said he hoped Yao would join the team
later this month in the Stankovic Cup.

"Without Yao Ming, a warmup competition is far less valuable,''
the article said.

Throughout his three seasons in the NBA, Yao has largely escaped
criticism from China's official media and the government by
honoring his national team commitments.

Yet Tuesday's article carried echoes of the bitter accusations
hurled at former Dallas Mavericks player Wang Zhizhi, the first
Chinese player in the NBA who refused to return to play with the
national team. Wang was labeled an immature ingrate and suffered a
five-year estrangement from Chinese basketball that ended only last
year after he made a humiliating apology.

China will face an All-Star team from the NBA Development League
in the Stankovic Cup at home, where the host team will include
recent draft pick Yi Jianlian.

The Milwaukee Bucks picked Yi with the No. 6 pick in the NBA
draft, but he hasn't committed to playing for them because his
agent hoped he would be drafted by a team in a market with a larger
Chinese population.

Chinese fans and the former national coach have urged Yi to sign
with the Bucks, but the owner of his former team in China, the
Guangdong Tigers, recently suggested that the 7-foot power
forward's NBA career could be over before it even begins.

"If the Bucks insist, Yi will go back'' to the Chinese league,
Chen Haitao was quoted as saying in Tuesday's Chinese-language
Beijing News.