Yao to meet with traditional practitioners on stress fracture

BEIJING -- Houston Rockets center Yao Ming is back in China to consult with traditional medicine practitioners over his NBA season-ending foot injury.

Yao said Friday he also plans to see his fellow players on the national team and talk with coach Jonas Kazlauskas on strategy for the Beijing Olympics in August.

Yao hadn't decided on a treatment to heal the stress fracture in his left foot, but said he would probably meet with the country's top traditional doctors early next week. Traditional Chinese medicine can range from acupuncture to herbal teas, and is usually less invasive and slower acting than Western medicine.

"Traditional Chinese medicine has a history of thousands of years in our country so there must be something to it," Yao said.

Yao, who arrived in Beijing late Thursday, hobbled into a news conference on crutches, his injured foot sheathed in a protective guard. He said his recovery was going "pretty well," but he wasn't likely to be back at his best until late June or early July.

His injury had sparked a near panic in China, where huge hopes are riding on the Olympics. China's other big man, former Dallas Mavericks center Wang Zhizhi, also recently underwent knee surgery and Milwaukee Bucks rookie forward Yi Jianlian was scheduled to undergo a scan on his sprained left knee.

Despite the setbacks, Yao warned against counting the hosts out, saying the team would finish 12th in a worst-case scenario, but was poised for a "historic breakthrough."

"It's a testimony to how much these Games mean to us players that we're not just saying 'I'm injured, that's it,' and throwing in the towel," Yao said. "The Games are in our own country and that's special."

"The Olympics is a big competition with big pressure. If the pressure wasn't there, you wouldn't have so many athletes trying to get in."

Yao had heard rumors he would be selected as an Olympic torch bearer -- perhaps even carrying it at the opening ceremony -- but didn't know anything for sure.

"Of course it would be a huge honor to carry the torch, but in my present state, in my present condition I can't even run 200 meters," Yao said.

The 7-6 center appeared to have overcome some of the disappointment of seeing his NBA season end. He smiled and joked with reporters and assured them that despite playing in the U.S., he remained Chinese at heart.