Yao giving foot time to heal

HOUSTON -- Encouraged by progress in his recovery from major foot surgery, Yao Ming said Wednesday he will return to action -- just not next season.

"The [X-ray] picture looks good. The bones heal well," he said in an interview with Houston television station KRIV.

He also said, however, that there is no chance that he will play in the 2009-10 NBA season.

"The answer is no. You don't want to rush it, because they want it to totally heal this time. I have been in this situation enough," he said.

The 7-foot-6 center underwent surgery in May to repair a hairline fracture in his left foot suffered late in a May 8 playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The injury had raised questions, especially in his native China, about Yao's playing future.

On Wednesday, he said he expects his career will take on new life.

"I am able to play again," he said.

However, there may be a change in the style of his play.

"Obviously, I want to play basketball. This is my life right there," he said. "But for long term, believe me for long term, I need to slow down."

Yao had the hard cast removed from his left leg on Friday, and his leg and foot were placed in an orthopedic boot. He said he works out three times a week, but the boot on his leg limits what he can do.