Sam Alipour of ESPN the Magazine was able to extract the following from Rockets GM Daryl Morey during a recent interview:
"Yao Ming is progressing well. I don't think that [a career-ending scenario] is something that will happen, based on what I'm hearing from the doctors," Morey told Alipour. "They do know that the bone will heal and he'll get back on it. And they have not actually ruled out [his return] this season. I think that's less likely than likely, but they haven't ruled it out."
Be careful with this, because while it may sound optimistic, the "Yao for 2009-2010" bandwagon is one that you should avoid jumping on.
Instead, you should be more receptive to this kind of news, again from Morey:
"And next season, the outlook is very good. He just took off the cast for a short period [two weeks ago], so the doctors could examine it, and everything is going well. Everything is on track."
Now that is what we like to hear! With Yao, it's all about next season. Not this season, but next season. If you have yet to separate Yao Ming from the 2009-2010 Rockets, you'd better do so immediately. There's no point in getting your hopes up, and there's certainly no point in rushing Yao back to a team that may or may not make the playoffs without him.
From the start, the plan was to rest Yao until he was perfectly healthy. For a while, nobody thought of even mentioning a 2009 return, much less a 2010-2011 return. The fact that the injury was reported as career-threatening scared the bejesus out of Houston, China, and the NBA. As a result of this, Yao chose a procedure that would help save his career in the long run, with an underlying rule in mind:
Do. Not. Rush. It.
But now, after preaching patience throughout, we're talking about bringing Yao back this year? There should be no deviation from the plan. Results such as this are what the Rockets want to hear - that's the whole point of the procedure. However, a single optimistic sign should not encourage Yao to decrease his recovery time.
I hate to quote a Bush, but in this case it feels appropriate. All Yao needs to do here...is stay the course. One wrong move could produce exponentially bad results.