Will Yao Play?

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China has a new Olympic worry that could leave protests and air pollution in the shade: will Yao play? The hoops superstar suffered a stress fracture in his left foot that will end his NBA season. Now the question is whether the Houston Rockets center will be well in time for the Games. His injury is expected to heal in June, just two months before the Beijing Olympics, but there is always the possibility his recovery could take longer. “When we heard about Yao’s injury, we felt shocked and concerned just like all the basketball fans in China,” the Associated Press quoted the Chinese men’s basketball team manager Bai Ximin telling a news conference today.

If Yao isn’t ready for the Games, that brings up a point raised by commenter yoyochitah: how will this injury “affect Sino-American basketball relations?” As yoyochitah notes, “the NBA, China, and the Olympics are all highly-invested in Yao being healthy.” Sino-American basketball relations–a subject worthy of a dissertation–have not always been smooth. But if you follow the progression from Wang Zhizhi to Yi Jianlian you could at least say that there has been significant detente.

Will this be thrown off by Yao’s left foot? The accusation would be that Yao was overworked. But big men are injury-prone players. And as one of the best centers in the league, Yao was bound to get a lot of minutes. If he hadn’t it would have not only hurt the Rockets, but also the expectations of fans from both the U.S. and China. Anyhow, here’s hoping he gets well quickly, and all this speculation becomes moot.