Yao downplays rumors of Cavs' interest
BEIJING -- Rockets center Yao Ming has called a possible move to Cleveland an "unknown" amid rumors that the Cavaliers' new Chinese part owners want to sign him.
In a recent interview with his hometown Shanghai TV station, Yao said he continued to have "much affection" for the Houston Rockets, the team that took him in the first round of the 2002 draft and with whom he has played all six of his NBA seasons.
I've already been with Houston for such a long time, I still have much affection for this team.” -- Center Yao Ming
Yao has not won a championship, but said Houston's drive to the second-round of the playoffs this year had given him hope that the Rockets can contend next season.
Rumors of a possible move to Cleveland have swirled since a group of Chinese investors signed an agreement last month with the Cavaliers to become minority owners. The move is expected to boost the team's popularity and marketing opportunities in China, where Cleveland star LeBron James is very popular.
"This is all an unknown," Yao said in the interview, a transcript of which was posted online Friday.
"I've already been with Houston for such a long time, I still have much affection for this team," he said. "Moreover, this past season we were very successful, and that let me see some hope."
Cleveland has not publicly expressed interest in Yao, who has one guaranteed year left on his contract with Houston, including a player option for the 2010-11 season.
Yao broke his troublesome left foot in Game 3 of the second-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, the eventual champions.
The lure of a championship remains strong and Yao conceded to feeling jealous of fellow China national team member Sun Yue, who played for the Lakers.
"There's a little bit of envy," Yao said. "If I didn't have feel even some jealousy, then I'm afraid that really would make me a little too much of a slacker."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press