Houston Rockets' center Yao Ming has spoken for the first time about his highly anticipated move to the Cleveland Cavaliers as an "x-factor" after Chinese businessman Huang Jianhua's purchase of a minority stake in the franchise last month sparked the rumors.
"It's (joining Cavaliers) still unknown," said the NBA all-star giant of his potential partnership with 2009 NBA MVP Lebron James during an interview with Shanghai TV. "Whether he is Chinese (Huang Jianhua) or foreign (Rockets boss Leslie Alexander), they are just bosses."
Yao is maintaining his faith in the Rockets, who for the first time in six years advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs before losing to eventual champions Lakers in the conference semis.
"I have a strong feeling for the Rockets. I had a very successful season with the team and it has given me hope (to win the championship).
The 28-year-old giant's contract is worth $75 million over 5 years and expires in 2011.
A get-out clause for the last season means Yao can opt out after the next NBA playoffs in 2010.
According to NBA rules, if Houston want to extend the contract, they have the privilege to renew it beyond 2011 with him this summer. But once Yao decides to get out of the contract in 2010, the Rockets have to compete with other teams for his services.
So far the Rockets have shown no sign they would like to let him go.
Huang told Chinese media last week that Yao would be chased by every team in the NBA if he chose to move on.
Huang, also a good friend of Rockets boss Alexander, has played a key role in the sponsorship deals between the Rockets and several Chinese companies.
Yao has never been beyond the Western Conference semifinals in six years with the Texan club, and admitted he was envious of compatriot Sun Yue, the LA guard who won a championship ring with the Kobe Bryant-spearheaded Lakers earlier this week.
"I am a bit jealous, it would be heartless to stay indifferent," he said.
Yao, who said last year the Beijing Games would be his last Olympics, will not play for China at this August's Asian Championships because of a foot injury.
Although ruled out, Yao is still concerned with the national team's development and has called for an infusion of new blood to ensure the side can cope when he retires.
"One day I will retire," he told Shanghai TV. "A team that wants to continue and improve has to have fresh blood."
Yao said Chinese basketball should be less concerned with fielding the strongest possible team for every tournament than giving young players more court time to increase their experience.
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