- Associated Press - Thursday, January 6, 2011

HOUSTON (AP) - A person with knowledge of the situation says Houston Rockets center Yao Ming was scheduled to undergo surgery on Thursday to repair the stress fracture in his left ankle.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the procedure had not been officially announced by the team. Yao’s surgery was first reported by KRIV-TV.

The 7-foot-6 Yao has been out since Nov. 10, and played in only five games this season before the team declared him out for the season. The seven-time All-Star missed all of last season following reconstructive foot surgery. His contract with Houston expires after this season.

The Rockets have asked the league for a disabled player exception that would allow the team to acquire a free agent, or trade for a player without having to match salaries, up to the value of the midlevel exception (about $5.75 million).

The league granted Houston the same disabled player exception for Yao in 2009, and the Rockets used that money (about $5.7 million) to sign swingman Trevor Ariza. Houston traded Ariza to New Orleans after one season as part of a four-team deal that brought Courtney Lee to the Rockets.

Houston is 16-19 heading into Friday’s game at Orlando.

The team managed to go 42-40 last season with Yao, the top overall draft pick in 2002. Yao first began to have injury problems in the 2005-06 season, mostly in his left foot.

He played in 77 regular-season games in 2008-09, but then sustained a hairline fracture in his foot that required complex surgery.

The Rockets carefully monitored his minutes coming into this season, but Yao was injured in Houston’s 98-91 loss to the Washington Wizards on Nov. 10.

After missing only two games in his first three seasons, Yao sat out 91 over the next four years. He missed only five games in the 2008-09 season, then broke his foot in the playoffs.

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