- Associated Press - Saturday, July 9, 2011

HOUSTON (AP) - Yao Ming’s American agent would not confirm reports that the Houston Rockets’ All-Star center is retiring, saying Yao has scheduled a July 20 news conference in Shanghai to reveal his plans.

John Huizinga said Saturday night that he was “not in a position” to say whether Yao had informed the NBA that he planned to retire.

“I’m not in a position to do that,” Yao’s agent said in a phone interview. “He’s going to have a press conference on July 20. What that says is that’s the time Yao is going to make a statement, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to say anything before he does.”

Yahoo! Sports first reported Yao’s intention to retire. Neither the Rockets nor the NBA could comment on the reports because of the lockout.

The 7-foot-6 Yao has been plagued by leg and foot injuries late in his career, and missed 250 regular-season games over the past six seasons. He played in only five games last season, before sustaining a stress fracture in his left ankle.

Yao was hoping to return to Houston, even though his contract expired after last season. He also acknowledged earlier this year that injuries may force him into retirement.

Huizinga would not say what Yao was going to reveal on July 20, only that Yao “is entitled to make his statement on his own terms, at his own time.”

“It’s not that I worry about getting in trouble,” Huizinga said. “I just think Yao has the right to do this in the way he wants to do it. That applies all kinds of things I think he has the right to. I just want him to be able to handle this the way he wants.”

Word of Yao’s retirement triggered a frenzy in China. Thousands of fans flooded online forums on Saturday reacting to the news. One wrote: “He’s China’s top athlete … it’s a pity to lose such a sports icon.” China’s most popular online portals, sina.com and sohu.com, headlined the news of Yao’s possible retirement prominently on their homepages.

An eight-time All-Star, Yao has averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds in eight seasons. He also became a global icon, connecting the NBA to China and across Asia.

Huizinga understands the intense interest in Yao’s plans, but also said Yao deserves the right to control how they’re revealed.

“The guy has worked very hard, he’s put up with a lot, carried a lot of burden for a lot of people,” Huizinga said. “I think he would like to run this part of his life the way he’d like to run it. I understand other people don’t feel that way. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to be able to change it.”

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