For Yao, this is a disturbing trend of injuries that leads many to believe that his status as a super-star may be over with. Giant 7'6'' bodies were not meant to run up and down a basketball court for twenty years, especially not at the heavy minutes Yao plays -- eventually they break down, and the legs are always the first to go. Just ask Ralph Sampson and George Murison and Sam Bowie and Bill Walton and maybe, although everyone hopes he stays healthy, Greg Oden.
For the Rockets, the news that Yao will likely miss the season poses enormous difficulties. For one thing, Tracy McGrady has only one year remaining on his contract, and will make a league-high $23 million next season. Moving someone like McGrady, who appeared to be running in slow motion last season, will be nearly impossible, especially since he is expected to miss a good deal of games next year as well.
The biggest question facing the Rockets is if they are still willing to press their luck on the healthiness of Yao and McGrady. If the two of them can go a whole year without any major injuries, they have enough talent on that team to threaten the Lakers. But they have become the baseball equivalent of the Chicago Cubs from a few years ago -- who waited forever for Kerry Wood and Mark Prior to get healthy, and it never happened. With McGrady's contract up in 2010, and Yao's expiring in 2011, will Houston continue to stick with this roster, hoping that at least Yao will find a way to stay healthy, or will they rebuild without them?