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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Chinese officials critical of Yao for late arrival at camp

Associated Press

SHANGHAI, China -- China's official sports association has issued an unprecedented public criticism of Yao Ming for reporting late to national team training.

Yao
Yao

The Houston Rockets' star was faulted for taking too much time off to recover from his last NBA season. The government's All-China Sports Federation also said he spent too much time planning his wedding and making appearances for the Special Olympics and 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

"No matter how lofty public welfare activities are, they can't be allowed to take first place in a player's life,'' the China Sports Daily, a federation-owned newspaper, said in an article appearing Tuesday.

"No matter how sweet personal life is, it can't be compared to the exultation of capturing glory for one's nation,'' the article said.

Chinese Web sites later said Yao reported for national teaming training on Wednesday.

The article quoted Li Yuanwei, the national basketball center director, as saying the team's Olympic preparations were built around their major star. Li said he hoped Yao would join the team later this month in the Stankovic Cup.

"Without Yao Ming, a warmup competition is far less valuable,'' the article said.

Throughout his three seasons in the NBA, Yao has largely escaped criticism from China's official media and the government by honoring his national team commitments.

Yet Tuesday's article carried echoes of the bitter accusations hurled at former Dallas Mavericks player Wang Zhizhi, the first Chinese player in the NBA who refused to return to play with the national team. Wang was labeled an immature ingrate and suffered a five-year estrangement from Chinese basketball that ended only last year after he made a humiliating apology.

China will face an All-Star team from the NBA Development League in the Stankovic Cup at home, where the host team will include recent draft pick Yi Jianlian.

The Milwaukee Bucks picked Yi with the No. 6 pick in the NBA draft, but he hasn't committed to playing for them because his agent hoped he would be drafted by a team in a market with a larger Chinese population.

Chinese fans and the former national coach have urged Yi to sign with the Bucks, but the owner of his former team in China, the Guangdong Tigers, recently suggested that the 7-foot power forward's NBA career could be over before it even begins.

"If the Bucks insist, Yi will go back'' to the Chinese league, Chen Haitao was quoted as saying in Tuesday's Chinese-language Beijing News.