Yao Ming is returning to the Houston Rockets — a giant selling point for general manager Daryl Morey as he begins courting big-name free agents this week.
The 7-foot-6 All-Star center said Tuesday that he has picked up his player option for next season, the last year of his five-year contract. Yao sat out last season following reconstructive foot surgery and said he wanted to see how the injury healed before making his decision.
Yao said he's resumed basketball activities and should be 100 percent when training camp begins.
"To miss one year is a long time," Yao said. "I've never been in this situation before, and I'm getting as much information as I can about my foot, to see what's the best for me and best for the Rockets. I decided a couple of days ago, and there's no one better than the Rockets now."
NOWITZKI TO OPT OUT: A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Dirk Nowitzki has notified the Dallas Mavericks he is opting out of the final year and $21.5 million on his existing contract. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team wasn't planning to announce Nowitzki's decision.
NETS TRADE YI: The New Jersey Nets traded forward Yi Jianlian to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, creating even more room under the salary cap as they head into free agency.
The Wizards dealt forward Quinton Ross to the Nets, who also sent an undisclosed amount of cash to Washington.
The Nets freed up another $3 million with the deal, leaving them about $30 million to spend once free agency opens on July 1.
CAVS ZEROING IN ON COACH: Los Angeles Lakers assistant Brian Shaw completed two days of meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have not yet offered him — or anyone else — a contract to replace Mike Brown as their coach, a person familiar with Cleveland's search told The AP.
HEAT WAVE JONES: Forward James Jones has been waived by the Miami Heat, an expected move that provides the team with more free agency money. Jones had a partially guaranteed contract for 2010-11 that was only guaranteed for $1.9 million through Wednesday. After that, it would have been guaranteed at $4.6 million.
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