The NBA has granted a disabled player salary exception to the Houston Rockets in the wake of Yao Ming's latest season-ending injury.
Yao underwent surgery on Jan. 6 to repair a stress fracture in his left ankle. The disabled player exception allows the Rockets to acquire a free agent, or trade for a player without having to match salaries, up to the value of the mid-level exception (about $5.765 million).
KRIV-TV first reported that the Rockets had been granted the exception. Houston must use it by Jan. 31, or it will expire.
The Rockets were granted the same exception after Yao missed last season following reconstructive foot surgery. Houston 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.
Ariza and the Hornets were playing the Rockets in Houston on Friday night. The Rockets are 17-22 and have lost six of their last seven.
Yao's contract expires after this season. The top overall draft pick in 2002, Yao missed only two games in his first three seasons before beginning 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 during the playoffs that required complex surgery.
The Rockets carefully monitored his minutes coming into this season, but Yao was injured in his fifth game.
LOCKOUT 'NOT INEVITABLE': The NBA's deputy commissioner says a lockout is "not inevitable," even though no formal meetings are scheduled between owners and the players' union.
Adam Silver, attending Friday night's game between the New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets, said "there's a lot of time left to try to get a deal done." A possible work stoppage looms if a deal isn't reached before the current collective bargaining agreement expires June 30.
Silver says the league has made no formal proposal since the union rejected the last one during last year's All-Star weekend. The union submitted its own proposal over the summer, but Commissioner David Stern said it was too similar to the current CBA, and owners are seeking significant changes to the system.
Silver says the league's position "hasn't changed," but added that the NBA and union have "an ongoing dialogue." He doesn't think that a meeting during All-Star weekend this year would offer a productive environment for serious negotiations.
BOGUT RAISING MONEY FOR FLOOD RELIEF: Bucks center Andrew Bogut is offering fans an "NBA Dream Package" on eBay to raise money for communities in Australia after the recent floods.
The former No. 1 overall draft pick will fly four people from anywhere in the world to Los Angeles and Milwaukee.
The package includes four nights in Los Angeles with tickets to a Lakers home game and Universal Studios. It also includes four nights in Milwaukee, where Bogut will give a tour of the Bucks training center, provide courtside seats to a game and go out to dinner with the winner.
He's also giving away autographed jerseys, game-worn shoes and other memorabilia.
Bogut says all auction proceeds will go toward the Premier's Disaster Relief Fund.
IVERSON EXPECTS TO PLAY AGAIN: Allen Iverson says he expects to play basketball again once he has a lesion in his right leg examined in the United States.
Iverson posted on his Twitter page Friday that he was returning home for examinations, and possibly surgery. Iverson says he has no plans to retire.
Iverson signed with the Turkish team Besiktas after no NBA team expressed interest in the 11-time NBA All-Star.
Gary Moore, Iverson's longtime manager, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Iverson was expected to miss four to six weeks. Moore says Iverson was hoping to rejoin his Turkish team in time for the postseason.
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