Magic center Dwight Howard expressed empathy for Yao Ming, saying the Houston big man may come back from his last injury to soon and that he hopes he returns to the NBA soon.

"I just want him to get healthy — that's it," Howard said after the Magic's morning shoot around in preparation for their Friday night matchup with the Rockets. "I think a lot of people try to pressure him to get back as soon as possible. Once you're away from the game for a while, you always try to rush and get back. And I think that's what he did."

The 6-foot-11 Howard, who at 25 has avoided major injury problems in his seven NBA seasons, said the stress on the body of an NBA big man is often underestimated.

"It's tough. He's 7-foot-5 and, you know, he weights a lot," Howard said. "And it takes a toll on your ankle, your knees and your feet. And just as well as anybody else who plays basketball for a long time, you have to protect your knees, your feet and your ankles. I just hope he gets better. That's it. I love playing against him. He's a great person. So, I just hope he gets better."

The 30-year-old Yao, who is actually 7-6 and about 310 pounds, had surgery Thursday to repair a stress fracture in his left foot that could threaten his basketball career.

A seven-time All-Star, Yao has been out of commission since sustaining the injury on Nov. 10 and saw the court in only five games before team doctors said he was out for the year. Yao missed the entire 2009-10 season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his foot.

After missing only two games in his first three NBA seasons, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2002 draft has been hampered by a myriad of injuries, mostly on his left foot.

His injury issues started when he missed 21 games in 2005-06 with an infection in his big toe. Since then, Yao has sat out 91 games in four seasons spanning 2005-09.