Yao wants to play at world champs: report

BEIJING (Reuters) - Injured Houston Rockets center Yao Ming wants to be part of China's world championship campaign next year if he gets approval from his doctor, his representative said.

The 29-year-old, China's most popular sportsman, underwent surgery on a hairline fracture to his left foot in July and is almost certain to miss the whole of the 2009/10 NBA season.

His inclusion in the squad for the August 28 to September 12 tournament in Turkey next year would be a major boost to a China team that has struggled without him.

Even before his latest injury, which doctor's initially said might be career-threatening, Yao hinted he might reduce his commitments with the national team.

"Whether he can join the national squad or not depends on his condition but we know he is willing to do that and we will not put him under any pressure," Hu Jiashi of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) told the paper.

China have been drawn with hosts Turkey, Greece, Russia, Puerto Rico and Ivory Coast in the opening round group, from which four teams will progress -- a draw greeted with some relief in the Chinese press.

"I don't share the opinion of the media, which considers it a great draw," Hu said.

"At the 1996 Atlanta Games and 2004 Athens Games we were in the so-called 'group of death' but we advanced. However, when we have been in some 'good positions' we have lost."

Yao was scheduled to return to China on Wednesday for Saturday's launch of the new domestic league season after he bought his old club, the Shanghai Sharks, during the close season.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney and Liu Zhen, editing by Patrick Johnston)