Beijing Yao Ming won't attend next week's NBA draft because of training obligations for China's national team, but the Houston Rockets believe their likely No. 1 pick will be allowed to play in the league.
Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson said Friday he'd heard from NBA representatives that the 7-foot-5 center would not be in New York on Wednesday for the draft.
"We've been trying to get him to New York for the draft but the answer we got from the league yesterday was that he probably wouldn't get over here for the draft," Dawson said. "If he's not going to be allowed to play in the league, I think I'd have heard about it by now."
The official Xinhua news agency quoted the Chinese Basketball Association as saying the Chinese team has entered a crucial training period for a four-nation tournament later this month against Yugoslavia, Italy and Australia.
"After researching with the national team, Yao Ming will not go to the United States to join in the draft," Xinhua quoted the association's statement as saying.
It added: "Whether or not Yao Ming participates in the draft will not affect whether he later plays in the NBA."
A crew from Turner Sports will be in China to interview Yao live via satellite hookup during the draft, NBA spokesman Terry Lyons said.
According to Xinhua, the association said Yao was also expected to join the Chinese national team for a world championship qualifier in August and the Asian Games in October.
That could be a matter of concern to the Rockets, who want Yao in their training camp in October.
Association officials were not available for immediate comment, although Yao's agent, Erik Zhang, has called a news conference for today.
Zhang has said he made a final offer of compensation this week to Yao's team, the Shanghai Sharks, in hopes that they and the China Basketball Association will clear Yao to leave his country and play in the NBA.
Yao, 22, would be just the third Chinese player in the NBA after Wang Zhizhi, who played for the Dallas Mavericks the last two seasons, and Menk Bateer, now with the Denver Nuggets.