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Injured Yao enjoying team owner role in China

Posted Jan 21 2010 1:46AM

BEIJING (AP) -- Sidelined by a foot injury, Houston Rockets star Yao Ming says he's finding a new kind of satisfaction as owner of his former Chinese team, the Shanghai Sharks.

Yao bought out the financially troubled team's former owners in July for an undisclosed sum in a bid to revive its fortunes.

The club is presently fourth in the 17-team Chinese league, two points out of first place.

"I bought the Sharks to give them a boost and do something on behalf of Chinese basketball," Yao said in an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency appearing in newspapers Thursday.

"To be honest, they've played well this season, beyond my expectations, but we also see their deficiencies and need to toughen up in the coming seasons."

Yao saved the team after the loss of their main sponsor threatened to keep them out of the league in 2009-2010.

The 7-foot-6 center played for the Sharks from 1997 to 2002 and took them to the league championship title in the 2001-2002 season, after being runner-up in the playoffs the previous two years. The team has struggled to make the playoffs since his departure for the NBA.

Yao has dismissed speculation that the investment was a step toward retirement, although recurring injuries have raised fears that his career could be winding down.

He had surgery in May to repair a hairline fracture in his left foot and has said he wants to allow enough time for his bones to fully heal.

Yao has pledged to return Shanghai to its former winning ways while staying out of day-to-day operations and management. Captained by Chinese international Liu Wei and coached by American Bobby Donewald Jr., the Sharks also boast former Houston Rockets guard John Lucas.

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