Houston Rockets' centre Yao Ming joined China's national team training camp in Guangzhou on Sunday, bringing him closer to his long-awaited appearance at the World Championships in Japan next month.
Injured Yao took part in a training session with teammates for the first time since coming back from the United States on June 22.
"I feel quite good and now I am able to follow the squad in the training camp," said Yao. "I am looking forward to my chance at the World Championships as it is a great preparation for the Beijing Olympics two years later. I hope we can make the final eight in Japan."
Yao suffered a fractured foot in his team's 85-83 loss to Utah Jazz on April 11, when Andrei Kirilenko stepped on it as he scored a first-quarter basket on a rebound.
He underwent surgery the same week in the United States and doctors suggested he would be sidelined for an estimated six months and miss out on the championships, which start on August 19.
"He is getting better day by day," said Li Yuanwei, director of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). "His recovery is much faster than we expected but it is yet to heal completely."
The 2.26-metre sensation has returned to the court much earlier than expected. His doctors believe he will be fully fit by around August 1 if his recovery goes well.
He started personal training on June 1 in Beijing but missed the team's warm-up series in Italy a week before.
According to his agent team, Yao will skip another round of matches at the end of this month in France but is likely to play in the Three-Nations in Guangzhou on August 7 against the star-studded United States and Brazil.
Yao averaged 22.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocked shots, 1.5 assists and 34.6 minutes in 56 starts in the NBA this season, his fourth since being drafted by the Rockets in 2002. The four-time All-Star was sidelined for 21 games earlier in the season because of a toe injury and later missed a game due to a sore calf.
Source: China Daily