Sunday, June 23, 2002

Deal will clear Ming's path to NBA draft

The Associated Press

        SHANGHAI, China — Yao Ming moved a step closer to the NBA Saturday when his agent said the expected top pick in next week's draft struck a deal with his current team, the Shanghai Sharks.

        Yao's agents are racing to complete an agreement with China's pro league that would allow the 7-foot-5 center to be drafted.

        John Huizinga, Yao's United States-based agent, said the Sharks agreed to let Yao come to the United States for an undisclosed portion of their star player's expected multimillion-dollar NBA earnings.

        He is optimistic he can reach an agreement with the China Basketball Association in time for Wednesday's draft. The Houston Rockets have the No.1 pick and set their sights on Yao since winning the draft lottery.

        “We realize this was a very crucial step in the process and look forward to hearing about the upcoming meetings between Yao Ming and the Chinese Basketball Association,” Rockets attorney Michael Goldberg said Saturday. “There has been a great level of cooperation between all parties involved in this process and I fully expect a resolution very soon.”

        Huizinga called an agreement with the CBA the final obstacle blocking the 22-year-old from joining the NBA.

        LAKERS: Guard Lindsey Hunter will return to Los Angeles next season, electing not to exercise an out in his contract.


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