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Rockets center Yao apologizes for comments on new teammate Artest


Yao Ming has clarified his comments about new Rockets acquisition Ron Artest, now saying he was always thrilled that Houston traded for the enigmatic forward.

The Rockets swung a midweek deal for Artest with the Kings -- involving Houston's first-round pick in 2009, guard Bobby Jackson and a player to be named later, likely rookie Donte Greene (a first-round pick in June). The trade has not been formally announced because Greene, who signed on July 14, cannot be moved to another team until 30 days after inking his rookie contract.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Yao was generally excited about the move, but had some reservations as to whether Artest would be a good fit. He said, "We worry about the new attitude to the team. We are adding talent to the team and we need that, but building team chemistry is important."

But Yao and Artest spoke this week on the phone -- Yao is in China preparing for the Olympics -- and the All-Star center told Houston TV station Fox 26 that he looks forward to having Artest in the fold with the Rockets, a team that has never gotten out of the playoffs' first round in seven seasons.

"I talked to him last night China time about [a] misunderstanding on the report," Yao said Friday during his interview with Fox 26. "It's better when we have a chance to sit down and talk face to face.

"Before training camp, before the season, we have a lot of time. I think we can be good friends."

That seemed unlikely after a report in the Chronicle quoted Yao as saying, "Hopefully, he's not fighting anymore and going after a guy in the stands."

Yao was referencing the infamous 2004 brawl in Detroit when, as a member of the Indiana Pacers, Artest left the court to attack a fan. He was suspended for the rest of that season -- 73 games -- a punishment that headlines a litany of on- and off-court transgressions since joining the NBA in 1999. Apparently his recent talk with Artest has put Yao more at ease with the controversial acquisition.

"If something I said would make Ron feel uncomfortable, I apologize," Yao said. "I'm really sorry about that, because I still don't know him very well. Still, by the time we stay together, obviously I will fix it."