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Friday, May 24, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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NBA

NBA notebook: Portland's Pippen has knee surgery; Rockets talk draft

PORTLAND — Portland Trail Blazers forward Scottie Pippen had minor surgery on his right knee and is expected to be ready to work out by the Fourth of July.

The operation, performed Tuesday in Chicago by former Bulls team doctor John Hefferon, took about 30 minutes.

Pippen, who will be 37 in September, missed 17 games this season because of a deep bruise in his right knee. It began to swell at the end of the regular season, and a postseason physical revealed that surgery was needed.

"His knee had been sore coming down the stretch, and we thought this was something we should do," said Bob Whitsitt, Portland's team president and general manager. "It was basically just a cleaning-out of the knee. But we are glad he got it done early and will be ready for the beginning of the season."

Pippen will be entering the final year of his contract and will earn $19.7 million.

He averaged 10.6 points, 5.9 assists and 5.2 rebounds in the regular season and 16.3 points, 5.7 assists and 9.3 rebounds in the Blazers' three playoff games against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Rockets display for Yao

Houston Rockets General Manager Carroll Dawson met with representatives of possible No. 1 draft pick Yao Ming of China yesterday.

The Rockets won the NBA lottery on Sunday, earning the top draft pick, and their attention immediately turned to the 7-foot-5 Ming — the most intriguing prospect available in the June 26 draft.

Dawson invited Yao's representatives, John Huizinga and Erik Zhang, a distant cousin of Yao, to visit Houston and get acquainted.

"We had a very good day of getting to know each other," Dawson said.

Dawson showed Huizinga and Zhang some of Houston's amenities and gave Zhang a videotape describing the city's positive aspects to take with him to China for talks with Yao and Chinese government officials about Yao's move to the NBA.

"We wanted the opportunity to show off our great city," Rockets chief operating officer George Postolos said. "One of the best things that we heard is that Yao Ming is a fan of Houston and his idol growing up was Hakeem Olajuwon."

Notes

• Houston guard Steve Francis will have arthroscopic surgery to repair the lining on the inside of his right shoulder joint on Thursday and won't be able to play basketball for four to six weeks, the team said.

Francis averaged a career-high 21.6 points per game this season.

• The NBA named Philip Evans as the first president of its minor-league operation and said the National Basketball Development League would move its offices to Greenville, S.C., by August.

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