By Jean-Paul Salamanca ( | First Posted: Jan 31, 2013 02:27 PM EST

Former NBA player Yao Ming, right, recently spoke about his plans to promote the NBA during the Chinese New Year, as well as his thoughts on Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin, left. (Photo : Reuters)

Two seasons removed from his retirement from the NBA, former Houston Rockets great Yao Ming has been doing a lot in his spare time.

The China-born Yao, who retired in the 2010-11 season, told the Washington Post recently that he's been living in Shanghai with his wife and daughter while becoming a wildlife activist against ivory poachers, taking economics courses and owning his own basketball franchise, the Chinese Basketball Association's Shanghai Sharks.

Still, the eight-time NBA All-Star says he misses the thrill of playing on the court--even the burning of air in his lungs from running up and down the court.

"Basketball is still a part of my life," Yao said, "just in a different way."

One of those ways is being an ambassador for the NBA to the Chinese community. With the Chinese New Year coming up on Feb. 8, the league will look to Yao to take on a role in promoting the league during the eight-day celebration for five in-arena events and more than 20 live NBA games.

"People are always looking for something exciting," Yao said, while promoting the NBA's efforts to acknowledge the year of the snake. "It's good entertainment for some people's life."

Yao has also been keeping tabs on another famous Rockets player with Asian roots, Jeremy Lin.

The former NBA star says he has been in contact with Lin, and says the 24-year-old guard a ringing--in a situation that harkened similarities to his own time in Houston--is in the right place and organization where he can develop into a more sound basketball player.

Lin has been having an up-and-down statistical year, averaging 12.2 points with 6.1 assists, yet came just under 46,000 votes shy of starting for the West for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, which will be held in Houston, ironically enough, this year.

Yao, however, says that the Rockets will help Lin develop even further.

"I was there, first 10 games, didn't play well and they continued to encourage me and they tried to help me to fit into the NBA, instead of trying to judge me a good or bad player. I remember that," Yao said of his time with the Rockets. "Jeremy, of course, people expect that he repeat what he did in New York last year. Under that circumstance, he still consistently helps the team and I'm very impressed with what he did."

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