NBA players in China missing out
Oops. That's what I have to say to those NBA players who signed contracts with the Chinese Basketball Association when the NBA Lockout was in full effect. The lockout ended on Christmas Day and the NBA is going on with a shortened season, but the Chinese season doesn't end until March, so what are the former NBA players doing that signed contracts with the Chinese teams doing? Staying in China, despite some players' efforts to renege on their contracts.
The CBA covered all its bases when it made sure to sign only NBA free agents and since the NBA is a member of FIBA (International Basketball Federation), teams in the U.S. cannot sign these players that are under Chinese contracts until the CBA season is over.
Some players are dealing with it, some are excelling and some just want to go back to the United States and play ball. Three of those players to sign contracts with a Chinese team played for the NBA's Denver Nuggets last year. Power forward Kenyon Martin, small forward J.R. Smith and forward Wilson Chandler all signed Chinese basketball contracts and cannot return to the NBA until the Chinese season ends in March.
Martin actually was bought out of his contract with the Xinjiang Gyang Hui Flying Tigers before Christmas, but he signed a notarized commitment not to play again until the CBA season is over. The NBA regular season goes through the end of April, so Martin could sign on with an NBA team after the CBA season is over in March.
Smith is reportedly the highest paid player in the CBA at $3 million, but that is below the $6.75 million he made last season in the NBA. Would you be a little upset with missing out on almost $4 million?
It was reported by Adrian Wojnarowski with Yahoo! Sports that Smith has had multiple clashes with the Zhejiang Wanma Cyclones and some Chinese officials think Smith would purposely miss practices and games once he realized he wouldn't be let out of his contract.
One official even went on to say, " They can play, get paid [in China] and return to the NBA in March, or they cannot get paid, and return to the NBA in March."
Martin decided to do the latter, while Smith did the former. Smith is averaging 33.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists. His career averages in seven NBA season are 12.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. Smith even had a 51-point game against Chandler's Zhejiang Guangsha Lions team in Round 15 – the CBA has 34 Rounds and are currently in Round 21.
Chandler is averaging 28.4 points and 12.0 rebounds per game, and shooting 54 percent from the field for the Lions. He was the Asia-basket.com Player of the Week when he scored 44 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in Round 17. He reportedly is making between $1.7 and $3.1 million with the CBA and made about $2 million in the NBA last season. But Chandler, who is averaging 15.6 points and 5.9 rebounds in his five NBA seasons is on the up and up and probably would have banked this season – probably close to $10 million per year. The Nuggets didn't really care to get Martin and Smith back, but wanted Chandler, who hasn't even hit his prime yet.
There are also some other former NBA players currently playing in the CBA. Remember Stephon Marbury? Marbury hasn't played in the NBA since the 2008-2009 season and signed a contract with Shanxi in 2010 before getting on with the Beijing Ducks this season. He is averaging 24.8 points, 6.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds. He was on his way to a Hall-of-Fame NBA career before injuries sidelined him. He still may not be finished in the NBA though. He has a 19.3 point, 7.6 assist-per-game average for his 13-year NBA career. He will be 34-years-old in February and is past his prime, but what he is doing in China could pave his way back to the U.S., not that he couldn't succeed in the NBA now.
Eleven-year NBA vet Jamal Crawford entertained the idea of playing in China, but waited the NBA out. Crawford signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Portland Trailblazers. He was on the right end of that deal. Big man Earl Clark actually signed a Chinese contract, but is now playing for the Orlando Magic. Clark cited "personal reasons" as to why he couldn't stay in China. And they were personal reasons: his girlfriend is pregnant. Now if Kobe Bryant or Dwayne Wade cited personal reasons after signing a CBA contract, I don't think they would have been let out of their contracts, but it is Earl Clark, who has a career 3.2 point and 1.7 rebound average in three NBA seasons.
There are many other former NBA players playing in China right now, but Chandler, Smith and Martin were the three that really missed out on big money. Martin decided to be a baby, which isn't surprising, and quit, and Chandler and Smith are fulfilling their Chinese obligations, but at what price? Sure, they probably thought the NBA season was going to be cancelled, but was the risk worth it? Maybe they'll find some sort of enlightenment there in the Far East and that will make up for the millions they lost this year.