In their primes, a Stephon Marbury vs. Steve Francis matchup could have easily been featured in the front-end of a Friday night doubleheader on ESPN. This year, they’ll be back on the national television radar, though not on ESPN, ABC, TNT or any other American network. Why? Because none of those networks exist in China.
According to CCTV5′s NBA analyst and Sina Sports writer, Yu Jia, Steve Francis is all set to join Marbury in the Chinese Basketball Association this December. Yu reported “Beijing and [Steve] Francis is basically a done deal” via his Sina Microblog (China’s equivalent to Twitter) earlier today.
Sina Sports has a full writeup, reporting that Francis and Beijing have a preliminary two-year deal agreement in place. The contract is to be worth $2 million annually.
Beijing’s GM, Yuan Chao, has been quoted as saying that the deal is not official as of yet.
Perhaps learning from from other teams’ failed attempts to land a big name former NBA player, Beijing has sent head coach Min Lulei to America to meet with Francis personally. According to a source close to NiuBBall, the team has some concerns about the three time All-Stars’ conditioning, which is a major reason why Coach Min has been sent Stateside. Francis last played professional basketball in 2007 with the Houston Rockets. He will workout for the team on October 10th.
The Ducks already have two import players, American Randolph Morris, who played in the NBA formerly with both the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks, and Jordanian national team center, Zaid Abbaas. That would be an obstacle to signing Francis for the majority of CBA teams, since the league only allows two imports on a roster, but since since the team finished last season with one of the five worst records in the league, they are allowed to sign three imports, one from Asia and two from anywhere else in the world, this upcoming season.
There is no mention of any off-court business cooperations in place between Beijing and Francis in the article, but I would expect that, based on previous Francis-Beijing rumors and Marbury’s current marketing deal with Shanxi, the two sides will ultimately hammer out something where Francis can expand himself commercially in China.
As evidenced by Coach Min personally flying out to the U.S., Beijing is taking no chances with this. Nor should they. Another high profile NBA player, Rafer Alston, and Zhejiang Guangsha reportedly had a mutual agreement in place in October for Alston to fly into Hangzhou to meet with team officials and presumably ink a deal. With nobody from the team in New York with him however, Skip didn’t board his flight and forwarded all of the teams’ panicked calls to his agent. Alston upped his demands in the following week, which included playing alongside former Houston Rocket teammate, Maurice Taylor, which were deemed too unreasonable by Zhejiang. Unlike Beijing, Zhejiang finished better than 13th last year and already has former New Jersey Nets center, Josh Boone, on their roster. The team officially moved on from the saga when they signed former Washington Wizard guard, Javaris Crittenton, to a deal last weekend.
Since Marbury made his unprecedented move to China last year, a record number of former NBA players have flooded into the mainland this season. Quincy Douby (Xinjiang), Ricky Davis (Jiangsu), Fred Jones (Guangdong), Morris (Beijing), Boone and Crittenton (Zhejiang Guangsha) have all been officially signed by teams this year. Dwyane Jones, who was among the last cut by the Phoenix Suns before the start of this season, has signed with Fujian Zhonghua as of this morning.
The CBA record for most points scored in a game is by Andre Emmett, who dropped 71 last year playing for Shandong. It’d be a good idea to keep that number in mind when you’re watching this year.