After months of speculation and anticipation, the much hyped Chinese careers of long time NBA vets Steve Francis and Ricky Davis didn’t last more than a month. But, that’s not stopping Zhejiang Guangsha from going after another big name NBA player.
NetEase Sports is reporting that Guangsha has officially signed Rafer Alston to a deal after he completed a five day training session with the team in China, and is likely to make his debut on Wednesday against Jiangsu. Alston will replace guard Tre Kelley on the team’s roster. In 13 games, Kelly averaged 23.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
InsideHoops.com first reported Alston’s deal with Guangsha last Wednesday after talking with the player’s agent, Eddie Lau.
Apparently learning from Beijing and Jiangsu’s respective failed experiments with Francis and Davis, Guangsha brought Alston into the country without an official contract, deciding instead to wait until he had worked out in front of the team for five days. Alston, who spent 11 years in the NBA with seven different teams, has been in China since 21st and has been practicing with the team for the last four days.
Though Alston hasn’t played professional basketball since March of last year when the Miami Heat sent him home for making himself “unavailable to the team,” head coach Wang Fei sounded sure that Alston would be able to step right in and help the team in its playoff push. After both sides agreed on the five day tryout, Wang decided two practices were enough for him to make his decision. “He’s already participated in two practices, one time in DongGuan and one time in a pre-game practice. It hasn’t been too long, all together about an hour and a half.”
“His jumping, running and shooting are all fine, and his physical condition looks to be OK…. Even though his shooting has been off so far, he can run the team pretty well.”
After losing to third place Guangdong on Sunday, Guangsha currently sits in 5th place at 11-7.
Alston also reportedly received interest from Shandong, who is looking to replace the struggling Myron Allen in the backcourt. The team decided to consider other options because Alston was deemed too difficult to manage and his price tag too high.
With concerns over Alston’s aims and overall mindset about playing in a foreign country — all probably valid given Francis and Davis’ unwillingness to adapt to their new country and team — it would appear that team management is going to be cautious about how it handles its new star player. But, general manager Ye Xiangyu has expressed his surprise at how willing Alston has been to participate actively in practice, learn the offense and interact with his new teammates, pointing specifically to his enjoyment of a team lunch.
Though the move is somewhat surprising given Alston’s relative inactivity over the last few months and Guangsha’s playoffs aspirations, the two sides have had interest in each other dating back to October when it was reported that Alston was scheduled to arrive in Hangzhou to work out in front of the team’s coaching staff. However, Alston missed his plane from New York in an apparent negotiating ploy and never showed up, which caused Guangsha to cut off all negotiations shortly after.
Wang refused to tell reporters how many minutes Alston would receive on Wednesday.
Despite being out of an NBA job this season, Alston is still very well known in China for his three and a half years with Yao Ming in Houston, as well as for his streetball days in the late 1990s when he was known as “Skip To My Lou.” Since the nickname doesn’t translate easily into Chinese, fans simply refer to him more simply as Jie Qiu Wang, “Streetball King.”
Over 11 seasons in the NBA , Alston averaged 10.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.2 steals.