Post by Jon Pastuszek
August 17, 2011
The Chinese Basketball Association will have its long awaited policy meeting tomorrow and Friday in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, to determine several important rules for the upcoming 2011-12 season, including a much anticipated decision on back-to-the-NBA opt-out clauses.
In addition, the league will also decide on new playing time rules for imports, when the new season will start and whether or not the league will be expanded into 18 teams.
But, all of that is considered secondary to the one thing that teams, agents, players and fans have all been waiting for: A CBA ruling over whether active NBA players will be allowed to sign out-clauses that will allow them to return back to the NBA whenever the lockout ends.
In truth though, there isn’t much doubt as to what the end result will be. Multiple Chinese sources who are connected to the CBA have told NiuBBall.com that the rule is a near certainty to be passed.
“It’s 99% happening,” said one source.
Still, with Chinese teams willing and able to throw millions of dollars at players, superstars remain interested at the idea of playing here. According to Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports, Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker have both received substantial offers from Chinese teams this summer, with Bryant having been offered $1.5 million per month by Shanxi Zhongyu. As reported in the story, sources say Bryant would sign if it weren’t for the soon-to-be implemented rule that will ban the signing of opt-out clauses.
Parker told ESPN.com yesterday that if he plays abroad this season, he will play in his home country of France.
Why the CBA would prevent what would be a major boost in revenue to the league is puzzling to some. But the logic behind this decision for the government-run CBA remains in line with an overall policy that has remained in place for years: Putting the interests of Chinese basketball, namely the success of the national team, above all other interests, even ahead of potentially lucrative commercial ones. In their eyes, allowing a group of megastars to come to China as a lockout refuge to make a quick buck only to leave in the middle of the year would hurt the long-term development of its players and put teams, who would find themselves suddenly without an import player mid-season, in a tough situation.
Last Sunday in China, the Modern Express (via NetEase) published a report quoting an anonymous source directly connected to the CBA, who further elaborated on the CBA’s thinking.
“From the very beginning, the CBA wasn’t interested in attracting superstars,” said the source. “First, they’re tough to manage. Second, we have no idea when the lockout is going to end. And when it does end, they’re definitely going to go back to the NBA. That would destroy our league. From out understanding, most teams don’t want big name players either. So, I think its going to be impossible for a superstar to come here and play this season.”
Another very important aspect to take into account in this ongoing saga is the quickly approaching 2012 Olympics in London. As the biggest international sports stage in the world, the CBA considers getting the national team ready for the Olympics as its top priority for the next two years. A good showing would do well to promote China’s image abroad and boost nationalism domestically, both of which are key interests of China’s state-run government sports system.
To further make sure its players are in the best position to play their best by 2012, the CBA is also considering other rule changes besides banning out-clauses. According to the same Modern Express report, the CBA is contemplating a rule which would limit each team’s roster of two import players to a combined five quarters of playing time. Currently, league rules stipulate that imports can play six quarters combined. Typically, teams play one import in the first quarter and the other in the second before playing them together for the entire second half. But, if this rule was passed, imports would only be allowed to play together for one quarter per game. The rule would give more opportunities for Chinese players to play during games.
“The hopes that local players will have a chance to play even more this season,” said a source in the Modern Express report. “That would really help the national team prepare for the London Olympics.”
That the CBA is thinking about even furthering limitations on foreign players’ playing time clearly illustrates that the CBA is, as always, dead serious about developing Chinese basketball — even if it comes at the expense of profits, fan interest and perhaps even its reputation among players abroad.
Regardless of the CBA’s rules, however, some teams are still intent on finding ways to get an NBA superstar to China this season. As NiuBBall.com wrote two weeks ago, teams are quite aware of the money to be made from what would be a major boost in ticket sales, merchandising and sponsorships, and are willing to bear the future consequences to cash in on it all. Furthermore, some teams feel that the rule would be too difficult to enforce and are adamant in their belief that they could find legal ways to get around it.
During the meetings, officials will also set a start date for the league, expected to be sometime in November. They will also determine if Jiangsu Tongxi, who has won the last two National Basketball Association titles, China’s second tier professional basketball league played in the summer, will join the league to make it 18 teams.
But, the attention paid to those developments will pale in comparison to the eyes that will keep a keen watch on the league’s ruling on out-clauses. Whether we’re headed for a complete shutdown of all NBA superstars-to-China rumors as players scurry away in search of more dependable offers, or for a heated standoff between the the government-headed CBA and defiant Chinese teams determined to take advantage of the unique opportunity that the NBA lockout has presented remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, however: This is the CBA. Nothing is for certain, everything is far from over and plenty has yet to unfold.