Earl Clark was the first NBA free-agent to sign in the Chinese Basketball Association this year. Now, he’s the first the leave.
Talking to HoopsHype, Earl Clark’s agent, Happy Walters, has confirmed a hoopCHINA report that Clark and his Chinese team, Zhejiang Guanghsa, have gone their separate ways. Walters said Clark is citing “personal reasons” after his girlfriend in the States has become pregnant.
“They have been very cool and cooperative about it because they understand the reasons,” Walters said to HoopsHype.
Devoted readers of NiuBBall shouldn’t be too surprised by the development. The CBA has one of the highest turnover rates for foreign players in the world. Either because of the player’s inability to adapt to the many on and off-court differences between China and the U.S., or because of the team’s dissatisfaction with the player’s performance or the team’s record, imports come and go with regularity from the start of pre-season to the beginning of the playoffs.
“But, wait!” you ask. “I thought there were no out-clauses in China? I thought players can’t just get up an leave whenever they want…”
Technically, yes that’s true. But you forgot to consider an important point — this is the CBA! Despite what the language of a contract may say, there are no such things as “guaranteed contracts” and “no out-clauses.” When it comes down to it, no team is willing to pay and play an import that doesn’t want to be here. With China’s paper thin pool of domestic talent, imports are relied heavily upon to be the focus of the offense and put up huge numbers. If a player doesn’t want to be here, there’s no reason for a team to keep him on board only to see his performance decline on the stat sheet and the team’s losses stack up in the standings.
So why have a no-out clause if it’s not enforced, then? The rule wasn’t put in to guarantee that guys like Earl Clark stay the whole year, but rather more as a preventive measure to avoid the insanity that would have ensued if NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade had signed in China. In the CBA’s eyes, superstars in China wouldn’t have raised the level of the National Team, something that the government run league takes very seriously. Plus, having big-name players in China for a month or two only to see them jet back to the States once the NBA lockout ended was not a scenario the CBA ever envisioned as positive for the development of its league.
But even after announcing their intentions of passing a no out-clause rule, a few teams still felt confident that they could find creative ways to sidestep it and still attract superstars to China. That in turn led the league to eventually squash any chance of an NBA-to-China exodus by barring all players with active NBA contracts from signing here this season.
So yeah, it’s a little surprising that Clark, who was the first NBA player to sign in China this season, is gone after only a short period of time. But, then again it isn’t. Because in China it’s not just basketball, it’s basketball with Chinese characteristics.