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J.R. Smith plays after MRI comes up negative, but ongoing saga is far from finished

 The good news: J.R. Smith’s MRI came up negative on his injured right knee. The bad news: He’s in a lot of trouble with his team. (Photo: cfp.cn via Sina Sports)

Just three days after leaving the court with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, J.R. Smith suited up tonight for the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls in their home opener against the DongGuan New Century Leopards. Playing with a noticeable limp, Smith scored 16 points on 5-12 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists in just over 30 minutes of play.

The Golden Bulls won 101-73. Josh Boone paced the win with 24 points and 13 boards, both of which were game highs.

Smith’s quick recovery from his knee injury came after he underwent an MRI today in Beijing at Beijing Sports Medicine Hospital, the results of which came up negative. Doctors pronounced the injury as a pulled quadriceps muscle and said he would need one to two days to fully recover.

But while Smith’s health appears to be fine, his status with the team is in doubt after a drama-filled 48 hours that has featured an unauthorized trip to Beijing, a Chinese Twitter war with the club’s general manager, an MRI test and finally, a basketball game.

Smith’s ordeal started on Sunday night during the Golden Bulls’ opening round game on the road at Guangdong Hongyuan. Midway through the fourth quarter, Smith fell awkwardly and injured himself while trying to stop and change direction under the opposing team’s basket. In visible pain, Smith was brought to the bench to receive initial treatment. He was taken into the locker room shortly after.

After the game, Smith, who was unable to walk on his own, refused to be taken to a nearby hospital in DongGuan, insisting that he instead be taken back to the team hotel. According to a Sina Sports report, once back in the hotel, the club agreed with Smith that he would have an MRI done in Yiwu, the city where the Golden Bulls are based out of, and scheduled him to fly back with the team the next day accordingly. If results showed that there was a major injury, then Smith would be allowed to fly back to the United States to undergo the next step in the recovery process.

But early yesterday morning, team general manager, Zhao Bing, received a surprising bit of news: Smith was not going back with the team to Yiwu visit with team doctors like he had originally agreed to. Instead, he had already boarded a plane to Beijing.

The change in itinerary went directly in the face of the Zhao, who told him under no circumstances was he allowed to get on a plane out of Yiwu. Smith had made up his mind, however, and once word got back to Zhao that Smith had landed in the capital, he went on Sina Weibo (Chinese Twitter) to publicly warn Smith of the potential consequences for his actions.

“The club has looked into the situation and we have agreed to warn J.R. about his trip to Beijing,” Zhao tweeted. “We hope he can come back to the team as soon as possible, otherwise he will have to face the consequences.”

Soon after seeing Zhao’s comments, Smith responded on his own Sina Weibo, tweeting “My main goal is to get healthy! If you can’t understand that then maybe you should pick another profession!”

Disrespected by Smith’s direct tone, angered by his decision to disobey team orders and incredulous about the doctor’s diagnosis, Zhao went to the press earlier today to issue some stern words.

“We already know the results of J.R. Smith’s medical examination,” Zhao said to reporters earlier today. “He’s coming back this afternoon to Yiwu to meet with the team. Tonight we will call the owner, head coach and high level people from the front office for a face-to-face meeting with Smith to discuss the situation. Afterwards, we will come up with a punishment for his unauthorized departure.”

“We don’t have a problem with him worrying about his health, but he should obey the arrangements the club made for him. We set up an medical exam for him, but he refused the one we provided for him. I have no idea why. It’s not like the team doesn’t have proper medical equipment, you can get an MRI on your knee anywhere. For an injured player, we will certainly make sure the player is properly cared for. But, Smith didn’t obey the club’s arrangements.”

Zhao even went to far as to suggest that Smith was faking his injury in a possible attempt to go home.

“Everyone saw the pain on Smith’s face after he got hurt. Compare that to the results of his exam. We’re all intelligent people, we should all know what’s going on here. When you compare his performance on the court with the game’s final result, you’ll realize. When he was injured, would he have had that big of a reaction [if the score was closer]?”

“Our team’s overall attitude is very clear right now. The team is a collective; we don’t depend on just one person. We’re still going to go out and play basketball, no matter who is absent from the team. No one is indispensable. We play as a team. We will not be affected by one person.”

Amid all the drama, Smith went on Sina Weibo today to profess his desire to stay with Zhejiang. “My goal was nor is not to leave! My goal is to win! An for us to win our team must be heathy!”

Smith stayed overnight in Beijing yesterday before having the MRI this morning, the results of which came up negative.

According to China Daily, the team had become so fed up with Smith’s lack of respect that they considered cutting him. Language on CBA contracts state that if a team can find evidence that a player is purposely faking an injury in order to go home while still receiving his full contract, then it has a right to void the player’s contract.

However, it doesn’t appear that the team will end up taking that route. Though Smith’s future with the club is uncertain at present, but the fact that he came back to help the team to a win tonight may point to him staying in China for now. After the game, Smith told reporters that his mistakes have been put behind him and starting tomorrow, he will come to practice with a renewed energy and seriousness.

Though the entire situation regarding his injury has been his biggest transgression in the eyes of the team since he arrived here back in September, club management has been dealing with disciplinary issues and unreasonable requests since the start.

“At least three or four times, he’s just said he doesn’t feel good and that he’s not coming to practice,” said head coach, Ding Wei. “The whole team is at a loss. One time we realized that he wasn’t at practice because he had gone to Shanghai to go shopping.”

According to Zhao, the club has provided Smith with a high end housing at a cost of roughly USD $1,100, hired a private Western chef and spent over a million dollars for an insurance policy. Since receiving all of that, he has requested another villa in nearby Shanghai or Hangzhou with a private car to take him back and forth from practice in Yiwu.

Like many players who find it difficult to adapt to professional basketball in China, Smith has been adjusting slowly to his new surroundings. But, unlike in years past where players have left for a variety of reasons in order to get out of China and sign somewhere else, the CBA passed a rule this season barring back-to-the-NBA out-clauses that would allow a free passage back to NBA if/when the lockout ends.

Follow Jon Pastuszek on Twitter @NiuBBall or on Sina Weibo @NiuBBall


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11 Responses to “J.R. Smith plays after MRI comes up negative, but ongoing saga is far from finished”

  1. Charles Says:

    I know there has been a lot of talk about the back-to-the-NBA out-clauses that have been forbidden but is there really anything Chinese teams can do if a player is willing to leave all the money from their CBA contract on the table and just bolt??

    I know I just asked the question but I will admit it was rhetorical. I don’t think there is anything that a Chinese team can do. International law is a complex beast and most teams would probably just be willing to let them go and save the headaches, especially if they don’t have to pay them anymore.

    Also: I don’t blame JR Smith for being scared and wanting to take his health into his own hands. I’m sure he has someone in his ear telling him, in essence to “not trust anyone”. Truthfully, if I had his ear I would probably tell him the same thing.


  2. Turner Says:

    I wouldn’t go to a shady hospital in Yiwu either.


  3. Jakemon Says:

    I would…


  4. Ned Says:

    His livelihood is reliant on his body. Hard to fault him, although the communication between him and the team could be better.


  5. Jakemon Says:

    I fault him. And what could be difficult about communicating with Chinese?


  6. stax Says:

    “The change in itinerary went directly in the face of the Zhao, who told him under no circumstances was he allowed to get on a plane out of Yiwu”

    so he couldnt leave the city…. what kind of prison basketball operation are they running over there



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