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Guangsha, Xinjiang shake up their import Playoff rosters

After Guangsha allowed Wilson Chandler to return to the United States, the familiar Rodney White has been brought back to suit up for the team’s post-season run.

Edward Bothfeld also contributed to this story.

Zhejiang Guangsha, who played the entire regular season with Wilson Chandler, will now have to play the entire post-season without him after both sides agreed to let him return to the United States to negotiate his next NBA contract after he helped the team secure a Playoff berth. Chandler is already back in the U.S., where he is reportedly in discussions over a long-term deal with the Denver Nuggets.

Guangsha has signed Rodney White as his replacement.

Guangsha opted to bring in White because of his familiarity with the team and with the CBA.

White played for three seasons with the Lions from 2007-10 before playing for Shandong Kingston last year. In his last season for the Lions in 2009-2010,  he averaged 27 points and nine rebounds, leading them to the second round of the playoffs. He also has experience playing with Guangsha’s holdovers from that season, most notably P.J. Ramos, Lin Chih-chieh, and Jin Lipeng, all of whom are core players this season.

That said, White should fit into Chandler’s role better than any other options that were on the market. White had been playing for Anyang KGC in South Korea before getting injured, and arrived Sunday morning in Hangzhou in decent shape. If he can buy into Coach Jim Cleamons game plan, Guangsha will have a puncher’s chance against Beijing in the first round of the playoffs, which begin Wednesday.

In 29 games last season for Shandong, White averaged 22.4 points,8.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals.

Guangsha head coach, Jim Cleamons, who spoke to NiuBBall’s Edward Bothfled, welcomes his addition.

“Rodney is going to do well for us. [Wilson and Rodney] are not the same player, but they have similar characteristics. He’s not going to be the ball handler in the open court that Wilson is. Rodney’s been a successful player in this league for a few years and he has playoff experience.”

As for Chandler’s departure, there is some level of disappointment that he is gone, but most people within the Guangsha organization understand his position. “I’m very happy for him. I think he did what we asked him to do. He came over and played hard. He improved his skills so I think it was a good experience for him,” said Cleamons.

Cleamons himself did not learn that Chandler had been granted his release until the night it happened. Along with the rest of the Lions team, he was unable to say goodbye to Chandler before he left.

Still, his teammates understand Chandler’s situation, “I think they wish him well. If the shoe was on their foot and they had the opportunities that Wilson is going to have, they would wish him well,” added Cleamons, “ From a business perspective, they would understand. The timing could be better. It is what it is.”

Meanwhile, three-time Finals runners-up, Xinjiang Guanghui, is also making a change — again. Yesterday, the team officially announced that they have brought in former NBA lottery pick, Ike Diogu to replace Gani Lawal. It marks the fifth time this season that Xinjiang has brought in a new foreigner this season.

Lawal, who came in mid-season to replace Kenyon Martin, averaged 18.4 points and 12.3 rebounds on 61.2% shooting over 17 games. During that stretch, the team went 11-6 and climbed up the standings from tenth place all the way into fourth.

Though Lawal came in and was more than serviceable, and at times even dominant, especially on the glass, Xinjiang team management felt they needed to add more offense on their front line. With Mengke Bateer and Tang Zhengdong having struggled with their offensive consistency all year, the team felt they needed somebody who provide a a more diverse scoring threat.

Diogu comes into his first stint in China at a high-pressure time when Xinjiang is gearing up for their annual run deep into the playoffs. After not playing any professional basketball during the NBA lockout, Diogu was signed by the San Antonio Spurs on January 3rd, but was released one week later. With management’s notoriously sky high expectations for their import players, the heat will be on Diogu to step in and immediately perform at a high level.

It’s not uncommon for teams to replace foreign players right before the playoffs. Last year, Beijing swapped Joe Crawford out for Orien Greene, and DongGuan replaced the injured Jackon Vroman for Courtney Sims. Beijing’s move to bring in Greene backfired, however, as FIBA elected to extend a two-year suspension that was originally handed down in March 2009.

The 2012 CBA Playoffs start tonight with #4 Xinjiang going on the road to play #5 DongGuan, while #7 Guangsha will host #2 Beijing in Game One of the best-of-five first round.

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