Even if he’s getting away from the United States, Gilbert Arenas will be getting back to a familiar nickname.
In what completes an almost month-long journey, Arenas has finally signed in the Chinese Basketball Association with the Shanghai Sharks. The deal is reported to be a one-year deal worth roughly US $700,000 with a mutual team/player option for a second year.
Already registered on the team’s roster, the three-time NBA All-Star will wear the number 0 for the first time since he was known as “Agent Zero” with the Washington Wizards from 2003-10.
Though the deal was expected to go through since he arrived in Shanghai at the beginning of the month, the Yao Ming-owned Sharks’ decision to delay making it official came down to two major points, a source told NiuBBall.com. First was that both team management and the coaching staff wanted to see Arenas in action before making a commitment, a request that Arenas interestingly enough turned down when he was in negotiations with another Chinese team, the Guangdong Southern Tigers, in October.
Arenas, perhaps learning from his failed experience in latching on with Guangdong, went along with company policy in Shanghai, however, and proved himself to be in shape in individual workouts and full-team practices. Further helping his cause, Arenas also got a ringing endorsement from Yao’s former teammate and longtime China National Team point guard, Liu Wei, who reportedly is in favor of adding a proven backcourt scorer to play alongside, similar to when the team signed John Lucas III for their 2009-10 semi-finals run. The fact that Arenas, who will collect over US $20 million this season and next from the Orlando Magic after being amnestied in December 2011, was willing to accept a contract within Shanghai’s budget also played a factor in the team’s thinking, according to the source.
But despite all of that, the Sharks also wanted to do due diligence on something else: Arenas’ surgically repaired knee. The team did a serious of examinations and tests to figure out exactly what they would be getting health-wise from the former Arizona standout, and came away with enough belief to go forward. Though removed from his prime, a healthy and motivated Arenas stands to do some serious scoring in the Chinese league and the Sharks feel that his addition gives them a better chance at success this season. With D.J. White playing up front and a solid crew of Chinese players playing in their second season under American head coach, Dan Panaggio, the Sharks might just make good on another deep run.
Arenas will replace Elijah Millsap, who will be bought out of his contract.
The Sharks open up the CBA season on the road against the defending champion Beijing Ducks on Saturday night.