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Tag Archives: Kobe Bryant

Friday Night Chuanr

June 29, 2013

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chuanr

Nighttime links served up proper with a hearty helping of lamb on a stick. The beer is on you, though.

 

  • The FIBA World U-19 Championship is underway in Prague, Czech Republic. The Chinese, headlined by Zhou Qi and Gao Shang, two guys NiuBBall readers should be familiar with, are participating. Rafael Uehara has a fantastic preview over at The Basketball Post, for those interested.
  • According to Chinese reports, the Beijing Ducks have officially re-signed Randolph Morris for another season. If you haven’t already, check out my reaction on One World Sports.
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Basketball Pioneers: LeBron James wanted US $5 million to come to China last year

September 17, 2012

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According to an anonymous Chinese general manager, LeBron James wanted to play in the CBA last year for US $5 million.

How things change in a year.

Roughly one year ago, the NBA lockout was raging and rumors of a mass overseas player migration were swirling as the work stoppage in the States seemed to have no end in sight. With its huge market, the Chinese Basketball Association and its group of mega-rich owners quickly emerged as one of the favorite rumor mills, with everyone from Enes Kanter and Glen Davis to Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant being linked to some move with a Chinese team.

Concerned with how the sudden influx of NBA-caliber talent — and the potential for an equally sudden exodus if the NBA lockout ended — the CBA abruptly put an end to all of that, passing a rule that forbade teams from signing players under NBA contract while also restricting eligible players from including back-to-the-NBA clauses in their Chinese contracts.

The results of that decision were mixed. While the league enjoyed unprecedented popularity both at home and abroad after attracting J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and Aaron Brooks among other high profile NBA players, the individual teams that signed them struggled both in creating profits and achieving the lofty goals they set for themselves in the pre-season.

The aftershocks of NBA-in-the-CBA experience thus has some teams re-thinking their big spending, money burning ways, with such ideas as a salary cap being proposed to get the league back on some sort of stable financial footing.

In a story published yesterday in Chinese basketball newspaper, Basketball Pioneers, several CBA general managers were quoted anonymously saying, among other things, there needs to be more due diligence inside of front offices, first in understanding the global player market, then in calculating a player’s monetary worth.

The debate on how to prevent teams from lighting their own money on fire will continue on, and the article itself is just a small blip in the overall issue. A small blip, that also includes this nugget: According to a separate GM, LeBron James wanted US $5 million to sign in the Middle Kingdom, a figure that upon consideration was ultimately deemed to high by team decision makers.

“Clubs need to be sensible,” said the GM, speaking anonymously. “If there was another big name superstar [who wanted to play in China] and wanted a price that’s too high, then there’s no way a team is going to accept that. Last year, [LeBron] James said he’d come for US $5 million. We couldn’t accept that.”

Whether that number is true or not, or whether the three-time MVP and reigning NBA champion was seriously considering playing in the CBA, is officially unknown. But it it believable? Considering all of the names who were being linked to China, of course it is. And considering what the major companies who back James (see Nike) would have stood to gain by having the best player on the planet play in what is potentially the biggest market on the planet, LBJ-to-China, like Kobe-to-China (which by the way happened before the league stepped in, if you believe Chinese media) was very likely on the table.

LeBron and the Miami Heat will come to China in October to play two pre-season games against the Los Angeles Clippers.

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Dwyane Wade to sign with Li-Ning?

August 19, 2012

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Dwyane Wade looks like he’s set to join Evan Turner at Li-Ning

Is a Chinese shoe company about to sign a major, in-their-prime NBA superstar? Well, if you believe everything you read on Twitter, it certainly sounds like it.

From a dude who knows a thing or two about sneakers, SoleCollector’s Nick DePaula on Friday:

Hearing from several people that Dwyane Wade will likely leave Jordan Brand and sign with Li-Ning. Huge shift.

The news comes after the word that Wade’s current shoe company, Jordan Brand, has cancelled his Fly Wade 3′s and the two sides are reportedly seriously considering a split, with the eight-time All-Star contemplating a switch to Li-Ning.

This isn’t the first time Li-Ning has dipped its toes into the NBA waters. Former and current endorsers include Shaquille O’Neal, Jose Calderon, Baron Davis, Evan Turner and Hasheem Thabeet. It would be the first time, however, that Li-Ning, or any one of the other Chinese sneaker companies (Peak, Anta, 361 Degrees, Qiaodan) would be able to secure a player of Wade’s pedigree.

For a brand that’s been struggling as of late, the addition of Wade may be what it needs to move past what has been a rocky and unprofitable period.

After the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Li-Ning aggressively expanded into the American market, opening an office in Portland, Oregon. But, their ambitions failed to come to fruition as a partnership with Champs Sports ultimately fell through as did plans for retail stores across the United States. As a result, net profit dropped 65% in 2011 and the company was forced to close down its Portland office last February. The company has since relocated to Chicago, where they are in the process of building a strategy that will focus on e-commerce over retail.

Apparently, that strategy built around a top-10 NBA player as well. Wade, although not an elite sneaker seller, still commands respect in the American shoe market and would increase Li-Ning’s credibility among consumers in the American market. In China, he’s a clear second behind LeBron James in the Miami Heat pecking order, but Wade is still a huge name out here and an agreement with Li-Ning would certainly generate some buzz in the PRC. He’s put in work over in the Chinese market over the last few years, coming over to travel the country on summer promotional tours with Brand Jordan. His name has further been enhanced in China from starring on the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal American squad.

For Wade, a move to Li-Ning could be more lucrative than sticking with Nike, who has James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant all overshadowing him as the brand’s centerpieces. Things would obviously be much different at Li-Ning, where he’d immediately become the front guy for a company based in the fastest growing market in the world. With the Heat threatening to build a dynasty, Wade — and his new kicks — would be in the forefront of a market that some people stands to make another shoe company, Nike, US $4 billion in revenue off of the team’s “not one, not two, not three, not four…” potential championships.

Since entering the NBA in 2003, Wade has been with Nike subsidiary, Converse, and Jordan Brand , the latter of which he has been with since 2009. His deal with Jordan is worth a reported US $10 million a year.

Wade’s potential signing marks another major event in what has been a busy and expensive summer for Li-Ning. In the Chinese basketball world, the company just recently paid CNY 2 billion to become the official outfitter of the Chinese Basketball Association. The deal starts this season and will last through the next five.

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CCTV-5′s NBA Playoffs commercial is freaking amazing

April 28, 2012

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What’s better than the start of the NBA Playoffs? How about a commercial that combines all of the things we love about the post-season with all of the things we love about medeval Chinese warfare? Would that be possibly be better?

If you think so, you’re in luck because the good people at CCTV-5 have made a one minute long television spot that does just that. The huge armies, the big flags and the massive fortresses that we’ve come to expect from the ancient Chinese battlefield are all there, but the best part is saved for the last thirty seconds when computer animated versions of Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose all dress up in traditional Chinese armor while wielding some serious weaponry.

Wow, wow and wow. If the Playoffs are even a quarter as good as that, it’ll be the greatest post-season in the history of the NBA, maybe in the history of sport. If they’re half as good, they’ll be the greatest anything ever.

(H/T to the guys at The Basketball Jones and to Michael Ardaiolo)

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Monday Morning Jianbing

March 19, 2012

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Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links
  • Dan Harris at China Law Blog takes issue with people labeling the Chinese as violent based on incidents like Shanxi-Beijing Game 4: “When something particularly violent or horrible happens in China I sometimes get an email or a comment from a reader (which I do not post) ranting about how this is further proof of ‘what the Chinese are like.’  To me, the only thing that is proven is that out of 1.5 billion people you are bound to have violent sociopaths.  In any country.  In any culture. Sometimes we need to just step back and say that it’s just a bank or just a basketball game or just a violent sociopath. Not everything is an indictment of an entire nation. Do you agree?” Yes, we agree.
  • This is a gold mine for all you English speakers who want to get up to par on you Chinese basketball terms. Yet another reason why hoopCHINA is probably the world’s greatest basketball website.
  • Everyone knows Love is Love for Stephon Marbury… except for when it comes to the Knicks. Steph successfully called Mike D’Antoni’s exit in New York, and now he’s tweeting about it to remind everyone.
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Happy Year of the Dragon from NiuBBall and almost every other foreign hooper in the US and China

January 27, 2012

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Contrary to common belief, Chinese New Year is not a one day holiday. Which means, we’re not late in offering our Happy Year of the Dragons. In fact, the Spring Festiva is 15 days long — good if you like eating dumplings, bad if you hate being kept up by late night firecrackers.

But Chun Jie is about more than eating food, giving and receiving hong baos (red envelopes filled with New Year cash) or watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. It’s about spending time with the family (or your adopted Chinese family, if you’re a foreigner), reflecting on the year past… and watching commercials featuring various CBA and NBA players butchering the Chinese language in a good-hearted attempt to wish China a happy and prosperous New Year.

It’s a yearly tradition in China, one that we here at NiuBBall try to honor by posting online videos of the many New Year promotional spots that play in between telecasts on CCTV-5 and other Chinese sports outlets.

First, the waiyuan of the Chinese Basketball Association:

Steph, going on his third year in China, fluently spits Wo shi Ma Bu Li (I’m Marbury) while Aaron Brooks does a surprisingly decent job saying Wo shi Bu Lu Ke Si (I’m Brooks), especially when you consider that he neither knew the city he was living in, nor its pronunciation.

Next, it’s Wilson Chandler, who goes with the trusty xin nian kuai le (happy New Year). J.R. Smith follows with gong xi fa cai (rich and prosperous New Year). Both do respectably.

Four for four so far with one more Mandarin utterance to go. And with Marbury, the longtime China vet stepping up, a correct pronunciation-to-attempt efficiency rate that would make John Hollinger blush looks all but wrapped up. But Steph does the unthinkable, badly mispronouncing bai nian, bai nian (happy New Year) to both end the five-for-five dream and the commercial.

It’s surprising because Marbury nailed the same exact phrase last year. Why the step back? Was it just an off day? Is Steph finding less time to brush up on his Chinese this year in comfortable Beijing? Or is it because he’s focusing all of his efforts towards locking up the No. 2 seed for the Ducks this season, and a possible NiuBBall MVP award? Whatever the case, fans, teammates and coaches won’t mind because the latter looks like a very real possibility at the moment.

Foreign CBAers aren’t the only ones to speak Mandarin this time of year. Last season, the guys at PEAK, a Chinese shoe company, tried their best to give their season greetings to the Chinese masses. Their attempt to speak Mandarin at an even semi-comprehensible level failed miserably, as did their attempt to say their lines in unison. Their attempt to entertain, however unintentional though it may have been, definitely did not.

Not one to throw in the towel though, PEAK is back with a new spot for the Year of the Dragon, which casts a new lineup lineup featuring Kyle Lowry, JaVale McGee and Dorrell Wright. Too bad for us though, I can’t find video anywhere online. For now at least, this picture will have to do:

Lastly, it’s the NBA’s turn. Though David Stern has made the league’s development in China a huge priority over the last decade, this is the first season where the NBA held an official celebration of the Chinese New Year. The NBA and its Chinese broadcasting partners announced the first ever “Chinese New Year Celebration” shortly before the New Year. Over an eleven day span, a total of 21 games will be shown live in China with customized Year of the Dragon coverage.

To help ring in all of the hoops, almost every NBA superstar appeared in this spot that runs throughout the course of each game:

Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Boring. And disappointing. Because NBA players have a history of using the local language to wish their Chinese fans a happy New Year. In 2011, the league’s two biggest stars, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, let fly with some Mandarin and though it was positively terrible, the effort was appreciated in these parts.

So yea, we’re bummed at the NBA — not because their non-Yi Jianlian/Jeremy Lin players can’t speak Mandarin — but because they didn’t even give it a shot this year. At NiuBBall, as foreigners who have toiled in front of our teachers and textbooks for several years in an effort to speak Mandarin, we totally support our laowai brothers and sisters who have the willingness to give the language a whirl. No matter how poor the first try may be.

So from all of us at NiuBBall, Happy Year of the Dragon, and all the best in the new year!

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Earl Clark leaves Zhejiang Guangsha for “personal reasons”

September 28, 2011

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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.

Jon Pastuszek can be followed on Twitter @NiuBBall or on Sina Weibo @NiuBBall.

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J.R. Smith signs for record amount with Zhejiang Chouzhou

September 14, 2011

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Move over Wilson Chandler and Earl Clark. You’re not the only two NBA players in Zhejiang, China, anymore.

An anonymous source with knowledge of the situation has told NiuBBall.com that Denver Nuggets free-agent guard, J.R. Smith, has signed a contract with the Chinese Basketball Assocation’s Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls. The deal is estimated to be worth around $3 million, making him the highest paid player in league history.

The news was first reported by Sina Sports on Sina Weibo (Chinese twitter) and has since been announced on Zhejiang’s official team website.

Smith joins Wilson Chandler, Earl Clark and Josh Powell on the list of NBA free-agents who have decided to play in China this season as a result of the lockout. Per league rules, Smith’s deal does not include an opt-out clause that would allow him to return to the NBA when the lockout ends.

Smith, like other NBA free agents, has received heavy interest from Chinese teams over the last three weeks. With the CBA having barred all NBA players with active contracts from playing here this season, free agents are the only NBA players who are eligible to sign with Chinese teams.

Before signing with Chouzhou, Smith was originally linked with a big money move to Shanxi Zhongyu. Owned by one of the league’s richest and most ambitious owners, Shanxi was the only team to openly disagree with the league’s rule. Before league officials voted to ban all NBA players with active contracts from signing in China, Shanxi was reportedly on the verge of signing Los Angeles Lakers superstar, Kobe Bryant to a lucrative month-to-month deal.

Unable to sign Bryant or another superstar, Shanxi has been seriously exploring bringing in a high level free agent to soften some of the blow. However, the source told NiuBBall.com that after having serious negotiations with Smith over the last week, the two sides simply walked away from each other after a final deal could not be a agreed upon.

Though Smith will join Chandler and Clark in province, he will be playing for a completely different team. Zhejiang has two teams, Zhejiang Guangsha and Zhejiang Chouzhou. Last season, the Golden Bulls signed Mike James and Josh Boone with the hope that two NBA-caliber players would catapult them up the standings. However, James never lived up to expectations and was released early in the season. Former 2007 San Antonio Spurs draftee, Marcus Williams, was brought in as a replacement and along with Boone, lead the team to a fifth place regular season finish. The team was then swept by Nanjing Nangang in the first round.

Last season for the Nuggets, Smith averaged 12.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 79 games.

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

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Mid-Autumn Festival Moon Cakes

September 12, 2011

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Today is Mid-Autumn Festival, which means as a foreigner, you’ve probably already gotten lots of well-wishing mass texts from Chinese friends/friends of friends/random people who somehow have your number. And of course, you’ve probably had your fair share of moon cakes, thick, heavy tasting pastries that are as indispensable to the holiday as turkey is to Thanksgiving. So if you haven’t gotten your hook-up today, or if you’re just hungry for more, munch on some of these moon cake links. Hopefully they’ll taste better than the ones with the seeds in the middle.
  • Even after one of China’s longtime favorite players, Carmelo Anthony, left for the Knicks, Chinese hoops still seems to have a big thing for the Nuggets. On Friday, the Denver Post reported that Nuggets veteran free-agent forward, Kenyon Martin, is receiving ”serious interest” from two teams, each of whom are prepared to make him the highest paid player in league history. Martin joins Wilson Chandler, who signed with Zhejiang Guanghsa in August, and J.R. Smith, who is rumored with a move to Shanxi Zhongyu, on the Rocky Top-to-Middle Kingdom movers list. Over the weekend, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein wrote that one of those two teams interest in K-Mart is none other than the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. The development isn’t a surprise to us in the least. Xinjiang has come up short in the CBA Finals each of the last three years, despite the efforts of its mega-rich owner to buy the best talent available to him. This summer, he’s taken it to a new level though, spending unprecedented amounts of money on foreign imports, coaches, and domestic players.
  • And Martin isn’t the only one getting serious in China. Shavlik Randolph, who played five years in the NBA from 2005-10, is in “advanced talks” with a Chinese team and should make a decision “within the week,” according to Ben Golliver at Blazer’s Edge.
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For many foreign players, China is only temporary

September 9, 2011

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To the outsider, China and its population of 1.3 billion looks like a land of unlimited opportunity. With its booming economy, huge markets in almost every sector and a currency that is exchanged favorably from Western currency, the Middle Kingdom stands out like big red beacon for adventurous, global minded business people who think they can cash in here.

And with an estimated 300-400 million Chinese who claim to play basketball, a lot of people think there’s a lot of green to be made off the orange. China is considered by many as the go-to foreign destination for anything hoops. Whether its bringing an American university over to tour the country and up its exposure in the world’s leading foreign student market, or if its using the Chinese Basketball Association as a potential haven for locked out NBA players, basketball is viewed as a means to tap into China’s vast potential.

But rarely do these casual observers know the full story of doing business in China. And rarely do players, who are lured to China by six and seven figure paychecks, know the full story of playing basketball in the CBA.

Which is why, generally speaking, most of them don’t last here.

While scenarios are being formulated about Wilson Chandler and Earl Clark’s potential March NBA-return after the CBA finishes its season — or any other current NBA free-agent who decides to sign here this season without an opt-out clause — there is very little discussion about what will be the likely outcome in all of these players’ cases:

A mid-season flight back to the United States.

The evidence speaks for itself. The CBA has arguably the highest turnover rate of any professional league in the world. It is rare for a team to finish the year with the same two imports they started with, nor is it out of the question for teams to end the year with two completely different players altogether. Last year alone, only four teams, Xinjiang Guanghui (Quincy Douby and James Singleton); Guangdong Foshan (Stephon Marbury and Olumide Oyedeji); Qingdao Double Star (Dee Brown and Charles Gaines); and Shandong Kingston (Rodney White and Myron Allen) managed to hang onto their two imports the entire season.

There are a variety of reasons why so many players don’t finish out the full-season in China. First, Chinese teams are notoriously fickle with their foreign players and are quick to pull the plug if either the team’s record or the player’s individual statistics are not line with expectations. And as the CBA regular season is only 32 games long, owners won’t wait more than a few games to make a switch if they feel that’s what the team needs to turn itself around.

Granted, that’s as true in Europe as it in China. But, Chinese teams add to the situation by being blatantly corrupt about they way they do it, withholding letter-of-clearances (a FIBA document needed by a player from his former team stating that he is no longer under contract and is thus able to sign for another team), lying about the terms of deals, and sometimes not paying players altogether.

Shanxi Zhongyu, who is reportedly in negotiations with J.R. Smith, is arguably China’s worst offender. Owned by a Wang Xingjiang, an uber-rich former steel magnate who tried his hardest to sign Kobe Bryant during the NBA lockout before CBA officials barred all NBA players with active contracts from playing here this season, the Brave Dragons have a long reputation of unprofessionalism and corruption.

Lee Benson, a longtime CBA veteran who played most recently with Tianjin Rongcheng for part of last year, has played in China for parts of the 2004-05, 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. Picked up mid-season by Shanxi in 09-10, his stay was cut short as Benson was released after only five games in order to make room for the newly-acquired Stephon Marbury, who signed with the team in mid- January. Though nothing illegal was done by cutting him, Benson alleged that Shanxi never paid him his full salary after he was released, thus violating the terms of their contract. Benson ended up taking the the case to FIBA, who ruled in favor of Benson at a tribunal in April of the same year.

Marbury finished out the year in Taiyuan with no problems.  But he too eventually became familiar with Shanxi’s way of handling things when he was abruptly released less than two weeks before the start of the 2010-11 season after the two sides had reportedly agreed on a three-year contract extension earlier in October. Shanxi’s general manager at the time, Zhang Aijun, who had been hired that summer to change the team’s culture, told reporters that Marbury never actually signed with the team and that the club was only interested in making him an assistant coach. Marbury said in a May 2011 piece in GQ magazine that the team straight-up forced him out. Marbury ended up signing with Guangdong Foshan shortly after being released. Zhang and the team’s Chinese head coach ended up being fired later that season on December 31st after Shanxi started the year with a highly disappointing 1-5 record. Among the reasons for Zhang’s dismissal were unethically acquiring local players away from other teams and mishandling the team’s import situation.

Besides being at the mercy of teams, who can essentially terminate a contract whenever they want, players often fail to adjust to everyday life in China. Whereas some places in Europe offer a Western style of life that Americans are able to adapt rather easily to, China has a distinctly different language and culture. The case is even more apparent on the basketball court. After experiencing daily six hour practices, nine hour bus rides, unheated hotel rooms and stadiums, and endless meals of KFC and McDonalds — all while not being able to communicate directly with Chinese coaches, management and teammates — players often waive the white flag on their Chinese career and just pack up and leave.

In almost all cases, both longtime NBA veterans and players who are fresh out of the league end up going home for one reason or another. In 2009, Bonzi Wells said he couldn’t adjust to life in Taiyuan, so he went to the U.S. during the annual Spring Festival break and never came back. Last season, Zhejiang Guangsha’s Rafer Alston left for the States to attend a close friend’s funeral. He didn’t come back either. Javaris Crittenton, Mike James and Ricky Davis all reached mutual agreements with their Chinese teams last year because of issues with living in China.

Perhaps Chandler, Clark and Smith, if he signs here, will be different. Based on reality however, its highly unlikely that they are.

Jon Pastuszek can be followed on Twitter @NiuBBall or on Sina Weibo @NiuBBall

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CBA bars players with active NBA contracts from playing in China

August 19, 2011

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For the last two months, a long list of out-of-work NBA players have been looking across the Pacific Ocean towards China as a possible lockout destination. And after two months of silence, the Chinese Basketball Association finally sent back a message to all of those players.

Look somewhere else.

According to Sina Sports, the CBA has passed two rules that will kill any chance of an NBA superstar from playing in China this season. First, any player with an active NBA contract will not be allowed to sign with a CBA team. Second, players who do sign with a CBA team will not be able to include an opt-out clause that would allow them to go back to the NBA whenever the lockout ends.

Though the league’s decision on opt-out clauses was expected, the rule barring players currently under contract comes as more of a surprise. Sources speaking to NiuBBall said that the rule had gained momentum in the last couple of weeks due to an increasing belief from the CBA that teams were not going to be fazed by the league’s ruling on out-clauses, and that they were going to to find other ways bring superstars to China.

But now, teams will have no way — legal or under-the-table – to bring a superstar to China this year. Under the new rules, the only NBA players that are eligible to sign deals are the 108 free-agents who are not currently under contract with any NBA team.

Yesterday, Sohu Sports released a story sourcing information from Shanxi Zhongyu team president Wang Xingjiang that the team had signed Kobe Bryant to a contract, and that the player had agreed to report to training camp on October 1st. A source close to the situation speaking anonymously to ESPN.com denied the story shortly after.

With no way to play in China’s domestic league, the only way for players to potentially cash in by playing basketball here will be through exhibition tours. But even those have their fair share of obstacles, as they require government approvals.

The ruling is a big hit to players. Not only are they missing out on a chance to make considerable salaries in China while simultaneously playing in the world’s second biggest basketball market, they’re also losing out on leverage in NBA lockout negotiations.

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

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CBA to meet on Thursday and Friday, will rule on opt-out clauses

August 17, 2011

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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.

Jon Pastuszek can be followed on Twitter @NiuBBall or on Sina Weibo @NiuBBall

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Friday Afternoon Bubble Tea

August 5, 2011

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It’s Beijing, it’s summer, it’s hot. So cool down with some bubble tea (with ice), chill out and take in these afternoon links.

  • As we recapped yesterday, both Titan Weekly and the Chengdu Daily reported that several CBA teams have offered deals worth over $1 million a month to superstars like Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. According to the Chengdu Daily, Wade was offered $2 million a month by Zhejiang Guangsha. But, according to a source speaking with NiuBBall, Chinese reports have been exaggerated. “There’s no way any CBA team is going to fork over $2 or $3 million for one player,” said the source. “With these new rules, there’s too much risk.” Guangsha’s GM, Ye Xiangyu, publicly denied the report.
  • John Lucas III, who has played the last two years in Shanghai, out-gunned some dude named Kevin Durant a couple days ago at Rucker Park. Maybe most of the domestic players aren’t anything to write home to the States about, but as we’ve maintained throughout this blog’s soon-to-be one-year existence, the imports here can ball.
  • Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin is considering playing in Taiwan next year, according to the China Post. Why not China, you ask? Because he has an American passport, that’s why. Taiwan passport-holding players are considered as domestic players in the CBA, but since Lin would have dual-citizenship if he were to obtain his Taiwanese passport, the would be ruled as an American import player. And though Lin can ball well enough to probably warrant a spot on a roster as an import, CBA teams traditionally do not go after young players. So with little interest in China, Lin would be smart to look at his native Taiwan.
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Teams searching for ways to get NBA superstars to China

August 4, 2011

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Four days after being hit with a proposed rule that would prevent teams from signing locked-out NBA superstars to month-to-month contracts this season, teams are hitting back with an announcement of their own:

We don’t care about your stinking rule.

Fixed on taking advantage of the rare opportunity of bringing an NBA superstar to China this season, teams are looking at various ways to get around the Chinese Basketball Association’s new rule that would block active NBA players from playing here this season. According to a report published yesterday by Titan Weekly, teams aren’t just moving forward with negotiations to bring superstars to China, they’re going full steam ahead.

That is substantial, because according to the Titan report, several different negotiations between teams and players had already progressed into advanced stages before Sunday’s news about a preventive rule that would disallow teams from including out-clauses in contracts with active NBA players.  Citing an anonymous source with direct knowledge of teams’ dealings, Titan is reporting that several organizations have offered per month contracts to Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki worth over $1 million. The source claims one team has put forth a $1.5 million deal to 2011 NBA Finals MVP.

And that’s not all. During Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul’s week-long Jordan Brand China Tour, which was completed Tuesday in Beijing, several teams were negotiating with the two’s agency, CAA, about a proposed $2,000,000 a month deal. Before news about the rule change was reported on Sunday, talks had become serious enough to warrant discussions about such specifics as providing personal security and arranging housing for family members, according to the source.

Today, the Chengdu Daily reported that Zhejiang Guangsha offered Wade $2 million a month while he was in the team’s home city of Hangzhou during the tour. Team general manager, Ye Xiangyu, who voiced her concern about bringing over NBA players on Sunday, denied that a contract offer had been made. But, when the world learned there would be no way for teams to write in a clause that would allow players to go back to America once the lockout ends, interest cooled considerably from the NBA side as they waited to see how things played out in China.

96 hours after the CBA’s proposed rule, things are indeed playing out. After analyzing the new landscape they’ll be working with as a result of the CBA’s propsed ruling — which is all but guaranteed to go through when officials meet for a policy meeting this month — teams have decided the positives of signing an NBA megastar far outnumber the risks and are commencing forward with negotiations.

Why? At the top of the list is money. Despite the steep price tags attached to these players, owners are confident that there are big returns to be made on their investments. With around seven home games per month for each team, an anonymous general manager told Titan that raising ticket prices alone would cover over half the cost of a $2 million a month contract. Knowing that games would sell-out easily, teams feel they can profit from signing a big name player.

“We can afford the price tag,” said the general manager. “And if you add in some more money from a sponsor, you can easily recover your investment from signing a Nowitzki or another superstar.”

Another reason why teams are unconcerned with the CBA is because many don’t feel the league can enforce their their soon-to-be instated rule. The CBA has one of the highest turnover rates for foreign players in the world. Some players don’t even last two weeks in the country after signing a contract, and its not unusual to see teams switch imports three times in a single season. That begs the question, if a team were to release an active NBA player from his contract, how would that be different than releasing any other import?

The answer is unclear, which is why teams are growing more and more convinced that they can negotiate an under-the-table agreement with players that would guarantee a return to America either after a set period of time or after the lockout ends. To remain in line with CBA policy, the team would then sign an official one-year deal consistent with the CBA’s rules prohibiting an out-clause, which would be turned in to and approved by the league office. After the player left, the team could point to the official contract and state a variety of reasons for why the player left — breach of contract, injury, inability to adapt to China, etc. — and claim no responsibility for the player’s departure. With a league approved contract on file in league headquarters, there wouldn’t be any way for the league to prove foul-play.

“Since word of the new rule got out, the common thinking to get around this has been to write up two contracts, the real one [that has been negotiated with the player] and the one that is officially filed with the CBA,” said another general manager speaking anonymously. “We feel we can absolutely get a deal done with a player privately. Once the lockout ends, we’ll just release him. Then, after he’s gone, we’ll pull up the one-year contract that is on file with the league.”

Yet, perhaps even more important in all of this is the pent up frustration teams have towards the CBA and their policies. Because the CBA is controlled and run by the government, the league is treated as a national interest. Unlike the NBA in the U.S., where profitability comes before all, the development and success of the national team is the number one priority for the CBA’s decision makers. As a result, not one team in the league is profitable currently. Bringing in a Bryant, Wade or Nowitkzi would undoubtedly change that. Plus, the idea of going down in history as the team in China who brought over an NBA superstar for China’s hundreds of millions basketball-crazed fans to enjoy is one that appeals to many owners. It also is an idea that local governments are interested in as well, who are reportedly offering their support to bring an NBA player and the attention he’d bring to their city.

An opportunity to bring players of this magnitude to China is rare, and teams feel like they should be able to take advantage of it.  Several figures inside team’s front offices were quoted as being fed up with the CBA’s handling of the entire situation.

“The NBA is locked out right now, and still every team’s regular season schedule has already come out,” said one disgruntled general manager. “But us? Our season starts in November and the league hasn’t even officially announced policy for foreign players this year. And don’t even talk about an official document either, the league doesn’t even keep in touch with us. We see all of this news on the internet, all of this ‘anonymous figure inside the CBA’ stuff. That’s how we get our information.”

“Let’s back up a step,” said a prominent member of one team’s front office. “Say a team had signed a player earlier and then the CBA came out with this rule. Who would be responsible for the break of contract?”

If there’s one thing to take away from the many complicated pieces involved in making China a lockout destination for the NBA’s best players, it’s that this thing is far from over. But, for now it appears that China is still very much on the table — good news if you’re a player looking to tap into China, and even better news if you’re a Chinese basketball fan.

Jon Pastuszek can be followed on Twitter @NiuBBall or on Sina Weibo @NiuBBall

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Monday Morning Jianbing

August 1, 2011

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Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links… even if it’s almost 1pm. If you woke up late, enjoy your first meal of the day. If you’ve been up for a while, enjoy it as a snack. We promise it’s still really good in the afternoon.

  • Alexander Johnson, who played last season in China for Shanxi, has been charged with marijuana possession. Like Rodney White, who also played last year in China before being arrested for (much bigger) marijuana-related charge, Johnson signed on with a Korean team for next year. We don’t know what this means for both of them in terms of their futures in Korea next year, but if this Korean article is any indication (and if my Google translate is somewhat accurate, not a given), it looks like they may have to find other jobs. (H/T to Andrew Lowman over at Asia Basketball Update for passing that along.)
  • Kobe Bryant’s chances of playing in Turkey this season are “zero,” according to a Yahoo! report. That of course leads to China, where Kobe has reportedly exchanged offers with CBA teams about playing on a month-to-month basis. According to the report, he’d be allowed to go back to the Lakers at the end of the lockout, but as we learned yesterday, the Chinese Basketball Association might not be OK with the idea of their league becoming a temporary haven for locked-out NBA players.
  • How does Carmelo Anthony’s Panda-posing match-up against Kevin Durant’s? Hardwood Paroxysm breaks it down. A must read for fans of pandas and basketball. ‘Melo, along with Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade, is on the Jordan Brand Flight Tour, a four-city China tour that promotes the sport and the brand through various appearances and events. SLAMonline has pictures.
  • And speaking of Stephon Marbury… he’s being sued by a bank for $16 million for not paying back a loan his Starbury shoe company took out back in 2006.
  • In response to our report two days ago, Foshan management has publicly denied that they’ve made a $200,000 a month offer to current Memphis Grizzlies center, Hamed Haddadi. They admit, however, that there has been contact between the team and Haddadi’s agent.
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