The Denver Nuggets may have to field a significantly different looking team once the lockout ends with some of their players choosing to take their talents overseas.
Free agent J.R. Smith has said he will join teammate Wilson Chandler in China this season, while Ty Lawson is also heading overseas to play. Kenyon Martin may also be interested in playing in Asia. Smith and Wilson will be lost for at least a season due to the binding one-year contracts the Chinese Basketball Association is forcing NBA players to sign in order to play in its league.
Lawson, who is heading to Lithuania, will be able to come back to the NBA as soon as the lockout ends.
From the looks of things, Smith and Wilson are banking on the lockout lasting well into the season, which would then make sense to spend this season in China. The players and owners seem far apart on critical issues such as revenue sharing and salary cap.
The two sides broke off a five-and-half hour meeting Tuesday with no movement and no future meetings planned.
It may not have been a coincidence that Smith signed a one-year deal with the Zhejiang Chouzhou Bank team of the Chinese Basketball Association on Wednesday. While Smith and Wilson will be in the same province, they won’t be playing for the same team in China.
"His decision to accept the deal was based on the uncertainty of the NBA labor negotiations, a significant offer from the club and the unique opportunity to play the game he loves in another country that loves its basketball," Smith’s agent, Leon Rose, wrote in an email to the Associated Press. "J.R. is looking forward to the challenge."
Smith, of course, desires to return to the NBA next season once the labor unrests are over. But for now he just wants to play basketball.
Smith averaged 12.3 points and 2.2 assists for the Nuggets last season as the sixth man in the rotation.
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