Chinese Basketball Teams Holding NBA Players to Their Contracts

Chinese Basketball Teams Holding NBA Players to Their Contracts

NBA stars like Kenyon Martin and Wilson Chandler, who signed deals to play in China during the NBA lockout, are finding they may not be able to return to the U.S. until their overseas obligations are met.

Published November 29, 2011

Now that the NBA owners and players have a tentative agreement to end the lockout, the players who decided to take their talents overseas are gearing up to head back home.
That is, everyone except the NBA players who signed lucrative deals to play in the Chinese Basketball Association. It was made clear to players who signed deals with the CBA that the league was going to hold them to their one-year contracts no matter what became of the NBA labor dispute.
So players like NBA free agents Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Aaron Brooks should have been aware when they signed their deals. But for some reason they thought the Chinese Basketball Association was joking.
Now they are finding out there is nothing funny about the ironclad deals that will likely keep them from playing in the NBA until March at the earliest.
“They can play, get paid [in China] and return to the NBA in March,” one Chinese team official said to Yahoo! Sports. “Or they can not get paid, and return to the NBA in March.”
There have been reports that players like Smith and Martin may not be happy in China and that their teams may not be happy with them. But if the contracts are enforced, they're stuck with each other.
The Chinese government could actually hold them in the country if it wants, but if the CBA doesn’t want to go that far, it can simply not sign the letter of clearance each player needs to return to playing in the NBA.
But before we go feeling sorry for these players, we have to remember they are being paid rather well and being given star treatment. Smith, Chandler and Martin, who all played for the Denver Nuggets last season, signed for $3 million to play in China this season, according to Yahoo.
These players have all been given luxury hotel suites and personal drivers, among other amenities, to make their stay comfortable. Combine that with the fact the CBA agreed this summer that it would only sign NBA free agents during the lockout and that they would have to play one full season.
That hasn’t stopped Smith from consistently clashing with his Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls team since arriving in China. But the bottom line is, don’t expect to see Smith or any of the NBA players who signed CBA teams in NBA uniforms when the season is expected to start, on Christmas Day.
“If they think that they’re going to make things difficult, not play, create problems, what’s going to happen is that the teams will not release their letters of clearance they’ll need to sign in the NBA,” a Chinese Basketball Association official told Yahoo! Sports. “There’s no way out.


First it's a lockout, and now they're locked in.

Contact Terrance Harris at or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris.


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(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Written by Terrance Harris


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