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Should The Chinese Basketball Association Allow NBA Players To Return To America Now That The Lockout Is Over?

Submitted by on November 29, 2011 – 10:58 amNo Comment
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The NBA lockout is over! Starting on Christmas Day, we’ll be able to watch LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, and all of the other NBA players that we have missed so much over the course of the last six months or so.

But, unfortunately, we won’t be able to watch all NBA players. That’s because the Chinese Basketball Association, which welcomed a handful of NBA players into the league during the lockout, is refusing to let those players out of their contracts. And although most of those players knew that when they signed their contracts, the thought was that they’d always be allowed to walk if and when the lockout ended. However, that’s not the case.

“They can play, get paid [in China] and return to the NBA in March [when the CBA season ends],” one Chinese team official said recently. “Or they can not get paid and return to the NBA in March…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. There’s no way out.”

No way out? Really? So, for now at least, guys like J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Wilson Chandler—who is averaging 43 points per game right now—are stuck in China. But, should they be? Should they be forced to play out the remainder of their contracts if they don’t want to? Should the CBA force a number of American players to stay overseas until March?

In a word, yes. Listen, I want to see these guys back in the United States just as much as the next NBA fan. Chandler will likely be an integral piece of the new-look Denver Nuggets and both Smith and Martin are free agents who could step onto an NBA team tomorrow and make a real difference. But the truth of the matter is that these guys should have known what they were walking into when they signed with CBA teams a couple of months ago. And, if my memory serves me correctly, they did know what they were getting into when they signed. The CBA teams they inked deals with told them that they weren’t interested in short-term players like some other teams from overseas. They wanted guys who would play out their contracts. That’s why they agreed to pay them so much money.

There’s been word of under-the-table handshakes and wink-wink terms of the CBA contracts. The players were under the impression that they’d be permitted to return to the States after the lockout ended, regardless of what their contracts said. However, those terms obviously weren’t put into writing and now it seems that the CBA teams will hold the players to the written letter of the law. Is it right? Debatable. Is it fair? Well, it depends who you ask. But, is it what should be done? I would say so. It sets a bad precedent if the CBA teams let the NBA players walk.

So while the lockout is over, it’s not over for everyone. Not yet, at least. For now, Smith, Martin, and Chandler will have to wait and see what happens when their agents contact their CBA teams. But they shouldn’t be surprised in the least if they end up stuck in China until March. And, hey, that’s what they signed up for, right?

See you guys in the spring.

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