Yesterday, as 13 NBA games were played all across the United States, the Chinese Basketball Assocation quietly wrapped up its regular season. JR Smith’s team lost their 5th game in a row, a season-ending streak that saw them fall from near the top of the standings all the way out of playoff contention. Although Smith was voted into the CBA’s All-Star Game, which is to be played on the 19th, he opted out of participating and has already made his return home. While JR’s team was losing, though, Wilson Chandler’s was running away with a 20-point victory. The win assured his Guangsha Lions the 7th spot in the standings, good enough for a playoff berth. Chandler scored 41 points and grabbed 18 boards in the game, a promising display of dominance against the same Beijing team that he and his squad will match up against in a five-game first round series. All seems well for the Lions… or does it?
According to a variety of sources, Chandler will be released prior to that aforementioned playoff series and return to the United States immediately. This is certainly an unforeseen development, as all American players who signed in the CBA understood that there would be no going home until their team’s season was over. Guangsha still isn’t obligated to let Chandler go, but they’re apparently considering it because they feel that he wants to, and they would rather not enter postseason competition with a star player who’s head may or may not be in the game. Via ChinaDaily.com…
BEIJING – Even Wilson Chandler’s agents can’t agree on whether he’ll play in the CBA All-Star Game and playoffs.
But even though his American representative wouldn’t confirm it on Thursday, it seems likely Chandler is headed back to the US.
After the Zhejiang Lions finished the regular season with a victory over the Beijing Ducks on Wednesday night, Chinese media begain reporting the former Denver Nugget had decided to opt out of the remainder of his contract with the Lions and would return the US before the NBA trading deadline on March 1.
The small forward’s American agent, Chris Luchey, had vowed Chandler would play. But he changed his tone on Thursday, saying nothing had been decided.
“We are in Shanghai for our off day. We have not finalized anything yet,” Luchey told China Daily through text message on Thursday morning.
The answer from Chandler’s Chinese agent, Zhao Gang, was far more solid.
“No, he won’t play (in the playoffs or All-Star Game),” Zhao told China Daily before Luchey’s response was received.
Lions officials said the team won’t force the restricted free agent to fulfill his deal.
“We prefer to let him make the decision. If he wants to continue with his duties here, we’ll be happy. But if he wants to leave, we will release him, as he might play with a bad mood in the playoff if we keep him compulsively,” Lions general manager Ye Xiangyu told Zhejiang media after talking with other team executives on Wednesday night.
Although he’s called his China adventure a “lifetime experience”, Chandler seems ready to return to the US. There are six teams, including the Nuggets, reportedly ready to offer him contracts.
“Now six squad want him and if he missed the transferring period that ends on March 1, he will have to sign with Denver with no other choices. We understand his feeling right now and we know we couldn’t keep his mind even if we retained him,” Ye said.
Neither Luchey would Zhao discuss a potential return date or where Chandler would prefer to sign.
“Not decided yet,” Zhao said.
I suppose it’s that March 1st deadline (EDIT: Apparently the trade deadling is on the 15th, not the 1st as the article states, but anyway…) that’s the problem here. The CBA playoffs begin on the 22nd of February, and a competitive five-game series would extend Guangsha’s season into March. While I’d love to see Chandler completely fulfill his commitment to his CBA team, I can understand his motivation to leave before that deadline. Unfortunately, it looks like Wilson’s time in China has come to and end, and we won’t get to see that first-round playoff battle between he and Stephon Marbury. Those of you who read my blog know that I’ve been following the CBA all season long, and I was looking forward to the Guangsha/Beijing series more than I was any other first-round tilt.
Oh well… I guess that’s how the cookie crumbles. It is a business, after all.