Wilson Chandler said he has signed a contract with the Zhejiang Guangsha of the Chinese Basketball Association, a move that would essentially preclude him from participating in the 2011-12 NBA season if the lockout ends and the games begin.
…Chandler’s agent, Chris Luchey, did not specify the amount of the one-year contract with the Guangsha, or Lions, but said it was worth less than the $3.1 million qualifying offer the Nuggets made in order to retain their rights to Chandler, and more than the $1.7 million offer that has been reported elsewhere.
On one hand, this isn’t a total shock. Chandler had been linked with a big money deal in China a couple of weeks ago, although the team mentioned was last year’s league runner-up, Xinjiang Guanghui. And Guangsha has been one of the summer’s most active teams in trying to sign locked-out NBA players for the upcoming season. Way before Guangsha had reportedly offered Dwyane Wade a big money month-to-month deal, and way way before the Chinese Basketball Association unceremoniously squashed that rumor by passing a rule barring all players with active NBA contracts from playing here this season, the team hired longtime NBA assistant, Jim Cleamons, who served under Phil Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles, as its head coach. To us, getting Cleamons on the bench was a clear sign that the team was going to do some serious work to recruit NBA players to Zhejiang. Before netting Chandler, Guangsha had signed former Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic forward, Earl Clark.
Not surprisingly, playing under Cleamons was one of the reasons why he decided to sign.
“If there’s a lockout and we lose the season, I’ll be over there playing, playing for Coach Cleamons,” Chandler said to ESPN.com. “I never had a close relationship with one of my coaches before. Maybe I can learn how to be a leader.”
Plus Chandler was obviously very serious about heading overseas as he came very close to signing with Italian club, Olympia Milano.
So yeah, we can understand how this happened.But that still doesn’t hide the fact that at the end of the day, this kind of is a total shock.
Chandler enjoyed a very good year last season with the New York Knicks, averaging 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game over 51 games before he was sent over to the Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster. In Denver, Chandler blended in nicely with his new team, helping them get into the playoffs while putting up 12.5 points and 5 rebounds in 21 games. Whether it was with Denver or another team, Chandler was due for a multi-year deal whenever the lockout ended. Coming here and risking injury, to us at least, seems like an odd move.
“It’s a huge concern,” Chandler said of the injury risk. “But as long as I take care of my body, I’ll be fine. We’ve got insurance.”
There’s also the CBA’s policy on opt-out clauses to consider. To prevent the league from becoming a convenient lockout haven where NBAers can come and go whenever their American paychecks start up again, the league passed a rule barring escape clauses that would allow players to return to the NBA whenever the lockout ended. Based totally on this rule, Chandler will be in China in March at the earliest and April at the latest, which means he’s going to miss a huge chunk of the year whenever the lockout ends.
Chandler is clearly cool with all of that, though. And he’s also cool with the idea of playing three games a week, which according to the ESPN.com report was another reason why he ended up signing. It’s interesting that he feels that way — a lot of players say that one of the biggest challenges playing in China is adjusting to the busy schedule and the brutal travel that comes with it. Chinese teams don’t fly unless the distance absolutely requires it, so most trips to away games are spent on long bus rides. With games being played on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, entire off days can be spent travelling. Make sure you charge that iPod.
Last year, Guangsha finished the regular season in sixth place at 18-14. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to DongGuan New Century.