China clamps down on NBA stars seeking US return

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Not everyone is excited about the NBA lockout possibly coming to an official end this week.

The Chinese Basketball Association informed four NBA players — Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler and Aaron Brooks — that they would have to honor the remainder of their one-year contracts. Teams in the CBA were allowed to only sign NBA free agents and they are required to play the entire season, which ends in late March.

So, while Kobe Bryant and LeBron James prepare for the start of training camp on Dec. 9 in preparation for the 66-game 2011-12 NBA season, Martin, Smith, Chandler and Brooks are left pondering how worse things can get in China these next four months.

It’s been a rocky stay for two of the players since their arrival.

Martin told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports that he had no regrets about his decision, yet managed to take a cheap shot at his former team, the Denver Nuggets. “They made that bed. Guess what? Let them lie in it,” Martin said. “I had some good times. I enjoyed my seven years. I enjoyed the Denver fans. But they made the decision.”

Twitter apparently isn’t blocked in Martin’s new town of Urumqi, China, as the power forward went on a rant in October and tweeted out this lovely sentiment for his haters: “All Haters should catch full blown Aids and Die! Do the world a favor!” and rid us of you all!”

As for Smith, it’s a miracle he hasn’t be kicked out of China yet. The Zhejiang Golden Bulls signed Smith to a $3 million deal and went out of their way to make the knucklehead shooting guard feel comfortable in China, providing insurance in case he was severely injured, a presidential suite and a personal chef. Those extras weren’t good enough for Smith as he requested an additional apartment in Shanghai or Hangzhou and a chauffeured car.

Yes, the same Smith that injured his knee in the Golden Bulls’ first game of the season and refused treatment from the training staff because he wanted to see a specialist in a different city. When he’s not busy clashing with the front office, he’s missing practices and allegedly faking injures.

George Karl, it’s wasn’t just you, my man. Not everyone has had a problem fitting in as Chandler scored 43 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in his double overtime CBA debut. And Brooks unfortunately fell for NBA commissioner David Stern’s “nuclear winter” scare tactic, signing a $2 million deal earlier this month with four-time CBA champion Guangdong.

No matter how grim the lockout appeared or how much they needed the money, did these guys not read the fine print on these contracts? It’s not as simple as taking your ball and going back home to the United States. In order for these four free agents to land a new deal from a NBA team, they need a letter of clearance from their respective Chinese teams. Those teams are in no rush to cough up those letters as they face forfeiture of any games the four NBA players played in.

“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.”

Things aren’t as strict for players with an opt-out clause on European teams like New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams, who tweeted Sunday that he had played his last game for Besiktas and it was a fun three months in Turkey.

Chandler and Brooks won’t have a problem landing a new contract once their stint in China is up later this spring. Martin, who turns 34 in December, has a history of knee injuries and he’s made it clear that he’s not going to sign a deal to just be a “bandwagon.”

Smith runs the risk of being passed on by NBA general managers based on his behavior in China. Regardless of how talented a scorer Smith is, a potential playoff team runs the risk of disturbing their locker room chemistry by adding a player who has successfully caused havoc in two different countries.

See you guys in March. And cheer up, there’s always the NBA League Pass to keep you up-to-date as to what your fellow (and patient) NBA teammates are accomplishing back home.