Will China welcome JR Smith with open arms … and the largest contract in Chinese basketball history?
We already know that Wilson Chandler will not be back with the nuggets for the 2011 / 2012 season. He signed a deal to play in China this season – even if the NBA lockout ends. Now JR Smith might do the same. According to Sports Illustrated, the tattoed one is considering ditching the Denver Nuggets in favor of signing the largest contract in the history of Chinese professional basketball, 3M a season.
David Stern didn’t see this coming when he locked out the NBA players. As our Buddy Snyder pointed out after we were finished recording this weeks Fancast, basketball players have options. It’s a world game and there is real money out there for players willing to expand their geographic horizons.
The Chinese Basketball Accociation has banned “lockout only” contracts. That means that, even if the NBA season were to start on time (which it won’t), players who sign deals to play in China will not be coming back. That means a watering-down of the NBA’s talent pool, temporarily at least – and possibly permanantly.
JR was no lock to return to the Nuggets. In fact, he was likely to leave as a free-agent. The lockout, however, might have changed things. There is speculation that any deal with the Union would involve some type of “first right of refusal” clause for teams to keep their free agents around for another season. If he goes to China he’ll never be back.
Chances are we have seen the last of JR Smith in Denver.