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Former NBA Players Locked Into Chinese Contracts

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After a 149-day stand off, the NBA is expected to finalize their new collective bargaining agreement today. According to the New York Times, the new deal will transfer $300 million a year from players to owners and places new restrictions on contracts.

A couple weeks ago, ESPN (DIS) reported on a number of players who had either already gone overseas or planned to in the event of a lockout. The surprisingly long list included former Nugget Ty Lawson’s move to Lithuania, Tony Parker’s return to France, and a number of players who had signed on to play in China.

With the strike over, very few players want to stay in China. Unfortunately, they’re having a tough time leaving.

Near the end of November, Shanghaiist ran a story saying that J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and Aaron Brooks were attempting to get out of their Chinese contracts. The article quotes one Chinese Basketball Association team official who said, “There’s no way out.”

In a follow up published today, Shanghaiist allowed the players a little bit of hope, but it won’t come cheap. Owners want all of the salary already paid to players, plus agents’ fees and an additional $1 million in compensation. That, or the players can stay until their contracts run out in March.

The CBA has a pretty strong hand to play against the former NBA players, who are unable to sign anywhere else in the world until their contracts run out. In the face of these difficulties, Martin has already agreed to finish the season, and the rest may not be far behind.

One former NBA star seems to be enjoying his time in China. Stephan Marbury, now playing for the Beijing Ducks, appeared with xiangsheng performers in an apparent bid to fit into Chinese society. But he’s probably just happy to have gotten away from the Knicks.

While Marbury seems to be enjoying his time in the CBA, he’s more the exception than the rule. Still, in the face of this news, one thing seems certain: the NBA is not the only basketball association with a rigid view of player-ownership relations.
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