Since Yao Ming entered the NBA (miss you, Big Fella), China has emerged as an untapped market for both the league and its players looking for brand-expansion. The Rockets, in particular, took full advantage of their connections to Yao and cashed in, becoming celebrities as the country started to embrace the game fully. Shane Battier was among those who recognized the potential and has made efforts to make himself a known commodity in the country.
Battier spoke to Sports Illustrated, and when asked about his prospects for playing overseas, made it clear he has one particular place in mind should he head over:
“If I were to play anywhere, I would look at China first because I have some connections there depend,” he said. “It would depend on the tenor of the negotiations and if it looks like well play a season.”
Battier believes more players will be inspired by Deron Williams decision to play in Turkey. “I was proud of him for taking that chance,” he said. “That will be a great experience for him and I would not be surprised if more guys follow suit. But it will be surprising if guys go over there for August training camp [as thats when camps tend to open in Europe]. If it doesnt look like well have the normal exhibition seas and preseason, you could see a bunch of guys go to Europe.”
Battier is filling an interesting role in the lockout. He’s one on hand questioning Billy Hunter and the direction of the NBPA’s leadership, which paints him as some sort of rogue, and on the other supporting the players in their efforts and pushing back on ownership.
While Battier’s age and relative lack of stardom limits his European opportunities, in China he’s a known entity. It’s a smart play. We’ll see if Battier winds up making good on those connections.