China trying to block Kenyon Martin’s return to NBA

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China does not like to have its power usurped.

Here’s a long story shortened: NBA free agent Kenyon Martin signed in China during the lockout, a deal that said he would stay there that league’s entire season (mid-February to mid-March depending on playoffs). Except he didn’t, he left mid-season unhappy with the situation. His contract said he could not sign with an NBA until the Chinese league season ended, but yesterday we told you that international governing body FIBA overruled China and gave Martin a letter of clearance to return to the NBA now.

Now, China is fighting that FIBA Letter of Clearance, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

China has forwarded an affidavit to FIBA and the NBA – signed by Martin upon his departure in late December – that stipulates he wouldn’t play in the NBA until his Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers’ season had ended. China is demanding the contract be honored and Martin have to wait until the Flying Tigers finish their season…

Chinese Basketball Association officials are insisting the clearance letter request was deliberately sent to their office over the New Year when they wouldn’t be available to respond. After seven days without a response, FIBA’s guidelines allow it to issue the letter of clearance that all international leagues – including the NBA – need to validate that a player has fulfilled contractual obligations elsewhere.

In practical terms, we are talking a couple of weeks here — Martin’s team in China is not expected to make the playoffs, their season ends Feb. 16. The NBA may not want to anger the Chinese government as they are trying to forge a business relationship there.

But Martin, and the teams that are courting him (the Clippers, Heat and Hawks are the leaders) would rather have him now than later. So we will wait to see how FIBA responds.

This case also could impact the cases of J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler and Aaron Brooks, all of whom also are in China but would bolt back to the NBA is a second if they could get out of their deals.

Shabazz Muhammad awkwardly mentions Collective Bargaining Agreement during halftime interview (video)

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The Timberwolves surprisingly led the Spurs by nine at halftime last night, which takes us to Shabazz Muhammad‘s mid-game interview.

Muhammad:

We’re doing a great job on defense, Wiggs, myself, everybody. It’s a tough team, especially Kawhi and the guys. So, we’re doing a really good job and everybody’s collective – Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Um. What?

To be fair, I can’t even imagine what type of nonsense I’d spew in the midst of a taxing workout or a high-pressure situation – let alone something that qualifies as both.

Unfortunately for Muhammad, Minnesota eventually fell to San Antonio, 100-93. But hopefully, he can laugh at this moment. He should, at least.

hat tip: reddit user cjsplash

Duke’s Jayson Tatum, California’s Ivan Rabb declare for NBA draft

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Wednesday a couple of forwards expected to go in the first round of June’s NBA draft said they plan on making the jump to the NBA.

As expected, Duke’s Jayson Tatum and Cal’s Ivan Rabb made their decisions official.

Duke announced Tatum’s decision.

Tatum is expected to be a top-five pick, DraftExpress.com currently has him as the No. 4 pick. The 6’8″ wing can flat-out score the rock, which is why teams are intrigued, as Rob Dauster of NBC’s College Basketball Talk told us in a recent podcast. However, teams wonder if he can create shots for others and not just himself, and if he’s going to be a good defender at the NBA level. He has the physical tools to do be a good defender, but will he put in the work game in, game out?

Rabb is a 6’10” sophomore who has a great NBA build and athleticism to spare, but at the NBA level everyone is a great athlete. Rabb doesn’t have a great perimeter game and needs to develop one and be a consistent defensive force to be a difference maker (or have a lengthy career) at the NBA level. DraftExpress.com has him going 22nd in this draft, and his stock seems to have fallen over the course of the season.

PBT Extra: What coaches are on hot seat? Alvin Gentry at front of list.

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This season, for the first time in 46 years, no NBA coach will be fired during the season (nobody is getting canned at this point).

However, once the off-season starts, there will be a few changes.

Alvin Gentry in New Orleans and Fred Hoiberg in Chicago are the names most mentioned, but there will be an unexpected firing somewhere around the league. Some GMs are on the hot seat also (Rob Hennigan in Orlando leads that parade).

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.

Raptors’ Serge Ibaka, Bulls’ Robin Lopez each suspended one game for thrown punches

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It was obvious this was coming. Get in a shoving match “fight” in the NBA and you get a fine. However, actually throw punches and…

Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Robin Lopez each have been suspended for one game by the NBA “for throwing punches at one another during an altercation,” the league announced. What that works out to is a $120,715 hit for Lopez and a $111,364 ding for Ibaka.

Also, Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire earned a $15,000 fine shoving the Bulls Nikola Mirotic and “acting as other than a peacemaker as part of the same altercation.”

This all came out of what seemed a rather innocuous play. Ibaka and Lopez were battling for rebounding positioning, it went on for a second after the ball went through the hoop, Ibaka caught Lopez with a little chicken wing elbow in the back, Lopez spun, and, boy, that escalated quickly. Lopez’s punch missed, while Ibaka’s caught Lopez in the hair more than the body.

Both men got technicals and were ejected.