Carmelo Anthony Panda

Chinese League may put in rules to limit NBA player influx


Stephon Marbury may not think Carmelo Anthony can handle playing in China, but ‘Melo said he was thinking about it. A lot of NBA players have thrown out China as a possible destination if they decide to play overseas during the lockout.

Except, China may not want them.

According to the fantastic Chinese league blog niubball.com, the Chinese League may be putting in rules that would limit the influx of foreign players. Specifically NBA players.

Sina Sports, quoting an anonymous figure connected to the CBA, reported that the Chinese Basketball Association is planning to institute two special new rules for next season in response to the ever-growing list of NBA players who have declared interest towards playing in China: First, teams will not be allowed to include an out-clause into any contract with an active NBA player and second, that each team will be allowed to sign only one active NBA player.

Said the anonymous source, ”The CBA isn’t the NBA’s backyard. If we didn’t make a rule about players playing here temporarily, then they’d all just leave in the middle of the season. That would affect our season greatly.”

This could rule out NBA players under contract from playing in China all together. Basketball international governing body FIBA said it would approve NBA players going overseas during the lockout — giving them a letter of clearance — only if the contract had an “out clause” that allowed them to return to the NBA whenever the lockout ends. If China is not allowing players to opt out, guys like Anthony are off the table completely.

NBA players have liked China as an option during the lockout for a few reasons. One is global branding in the world’s largest market, another is that there is enough wealth there to pay players fairly well (not NBA money but good money). Also, the Chinese season starts later, allowing them to see what happens with the NBA lockout and the start of the season before having to commit.

Why would China then block the best players in the world? Remember we are talking about a pretty insular and protective country, and one trying to build up its own basketball program. We’ll let niubball.com take it from there.

The CBA’s reasoning behind such a rule serves as a stark reminder as to how the Chinese government views basketball within the national political framework. Whereas the NBA operates in the U.S. as an independent business, the CBA is run by the government and thus has an agenda based on other things than profitability. At the top of that agenda for the Chinese is the long-term development of basketball in China and the success of the Chinese national team. Having a national team that can compete against the best the world has to offer serves as a way for China to gain international glory while also boosting nationalism within its own borders….

So although welcoming an NBA superstar to China sounds good on the surface, both for NBA-crazed fans and teams’ bottom line, the impact on the long-term development of Chinese would be minimal at best. Investing lots of money in players just to see them pack up and leave would not help the CBA’s goals in any way.

Report: Nicolas Batum signs in France

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You had to expect that the first guys to go hauling across the pond would be those who traversed the body of water in the first place. In short, Europeans are flocking back to their respective homelands in the face of the lockout and a seemingly unavoidable loss of games. Take Nicolas Batum, for example. From BasketSession.com, translation provided by Blazers Edge:

According to a source familiar with the matter, Nicolas Batum signed with SLUC Nancy. The winger Portland Trail Blazers and the team will begin the season in France Pro A and the Euroleague with Nancy in the case quite likely that the lockout blocks the start of the NBA season.

We knew very advanced contacts between the two parties, but nothing was sure yet.

via Blazer’s Edge – For Portland Trail Blazers Fans.

Batum is a pretty significant building block for the Blazers, as they’ve turned down a half-dozen trade offers for him in the past year. That has to make Blazers management (and by extension Paul Allen) a little nervous. Meanwhile, Batum gets to go on a working vacation at home. That’s a pretty fantastic setup.

Everyone keeps talking about how none of these players is going to Europe. And contracts keep getting signed. At some point this is going to be more of an issue than just a hypothetical, and the owners will be gulping down the idea of a player suffering a significant injury when he’s not earning them money. That has to cause at least a flinch.


FIBA clears way for NBA players to play overseas

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It was the one question left surrounding NBA players inking overseas deals — would FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, allow players under an NBA contract to play for another team?

Yes they will.

FIBA made the official announcement Friday, saying it will give players under contract to an NBA team a “letter of clearance” to play overseas so long as there is an opt-out clause that allows them to return to the NBA once the lockout ends.

“As the world governing body for basketball, we strongly hope that the labor dispute will be resolved as soon as possible, and that the NBA season is able to begin as scheduled,” said FIBA Secretary General and IOC member, Patrick Baumann in an official release.

“In view of our role to promote basketball worldwide, we support any player wishing to play the game, wherever and whenever. We do so while obviously taking the interests, rights and obligations of all parties into account,” he added. “We are delighted to see that, in spite of widespread doubts related to the lockout, National Teams competing in this summer’s Olympic Qualifiers will be able to count on the participation of most of their NBA stars.”

This is a win for the players union, which wants players to sign overseas to give it leverage in the labor negotiations. It shows that players have options besides the NBA (just not as many or as good of options).

Deron Williams of the Nets is the biggest name to sign overseas, but a number of other players have signed or are in negotiations. This applies only to players who have years left on an existing NBA deal, free agents (such as Sasha Vujacic) were always free to sign wherever they wished.

FIBA also issued a warning with this.

Any NBA player deciding to play during the lockout, does so at his own risk, notably if he sustains an injury.

FIBA has stated that it is up to the clubs to decide whether or not they shall sign a waiver clearing them of any responsibility towards the player in case of injury and other reasons preventing him from returning to the NBA and from fulfilling his obligations vis-à-vis his NBA team.

David Stern to meet with FIBA leaders in New York

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Officially, none of this is about the lockout and NBA players going overseas… unless that somehow comes up.

NBA Commissioner David Stern has a meeting set up with FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann this week in New York. With all the talk of players going overseas would say “what a coincidence” but everyone involved said this meeting has been on the books for months to discuss the 2014 World Championships.

That doesn’t mean, however, other topics might not come up. Coincidentally, of course. Chris Sheridan of ESPN has some ideas.

A spokesman for FIBA would not disclose the exact topics on the agenda, but it’s expected to include two important issues: the prohibitive cost of securing insurance for foreign NBA players who wish to play for their national teams this summer, and the legal ramifications of FIBA issuing letters of clearance to players such as Deron Williams who have signed contracts with overseas teams.

We’ll take the second one first — there are a lot of NBA players talking about playing overseas during the lockout, and Deron Williams has even signed a deal. But for Williams to play for his new Turkish team in a European competition, he has to get a “letter of clearance” from FIBA because he is already under contract with New Jersey.

Stern and the league have said they would not stand in the way of players going overseas, but you’re kidding yourself if you think this all goes unmentioned.

Insurance is another issue, usually NBA players are covered to play internationally through their existing deals. Not with the lockout. It’s a lot of money — Spanish officials said it could cost more than $6 million to insure their team during EuroBasket this summer (the Olympic qualifying tournament for the continent). That is a chunk of change. In the case of Australia, they already said Andrew Bogut will not play with them this summer because of the cost.

Don’t expect anything earth shattering out of these meetings, but Stern tends to exert subtle pressure in these situations to get what he wants.

Players union trying to keep the “play in Europe” dream alive for lockout

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It’s another negotiating tactic.

Kobe Bryant followed in the footsteps of Dirk Nowitzki and Brandon Jennings in saying he might play in Europe — Italy, in this case — if there is a lockout.

Except there is a massive hurdle — they are all under contract to an NBA team. Any player under an NBA contract that wants to sign in Europe would have to get FIBA to sign a Letter of Clearance. FIBA has hinted if the entire season were cancelled they might consider this, but now we’re into January already, and that’s not counting the time from the lawsuit to block the move the league would inevitably file.

(If a free agent wants to go overseas — for example if Carmelo Anthony opts out then signs with Barcelona — that is completely legal. It’s the guys under contract we’re talking about.)

Union sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein they don’t think the Letter of Clearance issue is really an issue and players could go overseas. Of course they did. This is a negotiation and it’s about leverage. Realty has little place in this kind of rhetoric.

But the Stein article did have two interesting tidbits about what the union is telling the players about Europe. And it doesn’t paint a rosy picture as a realistic option.

1. The union will be telling its players that they risk forfeiting any guaranteed money left on their NBA contracts if they suffer serious injury overseas. Bryant, for example, is owed $83.5 million over the next three seasons. Nowitzki is currently in the first season of a new four-year, $80 million deal. The Lakers and Mavericks would almost certainly have the ability to void those deals if Bryant or Nowitzki suffered some sort of catastrophic injury in an overseas gym. And you have to believe — drastic as the notion of cutting ties with franchise icons sounds in those examples — that the threat of getting hurt and invalidating a guaranteed contract will deter plenty of people.

2. The union, I’m told, is also realistic about the overseas market and knows that only a limited numbers of players can reasonably expect decent offers. There are likewise very few teams, even in Europe’s biggest leagues, with the budget to come anywhere close to NBA money, which is why we never saw the once-feared exodus of NBA players after Josh Childress left for Greece in the summer of 2008 for two seasons with Olympiacos. So no one in the Players Association is prepared to suggest that Europe, even if its legal read proves correct, will be a legitimate option for more than a handful of locked-out NBAers.