The adjustments for NBA players heading to China are massive. The language, the food, the culture is all radically different. China has a high turnover rate among players for a reason.
But Nuggets free agent Wilson Chandler is enjoying it, he tells the Boston Globe. Part of that is because he has an American coach — recently released Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons.
“It’s going great for me,’’ Chandler said by phone. “I’m just learning some different things, trying to learn the new people. Practice is cool. Coach Cleamons is a great coach so it makes things easier for me. He’s been a successful assistant coach in the past and I think I can learn a lot from him.’’
Why do it? He said it was just because he wanted to play and not sit around. The other advantage is the Chinese season ends in March, allowing him to return to the NBA for the end of the season and playoffs, if we see such a thing this year.
“Wilson’s instruction to me as his agent was, ‘I want to play,’ ’’ said Chris Luchey, who negotiated the deal. “And ultimately, China’s is the closest season to the NBA from the standpoint that they play three games a week, and it is a shorter season and he has an opportunity to go back to the NBA once the season is over. And we knew when he decided to come, it would set the trend and that more guys would come over.”
It seems to just be a trend among Nuggets, with Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith playing in China as well.
He just wanted to play but this move comes with risks — primarily injury. Chandler is a restricted free agent, he has an NBA payday coming and that is a lot more money than what he is making in China. Get injured and that payday is at risk.
But he wanted to play, to grow his game. It’s a risk but it could really pay off.