It took all of one game for J.R. Smith to clash with the management of his new team. Should have seen that one coming.
We still don’t know the severity of a knee injury suffered by Smith in the fourth quarter of his first game in China, but it sure didn’t look good.
Zhao Bing, the Golden Bulls’ general manager, said the player repeatedly declined medical treatment from the team and arranged his own treatment in Beijing instead. “We warned him that he’s not allowed to go to Beijing without a proper medical check,” Mr. Zhao said, expressing his displeasure at Mr. Smith’s disobedience. “He just wouldn’t listen.”
Mr. Smith is “an experienced basketball player and a big name in NBA,” Mr. Zhao said. But “I think he should have been aware that CBA is not an easy game to play either…”
Mr. Zhao posted a warning to Mr. Smith on Sina Weibo (basically Chinese Twitter) on Monday afternoon, saying the player should return to team as soon as possible “or face the consequences.” Mr. Smith responded in English less than an hour later, “My main goal is to get healthy! If you can’t understand that then maybe you should pick another profession!”
He added that his goal is “not to leave! My goal is to win!”
Smith wanting to trust his own doctors and not the team doctor is a very NBA thing — remember Andrew Bynum did that with the Lakers, and while that was the most high profile situation there have been others. It’s actually just very American to want to seek a second opinion on major medical issues (so long as your insurance lets you).
But China is a different, more rigid and structured culture. Breaking away from the team is frowned upon. Greatly. But this is J.R. Smith, so conformity to your structure is not in the cards. You had to know that was coming.