Wilson Chandler said he has signed a contract with the Zhejiang Guangsha of the Chinese Basketball Association, a move that would essentially preclude him from participating in the 2011-12 NBA season if the lockout ends and the games begin.
The Chinese Basketball Association will not allow players with existing contracts to sign with its teams, so playing in China is only an option for free agents such as Chandler, a restricted free agent who finished the 2010-11 season with the Denver Nuggets.
Adande: Chandler’s Risky Proposition
By deciding to go to China, Wilson Chandler is putting his faith in a long lockout, writes ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande. Story
In addition, the CBA will not allow escape clauses that would allow players to leave the Chinese league in the event the NBA resumes operations. So Chandler would not be a part of the NBA if the season begins on time or even with an abbreviated schedule starting in January or February.
“Maybe I’ll lose out,” Chandler said. “But I think it can be a great experience. I haven’t been in any [labor negotiation] meetings. I can’t call it. I’m just taking a risk, at the end of the day.”
In theory Chandler could rejoin the league on a prorated basis for part of the season if the NBA is playing in April. Only the CBA finalists were still playing in April last season, so unless the Lions are among the last two battling for the championship Chandler would be available for the end of the NBA regular season if the usual schedule is followed.
As a restricted free agent the Nuggets could retain Chandler by matching an offer made by another team. Chandler, 24, averaged 12.5 points and 5 rebounds in 21 games with the Nuggets after being acquired from the Knicks as part of the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to New York. “I like [Denver], I like the team,” Chandler said. “Great young team. Coach [George] Karl is a great coach. I like the management. Hopefully I’m there.”
Chandler’s agent, Chris Luchey, did not specify the amount of the one-year contract with the Guangsha, or Lions, but said it was worth less than the $3.1 million qualifying offer the Nuggets made in order to retain their rights to Chandler, and more than the $1.7 million offer that has been reported elsewhere.
Chandler, who had been in talks with Olimpia Milano in Italy as well, liked the appeal of playing up to three games a week in China, as opposed to one game a week in Italy. He also liked the fact that Jim Cleamons, the former Dallas Mavericks coach who was an assistant on Phil Jackson’s championship teams in Chicago and Los Angeles, will be coaching the Lions.
But he must also weigh the risk of injury and how that could affect his next NBA contract.
“It’s a huge concern,” Chandler said. “But as long as I take care of my body, I’ll be fine. We’ve got insurance.”
Chinese teams are allowed a maximum of two foreign players. The Lions, who are located in the city of Hangzhou, have also signed Earl Clark, who played with the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic the past two seasons.
J.A. Adande is a senior writer for ESPN.com.