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NBA Players Who Signed with Chinese Teams Could Be Stuck There Until March

The NBA and NBA Players Association may have finally reached a labor agreement over the weekend, but that does not mean all players will be eligible to return to action on Christmas Day.  Remember a few months ago when it was made perfectly clear that the Chinese Basketball Association was only open to signing NBA free agents, not players under contract with NBA teams?  And remember how they said that any player who signed with a Chinese team would be obligated to finish out their contract and play overseas until the season concluded in March?  Now that a scheduled start date has been announced for the 2011-2012 NBA season, those stipulations have become a reality.

As Adrian Wojnarowski reminded us on Monday, players like J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, and Aaron Brooks who chose to sign with CBA teams during the lockout will remain obligated to fulfill their contracts before returning to America.

“They can play, get paid [in China] and return to the NBA in March,” one Chinese team official told Yahoo Sports!. “Or they can not get paid, and return to the NBA in March.”

“If they think that they’re going to make things difficult, not play, create problems, what’s going to happen is that the teams will not release their letters of clearance they’ll need to sign in the NBA,” another CBA official added. “There’s no way out.”

While this is troubling for the players and likely annoying that they can’t pursue a free agent contract with an NBA team over the next month, it was a risk they were willing to accept.  Rather than get a job coaching at the college level or playing pickup games at a prison, a handful of players chose to play in an actual organized league and make money doing so.  Unless the Chinese teams for some reason decide to be super generous and release them from their contracts, we’ll see the aforementioned players and a few others in March.



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