NBA PM: Smith’s Little Trouble in Big China
Little Trouble in Big China
Zhejiang Golden Bulls shooting guard J.R. Smith isn’t having a good run with his new team, which means he should be feeling right at home.
The mercurial NBA veteran recently inked a $3 million deal in China, but injured his knee in the opening game last Sunday. And if NBA players are worried about their current contract guarantees being taken away, they should take a look at what the Chinese players are dealing with.
Following the season-opening loss, Smith sought out a doctor in Beijing, and that’s when Golden Bulls general manager Zhao Bing (presumably no relation to Dave) demanded Smith return or “he will face the consequences,” according to Yan Weijue of the China Daily.
Smith reportedly suggested that Zhao “pick another profession” if he couldn’t understand that he was simply trying to get healthy. The former Nugget and Hornet guard has a pulled muscle near the knee, but there wasn’t any ligament tear. On Monday Smith reportedly got back in touch with his team to express his desire to win and continue playing in China, but it may be too late.
One insider told the China Daily that the team has grown tired of his outrageous demands and laissez-fair attitude toward practice (he has supposedly already missed three practices, citing illness; although on one occasion he reportedly went shopping in Shanghai). The Golden Bulls have already provided Smith with a “presidential suite” and spent money on insurance (which every NBA player needs while playing abroad) and a personal chef. He has reportedly asked for a chauffeured car as well.
Smith’s issues aren’t a surprise, but they could serve as a deterrent for NBA players who would play in the country. Not only did the CBA forbid “out” clauses in contracts, but teams essentially have the right to cut you if you’re not performing well or if you’re injured. Judging by the China Daily article, there was some surprise that the Golden Bulls would lose the opener after making Smith the highest-paid player in the league.
There is very little sympathy for injury or losses in China, and players are judged strictly by a team’s success, not their own. Circumstances might be better for players in South America or Europe, but NBA players are learning that nothing beats the security and familiarity of playing in the States.
HOOPSWORLD Checks in with Marcus Camby
There’s a theory going around that if the NBA could play a shortened season, veteran-laden teams would have an advantage. Players like Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant would get a chance to conserve their energy without the burden of an 82-game season while younger players would be denied the extra games to work out their own growing pains.
Veteran Trail Blazers center Marcus addressed that topic and a few others with HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram at John Lucas’ charity basketball game.
The John Lucas Foundation is involved with everything from basketball training camps to substance abuse programs to public speaking events. Some of the programs include Lucas Fitness Systems, The John Lucas Treatment and Recovery Center, The John Lucas Aftercare Program, Students Taking Action Not Drugs (S.T.A.N.D.), Basketball Congress International, Camp Right Way. The Middle School International Combine and The Southwest Invitational Combine.
Where GMs Roam
NBA General Managers haven’t been particularly busy, which has given them more time to take in college basketball games. The State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden was descended upon by slew of current league executives and coaches, including Nets GM and former Duke star Billy King and current Knicks assistant Herb Williams; and now it’s time for the suited masses to fly off to the Maui Invitational.
As reported by Joanne C. Gerstner of The New York Times, Houston’s Daryl Morey, Boston’s Danny Ainge, Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, Chicago’s Gar Foremen and the Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak have all made the trip to see Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Memphis, Tennessee, UCLA, Georgetown and everyone’s favorite, Chaminade.
The biggest attractions are Kansas forward Thomas Robinson (who had 20 points and 12 boards in the opener against Georgetown), Duke combo guard Austin Rivers and his teammates Mason and Miles Plumlee, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins, Memphis swingman Adonis Thomas, Michigan guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke, and UCLA big man Joshua Smith.
However, as Gerstner wrote, Smith’s conditioning came under question as he was “huffing and puffing” during “limited time” in a win over Chaminade. Smith is listed at 6-9, 280 and was able to contribute 10.9 PPG and 6.3 RPG in 21.7 MPG as a freshman last season. He’s also drawn criticism this season for referring to Loyola Marymount’s players as “bums” in a tweet after the Bruins fell to Lions on Nov. 11.
One player who hadn’t received much attention until recently is Tennessee power forward Jeronne Maymon, who muscled in 32 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in Tuesday’s near upset of No. 8 Memphis. Maymon is undersized at 6-7, but he’s played well through the Volunteers’ first four games of the season, and could eventually become an NBA prospect if he could slide to small forward—a big “if” for a 265-pound bull.
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