NBA PM: Notable Players Back from China
The Chinese Basketball Association has become a fallback option for many professional basketball players who want to continue their career. The CBA has developed into a very competitive league and many former NBA players have taken their talents to East Asia to star on one of its 17 teams.
This season, Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas and Eddy Curry were among the players that signed with a CBA team. Now, with the CBA regular season concluded, these players are looking to return to the NBA and sign contracts for the remainder of the season. These players are unrestricted free agents and have until April 17, the final day of the NBA regular season, to sign with a team and be playoff eligible.
Several players have already returned from China and signed with an NBA team. The Boston Celtics signed Terrence Williams (Guangdong Southern Tigers), Shavlik Randolph (Foshan Long Lions) and D.J. White (Shanghai Sharks) to 10-day contracts. Williams was eventually signed to a multi-year deal.
McGrady is the biggest name returning from China, where he averaged 25 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 29 games. McGrady was treated like a rock star in the CBA. He quickly became a fan favorite and his team, the Qingdao Eagles, sold out every away arena. Even though McGrady had individual success, Qingdao finished with the worst record in the CBA at 8-24. Now, McGrady is back in the United States and hoping to join an NBA team for the remainder of the season. He recently attended a Houston Rockets game and sat courtside with team officials, but Houston has a full roster after signing Aaron Brooks. McGrady’s last stint in the NBA was with the Atlanta Hawks, where he averaged 5.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 52 games off of Atlanta’s bench. The 33-year-old may have to sign a 10-day contract and prove his value to a team, which is something he hasn’t been willing to do in the past.
Arenas’ stint in China didn’t go so well. While he was successful when he took the court for the Shanghai Sharks – averaging 20.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists – he only appeared in 14 games. The 30-year-old wasn’t even the most productive player on his team; that designation goes to D.J. White, which is why he landed a contract with the Celtics as soon as he returned to the United States. The 30-year-old Arenas has been a shell of himself in recent seasons. During his stint with the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2011-12 season, Arenas averaged just 4.2 points, 1.1 assists and 1.1 rebounds in 17 games off of Memphis’ bench. Arenas spent last offseason working out in Los Angeles and vowing to make an NBA comeback, but he didn’t receive any interest from NBA teams prior to the start of the season. Now, he’s hoping that a team with a depleted backcourt will take a shot on him, just as Memphis did last March.
Curry may be the most intriguing player returning to the United States. While in China, Curry averaged 23 points and 10.1 boards in 29.6 minutes for Zhejiang Chouzhou Bank. The 30-year-old Curry led the team to the postseason. Now, Curry is back in the United States and has already received inquiries from a number of NBA teams. Prior to signing in China, Curry had successful stints with the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks this season. The odds of Curry landing on an NBA roster are higher than McGrady or Arenas, mainly because teams are already showing interest and he had offers earlier in the season unlike the two veteran guards. Teams are always looking to add a big man to their roster and bolster their frontcourt for the postseason, so don’t be surprised if Curry gets a contract before April 17.
Other former NBA players who can return to the United State are Al Thornton (27.4 points and 9.5 rebounds for the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions), Quincy Douby (31.6 points, 4.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds for the Zhejiang Chouzhou Bank), Gary Forbes (28.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions), Lester Hudson (27.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Dongguan Leopards) and Sundiata Gaines (19.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists for the Fujian Quanzhou Bank) among others. Players such as Stephon Marbury (Beijing Ducks), Yi Jianlian (Guangdong Tigers) and Pooh Jeter (Shandong Bulls) are still competing in the CBA playoffs.
Lawson, Nuggets Embrace Underdog Role
When talking about contenders in the Western Conference, most people list the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers. Teams like the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies are generally considered one notch below the three top-tier teams in the West. This characterization is fine with the Nuggets, who enjoy being the dark horse and flying under the radar.
“I feel like we are the dark horse always and I don’t think we get a lot of shine in the NBA or from the announcers on ESPN or anything like that anyway,” Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson told KKFN. “We went on a 10-game winning streak and didn’t hear too much about it. That’s how it’s been. We have to accept it and prove everybody wrong like we have been.”
The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league and they’ve shown that they can beat anyone when playing to their full potential. However, pundits often point to their inexperience or their run-and-gun style as reasons why they won’t be successful in the postseason. Lawson doesn’t buy it, and believes the Nuggets can hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in a few months if all goes as planned.
“Yeah, I was talking to [Andre] Iguodala a couple of days ago and I was like, ‘Man, we can really win a championship if everybody is mature and gets serious about the game plan,’” Lawson said. “Because sometimes you just do stuff that is out of the ordinary or just, we don’t pay attention or if we get up 15 points we just shoot regular shots or see if ‘I can make it shots’ and teams come back. If we just stay focused, I feel like we can beat and run with any team in the NBA. We would have a shot to win a championship but we just have to do that for a seven game series. That’s what I feel and I think a lot of people on our team feel the same way. We just have to get everything together down the stretch.”
Gortat Out for the Rest of the Season
The Phoenix Suns will likely be without center Marcin Gortat for the remainder of the season. Today, an MRI revealed that Gortat sustained a Lisfranc (midfoot) sprain in his right foot. The injury is expected to sideline him for three-to-four weeks, and Gortat has said that it likely means his season is over.
Gortat sustained the injury with 34.6 seconds remaining in the first quarter of the Suns’ game against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. He reportedly heard a pop and knew that the injury was somewhat serious. He’ll wear a cast for the next three weeks.
Including last night’s game, Gortat had appeared in every game since being acquired by the Suns on in December of 2010—182 consecutive. He was the only Suns player who had started every single game this season, and he was averaging 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.61 blocks for the year.
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