Kenyon, we hardly knew ye

Updated: 2011-12-24 07:46

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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 Kenyon, we hardly knew ye

Kenyon Martin can't play in NBA until Xinjiang's season is over. Provided to China Daily

Martin leaves Xinjiang to return to US, but can't rejoin NBA yet

BEIJING - His vow to end the Xinjiang Flying Tigers' championship draught still lingers, but the man himself won't.

Kenyon Martin, the Chinese Basketball Association's (CBA) most expensive import, has ended his China sojourn prematurely.

Saying he needs to "take care of family affairs", the former Denver Nugget secured a buyout of his one-year $2.7 million contract and the club released him on Thursday, team manager Guo Jian confirmed.

"We have reached an agreement to let him go, but are still discussing some detail issues," Guo said on Friday before the squad's road game against the defending champion Guangdong Southern Tigers.

Those details apparently refer to CBA regulations on foreign players, and how much money Martin will pack home.

League rules state Martin must play the entire season before being able to opt out and join another league. Otherwise, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) won't approve a clearance letter for any league under its supervision.

Although the NBA is not under FIBA jurisdiction, it will respect the CBA-FIBA agreement and won't allow Martin to ink a deal before his Chinese team ends its season in March, said Bai Xilin, director of the CBA's competition department

"We negotiated with the NBA side before the season tip-off. They have clearly agreed with us on this issue and promised not to use anyone who jumped out prematurely," Bai said.

Bai said Martin signed a notarized commitment with the team, promising not to play in the NBA until the Flying Tigers finish the playoffs.

Martin agreed to give up "a large portion" of his salary in exchange for leaving, said Guo, though he refused to specify how much.

The breakup appears to have been a chance to end a partnership between Martin and Xinjiang that hadn't been productive. Martin, who turns 34 next Friday, failed to be the dominant force the team hoped for, averaging 13.9 points and 9.7 rebounds in a league with few NBA-level big men.

Claiming he would help deliver the three-time runner-up a title, Martin instead performed below expectations on a team - which lost only one regular-season game last season - that is mired in fifth with an 8-4 record.

Martin's agent, Andy Miller, said the No 1 pick in the 2000 draft will fly back to the US for Christmas with his family, then begin workouts in hopes of landing an NBA deal once his Xinjiang contract has expired.

According to an ESPN report, the New York Knicks have shown interest in landing him with their $2.5 million exception. But a source close to Martin said it is too early to speculate on where he will land.

China Daily

(China Daily 12/24/2011 page16)