New rule shuts door on NBA stars
Updated: 2011-08-21 07:56
By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)
Kobe's potential move to Shanxi snuffed out at owners' meeting
SHENZHEN - Kobe Bryant's potential China sojourn was blown down on Friday by the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) when it officially forbade contracted foreign players from joining the league.
Just hours before the 17 CBA club owners sat down with league officials to discuss the issue at a meeting held in Shenzhen, some Chinese media outlets claimed the Los Angeles Lakers' MVP guard had agreed to a deal with CBA team Shanxi Zhongyu to join the squad in October.
However, the newly-instituted rule has quashed Chinese fans' hopes of seeing one of the game's biggest stars playing on their courts; as well as other big names, including Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, who all said China was a prime overseas option if the current lockout drags on and affects the 2011-12 season.
According to the new regulation, the CBA will only allow clubs to sign free agents who could play for at least for one entire season. That gets around potential loopholes that players could opt out to return to the NBA for reasons such as suspect injuries or family affairs, if they didn't have a specific proviso written into their contracts stating they could return to the NBA when the lockout ends.
Chinese web portal Sohu.com reported Shanxi Zhongyu's owner, Wang Xingjiang, who announced Bryant's deal done on Thursday, tried to lobby the league during the meeting to allow the "temporary" importing of players, but his effort failed.
"I thought it (lockout) would be a chance for us to develop our league's international profile through importing them (NBA stars). They would bring huge attentions, here, which would help us to improve. I am disappointed they (other owners) didn't agree with me," Wang said.
However, Bai Xilin, the CBA competition department's director, said the decision was made by all the owners and did not regard any single team or deal.
"It's not that the CBA wants to keep out big stars. The club bosses were worried about the negative impact both to the league and the clubs if they (NBA stars) suddenly quit and went back to the US," Sohu.com quoted Bai as saying after the meeting.
"We didn't discuss Kobe's case as we aimed to set up the general rules. We will further communicate with clubs to improve them. But any deal should be operated following (the rules) now," said Bai.
Meanwhile, a list of 108 available free-agent players has been handed to club owners for reference, according to Bai.
Although fans have fiercely protested the ban online, claiming, among other things, that "it's a conservative move to slow down the league's international development", hoop celebrities chose to stand by the league.
"Right now, the CBA's focus is not on making money but cultivating the nation's young talent. The rule will protect clubs who try to hone their young guys and can't meet the NBA stars' requirements or special clauses. It hurts the fans, but benefits the league's stability," said Yang Yi, Titan Sports deputy chief editor and renowned commentator.
Liu Hongjiang, general manager of seven-time CBA champion team Guangdong Southern Tigers, echoed Yang's sentiments.
"I think it's a protective rule which will chill down the cut-throat competition of chasing stars regardless of cost. It would be a disaster for clubs to do that. Hopefully, stricter clauses will be added soon," Liu said.
Even just-retired Yao Ming, the Shanghai Sharks' owner, said it was a "positive move" to prevent possible blows to the league if the stars "ducked out".
"Kobe was reported to have joined Shangxi, not the Sharks, so it's none of my business. I won't comment on others' deals.
"I am a rookie as a boss. And all the club's operations will be run under the rules," Yao said.
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