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China Closed, Lockout Continues

September 28, 2011

As the NBA lockout continues, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) has determined that it will not accept any NBA players still under contract. The International Basketball Association, or FIBA, mandated that NBA players still under contract who sign abroad during the lockout must have an opt-out clause that will allow those players to return to the NBA once the lockout is over. While European teams have signed players, such as Deron Williams, to one-year deals that contain an opt-out clause, the CBA does not want to follow suit. Professional basketball leagues in Europe often boast about having more competitive leagues, but are often not financially stable like the CBA is.

A major concern for some NBA superstars is whether they will be receiving comparable salaries to what a player would receive in the NBA. European leagues have been known to not fully compensate their players and are taking a big hit right now due to the recession. The CBA, however, can offer bigger contracts to the likes of Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard, all of which have mentioned some interest in playing in the CBA if the lockout continues into the regular NBA season. reported earlier this month that the CBA “want[s] no part of a ‘circus’ that sees a wave of NBA stars swooping in during an Olympic year to divert the focus of the league away from China’s own players, then leave at once if the lockout is lifted.”

Only free agents will be able to sign with a Chinese team. However, only free agents willing to take the risk—having to play in China if the lockout ends—will actually end up playing in China. So far, free agents Wilson Chandler and Earl Clark have both signed with the Zheijang Lions of the CBA. Contracted NBA players, however, will have to find other avenues. Numerous mid- to low-level players have already signed with professional teams abroad with an opt-out clause to return to the NBA. Even some free agents have signed one to two-year deals with no opt-out clause. While some contracted players have found a temporary home on European teams, other players have found ways to keep busy during the lockout. LeBron James participated in a Nike event in Taiwan during the lockout. Kevin Durant and a few other NBA players played against each other in a Goodman League-Drew League matchup.

Labor talks started to pick up late this summer. The NBA and representatives for the player’s union met in New York City on August 31, to attempt to resolve their dispute. This meeting was only the second time the two sides have met since the lockout began on July 1. However, after a 6-hour meeting, both sides realized that time is short and both parties need to start making decisions. Training camps are scheduled to begin the first week of October, giving both sides some time to work out a deal. Another meeting is scheduled for September 7, with the possibility of follow-up meetings the same week.

Both sides are still deeply divided on how to redistribute revenue. The owners want the players to receive a lower share and want to create a hard salary cap, which will lower the amount of money a team can pay a player. Although willing to lower their share, the players do not agree with the owners’ proposal, believing that the owners are asking for too much. The activity between the owners and players is a sign that the two sides are trying to resolve their labor dispute. While training camps start the first week of October, the regular season starts November 1. The distance between the NBA and its players may prove too much to save training camp given the time constraints. However, according to NBA commissioner David Stern, there is “clearly enough time” to create a new collective bargaining agreement before the scheduled start of the regular season.