- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The Denver Post reported Friday that Nuggets free-agent forward Kenyon Martin, like Nuggets swingmen Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith, is talking seriously with teams in China in case the apparent progress that suddenly materialized in labor talks this week turns out to be a mirage.
Sources told ESPN.com on Friday night that the team Martin has engaged with most seriously is Xinjiang Guanghui ... or the Flying Tigers of Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is also among the teams in China that have entered into serious talks with Philadelphia 76ers restricted free agent Thaddeus Young. Yet one source close to the situation says that the Flying Tigers are focusing more now on Martin, with the Post reporting that K-Mart has been offered more than the reported $3 million that Smith has been offered by Shanxi Zhongyu.
Chandler, remember, has already committed to sign with Zheijiang Guangsha, despite the fact that the Chinese Basketball Association will not allow its teams to include an NBA out in its contract offers. That means any NBA player who signs in China theoretically can’t return to the NBA until the Chinese season ends in mid-March, although sources close to the situation say that some Chinese teams believe they can simply release NBA players such as Chandler if necessary -- under the guise of dissatisfaction or injury -- to get around the restriction and keep a handshake promise to an established NBA player that getting back to the States is possible when the lockout ends.
The far tougher restriction enacted by Chinese authorities for this season forbids teams from pursuing anyone with an active NBA contract, making unrestricted free agents such as Martin and Smith prime targets.
Word is that the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks were actually one of the strongest behind-the-scenes backers of that rule, since the Sharks don’t currently rank as one of China’s big-spending teams alongside Shanxi and Xinjiang and knew they realistically couldn’t join the bidding back when Chinese clubs were chasing the likes of Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard earlier in the summer.
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