Don't expect an exodus from China

December, 21, 2011
12/21/11
6:32
PM ET
Broussard By Chris Broussard
ESPN.com
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J.R. Smith would like nothing more than to follow Kenyon Martin out of China and back to the United States. But a source close to the situation said we shouldn't expect other NBA players -- Smith, Wilson Chandler or Aaron Brooks -- to follow Martin's example and make an early exit from the Chinese Basketball Association.

All the NBA players who signed to play in China during the lockout, including Martin, did so with the understanding and contractual obligation to stay throughout the entire CBA season. Of course, anyone can leave a team, but the Chinese teams will not clear such players to play elsewhere (NBA, Europe, etc.) until his particular Chinese team finishes its season, whether before, during or after the CBA playoffs.

There has been talk that NBA players can buy out of their contracts for $500,000, but even that sum isn't going to move CBA officials to clear guys to play in the NBA.

"China will let these guys go home, but they’ll stop your money or even ask you for some of the money back, and you can’t play for another team around the world until your team in China’s season is over,'' the source said.

So even though Martin flew back to the United States on Wednesday, he will not be able to sign with an NBA team until his Chinese team, Xinjiang, finishes its season. The CBA's regular season ends on February 15. The playoffs could run as late as March 28.

So expect Smith, Chandler and Brooks to finish their seasons in the CBA. Smith, who tried to leave his Chinese club after suffering a controversial knee injury in his first game, recently sought a break with his club, Zhejiang, but according to a source, Smith was told that if he leaves, he would have to repay all the money he's already made plus the $500,000 buyout. And of course, he wouldn't be able to sign with an NBA team until Zhejiang ends its season.

So Smith is staying put.

Chandler and Brooks, both of whom are in favorable situations in China, are not looking to leave the CBA early, according to the source.

Martin, Smith, Chandler and Brooks have until late April to sign with NBA teams and still be eligible to play in the playoffs.

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