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The Xinjiang Flying Tigers in China this week added J.J. Barea to their wish list and have extended a contract offer to the Dallas Mavericks free-agent guard, according to sources close to the situation.
ESPN.com reported Monday that Xinjiang was also chasing Atlanta Hawks free agent Jamal Crawford to fill the void created by a long-term wrist injury suffered by former Sacramento Kings first-round pick Quincy Douby.
Crawford has since said in multiple interviews that he's considering the offer, but Xinjiang wants to move fast after losing Douby -- one of the best players in the Chinese Basketball Association last season -- just days away from the Nov. 19 season opener.
Barea, though, has expressed interest in playing in Spain and, according to sources close to Puerto Rico national team star, continues to explore his options there as well.
Xinjiang has what's regarded as the biggest budget in China even after signing Denver Nuggets unrestricted free agent Kenyon Martin earlier in the summer. And either Barea or Crawford would fill the Flying Tigers' need for a speedy scoring guard who can create his own shot.
Yet the challenge for Xinjiang in landing either player -- even amid the growing uncertainty Stateside about how long the lockout will last -- is the new league rule in China that forbids teams there from offering in-season outs to newly signed players who want to return to the NBA as soon as the lockout ends.
The rule means Barea or Crawford, if either chooses to sign with Xinjiang, would be obligated to stay there through the end of the Chinese season in March. Nuggets free agents Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith and Phoenix Suns free-agent guard Aaron Brooks, along with Martin, are the most prominent NBA players to sign in China during the lockout.
"China isn't all the way closed yet," Crawford told ESPN.com when reached Thursday night. "Just being patient and hoping for the best with the NBA situation."
Xinjiang is also one of the Chinese teams that negotiated with Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant earlier this summer. The Flying Tigers, sources say, would love to make another run at Bryant, but the CBA also instituted a rule in the summer that prevents its teams from signing any player with an existing NBA contract.
Amid ongoing speculation that Chinese teams could elect on their own to release a signee from the NBA when the lockout ends, sources say that Xinjiang management, desperate to win a CBA championship this season, will be the strictest in insisting that Martin and any other player it signs out of the NBA stay for the entire Chinese season even if the lockout ends early.The suggestion continues to circulate in Chinese basketball circles that Chandler and Smith could be released when the lockout ends by their respective Chinese teams -- both in the province of Zhejiang -- despite the fact that teams in the CBA have been threatened with sanctions if they waive players in-season to return to the NBA.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.