As always, Chinese Basketball Association transactions are extremely hard to verify. There is no English language version of the CBA's website, and crude Google translations aren't really that helpful. Tryouts are often reported as signings, signings often aren't reported at all, and lots of things go unreported. From these tatty shreds, we have to piece together the workings of an entire league. And it's not easy.
However, one thing that's perfectly clear is that former Bulls and Knicks big big big man Michael Sweetney has joined the legion of ex-NBA big men making their way over to the Chinese Basketball Association. The story was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski over six weeks ago, and became official yesterday.
Sweetney turned down the offer of a workout with the Memphis Grizzlies to go to China, fully aware of the fact that he's not able to play in the NBA right now. The reason why he's not able to play in the NBA right now is obvious; put simply, he's fatter than ever. How fat? This fat:
That's Byron Eaton territory.
Sweetney is not a guarantee to have made the Shanxi roster; Chinese teams can only carry two non-Chinese players, and Shanxi currently rock all four of Sweetney, Maurice Taylor, Lee Benson and Donta Smith. (At least, as far as I can tell. There's also a team called Shaanxi, which makes this all very confusing.) Nevertheless, this is the right move for him. China pays well, and the CBA tends to play more games than comparable leagues (although apparently they're down to only 32 regular season games per team this season). The games are 48 minutes in length and not 40, and the import players will play huge minutes (as opposed to in Europe, where teams will employ 11 man rotations in 40 minutes games wherever possible.) The stint in China will get Sweetney money, court time, exposure, and bloody enormous statistics; if he stays healthy and drops some weight, this could be the launchpad for his NBA comeback.
So that's good.
In other Chinese news, ex-Maccabi, Spurs and Bucks big man Charles Gaines has also joined the league, as has former NBA player Alexander Johnson. Lorenzen Wright was cut and has returned to America, and Will Conroy did not make the cut for the Dongguan New Century Leopards, losing out to Johnson and Dajuan Tate. And while American courts had allowed Kirk Snyder to travel to China to play in the CBA, the CBA decided that they didn't want him.
Also, Olumide Oyedeji has signed with Liaoning for next season, which is particularly awesome news considering the defamatory comments he made about the CBA, ones which the CBA may yet sue over. Good times.
As accurate of a list of Chinese signees as I can get can be found here. In non-Chinese news:
- Former Erie BayHawks guard Maureece Rice has signed in Azovmash in the Ukraine, where he pairs up again with his teammate from last year, Erik Daniels. Azovmash have had a bad year and recently made widespread sweeping changes - Daniels was one of the few to survive - and Rice is a part of the new infusion, trying to elevate Azovmash from their currently underwhelming 9th position in the Ukranian Superleague.
Azovmash are also in trouble regarding a contract dispute over ex-Raptors draft pick, Remon Van de Hare. VDH signed with the team last summer to a three year contract, but the team released him only partway through last season. He sued to get the money for the full three years of the contract, and FIBA have ruled that Azovmash have until the 21st of this month to pay it. If they don't, they might be kicked out of the Eurocup.
- Another ex-D-Leaguer, Malick Badiane, has signed for the first time this season, joining Nanterre in France.
- Former NBA player Nikoloz Tskitishvili walked away from his contract with his Greek team Panionios, and ended up giving them money so that he could join Spanish league team Fuenlabrada instead.
- Hapoel Holon Israel released Brandon Wallace for no obvious reason, who then joined up in Poland with Turow, where he replaces Willie Deane, who was not having a good season.
- Ex-Timberwolf Rick Rickert has moved from the New Zealand Breakers to the Harbour Heat. Both teams are based in New Zealand, but the Breakers play in Australia's NBL, and the Heat don't. That's quite the downgrade.
- Nigel Dixon changes South Korean teams, moving from Anyang to Sonic Boom. It's an upgrade in team name, if nothing else.
- Lokomotiv Kuban started the year without any Americans, and then added two last week; Gerald Green and James Gist. There's some NBA calibre right there, which has to be a welcome midseason infusion.
- Michael Ruffin's short term contract with Manresa expired, and was not renewed.
- Olympiakos released Von Wafer, who had disappointed greatly. Wafer had started the year in the rotation, but had worked his way down to being on the inactive list. Greek teams are allowed a maximum of only 3 Americans and 6 non-Greeks for Greek league games, and Olympiakos have 7. And while Yotam Halperin started the year as the inactive player, he played his way into contention, as did Patrick Beverley. Wafer, meanwhile, played his way onto it. And now Olympiakos has decided to save the money and cut him. Wafer is now a candidate to join the Memphis Grizzlies, who are totally awesome yet who could use an extra bench scorer. They're currently having to pretend that Sam Old is a backup two. And it's not really working.
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