Kenyon Martin has severed ties with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association, but he won't be able to secure a FIBA letter of clearance to return to the NBA until the team’s season ends sometime in February or March, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The regular season runs through mid-February for Xinjiang, but the Flying Tigers expect to qualify for the playoffs.
For Martin and Xinjiang, the breakup was simply a chance to end a partnership that hadn’t been productive. Martin, who turns 34 on Dec. 30, had been nothing resembling a dominant force in the CBA, averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in a league with few NBA-level big men.
After playing out his contract with the Denver Nuggets last season, Martin is an unrestricted free agent. There are NBA teams interested in him, but clearly they’ll take a close look at his knees and try to understand why he struggled to find his past explosiveness in China. Was he simply not playing hard enough, or is he not healthy?
Nevertheless, Martin’s departure will assuredly set a precedent for some of the other American players – J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler – pushing to leave China for the chance to rejoin the NBA. Aaron Brooks is content to finish out his season with Guandong and likely re-sign with the Phoenix Suns in March. Brooks is a restricted free agent. Chinese Basketball Association rules and player contracts had stipulated that NBA free agents could sign to play in China, but wouldn’t be granted the necessary FIBA letter of clearance needed to return to the NBA until the China season had been completed.
Smith, Chandler and Brooks have been high-scoring, highly productive players in China, and their teams are less apt to want to part ways with them. Without a chance to join the NBA until the end of the CBA season, they can still get paid their contracts in China.
Martin had signed a deal worth $2.6 million for the season, but will be paid only a prorated salary based on the 12 games he played for Xinjiang. Martin played one final game Wednesday in China, and will leave his team with an 8-4 record. Xinjiang’s coach, Bob Donewald, was fired over the weekend.
All of these American players signed with Chinese teams during the NBA lockout, when they weren't sure if the league would even have a 2011-12 season.
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