A barnstorming tour in China may not work out for players

Now that the lockout is upon us, players are looking for ways to ply their trade outside of the NBA's purview. One such idea would involve a group of well-known stars heading over to China to play a tour for the country's many basketball fans. Kobe Bryant and the Wasserman Media Group's (representing 45 players, including Derrick Rose) super-agent Arn Tellem have all floated around their own versions of the idea, and it's gaining steam.

The only problem is that it can't happen without approval of the Chinese government. As described by Jon Pastuszek at the great Chinese basketball blog NIUBBALL.com, that may be difficult:

With potentially the biggest market in the world, China remains cautious at the idea of simply opening up the floodgates to foreign businesses who are solely concerned with their own profits. Thus, any ideas involving a "China Basketball Tour" or a "China Contingency League" must be viewed by the government as beneficial towards the development of Chinese basketball.

"China's sports system remains controlled tightly by the government," says [public relations expert Matt] Beyer.  "The government is focused on breeding its own domestic talents and not simply importing and selling foreign sports entertainment as its political agenda." [...]

"The General Sports Administration, the China Basketball Management Center under the General Sports Administration and the Chinese Basketball Association must all be in consensus that an idea like this is good for Chinese basketball. Any agents proposing an idea like this in China should present it to China's sports authorities from a perspective of a means to enrich local talent and the strength of the Chinese sports industry."

Beyer argues that any basketball tour of China must therefore feature an element that promotes and cultivates Chinese basketball, like joint training sessions with local CBA teams or coaches clinics run by American NBA coaches. Having Chinese players play side by side with NBA players in exhibition games may even be more exciting to regulators and attractive to CBA teams looking to sponsor such a venture.

Bryant, WMG and Tellem likely know all about these regulations, but they help demonstrate how the mere idea of a barnstorming tour is several dozen moves away from the execution of same. With the lockout taking place for an indeterminate period of time and plenty of bureaucratic hoops to jump through, it's entirely possible that one of these tours won't happen until a point at which the lockout is already resolved. Will the Chinese government really want to get involved with a tour that may not ever happen?

It's a tough question to answer this early in the summer. Still, it's one to keep in mind. Because, as various options begin to fall away, the players may become more desperate to get a deal done and go back to work.

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