When free agent J.R. Smith signed with Zhejiang of the China Basketball Association last month, I lamented his departure from the NBA landscape. Few players fascinate like Smith -- he frustrates fans like no other, but he's also a threat to drop seven 3-pointers in any game he plays. The upside of his move, of course, was that we'd get to read lots of interesting stories about J.R.'s successes, trials, and tribulations in a country absolutely crazy about basketball.
The first one does not disappointment. At Sheridan Hoops, columnist Guan Weijia explains what Smith has been up to in China. It is very much worth reading the whole thing, but here's a sample:
Smith's initial experience in China was not that good. The first problem was the time difference. On his first day in China, Smith woke up at 2 a.m. and found himself in such a strange environment, he didn't know what to do.
He wanted to send a Twitter update, but encountered problems because Twitter is blocked in China. At last, he found a way to tweet through his Blackberry: "Dear China, the fact that u won't let me work my Skype on my desktop or twitter is really pissing me off." Then another one: "Not even YouTube wow this is ass!"
As the biggest name in team history, Smith also gets the best treatment. The team has hired a cook and two translators especially for him. For his relocation, Smith brought about 20 pieces of luggage, and the club arranged a room especially for those bags.
There's much more in the piece, including Smith's attempts to get his teammates involved in the offense and what he hopes to accomplish over the full season. Again, it's worth your time to read the whole thing.
The top stories, though, are in the pull-quote. I don't know how much luggage someone would need to necessitate an entire room, but presumably the total is more than a dozen bags. Which makes me wonder if Smith knows that laundry exists in China. Hopefully his two translators can help him out there.
Unfortunately, it looks as if more stories like this one will need to come from reporters and not Smith himself. It's a loss for all of us that he can't use Twitter with ease. I was really looking forward to his thoughts on the Chinese version of "Everybody Loves Raymond."