One nice, unproductive distraction from the lockout has been to speculate about which NBA players will spend the lockout playing in China, Turkey, and, somehow, England. But now the Chinese Basketball Association has gone and deprived us even of that pleasure, announcing today that it would not permit NBA players currently under contract to join the league.
The decision is meant to protect CBA teams from losing their NBA interlopers mid-season, in the event that the lockout gets lifted—but it will also deprive CBA teams of the chance to sign players like Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul, all of whom have already made their own promotional tours throughout Asia. At the risk of offending any Shane Battier stans out there, there aren't really any bona fide superstars on the NBA's unrestricted free agent block this year. It makes sense that CBA doesn't want to take a risk on players who'll just jump back to the states after the lockout ends, but they're also missing out on a potential marketing blitz.
Free agents are welcome, but they'll have to be prepared to commit to an entire season in China, as any players who decide to sign likely won't get an opt-out clause in their contracts. For locked-out optimists—or for individuals who just want to leave open the opportunity to go home for a "family illness" or a "sore knee" if it's not really working out—that might be asking too much.
It's disappointing news for NBA fans who were hoping they might get to see LeBron get dunked on by even more foreigners next season, but as Kelly Dwyer points out over at Ball Don't Lie, it's also just another instance of the players losing "fake leverage"—and the potential for a real source of income—in the lockout. It's bad enough that NBA players are getting shoved against a wall by their own league; now they're getting cuffed around by the Chinese, too.