Upon hearing the news that Danilo Gallinari experienced more than just an ankle sprain against the Houston Rockets and might miss one month every Nuggets’ fan response was, “When can Wilson Chandler get here?”
As everyone who cares about the Nuggets knows, Wilson Chandler chose to sign a contract to play in China despite the lack of an opt-out clause which would allow him to return to the N.B.A. should the lockout end prior to the cancelation of the 2011-12 season.
Projections for Chandler’s availability have ranged from March to April. The way I understand it, Chandler will be freed from his service to the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions as soon as their season ends. While the truth is that could be anywhere between February 15 and sometime in April, there is an ever so slight chance that the Lions season could end on the fifteenth.
Eight of the 17 teams in the Chinese Basketball Association make the playoffs. Right now despite Chandler’s average nightly output of 26.0 points and 11.3 rebounds Guangsha is ninth. If they fail to move up into the top eight, their season will be over in eight days. If that happens, it is certainly possible Chandler could be playing for the Nuggets before the All-Star break. Guangsha is 6-9
(Editors note: The initial version of this post included a few paragraphs on how Chandler would sign the Qualifying Offer and become an Unrestricted Free Agent after the season. Charlie found out from Larry Coon that Qualifying Offers had to be signed by December 25, 2011. Thus the next couple of paragraphs are inaccurate. I will leave them up though so you can all enjoy how dumb I am. Coon assures us that he will have an article up on this very topic tomorrow.)
Kalen provided some projections as to what might happen to Chandler upon his release from China . The fact that the Qualifying Offer is in place makes him a Restricted Free Agent, but he cannot actually sign the Qualifying Offer. That means the following options are on the table.
1. Chandler can sign a long term deal with Denver.
2. Chandler can sign an offer sheet with another team as long as he can do it by March 1.
Chandler can be sign and traded.
4. Chandler can sign a one year deal with Denver that would set him up as an Unrestricted Free Agent this summer.
5. Chandler is not offered a contract that is palatable to him and he goes into next season as a Restricted Free Agent as long as Denver ponies up another Qualifying Offer.
(Editor’s note: As commentor nugzin2040 pointed out in the comments and as has been confirmed by Larry Coon in this article (which I sure wish he had posted yesterday and thanks to commentor Steve for the link) players cannot be signed and traded during the season. So feel free to ignore any more mention of option three in this post.)
Denver will likely match any offer sheet thrown Chandler’s way knowing they need him in the short term and can move his salary off their books in the long term. I suspect other teams know that and there will be no offer sheet in Chandler’s future, plus none of the teams who have room to sign Chandler would be an appealing destination for him.
If Chandler signs a one year contract it will be as if he had signed his Qualifying Offer and will become an Unrestricted Free Agent next summer. However, Denver would have to offer him that one year contract as he can no longer sign the Qualifying Offer. Do not expect the Nuggets to make that mistake and risk losing Chandler for nothing. The threat of signing the Qualifying Offer is the big leverage players have, but that leverage for Chandler is now gone.
I have no idea what the Nuggets’ plans are from a financial standpoint. They can afford Chandler without threatening the luxury tax. They will not want to lose him for less than he is worth, but if they are paying in the high teens for Chandler and Gallinari, they will restrict their ability to improve other areas of the team.
Look for Denver to either sign Chandler to a palatable deal for two or three seasons or for him to sit out the remainder of the season and try again this summer. If Chandler is released prior to the March 1 deadline, there are not many teams that are likely to give him an offer sheet that is appealing to him. If I had to put money on it, I would expect Denver and Chandler to come to an agreement on a shorter contract that would pay him without locking him into Denver for his entire prime, but I have a long history of losing money on the rare occasions I put any down on one of my “educated guesses.”
If Chandler wants to recapture the leverage the Qualifying Offer provided him as well as open up the door to more teams to provide offer sheets he could sit out the remainder of the season. He would only be sacrificing two months of playing time at the most and that might be palatable for him. I believe he wants to play and that is why he went to China in the first place. I expect him to play this season.
We may get an idea of how far along management thinks this team is. If they jump at the chance to sign Chandler and overpay him just to get him on the floor, it shows they think they have a shot to win it all this season. If they wait, do not sign him and push his restricted free agency into the summer, it shows they believe what they have been saying publicly all along; this team is not a title contender this season and there is no need to rush into a deal with Chandler to help the short term at the expense of the long term plan.
Whether or not there is a quick resolution to Chandler’s contract following his release from China, with the Nuggets currently in desperate need of a small forward Nuggets fans now have a new second favorite team, whoever is playing Guangsha. If they miss the playoffs, Chandler will be back playing for Denver well before Gallo can return.
Guangsha is currently 15-13, tied for eighth, but listed as ninth so I assume they lose the tiebreaker to the team they are tied with, Shanghai. To make things even more exciting there are six teams within a game and a half of each other hovering around the eighth spot. In their four remaining games (I have no idea how they have fared in the two games that have been played since the standings were updated) Guangsha plays two of the bottom three, the second place team and a team that they train by half a game. They are only 6-9 over their previous 15 outings and If they manage to only win two of those games, they very well may miss the playoffs and Chandler could be delivered.
For the first time ever, we will keep a close eye on the final week of the CBA regular season. It very well could mean a big difference in Denver’s playoff seed.
RMC reader Wayne Pan sent in this report on Wilson Chandler quite some time ago and I completely failed to post it in a timely fashion. Now is as good a time as ever. Thanks to Wayne for the email!
My name is Wayne and I have been working in China for the past 5 years. I have a been a long time reader for your blog and recently I had a chance to watch a CBA game featuring Zhenjiang, the team Wilson Chandler is playing on, at Dongguan. So I thought I would share my experience of watching Wilson Chandler play in CBA and what it’s like to attend a CBA game.
Before The Game
- Despite some research, I wasn’t able to buy any tickets through internet or by phone. Fearing I wouldn’t be able to get tickets, I drove 45 mins to the arena the day before the game to get tickets for my friend and I. I brought the VIP seats at around 80 US each, which is right behind the scorer keepers. When I brought my tickets, I checked out the monitor of the tickets, there were still tons of tickets left (about 80%)
- When my friend and I arrived on at the arena 30 mins before tip off, I asked the ticket counter and there were still a lot of tickets left, including the VIP seats. That would explain the inabilities to buy tickets online or by phone, there were no needs to.
- The gymnasium itself isn’t much, its quality is about a North American high school gym with more seats, which is expected consider they are playing at a town in Dongguan.
- Despite the lack of tickets sales, the seats were about 70% full by the time game started.
- The other foreign player for Zhenjian is Peter Ramos, a 7’3, 280lbs center drafted by the Wizard in 2004. He is massive even in NBA standards, he also suffers “Greg Oden Syndromes”, meaning he’s 26yrs old but looking like 46.
- Dongguan team has the tallest player in the CBA, Sun Hao, a 7’4 center who’s only 21 years old and weighs only about 21lbs as well.
The First Half
- It seems CBA has a rule of not allowing two foreign players on the court at the same time in the first half, at least that’s what happened for both teams.
- Wilson Chandler plays point guard a lot as he often brings the ball up but he’s not that good of a passer as he averages only a little more than 2 assists a game.
- Wilson Chandler’s agent had stated Denver are willing to offer Chandler a multi-year contract and while Chandler enjoyed playing CBA, he desires to go back. However, CBA clubs have been making hard demands if these foreign helps wants to leave. They have asked players to not only forfeit all their salaries but also pay 1 millions US in compensation.
- After initial controversy with his team, JR Smith is on a scoring tear. Averaging 43.5pts in his last 4 games, including one game’s ridiculous NBA 2K12 stats of 52pts and 22 rebounds.
- Marbury is praised by Chinese media as the model example of foreign help as he brings professionalism and leadership to his new team in Beijing. After watching one of his games I would have to agree Marbury is a changed player. Unlike most of the superior talented foreign players, he didn’t hog the ball to take all the shots. Instead, he tries to get his teammates involve at the beginning of the game and only take the matter into his own hands when the games are close.The result is his team is off to a 10-0 start, the best in team’s history.
Thanks to Wayne for the info. Now you know what it is like to check out a game in China!