SBJ/August 15-21, 2011/Events and Attractions

Proposed tour of China by NBA players delayed

Organizers of a proposed NBA player exhibition tour in China have pushed back tentative dates and must win approval from the Chinese Basketball Association before they move forward with a two-week, three-city tour amid the NBA lockout.

Bruce O’Neil, founder and president of the United States Basketball Academy and consultant to the Chinese Basketball Association, has been retained by Wasserman Media Group to organize the tour and is now negotiating with Chinese promoters in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Foshan in southern China to play in October instead of an earlier mid-August or September timetable.

O’Neil and Wasserman this spring began floating the idea of an exhibition tour during the lockout involving some of the 50 players it represents. As the NBA lockout drags into its sixth week, the proposed tour’s structure also has changed from its initial four-city, four-team tournament involving both CBA and NBA players to a tour that includes three teams made up of approximately 30 NBA players and one team of Chinese players playing a total of nine games in October. Cities initially targeted were Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. O’Neil is also hoping to attract sponsors and a television partner for the tour, but no deals have been secured.

But any chance of the tour happening hinges upon approval from the Chinese Basketball Association, which is expected to restrict the influx of NBA players coming to China during the lockout.

“The big key right now is getting the approval to move forward,” O’Neil said. “The concept has changed because of the sponsorship availability, and the [Chinese Basketball Association] still hasn’t decided how it will handle any NBA players.”

The tour also could include some NBA players not represented by Wasserman, but O’Neil would not disclose any player names.

Led by Arn Tellem, Wasserman’s player representation division includes Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Atlanta’s Joe Johnson and and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
Wasserman officials would not comment.

The proposed tour in China allows players to cash paychecks during the lockout while sidestepping signing contracts with overseas basketball teams.

FIBA recently cleared NBA players to play overseas with the mandate that they return to their NBA teams after the lockout is lifted.

Arranging the tour in China is fraught with its own challenges in dealing with the Chinese Basketball Association, which one player agent said does not favor its teams hiring a flood of locked-out NBA players looking for temporary employment. Also, FIBA’s men’s basketball Asian Games are set for late September in China, and the Chinese Basketball Association season starts in mid-October.

“We are working hard on it and we are cautiously optimistic,” O’Neil said.

Staff writer Liz Mullen contributed to this report.

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