Coronavirus halts Chinese Basketball Association play, also stopping players in league from signing NBA deals

The Chinese Basketball Association suspended play Feb. 1 in response to the coronavirus outbreak and has yet to announce a return date. That’s left import players such as former Stanford guard Chasson Randle out of the game — and an income. 

“Chasson is not only being prevented from making income, but also from furthering his career as a NBA player,” said Randle’s agent, Darrell Comer, via ESPN. “We are speaking to bring awareness to this unfair issue for Chasson, but also for the other talented players who are back from China and may experience similar issues soon.”

Cromer said the Tianjin Gold Lions, Randle’s Chinese club, twice prevented Randle from signing 10-day NBA contracts — even though it hasn’t paid him on time since play stopped or told him when play will resume. FIBA letter-of-clearance rules, which Tianjin is citing, prevent players from being under contract with multiple teams simultaneously. If other international leagues suspend play as a result of the coronavirus and adhere to those rules, the NBA could miss out on acquiring potential rotation pieces ahead of the playoffs.  

Randle flew back to the U.S. on Jan. 26, Comer said. ESPN reported most American imports — which includes players like Jeremy Lin, Ty Lawson and Lance Stephenson — followed suit, returning home in late January with expectations of returning to China as soon as mid-February. However, the deteriorating health situation in China derailed that timeline. As of Wednesday, 78,195 people in the country’s mainland contracted coronavirus, according to Statista; 2,718 died. In Tianjin alone, 135 contracted the disease with three dead as of Tuesday. The World Health Organization has since declared coronavirus a global health emergency. 

ESPN reported the Chinese teams unofficially told players a return could come as soon as April, but also said the league could be “canceled altogether” because of the outbreak. 

Randle went undrafted in 2015 despite producing a solid four-year career at Stanford. The 6-foot-2 guard saw his first NBA action in 2016-17, splitting time with the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks. In 2018-19, Randle signed with the Washington Wizards and averaged career highs in minutes (15.2), points (5.5) and assists (2.0).

Parlaying his breakthrough campaign with the Wizards, Randle signed a “lucrative” contract to play in China this season. 



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