BEIJING — Who is the brightest star after the first week of play in the Chinese Basketball Association? Of course it is Wilson Chandler, who had 43 points and 22 rebounds in his first game. But the one who attracted the most attention was J.R. Smith.
You may have known that, because the news and video of Smith’s injury traveled fast. Smith left the court with his teammates’ help. The next day, he went to Beijing alone for physical examination without the permission from the club. Zhao Bing, the team’s general manager, issued a stern warning to Smith on Weibo and got a quick response back from Smith: “My main goal is to get healthy! If you can’t understand that then maybe you should pick another profession!”
The club was exasperated. A document to terminate the contract was in preparation. Although the contract is guaranteed, if Smith broke the rules more than twice, the team has the right to end the contract without any compensation.
Zhao Bing told the press that actually Smith has broken the rules lots of times, and has been warned three times. According to my sources, the club was planning to fire Smith and look for another American player.
At that moment, Smith realized the danger of the situation. He needed help badly, and Stephon Marbury gave him a hand.
Marbury joined the CBA in 2010, and became the most popular player in short time. He loves China and has made many friends here. Smith learned that one of Marbury’s friends is very close to the Zhejiang club, so he asked for help.
Marbury and his Chinese friend said yes to his request. At first, the club was tough and insisted it would terminate Smith. Then, they agreed to give him another chance, but he had to apologize for his behavior and promise to improve.
The club had another demand: Smith must live with the team. Before the issue, all the other Zhejiang players lived in standard rooms of a common hotel, but Smith persisted that he wanted to stay in a suite of a 5-star hotel. The club met his needs, paying the bill for about 900 dollars per night.
Smith presented his regrets and accepted these requirements. He flew back to Zhejiang to join the team after the examination. He played Tuesday, getting 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
The story has not ended here, and maybe the next part is the main point.
In the talk with Smith lasting for more than an hour, Marbury told him that what kind of league the CBA is, and what he should do to succeed here:
“You have to adapt yourself to the new environment and culture, at least to your team. You cannot expect to continue the lifestyle of the NBA, because it’s not the NBA.”
“You’d better eat and live with the team. In the CBA, it’s impossible for the whole team to stay in a 5-star hotel. This is the reality. If you want to win, to be friends with your teammates, you must respect them, and get their respect in return, although you speak a different language.”
After seeing the happy end of the story, Marbury said: “I’m happy for him. I hope he cherishes the opportunity, because not everyone can get a second chance. Every price is worth it, wish everything goes well for him.”
Many thanks to my colleague Wang Meng, who contributed to this story.