Two weeks ago, Von Wafer was riding pretty high. His Shanxi Dragons team had just made it into their first postseason for three years and his name was about to be included in the shortlist for the CBA’s foreign player MVP.
Now however, things are very different. On Saturday when America was tuning into the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest, Wafer was releasing a public apology in China following his behavior in the final minutes of a playoff game.
Writing that he was reflecting about his actions, Wafer went on to add “I feel very ashamed. I understand that in the CBA, this behavior cannot be tolerated and I promise this situation will not happen again.” After apologizing to the Shanxi players and front office, he then went on in separate paragraphs to apologize to the league itself as well as for setting a bad example to Chinese children. A little later, he added that he hopes to return to the CBA at some point. Whether or not that is possible remains to be seen.
Wafer was forced into this very public statement after Shanxi’s 106-98 road loss to Qingdao in the CBA playoff quarter-finals. The result ensured that the Dragons were eliminated from the postseason without winning a game. However, it was Wafer’s actions during the third and final game of the series that have captured the headlines. With Shanxi staring at elimination, the guard was ejected for hard fouling Qingdao point guard Luo Xudong. Then, as he was sent from the court, Wafer picked up a chair and threw it against a wall before exiting through the player’s tunnel.
Have a look:
The flagrant foul by Wafer had been coming for a while and over the course of three increasingly brutal playoff games, players from both sides exchanged cheap shots. In the deciding encounter between the two teams, Shanxi’s Jeremy Tyler appeared to be tripped by Luo while the latter was in the air trying to make a shot. Having realized the game was essentially over, it appears that Wafer hard fouled the Qingdao player in revenge for the earlier incident. Tyler had by then fouled out of the game.
Things, though, would only get worse for Shanxi.
After the final buzzer had sounded, Tyler angrily shoved Qingdao center Hamed Haddadi and appeared to beckon him into the tunnel to continue the dispute. According to media reports, both teams would then exchange words in the area that divided the Shanxi and Qingdao locker rooms. The scuffle finally ended when the two teams were sent to their lockers by security guards. Angered by the actions of the Shanxi players, a large group of Qingdao fans who had gathered outside the arena would also have to be dispersed by the police.
In the aftermath of the series, several players were fined for their actions but Wafer has taken the brunt of the punishment following his foul on Luo and then the throwing of the chair afterwards. Not only was he fined 50,000 RMB (roughly $8,000), he has also been given a six-game ban from all CBA games.
It is the ban that presents the biggest problem for the American. Given that the CBA regular season is so short, the absence of a star overseas player like Wafer for that many games is a huge disadvantage.
This season, the Xinjiang Tigers only lost seven games all year but still failed to make the postseason, and with the league becoming increasingly more competitive at the top, teams simply can’t afford to throw away games. As a result, Wafer’s value to a CBA team has plummeted. Before last week, the guard, who averaged 32.5 points per game over the course of the current season, could have expected to receive a deal approaching or exceeding seven-figures for next year.
Now it’s very possible that he never plays in China again.
What Wafer does now is unclear. He could in theory appeal the sentence, but the CBA is notoriously hard on players who lose their temper during games or agitate the crowd with certain actions. The likelihood of a reduction is highly unlikely. Given that the terms of the ban are ambiguous, its hard to say if the suspension affects only the first six games of the 2015-16 CBA season or the first six games of Wafer’s next season in China. If it’s the former, the American could possibly wait a season and then try to return to the CBA, but by then he would be 31. In a league where teams are looking to get younger with their lead scorer, this might make him too old for an organization to roll the dice on.
Other CBA News In Brief
– Following an upset in game one, Guangdong steadied themselves to win the subsequent three games of their playoff and advance past the Dongguan Leopards. Guangdong, who finished the regular season with the best overall record, will now advance to the semifinals to face Beijing. After the game, Leopards coach Brian Goorjan announced he was resigning after five seasons with the team. Due to their elimination, Dongguan’s American players, Bobby Brown and Ike Diogu, are now immediately available as free agents to NBA teams.
– Beijing’s Stephon Marbury is expected to be completely fit for his team’s semifinal series. The former New York Knick point guard has struggled at times with injuries this season and played sparingly during the Ducks’ previous playoff series win over Jilin. His return for Beijing is a huge boost in the upcoming contest with the slightly favored Guangdong team.
– Andray Blatche is rumored to be weighing up a return to China instead of signing with the NBA. A free agent for over a fortnight, the center is yet to agree terms with an American team and is reportedly waiting for a big offer. Should he not receive any, there are reportedly several teams including the Xinjiang Tigers ready to offer him a lucrative multi-year deal to play exclusively in China.
MORE FROM ANDREW CRAWFORD:
DOMINIQUE JONES, ELI HOLMAN, JEREMY TYLER NOW AVAILABLE
PREVIEWING THE CBA PLAYOFFS AND THE FOREIGN MVP RACE
NETS PLAYERS WOULD WELCOME ANDRAY BLATCHE BACK FROM CHINA)
10 PLAYERS IN CHINA WHO COULD HELP NBA PLAYOFF TEAMS)
EMMANUEL MUDIAY FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE IN CHINA)
BEASLEY SHINES, MUDIAY REMAINS, BLATCHE DOES WORK)
METTA WORLD PEACE’S STINT IN CHINA MAY COME TO PREMATURE END)
Andrew Crawford is a long-time Chinese basketball writer and a former beat reporter in the Chinese Basketball Association. His twitter address is @shouldersgalore.