Starting in August, Will The Thrill has been doing just that -- thrilling millions of fans in China. In his debut for the Zhejiang Guangsha basketball club, former Knick Wilson Chandler scored 43 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in a 118-115 double-overtime win over Tianjin Ronggan. Since then, Chandler's been lighting it up -- and he will have to be until Feb. 15 when the Lions' regular-season run ends.
While Chandler doesn't have an opt-out clause in his Chinese contract, fortunately the mid-February timing will most likely allow him to be picked up by an NBA team before the trade deadline, which his agent, Chris Luchey, predicts to be later in the month due to the season's delayed start. And there's good news for Knicks fans: Chandler would welcome a return to New York, and the team looks to have a $5 million mid-level exception to use. You just can't call it "great" just yet because Denver has him as a restricted free agent.
"The first consideration would go to his current team, the Nuggets," Luchey said. "After that, Wilson will field interest from the Knicks. He had a great time in New York, he has a very strong fan base there, he grew there."
Since a tentative CBA agreement was made on Nov. 26, Luchey has already had several conversations with the Nuggets' front office, who has not only expressed interest in re-signing Chandler, but extending him long-term as well.
"There's a strong interest there obviously, but I have to see what his market value is," Luchey said. "He wants to win. He likes New York, being able to finish what he started. Fit is important, salary, being in a situation he can win, having a strong point guard; there are different variables. But there wouldn’t be much hesitation with New York. I don’t want to discredit Denver -- they want Wilson to be a Nugget for a long time -- but will that happen? We’ll have to see."
Luchey said he thought the CBA (the Chinese Basketball Association, that is) was attractive for Chandler for three main reasons. One, it offered the closest competitive schedule to the NBA, as there are three games per week. Two, China has an incredible fan base (the Hangzhou municipality alone, where Zhejiang Guangsha is based, has a population of more than four million people). And three, it was slated to be a shortened season -- but not because of any lockout; rather, the 2012 Summer Olympics. That gave Chandler the opportunity to fulfill his obligation in China and still be able to join an NBA title contender in 2012.
"On Feb. 16 or 17, Wilson will have completed his Chinese contract and could return to the NBA -- unless he makes the playoffs," Luchey said. "The playoffs are very different here -- only eight teams make it -- and the rounds go by pretty quickly. So a player could come home and still have two full months of the regular season, and the playoffs."
While Luchey explained that the Chinese league doesn't offer any opt-outs -- it has nothing to do with government sanctions -- he's heard of deals there being interrupted, terminated and breached. In fact, just last week Chandler's only other American teammate, Dwayne Jones, was released, and yesterday the contract of former Celtics shooting guard, Gerald Green, was terminated because he "failed to fit into the tactic system of the whole team."
Luchey expects that Chandler will carry out the full term of his Chinese contract appropriately. At that time, he'll gladly discuss Chandler's services with the Knicks, who traded him on Feb. 22 in a mega-deal for Carmelo Anthony. Up until that point, Chandler was putting up career-highs across the board: 16.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 46.1 FG percent, 35.1 3FG percent and 80.7 FT percent. Luchey admits the move affected Chandler, but insists that his client has put that in the past and it will pose no hard feelings heading into next year's trade deadline.
"Obviously being traded is one of your first experiences, maybe in a negative mindset that leaves you a negative taste, where you see that the league is a business," Luchey said. "It was a rude awakening for Wilson in that regard, but would he field offers from the Knicks? Absolutely."
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