One NBA star named Chandler is not enough for the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions in China.
Having already signed Denver Nuggets restricted free agent Wilson Chandler, Zhejiang Guangsha has extended an offer to Dallas Mavericks free-agent center Tyson Chandler, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.
Teams in China are permitted, under new league rules enacted for this season, to sign NBA free agents. Chinese teams likewise can't offer in-season outs to return to the NBA, meaning any player who signs there is obligated to stay there until the end of the Chinese season in March.
Wilson Chandler decided early in the summer that he could live with those terms, but sources told ESPN.com that Tyson Chandler -- projected to be one of the top free agents in the NBA along with Nuggets center Nene and New Orleans Hornets forward David West when the 143-day old lockout ends -- is starting to weigh the pros and cons tied to making the same jump.
Sources say one scenario that has been presented to Tyson Chandler would be taking the deal with Zhejiang Guangsha and then returning to the NBA in March, assuming the lockout does eventually end, to sign a short-term contract with the Mavericks or another contender for what's left of the 2011-12 season. Going that route could prove risky if Chandler didn't return to Dallas and thus surrendered his Bird rights, but it is an option on the table that could shift Chandler into the mighty free-agent class of 2012 that's also projected to feature Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Steve Nash.
Wilson Chandler is Zhejiang Guangsha's current star import and longtime Phil Jackson assistant Jim Cleamons is the Lions coach. Orlando Magic free-agent big man Earl Clark signed with the Lions early in the summer as well but returned to the States in September for personal reasons. According to NiuBBall.com, Cleamons' team has also pursued Los Angeles Clippers restricted free-agent center DeAndre Jordan and Boston Celtics big man Glen Davis in recent weeks.
Now that the NBA season is in legitimate jeopardy, Chinese teams have made a renewed push to acquire established NBA players, as evidenced by Guangdong's signing Friday of Phoenix Suns free-agent guard Aaron Brooks.
ESPN.com reported earlier this week the big-spending Xinjiang Flying Tigers, who already have Nuggets free agent Kenyon Martin under contract, have extended offers to Atlanta Hawks free agent Jamal Crawford and Mavericks free agent J.J. Barea in an attempt to fill the void created by a long-term wrist injury suffered by former Sacramento Kings first-round pick Quincy Douby.
Xinjiang is also one of the Chinese teams that negotiated with Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant earlier this summer. The Flying Tigers, sources say, would love to make another run at Bryant, but the CBA instituted a rule in the summer that prevents its teams from signing any player with an existing NBA contract.
Chandler, 29, is coming off his best season as a pro in which he was credited, most notably by Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, with changing the defensive culture in Dallas after his arrival via trade in the summer of 2010 in what became the first championship run in franchise history.
But in a recent interview with The Ben and Skin Show on ESPN Radio in Dallas (103.3 FM), Chandler expressed concern that the league's next collective bargaining agreement might be too restrictive -- especially on teams in luxury-tax territory -- to bring him back.
"With the collective bargaining agreement and some of the things that they're trying to enforce, it would basically prohibit me from coming back," Chandler said in the interview. "It would take it out of my hands -- and the organization's -- because it would almost be pretty much impossible for me to re-sign. I just think that can be the worst thing that can happen."
Marc Stein is a senior writer for ESPN.com