Former Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler led his Chinese team, the Zhejiang Lions, to the Chinese Basketball Association playoffs, but team management says they are willing to grant the talented forward an early release to return to the NBA. According to ChinaDaily.com, Chandler's agent in China said his client will not play in the playoffs or the all-star game, and Lions management is supportive of Chandler making his own decision about when to return to the NBA:
"We prefer to let him make the decision. If he wants to continue with his duties here, we'll be happy. But if he wants to leave, we will release him, as he might play with a bad mood in the playoff if we keep him compulsively," Lions general manager Ye Xiangyu told Zhejiang media after talking with other team executives on Wednesday night.
The reason the team is so understanding is because Chandler is a restricted free agent and would need to be cleared to return by FIBA before March 1 for other teams to bid be able to bid for his services. As a restricted free agent, other teams can put in bids on him but the Nuggets will have two weeks to exercise their right to match if he returns before March 1 (the trade deadline is March 15). If Chandler comes back after March 1, only the Nuggets will have an opportunity to sign the forward.
Mark Stein of ESPN is reporting that the Lions essentially made a playoff clinching performance the basis for Chandler being granted an early release:
Sources told ESPN.com that Zhejiang management essentially promised a drifting Chandler that he'd be granted permission to skip the playoffs as long as he made sure the team didn't miss them. In the Lions' regular-season finale against the Beijing Ducks, Chandler responded with 41 points and 18 rebounds -- 25 of those points coming in the first quarter -- in a 114-94 rout.
The Nuggets are expected to match any reasonable offer for Chandler, but now the forward is deciding whether to sign a deal for the rest of the year in Denver and test the market in the summer, or to just sign a long-term extension with the Nuggets now.