Basketball: Americans return as Chinese league eyes resumption


BEIJING (Reuters) – American basketball players, including Jeremy Lin, have started returning to China in anticipation of the resumption of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season, which was suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Local media reports said the league, which was brought to a halt on Feb. 1, is looking to resume on April 15, even though it has yet to receive the necessary clearance from China’s General Administration of Sport.

Mainland China, where the coronavirus broke out late last year, reported zero locally transmitted cases of the disease for the third day running on Saturday.

The pandemic has forced the shut down of most professional sport around the world. North America’s National Basketball Association (NBA) suspended its season on March 12 after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus.

Around 40 American and other foreigners play in the 20-team CBA league and all will have to undergo 14 days of quarantine after their return to China.

Lin, who famously sparked what became known as “Linsanity” while playing for the New York Knicks in the 2012-13 NBA season, posted a picture of himself on the Great Wall just north of the Chinese capital on Friday.

“Safely landed back in Beijing to finish out the CBA season!” the Beijing Ducks point guard wrote in an accompanying message on Instagram.

“Excited to hoop again, but leaving the bay worried and with a heavy heart for the sick, the jobless and all those fighting fear, anxiety and stress over the unknown future.

“Basketball has never been more meaningful. The world needs basketball now more than ever.”

Former Sacramento Kings point guard Pooh Jeter is another American in quarantine in China after returning to play for the Fujian Sturgeons.

“Day 1 in China,” he posted on Twitter on Wednesday. “Salute to my team Fujian for taking care of me. 13 more days to go.”

Lithuanian Donatas Motiejunas said he expected to be back on court playing for the Shanghai Sharks by the middle of April.

“The team sent me a letter inviting me back, it was entirely my choice,” the former Houston Rockets power forward told Houston’s Fox 26 TV station from China.

“It looks like all the restrictions are going to be taken away at the end of the month and life will be back to normal.”

Reporting by Yilei Sun in Beijing and Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan