BEIJING - For other NBA players, if they come to play in China, they have to play for at least a whole season. But for Yi Jianlian, he can go back to the NBA whenever he wants, thanks to a new regulation from the sport's governing body.
Two months ago, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) issued a regulation that only allowed clubs to sign players for at least one entire season in the domestic league.
According to that regulation, Yi, who signed a one-year contract with his home club, Guangdong Southern Tigers, earlier this month during the NBA lockout, would not be able to appear on an NBA court next season.
However, the former Washington Wizards forward won an exemption on Monday as the CBA announced a supplementary term to the rule on its official website. It states the rule only applies to "non-Chinese free agents who played in the NBA last season", which allows Yi (pictured) to leave Guangdong, with which he won three titles from 2003-2007, to return to NBA when the lockout ends.
Since Yi is probably the only player to benefit from the new rule, it has been dubbed the "Yi Jianlian Term" by local media.
The one-season rule was designed to bypass potential loopholes such as players opting out of their Chinese contracts to return to the NBA for reasons such as injuries or family affairs.
It also quashed Chinese fans' hopes of seeing some of the game's biggest stars, including Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, who all said China was a prime overseas option if the current lockout drags on and affects the 2011-2012 season.
However, the domestic league remains increasingly attractive to NBA players. In addition to last season's top scorer, Quincy Douby, and former New York Knicks all-star guard Stephon Marbury, this season's imports include three Denver Nuggets Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler.