This wasn't a publicity stunt by the Flying Tigers -- it wasn't a case of luring a big-name player to sell tickets, like the Shanxi Brave Dragons did two years ago by bringing in Stephon Marbury. Xinjiang has lost in the CBA finals three years in a row, and with the acquisition of Martin, some prognosticators considered them favorites to win this year -- the team to end Guangdong's four-year reign atop the CBA.
But then its best player, Quincy Douby, broke his wrist in the preseason, and let's just say that was the beginning of Xinjiang's troubles.
After playing just 12 games, Kenyon Martin negotiated his release from the club.
In his abbreviated stay in China, it was clear that he did not want to be here. No one expected him to be the prolific scorer that his former Denver Nuggets teammates, JR Smith (35 ppg) and Wilson Chandler (26.7 ppg), currently are, but I think it's safe to say we expected a little more than 14 points and 10 rebounds per game (stats according to Asia Basket). Martin played like he was replaceable, and in the end, he was. Forward Gani Lawal (Georgia Tech), picked up midseason, is averaging 21.4 points and 13.4 rebounds after 11 games.
But that's not the whole story. As Yahoo! Sports reports:
Chinese Basketball Association officials are fighting FIBA’s decision to allow Kenyon Martin to immediately return to the NBA, demanding that Martin be forbidden to play until later this month, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Chinese Basketball Association officials are insisting the clearance letter request was deliberately sent to their office over the New Year when they wouldn’t be available to respond.
I say: good for the CBA. Granting Martin's release would set a bad precedent, especially since the aforementioned Smith and Chandler have clamored to return Stateside as soon as possible. (Aaron Brooks, while not as vocal about leaving, probably would prefer playing in the U.S. right now as well.)
But really, it's a matter of principle. For you see, Kenyon Martin failed, and not just failed, but failed in the worst way possible for a professional athlete: he failed to give the impression that he tried. So you might not feel sorry for Xinjiang -- currently 13-12 and fighting for a playoff spot -- and you might not feel sorry for the CBA, which is kind of getting dicked over (as Adrian Wojnarowski reports: "Right now, it’s a huge distraction for teams," one international official told Yahoo! Sports. "Players are angry, want out now, and this is a huge investment that’s blowing up in the face of [Chinese] teams and owners"), but you should feel Martin is getting his right desserts by not getting to play basketball right now. After all, Xinjiang is actually the second team that regrets paying for Martin's services. Lest you've forgotten, his seven-year, $92.5 million contract with the Denver Nuggets was, as Bleacher Report rightfully calls it, one of the worst of the decade.
UPDATE: This just happened while I was writing the above: Martin is now a Clipper.