Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin bolts for China

Kenyon Martin becomes the third Denver Nuggets free agent to sign a contract to play basketball in China this season.

Updated: September 22, 2011 17:19 IST
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Denver: Kenyon Martin becomes the third Denver Nuggets free agent to sign a contract to play basketball in China this season.

Martin's agent, Andy Miller, confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that the 33-year-old forward has agreed to a deal with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association.

By doing so, Martin won't be able to return to play in the NBA if there is a 2011-12 season. Owners have locked out the players in a labour dispute and the league says players won't be able to opt out of their deals to return to the NBA.

Denver starters Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari are playing in Europe, but can return if there indeed is a 2011-12 season, Martin will not until the Chinese season ends in March.

J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler have also elected to play in China, which won't allow NBA players to opt out of their one-year contracts should the lockout end.

Martin will join shooting guard Quincy Douby, a former first-round draft pick by the Sacramento Kings.

Martin's signing was first reported by The Denver Post.

"He's looking forward to the opportunity and global expansion of his image/game," Miller wrote in an email. "He's feeling great."

Martin gave the Nuggets an inside toughness last season. But he's been plagued by balky knees throughout his seven seasons in Denver.

The 33-year-old forward missed the first 26 games last season as he recovered from another knee operation. Martin finished strong, averaging 8.6 points and 6.2 rebounds, and even took on some of the leadership responsibilities when Carmelo Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks.

Although it was by no means certain Martin would return to the Nuggets in 2011-12, this will definitely have the team on the lookout for an aggressive rebounder to fill his role.

Not only that, but perimeter shooters are needed to replace Smith and Chandler. Smith signed a one-year deal with a team in Zhejiang, the same province Chandler is heading to but not the same team.

Chandler is already in China and is quickly adjusting to his new surroundings.

On a recent Twitter post, Chandler wrote, "just walked/climbed about 4 or 5 miles on the great wall of china..."

Lawson is electing to play in Lithuania and can return if there's a resolution to the labour strife. Same with Gallinari, who rejoined his former Italian team Olimpia Milano on Tuesday.

Gallinari played for Olimpia from 2005 to 2008 before being drafted sixth overall by the New York Knicks in 2008. The Knicks dealt him to the Nuggets in the blockbuster deal involving Anthony.

Camps had been expected to open October 3 with the regular season beginning in early November. But that could be in jeopardy with the sides still bickering over the salary cap structure.

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