After my final year in the NBA, I was in a position where I was totally unsure where I would be playing the next season. I had talks with multiple teams throughout the summer, many of which expressed serious interest in me. I had one particular team that for three straight weeks promised me a contract offer by the end of each of those weeks, but that team never officially made me an offer. Other teams also promised contract offers at various points in the summer, but none actually came through. Given that I didn’t have nearly the interest in the NBA that I expected, I had my agent start looking for offers overseas. He came back with several good offers, but my goal was still to play in the NBA, so for the time being I put them all on hold. Then, at the end of the summer, I received a call from the Cleveland Cavaliers saying that they wanted to bring me to training camp, and that they would probably sign me after camp.
The Cavs had me, as well as about 7 other players, report about a week before the actual training camp started. The situation was supposed to be that they were going to be bringing in myself and one other player(the other guys were basically fillers so that there were enough people to play), and that they were going to keep one of us for training camp, which according to them was probably going to be me. But when I got to Cleveland, the situation was not quite what was described to me.
While I had my locker in a separate room where the rest of the guys that probably were not going to make the team were, the other player had his locker in the Cavs’ main locker room. The head coach’s office was connected to the practice court, with a window so that he could view what was happening on the court from his office. Inside the coach’s office, there was a white board with the team’s depth chart on it. I was walking past the window to the court on the third day of workouts, and saw that on the white board my name was not listed, but the other player’s name was there.
After seeing this, I made a call to my agent and explained to him the situation. Knowing that I had a guaranteed contract offer from a team in China on the table, which was for the same amount of money as I would have made if the Cavaliers kept me for the whole season, I decided to leave the Cleveland camp and go to China.
In terms of possible places I could have ended up overseas, going to China was about the furthest I could get from playing in the NBA, and in the United States. In hindsight, I think that’s a lot of why I chose to go to China. I was so tired of being lied to by teams in the NBA, that I literally went as far away from it as I could possibly get. But getting acclimated to life in China was incredibly difficult in the beginning.
The very first day I arrived in China, the team threw me right into the mix; I had a double session with the team the very next day. With no rules governing how hard or how long a team could practice over there, our coach was able to basically run us for about 6 hours that day. After the second practice, I was more tired than I had ever been in my life. Unfortunately, instead of resting In between practices and after the second practice, the team’s General Manager insisted on taking me out to eat at authentic Chinese restaurants.
Let’s just talk about the food there for a minute. Trust me when I say, the Chinese food we have here is NOT real Chinese food. They eat every part of every animal over there, and half the time I had no idea what I was even being asked to eat. I’m fairly certain during my time there, I saw people eat everything from insects, to monkey brains, to a special breed of dog that are specifically bred to be eaten. After several team dinners I noticed that whenever one particular dish would come out, my translator always had extra of it, as it was clearly his favorite food. After about the 3rd time seeing this, I finally asked him what the hell it was he was eating. He just laughed….”cow penis” he said. Moving on….
Between the ridiculously difficult practices, and my body adjusting to the food(no, I did NOT eat any of the cow penis, but I did watch a live shrimp jump off of my teammate’s plate and onto the floor), I lost 15 pounds in the first 3 days I was there. At the end of the 3rd day, I found myself back in my hotel room, unable to move, and wondering how I was going to make it through the preseason. Thankfully, after a couple of weeks my body finally adjusted to everything, and the work became much easier to handle.-
Once preseason was over, our team moved to its home city of Yiwu, which was roughly an hour and a half away from the city of Hangzhou where we had been practicing. The entire team moved to a “4 star hotel”, which was roughly the equivalent of a Holiday Inn back here. While the room itself was decent enough, there was no food available at the hotel, no laundry service, and only one internet router for the entire hotel. Because of this, the internet only worked after roughly 1am when everyone else was asleep and not tying up the bandwidth. When combined with the 12 hour time difference and our practice schedule, that meant there was only about a 2 hour window that I could communicate with people back home each day. For someone that for the last four years had only stayed in Ritz-Carlton hotels on road trips, this was an…adjustment. But it was certainly far from the last adjustment I had to make there.