False alarm, folks! Despite earlier reports that J.R. Smith’s right knee was in dire trouble, it looks as if the Zhejiang Golden Bulls swingman is actually in fine shape. After being subbed in during the second quarter of the Bulls’ home game against the Dongguan Leopards on Tuesday night, Smith went off for 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists during 30 minutes of action, helping his new team win in a 101-73 blowout.
After injuring himself in Sunday night’s season-opening game against the Guangdong Southern Tigers, Smith flew to Beijing (ignoring the team’s order for him to get checked in their home city of Yiwu) to get checked out at the Beijing Sports Medicine Hospital, which diagnosed only a pulled quadriceps muscle for the former Denver Nugget.
Though it’s reassuring to know Smith didn’t completely break himself so early in the season, tension is already brewing between J.R. and his new team, with the Golden Bulls’ general manager Zhao Bing even lobbing accusations of a faked injury:
“Everyone saw the pain on Smith’s face after he got hurt. Compare that to the results of his exam. We’re all intelligent people, we should all know what’s going on here. When you compare his performance on the court with the game’s final result, you’ll realize. When he was injured, would he have had that big of a reaction [if the score was closer]?”
“Our team’s overall attitude is very clear right now. The team is a collective; we don’t depend on just one person. We’re still going to go out and play basketball, no matter who is absent from the team. No one is indispensable. We play as a team. We will not be affected by one person.”
Meanwhile, reports have also surfaced that Smith has been making unreasonable demands, among other shenanigans:
According to Zhao Bing, the club had provided Smith with a presidential suite at a cost of 6,880 yuan per day, arranged a special chef and spent 700,000 yuan in insurance as he requested. However, he wanted another villa in Shanghai or Hangzhou with a chauffeured car to commute for training in Yiwu.
Ding Wei, the team’s head coach, also disclosed that Smith has missed training three times with illness excuses. And the team discovered that once he was actually shopping in Shanghai.
We attribute the culture clash to the fact that athletes outside of China are often far more coddled and catered to, in stark contrast to the treatment they receive on the mainland.
Traditionally, athletes are plucked from an early age to be enrolled in state-sponsored Soviet style hothouse environments, with whatever future success (and huge portions of earnings) being disproportionately considered the achievements of their coaches and training system.
Which is why tennis star Li Na’s success is so crucial: after declaring that she could manage her own career, thank you very much, Li is representative of a new breed of athlete looking to win on their own terms, separate from the demands of the national sports system.
And in other CBA news: