"Rain man" Shawn Kemp and Jay Williams, the NBA's second overall draft pick in 2002, will lead a group of American basketball players in the ongoing Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) Summer League in Changzhi, Shanxi province and play an exhibition match on Aug 9 in a bid to be drafted by CBA teams.
The league, launched last year by the CBA, the sport's governing body, and Lu'an Group, a local chemical, energy and mining firm, aims to emulate the NBA Summer League as a way of tuning up for the new season, testing young players and drafting overseas talent.
"Although the CBA Summer League was set up just last year, it has already been a great success thanks to the support of local firms such as Lu'an Group," said Zhang Xiong, director of the CBA's League Office.
Zhang said he was pleased to see more and more former NBA players coming to play in the CBA, something which is certain to improve the league's quality and boost the sport's popularity in China.
"The CBA Summer League offers incoming rookies an opportunity to begin the acclimation process to the new season while also giving teams the chance to evaluate free agents from foreign countries - especially the United States - and provide further training for veteran players.
"It is also a great opportunity for fans to get an up-close and personal look at the league's stars and promising young players," Zhang added.
Jason Rabedeaux, the American head coach of the Jiangsu Dragons, said he was impressed with the CBA Summer League, adding that it's an excellent way to enhance basketball's popularity in China.
"I think the opening ceremony of the CBA Summer League was terrific. Dancers, and singers and fireworks. It's very, very good. The crowds were excellent," said Rabedeaux, longtime NCAA assistant coach before coming to Jiangsu last year.
"I was very, very impressed and very happy that the CBA had a very good event. It will definitely be good for the sport's development."
Jiangsu, champions of last year's Summer League, opened their defense in winning style on Saturday after beating Zhejiang Guangsha 83-73.
A total of 12 domestic teams from the nation's top flight league are competing in this year's CBA Summer League, which runs until Saturday.
But most attention during the week is likely to be focused on the exhibition match by the free agents from the United States.
Kemp, now 40, has boasted a large fan base in China since he was picked by the Seattle Super Sonics in the first round of the 1989 NBA Draft and quickly became a force to be reckoned with.
He played for the US national team in the 1994 FIBA World Championship in Toronto, winning the gold medal.
Kemp's career peaked in 1995-96, when he led the Sonics to a franchise-record 64 wins and their first NBA Finals appearance since 1979, facing Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, who were coming off an NBA record of 72 wins. The Sonics managed to push the heavily favored Bulls to six games before losing.
Williams, 28, made himself known to most Chinese fans the moment he was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the second overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, just after Chinese all-star center Yao Ming, who was selected first by the Houston Rockets.
He played for the US national team in the 2002 FIBA World Championship and was a starter in the Bulls' line-up for most of the 2002-03 NBA season.
But his career almost came to an end when he crashed his motorbike in Chicago in June 2003. Williams, who wasn't wearing a helmet and wasn't licensed to drive a motorcycle in Illinois, severed a main nerve in his leg, fractured his pelvis and tore three ligaments in his left knee.
Although he returned to the game in the summer of 2006, he failed to regain his past form.
(China Daily August 3, 2009)