DENVER — The Denver Nuggets’ options could be limited if there’s an NBA season.
Three of their free agents have decided to play in China — Kenyon Martin became the third on Wednesday — and two starters are taking their games to Europe.
And while Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari can return if there indeed is a 2011-12 season, Martin won’t be able to leave his Chinese Basketball Association squad until the 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’s agent, Andy Miller, confirmed to The Associated Press the forward has agreed to a deal with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. He 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 already is 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 labor 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 Knicks in 2008. The Knicks dealt him to the Nuggets in the blockbuster deal involving Anthony.
Camps had been expected to open Oct. 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.