O'Donnell: Pro basketball from China possible as a TV fill-in for the NBA?
JEREMY LIN ONCE inspired an NBA fervor called "Linsanity."
Now, could he and his colleagues in the Chinese Basketball Association serve as enough of a TV draw to help get America through its current "Death Valley Days" of no fresh live sports on the pixels?
That is the scenario that appears to be developing as the CBA prepares to restart its season after an 11-week hiatus prompted by the initial COVID-19 outbreak in China.
Lin and other foreign players -- a maximum of two per team in the 20-member league -- were told to report for 14-day quarantining beginning last week.
The California-born Harvard grad did so. He won an NBA championship ring with the Toronto Raptors last season.
With a $3 million contract in hand, he had been averaging 24 ppg for the Beijing Ducks prior to the interruption.
Initial indications were that the CBA planned to resume play late next week.
On Wednesday, informed international sources said that resumption has now been pushed back deeper into April. ESPN reported the restart could be in May.
Still, with the NBA on an open-ended hold, at least two American broadcast concerns are said to be foaming at the prospect of getting any sort of live new action on air.
Jonathan White, the sports editor of the English-language South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and an authority on basketball in China, told The Daily Herald:
"I can see no problem provided there is significant financial incentive. The barriers are the CBA actually restarting and no broadcast deals.
"Youku is the online partner and CCTV (the state national TV in China) the terrestrial broadcaster. There are no international deals that I know of.
"On top of that," the British-bred White added, "Someone might need to learn all about the CBA quite quickly to commentate.
"Following comes the biggest barrier of the lot -- getting Americans to watch. The quality is nowhere near the NBA and that might frustrate fans.
"But these are difficult times."
Indeed they are, to the point that the guiding axiom could be, "Air it fresh and new, with changing scores and reasonable competitiveness, and segments of America will watch."
This is the league that developed Yao Ming after all, and once featured Metta World Peace in the autumn of his career.
So now, in the most unanticipated sports icebreaker since "Ping-Pong diplomacy" began the end of a 22-year freeze between the United States and then "Red China" back in 1971-72, baskets back on TV could be at hand.
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• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.