O.J. Mayo set to join Chinese league powerhouse

Former NBA guard O.J. Mayo is close to joining the Chinese Basketball Association to play for powerhouse Liaoning Flying Leopards, pending medical and other procedural clearances.

Mayo, 32, landed in the northern Chinese city of Shenyang — home to the No. 3-ranked Flying Leopards — from Taipei on Friday. He has since entered a 14-day quarantine, as mandated by government medical officials.

After the quarantine, Mayo will need to get medical clearance and have additional league paperwork approved before officially registering to play, the team said.

The team said it was looking for a third import as early as the start of the Lunar New Year recess, mainly as a possible backup in case Lance Stephenson, its main backup, had eligibility issues.

Stephenson, as well as Liaoning’s other import, Brandon Bass, have been in the United States since the Lunar New Year break, before the coronavirus outbreak in China pushed the season to a halt in late January.

They have remained in the U.S., staying in shape, because the league’s restart has been postponed again from mid-April.

It is unknown when the season will restart, as the league’s final plan has to be approved by the country’s athletic governing body.

China on Saturday began temporarily banning entry for foreign travelers as part of its COVID-19 outbreak control measures, meaning players outside the country may encounter challenges rejoining their teams. Mayo’s addition could guard against that.

Mayo, the No. 3 overall pick in 2008 out of USC, played eight seasons in the NBA, averaging 13.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.9 points. After being dismissed from the NBA in 2016 for violating the league’s substance-abuse program, he has played in Europe and Asia.

Although this would be Mayo’s first CBA journey, he is no stranger to China. Last year, he had a stint with Hunan in China’s second-tier league, the NBL. He is also a familiar name to many Chinese fans due to his tenure with the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks.

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