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Lance Stephenson and Lin among Americans returning to Chinese basketball

Posted on March 23, 2020

With the Chinese Basketball Association preparing to end a nearly three-month hiatus, the league is welcoming back some of its foreign players, with perhaps the biggest splash of all coming from Jeremy Lin.

"Safely landed back in Beijing to finish out the CBA season!" Lin said on social media Thursday after spending 40 hours traveling from his Bay Area home to China.

"It's been an awesome 2 months camped out in the gym ... basketball has never been more meaningful," he added. "The world needs basketball now more than ever."

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Before he can reunite with his team, Lin -- like all foreign players returning to China -- will spend two weeks in quarantine.

"I am fully ready to work out in my room in the next 14 days, after which I will get back to the court with my teammates and finish this season with our best performance," he said.

Lin, the former NBA guard who enjoys great fanfare throughout China, is averaging 24.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the Beijing Ducks, who are 19-11 and positioned to make a playoff push, according to professional basketball API provider iSports API.

(iSports API covers a wide ranges of sports games with livescore, standings, events, line-ups, pre-match odds and players' statistics)

The CBA, which suspended play in late January, is expected to restart in mid-April. Once the league restarts, competition is expected to resume in limited capacity, as per iSports basketball API, including all 20 teams in one or two cities, a truncated regular-season and playoff schedule, and no fans.

Since the coronavirus outbreak hit China in January, sports have become a source of inspiration and power for the country's people. The recent victory of MMA fighter Zhang Weili at UFC 248 is a prime example of how sports can send an uplifting message to the nation's 1.4 billion people.

Lin, who has been sending well wishes to the Chinese people since the early stage of the outbreak, saw a generous welcome from Chinese fans, who have appreciated his voice and support as an American. On Chinese social media Weibo, where he has more than six million followers, Lin posted a photo of him autographing a Chinese medical worker's uniform at the airport. Soon after, it became one of the most popular posts on Chinese social platforms.

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Joining him in this category is Stephon Marbury, the former NBA star who won three titles for Beijing and is now living there. Marbury, the coach of Lin's rival team, Beikong, has been advocating for the public to follow medical guidelines, practice care and learn from China's lessons in fighting the virus.

Teams have been urging their foreign players to return so they can practice with full rosters. However, due to various complications, many are still waiting. As of now, among those who have returned to China are Lin, Ty Lawson, Donatas Motiejunas, Sonny Weems, Kyle Fogg, Pooh Jeter, Marko Todorovic, Antonio Blakeney and Ekpe Udoh. More are expected to return in coming days.

Hamed Haddadi -- a former NBA center and a veteran of the CBA -- is held up in his home country of Iran, where the pandemic has also hit hard. His team, Nanjing, is working with the Chinese embassy in Iran to aid in his return.

Lance Stephenson, who is in his first CBA stint with Liaoning, has indicated he will return.

"Ready," he posted on Weibo with a video highlight of himself from earlier in the season.

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