BEIJING Two-times NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady's decision to extend his career in China gives the league its most successful player to date and has earned widespread praise.
"I think it is a great idea," NBA commissioner David Stern told the China Daily. "The CBA has become a place where players can extend their careers, and that's a wonderful thing."
The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) has seen several former NBA players join in recent seasons, with former New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury its greatest success story.
The 35-year-old Marbury, who also had spells in Boston and Phoenix, led the Beijing Ducks to the CBA title earlier this year.
McGrady's arrival at the Qingdao Eagles will add further interest as the seven-times All-Star played alongside Yao Ming for the Houston Rockets for six years from 2004-10.
"It's good for Tracy," McGrady's former Houston team mate Shane Battier said.
"Maybe he thinks it's the best chance to be the Tracy they all know," Battier added. "Maybe he just wants something new and different, which a lot of guys do after playing in the NBA for so long. China's definitely a good choice."
McGrady will reportedly become the highest-paid player in the CBA and his coach has already targeted the playoffs.
But health and motivation will be factors for the 33-year-old, coming off a career-low season averaging 5.3 points in just 16 minutes with the Atlanta Hawks.
"The CBA isn't as easy as people think," warned Marbury. "I don't know what he will be capable of doing until he plays."
Stern said former NBA players were attracted by the CBA's increased competitiveness, also sounding a note of caution for fans not to expect too much of McGrady too soon.
"The CBA's talent level has got higher," he said, noting that NBA All-Stars Steve Francis and Kenyon Martin had also played in China, while former MVP Allen Iverson is flirting with the idea.
"In the past, Tracy might have gone to Europe, now we see he's in China.
"The CBA has high standards now and sometimes players who are expected to do well don't do so well. That's because it's a higher level of competition, much higher than it used to be."
(Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)