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Kenyon Martin to become third Nugget to play in China

Sep 21, 2011, 1:35 PM EDT

Kenyon Martin AP

Kenyon Martin is about to join J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler as key Denver Nuggets free agents that have decided to play a season in China rather than see how the lockout plays out.

And that leaves the Nuggets screwed for next season.

Martin’s agent Andy Miller confirmed to Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post the planned signing with Xingiang Guanghui in the Chinese Basketball Association. That is the team that also has former NBA player Quincy Douby.

“It’s a great opportunity for him to stay in shape and stay fresh,” said Andy Miller, Martin’s agent. “And it also gives him an opportunity to expand his name globally.”

The Chinese Basketball Association has a rule in place that players cannot have opt-out clauses in their contracts, forcing teams to only target players who were to be free agents. The Nuggets have a lot of those.

This means three key rotation players for the Nuggets are gone for the entire next season (there is the possibility of a handshake deal to cut these guys loose when the lockout ends, but don’t bet on it). It’s not that any of these guys individually is irreplaceable, but as a group they are. The Nuggets looked good at the end of last season because they played very team-oriented ball, with a number of quality players willing to defend and make the extra pass. Now that team is breaking up for at least a season.

Martin, age 34, started the 48 games he was healthy last season and was a key part of the Nuggets play bringing a physical inside presence, even though he averaged just 8.6 points per game. J.R. Smith was a sixth man of the year candidate for the Nuggets providing 12.3 points per game, and Wilson Chandler saw significant minutes and started 19 games for the team after coming over from the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade.

All of them will play next season in China.

Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari has signed to play in Italy and Ty Lawson will be in Lithuania, but both of them have opt-out contracts to return to the NBA when the league ends.

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