China's goal of regaining basketball supremacy at the Asian Games has become a tougher challenge after NBA player Jordan Clarkson was reclassified as a "special exception" and allowed to join rival Philippines.
The NBA on Wednesday announced special exception status for its players to compete at the Asiad in Indonesia, permitting Cleveland Cavaliers' guard Clarkson to suit up at the quadrennial tournament after initially being told he was ineligible.
Earlier, Chinese NBA players Zhou Qi and Ding Yanyuhang, who play for the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks respectively, were cleared to play in Indonesia.
According to the NBA's agreement with FIBA, basketball's world governing body, active NBAers can only represent their national squads internationally at the Olympics, FIBA Word Cup and Continental Cup competitions.
"However, due to a lack of clear communication of that agreement between the NBA and the Chinese and Philippines Basketball Federations, and after further discussions with both federations, the NBA has agreed to provide this one-time exception," the league said in a statement.
After learning that Zhou and Ding were on China's Asian Games roster, the Philippines association petitioned the NBA to approve Clarkson, who holds a Philippines passport, after 10 of its national team players were banned by FIBA for their involvement in a brawl during a World Cup qualifying game against Australia on July 2.
Clarkson, whose mother is Filipino, averaged 13.9 points, 2.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds for the Cavaliers last season.
"My heart is full of gratitude for everyone who helped make this happen. See you all very soon," he said on social media after learning of the decision.
After finishing fifth at the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea, China has been rolling out a reform plan masterminded by CBA chairman Yao Ming to regain its continental dominance in the buildup to next year's FIBA World Cup in China.
Team China showed good form in its final warm-up tournament for the Asiad, beating Tunisia 77-72 on Tuesday at the four-team invitational Stankovic Cup in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, with Zhou scoring 22 points and grabbing six rebounds.
China kicks off the Asiad with a group match against the Philippines on Aug 21 before facing Kazakhstan two days later.