Chinese basketball player Zhou Qi who used to play for NBA's Houston Rockets clarified later on Thursday that he came back to China only to visit his friends and family and that he's still waiting to hear from the U.S. side about his future.
"I want to say 'thank you' to the fans for their concerns. I have been training recently while my agent has been in touch with the U.S. side. I came back this time because the Chinese Spring Festival is coming so I want to take this opportunity to visit my friends and family, whom I have not seen in a long time," said Zhou in a phone interview according to Tencent Sports.
Zhou Qi also mentioned that he's waiting for the outcome of the negotiations between his agent and the NBA teams that reached out to him.
Zhou Qi was waived by the Houston Rockets last month. /VCG Photo
Zhou was spotted in Beijing on Thursday, according to a Weibo user named "Purple Poisonous Rose," who also posted a photo of her and Zhou standing together.
The news immediately sparked a stir among Chinese basketball fans who started to raise various questions including "When did Zhou Qi come back?" "Where was this photo taken?" "Is Zhou Qi joining the Beijing Ducks?"
It should be pointed out that before the 2018-19 NBA regular season began, there were reports about the Ducks reaching out to Zhou.
Weibo user "Purple Poisonous Rose" (L) with basketball player Zhou Qi. /Screenshot of Weibo
According to Tencent Sports, Zhou did not leave Beijing immediately but went to a hotel where Liaoning Flying Leopards are staying. The team is in the capital to play an away game against the Beijing Flying Dragons on Friday. Zhou met his former teammates (Zhou used to play for Liaoning's youth team) and had lunch with the team's head coach Guo Shiqiang, who went to the U.S. to visit Zhou in 2018.
Since Zhou was waived by the Rockets in December 2018, his next destination has become the focus of public spotlight.
In his interview with CCTV, Zhou said that his injuries were fully cured and his agent was in talks with other NBA teams.Though some did offer him trial opportunities, there's no news about Zhou joining any team.
Guo Shiqiang, head coach of CBA's Liaoning Flying Leopards. /VCG Photo
Shenyang Daily reported on Thursday that general manager Li Hongqing of the Flying Leopards will try everything to sign Zhou Qi if he wants to come back to and play in the CBA.
Some fans do not like the idea of Zhou returning to the CBA this season because for a player like him to suddenly join a team in the middle of the season is not only a big hit to the league's current pattern, but also unfair to the rest of the teams.
Some disagreed on this and gave the example of Yi Jianlian of the Guangdong Southern Tigers as an argument. When Yi was waived by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016, he came back and joined the Southern Tigers to play in the CBA. If there could be an exception for Yi, then it would make sense to give Zhou Qi the same chance.
So far it remains unclear whether Zhou will continue his journey in the NBA or come back to the CBA but there's one thing for sure: with just seven months to go for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, that will take place in China, not playing for such a long time will have a very bad effect on Zhou.