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'Unpatriotic' star dumped from China team

Wang in action for the Mavericks during the NBA Western Conference semi-finals
Wang in action for the Mavericks during the NBA Western Conference semi-finals  

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- China's star center, Wang ZhiZhi has been dumped from the national squad for September's World Championships because of a lack of patriotism.

In a statement on its Internet site, the China Basketball Association (CBA) slammed Wang for not returning to China to join training with the national squad after the end of the NBA season.

Wang became the first Chinese basketballer to play in the NBA when he debuted for the Dallas Mavericks during the 2000-2001 season.

The 2.15-meter (7 ft 1 inch) center refused to return to China at the end of the last season, fueling speculation he was on the verge of defecting because of the CBA demands -- though Wang has publicly denied those accusations.

He has also refused to play for China at the upcoming Asian Games in South Korea.

"Strategy needs to be closely tied to a high level of collective training, to represent the national team needs a high level of patriotism, these must all be at the heart, the will and the happiness of such a person," the CBA statement said. Asia
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"How can we let a person represent this nation if he does not see the needs of the collective training of his country and if he places his own interests above all else?" it added.

"Due to Wang Zhizhi's mistaken choices, in the end he will not represent China at the World Championships."

China's basketball authorities had initially been keen to welcome the center and have him join the team's 'Walking Great Wall' -- made up by centers Menk Batere and new NBA top draft pick Yao Ming -- at the World Championships which start August 8.

The statement indicated that the door was still open for Wang to join the squad, but only if he returns immediately to China to train for the Asian Games which begin late next month. The requirement would effectively mean Wang would miss the NBA training camps and pre-season.

Wang's exit from the national squad is seen as a massive blow for China's hopes of improving on a best-ever eighth place at the World Championships.

Though the team boasts Denver Nuggets center Menk as well as Yao, picked up by the Houston Rockets, Wang's NBA experience was seen as key for China's fortunes.

In the 2001-2002 season, Wang averaged 5.6 points and 2.0 rebounds from 10.9 minutes per game in the NBA.

Wang became a free agent after his season with Dallas and is yet to receive any offers from other NBA teams. However, the Mavericks had indicated they intend to sign Wang to a new contract.




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