Chinese basketball player Zhou Qi to join Liaoning Flying Leopards
Li Xiang

Chinese basketball player Zhou Qi, who used to play for the NBA's Houston Rockets, is joining CBA's Liaoning Flying Leopards, reported Tencent Sports on Thursday.

Zhou has reportedly arrived in Shenyang, capital city of northeast China's Liaoning Province from Houston by plane on Thursday afternoon and was welcomed by the head of the Flying Leopards. Zhou will train with the team and join the national team to play the next round of the qualifications for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

He is not expected to play this season because he's not pre-registered with the Chinese basketball league.

Zhou Qi in action for CBA's Xinjiang Flying Tigers. /VCG Photo

Zhou Qi in action for CBA's Xinjiang Flying Tigers. /VCG Photo

The Tencent report said that issues remain between Zhou and the Xinjiang Flying Tigers over his move. Xinjiang believed that Zhou should come back to play for the team while Zhou disagreed. So far it's not clear if their differences were settled or whether the Flying Tigers would throw obstacles in the way of Zhou playing for Liaoning next season.

Li Nan, the head coach of the Chinese basketball national team previously expressed interest in recruiting Zhou for the two World Cup qualification games in the future.

According to Tencent report, back when Zhou was playing for the Rockets, he was in possession of the P-1 visa for athletes. After the team waived him, Zhou's visa ceased to be effective. Though he could still stay in the U.S. for a limited period of time (and he did), Zhou did not find an NBA team willing to go through the mountainous paperwork and wait for months for his visa to be reactivated.

Zhou Qi wears the men's basketball gold medal of the 2018 Asian Games. /VCG Photo

Zhou Qi wears the men's basketball gold medal of the 2018 Asian Games. /VCG Photo

Choosing CBA is the best option for both Zhou and Team China.

The national team needs Zhou in his best condition for the FIBA World Cup that will start in China on August 31. If Zhou continues to train by himself instead of working with a professional team, there's no telling how this would effect his status, although it sure won't be good. Financially CBA is the best stage for Zhou. Liaoning will be able to offer him a better package than any NBA team would and give him the franchise-player-role he needs.

Zhou's arrival also spells good news for the Flying Leopards. As the CBA defending champion, the team currently ranks No.2 after the Guangdong Southern Tigers claimed 25 straight wins. In many people's eyes, Zhou could match a foreign player with his abilities. Moreover, he's only 23 years old and thus has his whole career ahead to help Liaoning establish a new dynasty.

Chinese fans already began to joke about Zhou joining Liaoning by calling his move the "last episode of 'Who will win the CBA championship?'". Some even wrote that this season will be the last chance for the other 19 teams to compete for the title.