Despite relative success, James Singleton’s year with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers was a tough ride for the four year NBA veteran.
Like almost all foreign players who played last year in the CBA, James Singleton is back in his home country, watching the NBA Finals, living in the comfort of familiar surroundings… and doing interviews on international satellite radio.
OK, well maybe the latter is quite unlike most CBA foreign players. But, that’s because Singleton’s story is very different than most Chinese imports. What, you think NBA-caliber players who reject NBA contracts to play in rural China just grow on trees?
The answer: no. Which is why Singleton appeared on Canadian radio show, Hardcore Hoops, which is broadcast by The Score, to talk about his year with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers.
To give an equally brief and general recap of what happened with the former Clipper-Maverick-Wizard foward this year in Urumqi, Singleton was brought in with former King-Raptor guard, Quincy Douby, to form the highest paid foreign player combination in league history. The reason was simple: beat the Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers, the team who had beat Xinjiang with ease in the CBA Finals the last two years.
And though he, Douby and the Flying Tigers won the franchise’s first ever regular season title, the team ultimately fell short in their quest to win a CBA title, losing to the same team, the now seven-time champion Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers, for the third straight year.
Back in his home base of Dallas for almost two months since the loss, Singleton, who has had some time to ponder his year with the Flying Tigers, painted his Xinjiang portrait as one full of frustration and dismay:
It was kind of tough for me when I first got there. The guys were all so willing to learn. You know, me and [Quincy] Douby when we first got in we tried to teach them different things, but… They had a coach [Jiang Xingquan] there that was just … military … you know, he wouldn’t let them progress and learn. You know everything was one way or no way. And they were so afraid to just go out there and play basketball that it got to the point where we got to the championship, they all just locked up because if they made a mistake, they’d look straight at the bench.”
As NiuBBall readers know, similar to a drill sergeant, the straight from the Chinese old-school Jiang rules over every aspect of his Chinese players’ lives, including when they go to sleep, when they’re allowed to talk on their cell phones, who they are allowed to see during the season and how long they are to practice.
In the interview, Singleton said he “learned to be a lot more patient” as a result of his coach’s personality. It’s known in the CBA that he and Coach Jiang clashed, most notably late in the season. That’s not news. It’s also not news that Singleton, who gave us an extremely open and honest interview back in December, would be so, well, honest about his feelings towards Jiang.
We were at Games 4 and 5 of the CBA Finals in Guangdong, and we saw the exact same thing that James did — scared, unaggressive local players who were constantly looking back in fear towards the bench every time they made a mistake. That’s no way for anybody, let alone grown men, to play good basketball. Whereas Guangdong’s players had the freedom to play because they had a trust in their coach and his system, Xinjiang instead looked too much to its super foreign duo of Singleton and Douby to take the load simply because they didn’t think attempting to make a play was worth risking the wrath of their coach. Instilling discipline and smart basketball through strictness is one thing. But, scaring your players into being downright afraid?
That’s why we think it’s news that Xinjiang is bringing this guy back for another year.
Singleton also shared that upon arrival, all he ate during the first week was “eggs and rice” and that on the road, his diet consisted of McDonald’s and KFC. There are a lot of things we have been able to understand in this country, but why teams can’t find good, healthy restaurants for their foreign players when they’re on the road will always be beyond us.
When asked if he plans on making a return to the NBA next season, Singleton said:
I’m going make a push to come back [to the NBA] this year… if there’s not a lockout, I’m definitely going to be back home. Because I haven’t lost anything. I’ve learned more each year. Coming back home, if you play overseas… it’s a whole new world, man. If you can play in China, the contact in the NBA is nothing compared to the contact over there. So it definitely gave a little bit more of a weapon to use when I come home.
Anybody who has watched Singleton, either in the NBA, Europe or China knows that he is a player who likes to bang inside, so we take his words about the differences in physicality between the NBA and China very seriously. Trust me, I know — your probably scoffing at the mere suggestion that the CBA is more physical than the NBA. But, for those who have either played pick-up in China or watched Chinese hoops, it’s not as far fetched as you’d think. Though local CBA players aren’t nearly as strong or athletic as NBA players, officials in China call things very loose in the paint, especially off the ball. As almost every Chinese player tends to play defense with their upper body, the non-stop clutching, grabbing, pushing, chopping, clubbing, hugging and even the occasional choking go un-whistled most of the time.
And about his goal of coming back to the NBA, it looks like he’ll have an opportunity to make good on that. According to Scott Schroeder at Ridiculous Upside, Singleton is among 15 players who will participate in a free-agent camp with the Oklahoma City Thunder this week. We’d be surprised if he didn’t get a contract offer from an NBA this summer (or whenever teams are again allowed to offer contracts to free-agents). He plays the right way, rebounds, works his butt off and doesn’t care about his own offense. He’d be a good contributor for any team’s bench.
The rest of the interview covers James’ take on his old team’s, the Dallas Mavericks, run to the NBA Finals , what it was like watching Dirk Nowitzki practice, and his goal to make basketball more fun for kids. It’s well worth the listen, even if the guys at Hardcore Hoops butchered the crap out of the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers.
(H/T Truth About It.net)