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Super Basketball League not looking so super to Taiwan’s best players

July 1, 2011


Post by Jon Pastuszek 

July 1, 2011


The slow, painful death of Taiwanese professional basketball continues to drag on into the summer, as a growing number of Taiwanese ballers are turning their back on the Super Basketball League to board a plane (maybe a boat, too) bound for China.

Last season, the CBA featured three players from Taiwan: Beijing’s Lee Hsueh-lin (李学林), Guangsha’s Lin Chih-chieh (林志杰) and DongGuan’s Chen Shin-an (陈信安), who is also known to some as Sean Chen.  Playing in his first year in the CBA, the 5-8 (1.73 meters) Lee quickly became a crowd favorite in the capital and around the league due to his Spud Webb-ish height, three-point accuracy, flashy ball handling and feisty play.

In DongGuan, “Air Taiwan” Chen, who once showed enough promise to be invited to the Sacramento Kings training camp in 2002, played in 38 games, got 11 starts and averaged a meager 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds.  Chen has battled a number of injures over the last few years, the most serious being a torn left ligament he suffered in 2005, which in turn has limited his once considerable athleticism.

And then there was Lin, who if you follow Chinese basketball and/or this blog, you know had a tremendous year for Guangsha in this third year with the team.  The 6-5 (1.96m) guard/forward averaged career highs across the board with 15.5 points, 3.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds.

All three will remain in the CBA next year.  In Lin’s case, he’ll remain, but with much bigger pockets.  He recently signed a three-year extension worth a reported 2,000,000 RMB (around $300,000).

And now, as expected, the CBA is about to welcome another wave of Taiwanese basketball players to the mainland. Former Taiwan Beer star, Tseng Wen-ting, who would have gone to play in China last season if negotiations had gotten wrapped up before the mid-season free-agent deadline, will play for Shanghai next year.  As arguably the best and most well-liked player in Taiwan right now, Tseng’s exodus to the mainland has set off a wave of Taiwan-to-China movement from  that will undoubtedly have a huge affect on both leagues.

Correction: As the Taiwan-based Andrew Lowman over at Asia Basketball Update informed us via e-mail, Tseng actually played for four-time SBL champ, the Yulon Luxgen Dinos.  Combined with the departure of Lee, who also played for the team, Tseng’s mid-season departure basically destroyed the franchise.  Yulon finished the year in fourth place with a 15-15 record, their worst season in franchise history.

In addition to Tseng, Shanghai is also in negotiations with 2011 SBL Finals MVP, Yang Ching-min (杨敬敏), who won the title with the Beer in the spring.  Wu Tai-hao, another Beer player, was originally reported to have signed with Guangsha, but a deal apparently has yet to get done, as Shandong is also interested in signing him to a deal.  You may know Wu from his days at BYU-Hawaii.

So why the huge sudden influx of Taiwanese talent into the CBA?  Money.  Tseng is making money similar to Lin, and Yang and Wu, though likely making a notch below, will still be making much better money than they could ever net while playing in Taiwan.  Considering that Shanghai and Guangsha, two teams with a lot of money, are the ones involved in all of this tells us that its certainly not chump change.

Then, there’s the talent level.  At the end of the day, these guys are basketball players.  Basketball players want to play against the best competition possible.  Shriveling away in Taiwan in a league where even its own teams don’t want to stay is not the best option when you have rich Chinese owners throwing wads of renminbi at you.

Finally, as Taiwanese players don’t count as foreign imports, they can play unlimited minutes alongside any lineup, which makes them quite valuable.

Really, the entire situation not only says a lot about Taiwanese professional basketball, but Asian professional basketball in general.  The bj-league in Japan is small-budget and can’t afford to bring in top Asian talent to the country. It can’t even afford to keep its own teams from going bankrupt.  Korea would rather spend their money on big-name Americans, apparently.

The truth of the matter is, there’s not any other options for Taiwanese players.


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