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Author Archives | Jon Pastuszek

About Jon Pastuszek

What the heck happened to NiuBBall: An update

August 9, 2014

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Among other things that happened while NiuBBall went AWOL… The China Olympic National Team lost to Italy… The latter of whom fielded only three players in overtime due to some “patriotic” home officiating that fouled out the majority of their roster.

The Lochness Monster. Area-51. Amelia Earhart. Darko Milicic. NiuBBall.

Trust us, we didn’t plan to get on the list of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries; it just sort of happened. Yet after a little less than a year of crickets (the Chinese ones in the little cages, to be exact), the search parties have come up largely empty in their attempt to get to the bottom of NiuBBall’s silent keyboards.

Until now.

Actually, the reason is really simple: I now have a legitimate, singular full-time job at Li-Ning, working on international basketball projects in the company’s sports marketing department. I’ve been working at there since July 2013, just a little before when NiuBBall went off the map. Attentive China hoops watchers are now starting to connect the dots. You see, Li-Ning sponsors the Chinese Basketball Association, as well as a few NBA guys. Before, covering “Basketball with Chinese Characteristics” was an interesting and entertaining topic to share with everyone. Now it has become a topic in which I am paid to represent. So posts like this one… Yeah, not so much anymore.

And trust me, as bummed out as all eleven of my readers are after learning of this news, nobody is more bummed out than yours truly. It was an amazing experience to provide the current, informed and accurate information English language coverage of Chinese hoops that the Internet lacked before. Maybe one day, I’ll have the chance to provide it again. Some people who had already figured out NiuBBall’s big move have suggested that the site should remain active in providing links and basic information about the world of Chinese hoops. While the idea isn’t terrible in its own right, NiuBBall’s philosophy is all-in, or all-out.

And unfortunately, we’re all-out for now.

That’s not to say you’re completely out of luck if you’re still lusting for China hoops. Because one of the positive thing that there is a real community of China English-language basketball blogs and websites out there now.

NiuBBall contributor Andrew Crawford is still doing his thing over at Shark Fin Hoops. Mark Dreyer at China Sports Insider does a great job of covering not only basketball, but the entire China sports scene. Nick Bedard over at Basketball Buddha does a great job not only covering the CBA, but all of Asia. Asia-Basket is still cool for stats and scores and news. Karan Madhok covers India Basketball at Hoopistani, which is now more relevant than ever after beating China in the FIBA Asia Cup, exploding the brains of all the people who watched the game live, and setting China basketball to a new low. (Which by the way was pretty hard to do after the same China Olympic Team lost a few weeks earlier to a three-man Italy team in a warm-up game. The state of China basketball, everyone!)

So, before I get fired and/or find myself locked in the basement of some building on Guangqumen Inner Street behind the CBA office, I’ll stop here. The site will still remain online. I will still answer my emails, I’ll still be on the streets hitting up jianbing… and I will still be at a pretty good pick-up game somewhere in Beijing. Peace, ya’ll.

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Earthquake: Beijing Olympians owner, Milton Lee, dies unexpectedly; Sun Yue signs with Beijing Ducks

October 2, 2013



Winston Lee, owner of the Beijing Olympians, the team who developed Sun Yue, died suddenly of a heart attack on September 18th.

From the onset of the Beijing Olympians establishment, the team and its eccentric owner, Winston Lee, always set out to do things differently.

Now, after Lee’s sudden passing and the departure of star player Sun Yue, the Olympians might not be able to do anything at all.

On September 26th, Chinese media reported that Lee, the longtime owner of the Olympians, had died of a sudden heart attack in Beijing. It was later discovered that Lee had actually passed on the 18th, but the news had been withheld from the public for a week. Lee was 55 years-old.

Lee’s unfortunate and sad death coincides with another ground-shaking piece of news out of the Olympians camp: National Team guard/forward, Sun Yue, is signing with the Beijing Ducks. According to Chinese media, the deal is worth CNY 4 million per year over two years. In addition, three other Olympian players, Zhang Songtao, Li Wei and Huang Haibei, will join the Ducks for the upcoming season as well.


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Pooh Jeter leads Ukraine to first ever 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup berth

September 22, 2013

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After beating Italy on Friday, Pooh Jeter and whatever that thing is are excited about Ukraine’s first ever qualification into the FIBA Basketball World Cup. (Photo:


After helping to lead the Shandong Gold Lions to their first ever CBA Finals appearance in club history last season, point guard Pooh Jeter has clearly proved himself as one of the top point guards on both the Chinese and overseas professional stage.

Now, on the heels of leading Ukraine to their best finish ever at the 2013 EuroBasket, he’ll have a chance to further prove himself on the biggest international stage of all: The 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

In a stunning two week run, Ukraine – picked by many towards the bottom of the 24-team field – ensured themselves of a top-six finish and an accompanying automatic qualifier spot in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup (formerly called the FIBA World Championship), defeating Italy 66-58 on Friday.

It will be Ukraine’s first time ever participating in a FIBA World Championship/World Cup.


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Working Weekend Links

September 21, 2013



We feel the same way about working on a Sunday, sister.

Only in China is a vacation not really a vacation. Case in point: The preposterous and unholy government-mandated holiday schedule for Mid-Autumn Festival, which officially started on Thursday. After getting two days off from work, the vast majority of China’s workforce will go into their job tomorrow on Sunday, work until Friday, rest on Saturday, work again on Sunday and go into work on the following Monday before getting seven straight days off from October 1st to the 8th. But even then, working weekends doesn’t end as everyone has to go back to work on Saturday 12th.

At NiuBBall, we are vehemently against mandatory working weekend, because weekends are for weekends; not for working. But to stand in solidarity with our working brothers and sisters, we’re dedicating this weeks’ batch of links to everyone whose goint into the office tomorrow… and the following Sunday… and the Saturday two weeks after.

(And if you want to throw eggs at the people who are responsible for making this mess of a holiday schedule, please look up the address this guys‘ house… you know, if you’re into throwing eggs at people’s houses.)


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NiuBBall is Alive!

September 21, 2013



While we shake off the 84 days of accumulated cobwebs, here’s a something that everyone can immediately get down to: A highlight video of 37 year-old Jason Williams crossing up straight-legged Chinese defenders and doing old-school elbow passes while he was here on a legends tour this past summer. Enjoy.

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Friday Night Chuanr

June 29, 2013



Nighttime links served up proper with a hearty helping of lamb on a stick. The beer is on you, though.


  • The FIBA World U-19 Championship is underway in Prague, Czech Republic. The Chinese, headlined by Zhou Qi and Gao Shang, two guys NiuBBall readers should be familiar with, are participating. Rafael Uehara has a fantastic preview over at The Basketball Post, for those interested.
  • According to Chinese reports, the Beijing Ducks have officially re-signed Randolph Morris for another season. If you haven’t already, check out my reaction on One World Sports.
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Two words sum up the newest trailer for Chinese basketball movie, “Amazing:” Holy. Shnikes.

June 27, 2013


Make sure you’re sitting down comfortably and that there are no breakables around your computer. OK? Now click and watch.


Where to begin? After bringing my pulse rate down, the premise appears simple enough: Take some of of the things Chinese males like (video games, basketball, NBA stars, CBA stars, virtual reality, alternate universes, women, other cool stuff), put them all onto the big screen and you have “Amazing,” a sci-fi/action/fantasy/basketball movie due out in China in late 2013.

According to the LA Times, the 3-D movie is being backed by the NBA, features several Chinese and American current and former basketball superstars, and cost around U.S. $10 million to make. The plot goes something like this:

“Amazing” centers on a video game company boss, Frank (Eric Mabius of TV’s “Ugly Betty”), who is eager to rush his firm’s new thought-controlled basketball game to market, despite the objections of the project leader Bingshan (popular Chinese actor Huang Xiaoming), who warns that a bug in the system could escape the computer and infect players’ brains.

Along the way, Anthony shows up to coach an after-school program in China and speaks Shanghainese. Pippen materializes at the bedside of his No. 1 Chinese fan, and wakes him from a coma by massaging his legs. Howard appears in a light blue spandex superhero get-up with a cape and tries to use chopsticks.

So other cool stuff includes male leg massages and what is bound to be some terrible Shanhainese. Though ‘Melo gets major props for trying. Hey, I’m with it either way. Other cool stuff also apparently includes weird sexual connotations from D-12:

“Think about the basketball as being a girl,” Howard tells Bingshan in one memorable line of dialogue during a one-on-one pickup game. “You’ve got to hold her, caress her, kiss her, and when you do that, she’ll make you happy.”

There’s also a “love triangle” involved, too. No word whether an actual basketball is one of the three sides involved in that triangle.

The LA Times is also reporting that the movie’s release will coincide with China’s National Day holidays in early October, which conveniently enough will also be around the same time the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors come to Beijing and Shanghai for the 2013 China Games.

We have no idea what to expect with this; we just know we will be seeing this. This trailer is so epic, it’d be a travesty not to. Even if we remained totally bummed out they didn’t call Mengke Bateer, who has a better acting resume than any of the pro players involved in this… combined.

(H/T @Trey Kirby and The Basketball Jones)

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NiuBBall Classics: Shanghai Sharks vs. Bayi Rockets, November 2001

June 26, 2013

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If Forrest Gump was Chinese and living in 2013, he’d probably say something like this: Life is kind of like flipping around Chinese television at 3am… You never know what you’re going to get.

So when we came across 重温经曲振兴大球, a late-night program on CCTV-5 that shows classic games from Chinese sports history, we stopped flipping. (Don’t worry, it was on a weekend.) The game? A throwback of throwbacks — the Yao Ming-led Shanghai Sharks vs. the Wang Zhizhi juggernaut Bayi Rockets from 2001. We were so pumped, we decided to live blog it. Enjoy.


We’re immediately greeted by a really crappy intro vid that is quickly followed up by a deep-voiced voice over whose Chinese pronunciation is so perfectly crystal clear my television screen is turning see-through. This guy will be called Brother Voice Over from now on.

As Brother Voice Over informs us, when Yao Ming and Wang Zhizhi first met on a basketball court in 1997, it was perhaps in the most Chinese way possible: At the National Games. Yao, playing in his first senior level competition for his hometown Shanghai squad, scored 13 points, while Wang had 19 for the People’s Liberation Army, who won the game.

Three years later in 2000, Yao had turned into a dominant force in the Chinese Basketball Association for the Sharks, leading his squad all the way to the league finals for the first time in club history. But in his way was the familiar Army team, the Bayi Rockets, and their smooth shooting center, Wang. Yao and the Sharks would lose handily to the Rockets, who were still in the midst of a dominant run of championships.

But on November 18, 2001, Yao would have his chance for revenge as his Sharks travelled to Ningbo, Zhejiang to play the Rockets in the CBA season opener. And that’s where we pick up the action.


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Craig Smith Interview

June 24, 2013




If you’ve watched Craig Smith play basketball for a bit, you’ve probably heard this phrase thrown around.

Craig Smith is a beast.

We were some of the early ones to figure that out.

In November 2002, perched on the familiar confines of our Section I, Row 13 seats inside Conte Forum, we watched on excitedly as Smith out-worked, out-muscled and out-played the mighty BABC All-Stars in his Boston College Eagles pre-season exhibition debut. After witnessing Al Skinner’s latest diamond-in-the-rough reveal himself as a ready-out-the-box Big East forward, we quickly arrived at another thought. You know, besides the whole beast bit.

Hope this guy stays four years.

Luckily for the Pastuszek family, who watched almost every home game as Boston College season ticket holders in the same Section I, Row 13 seats from 2000 to 2011 — and for every other Eagles basketball supporter, for that matter — Craig Smith did end up staying through his senior season. As part of a long line of similarly under-the-radar players that Skinner and his staff roamed the country to find and recruit to The Heights, the 6-7 250 pound power forward played alongside Troy Bell, Uka Agbai, Louis Hinnant, Jared Dudley and Tyrese Rice among several other key players from that era to spearhead a golden age in the program’s history. By the time senior night came in March 2006, Smith had personally amassed 2,349 points and 1,114 rebounds and had led the Eagles to a record-setting 96 wins, including a school record 28 in 2005-06, alongside three NCAA tournament appearances.

For those who weren’t as lucky as we were to catch Smith beast the competition in college, they certainly had their chance to see it at the game’s highest level. After Smith graduated Boston College, he went on to be drafted 36th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2006 NBA Draft. He would go onto stay in the NBA for six seasons, playing for the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers as well.

Now, playing in his first pro season overseas, he’s taking the beast thing global. After spending time in Israel with Hapoel Jerusalem, Smith is now in China, playing for the Hong Kong Xinda Bulls of the National Basketball League. A middle of the pack squad last year, the Bulls are off to a 9-4 start with Smith leading the way. Through the weekend, he’s averaging 32.5 points and 13.8 rebounds per game on 63% shooting, according to Asia-Basket. With promotion into China’s top league, the Chinese Basketball Association, potentially on the line, this season means more than ever for NBL teams this season; a fact not lost on Smith, whose dominance has garnered the attention of Asia-Basket, awarding him as the league’s mid-season MVP.

Last week, we jumped on the phone with the Los Angeles native to talk about the season, living in China, his days at Boston College and playing for a Hong Kong team that plays everywhere but Hong Kong.


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Tracy McGrady doesn’t know who Wang Zhelin is, doesn’t think there’s anybody in CBA good enough to play in NBA

June 17, 2013



Despite being the consensus top young player in the CBA, Tracy McGrady has no idea who Wang Zhelin is.

There’s a lot of great story lines from this year’s NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, but there’s one that’s most relevant to NiuBBall and to Chinese basketball in general:

Tracy McGrady is one win away from an NBA championship.

OK well there’s actually three: Besides T-Mac, Miami’s Chris Anderson (Jiangsu Dragons, 2001) and San Antonio’s Patty Mills (Xinjiang Flying Tigers, 2012) both have played in China as well.

But it’s Mai Di who has the cult following in China and whose mere hand wave causes grown men to cry. And it’s McGrady who to go through what was arguably the most unique — and that’s putting it politically correct — experience in China foreign player history. Yet T-Mac, staying classy as always, had nothing but good things to say when asked by American media during these Finals.

My experience in China was great,” McGrady said in an interview with Alex Kennedy at HoopsWorld. “I had a lot of fun over there. Chinese fans are unbelievable and they made me feel like a rock star. Every arena I showed up to was [sold out], and thousands of people were waiting just for my bus to pull up. The airport was just flooded with people.”

Who he actually he played against while in those arenas? Not so memorable, according to a transcript published by Chinese media outlet, NetEase. Prior to Game 2 of the Finals, a journalist interviewed McGrady, leading off with the question that every Chinese NBA fan wants to know: Is there anybody in China who has a shot to play in The League one day? […]

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Giannakis released by Limoges, to stay with Team China

June 17, 2013



Panagiotis Giannakis isn’t going anywhere. At least not where China is concerned.

After being the subject of several rumors regarding his exit as Team China head coach last week, “The Dragon” will resume his duties with Chinese. The 54 year-old Greek was back on the bench in China this past weekend, where he coached his team to a 1-1 split against the Australian national team in the second leg at 2013 Sino-Australian Men’s International Basketball Challenge in Tianjin and Yongcheng.

However, back in Europe, Giannakis’ future is far less clear. On Friday, his French club team, Limoges, announced that they are terminating his contract, citing “serious misconduct.” Limoges, who argue that Giannakis’ responsibilities in China will conflict with those in France, attempted to come to a settlement in the form of a pay cut with their head coach last week. According to, the two sides failed to arrive at an agreement. The inability to find a middle ground appears as a large contributing factor towards Limoges decision to let Giannakis go.

According to Basketball Pioneers, Giannakis will appeal the decision.


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Rumors abound over Giannakis alleged exit from China; CBA denies any knowledge of situation

June 11, 2013



According to Serbian journalist, Djordje Matic, Pannagiotis Giannakis and the Chinese National Team are set to part ways. Matic later tweeted that his sources were 100% accurate. Both tweets were sent out yesterday.

China recently completed their first two exhibition games under Giannakis in Australia, going 1-1 against the Australian National Team.

Today, Matic’s tweets have made headlines on all of China’s major news outlets. In response, the Chinese Basketball Association formally denounced the news, saying that they haven’t heard anything about Giannakis alleged exit from the team.

“I haven’t heard anything about what you’re talking about,” said national team leader Zhang Xiong, who replied to a Chinese journalist via text message.


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Wukesong Basketball Park to open in July

June 5, 2013



Wukesong Basketball Park will include 11 full-courts, one half-court and will come with a host of sweet amenities. And all of it will be available for public use.

Since hosting the world’s best basketball players at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Wuksong Arena has become the premier symbol of the sport in both Beijing and in China.

Five years later, Wukesong is about to show some of that love back.

Last week, Wukesong Arena Management Co. held a press conference to formally announce the construction of Wukesong Basketball Park. The state-of-the-art facility, which will be built adjacent to the arena on the south side, will include 11 full-courts, four of which will be indoor, and will be spread out of 15,200 square meters of space. In addition, there will be a fenced in half-court, which will serve as the park’s featured court. The four indoor courts will be insulated by transparent glass walls and will be equipped with heating and air conditioning, making them available for use all year.

The park will also include shopping areas, locker rooms, restaurants, family areas and an elevated viewing gallery among other amenities.

And all of it will be open to the public.


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East Asia Basketball Championship: More proof that something is seriously wrong with Chinese basketball

May 28, 2013



The East Asia Basketball Championship in Incheon, Korea concluded last Tuesday mostly as expected. As the qualifying tournament for the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, all the big boys from the region clinched their ticket to the Philippines, including China, Korea, Japan and Chinese Taipei, as well as not-so-big-boy Hong Kong. (And congrats to HK, who will be making their first trip to the Championship since 2007.)

One thing didn’t go quite as expected, however: China didn’t win gold.

It’s old news by now, but for those who don’t know, the heavily favored Chinese went down to South Korea 79-68 in the gold medal match. Even though it was a battle between China’s Olympic Team (a fancy name for their U-23 team) and a hodgepodge of Korea’s military team and some college players, the win was marked as the Korean’s first ever triumph at the EABC and their first win over China in a major international competition since 2002.

Now let’s get things totally straight. For the Chinese, this is not a complete disaster. Even though it kind of is.


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The NBL: Kinda sorta worth paying attention to this summer

May 21, 2013



With the CBA set to add a team from the NBL next season, clubs like Shaanxi are shelling out good money to get high level imports, such as Craig Smith, to both win the league and increase their promotion chances.

In China, searching for a late night snack is kind of like going into 7-11 at 11:45pm to see that the guang dong zhu is still bubbling: Technically it’s available, but it’s probably best avoided.

That’s how we would best sum up the NBL (National Basketball League). Yeah, it’s around. And in the Chinese basketball summertime, where the non-national team pickings are generally slim, that counts for something. But it’s still not very good.

Nor is it very productive towards anything. Officially, the NBL operates as China’s second-tier professional basketball league and like it’s distant relative, the CBA, it is governed under the all encompassing umbrella of the Chinese Basketball Association. And oh, there’s quite a bit of on-court brawls, too. But what it actually is or what it actually does, has largely remained a mystery to anyone who actually cares enough to ask those questions.


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