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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: End Of Season Review

April 9, 2012

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The NiuBBall water cooler/heater: Where you can chat with friends about hoops while sipping either hot or cold water.

This chat originally appeared on Shark Fin Hoops.

The end of the 2011-12 CBA season is here, which means its time to switch our NiuBBall coverage to other things. But before we do, our guy Andrew Crawford over at Shark Fin Hoops has organized a final Pastuszek-Bothfeld-Crawford three-man gathering around the water cooler/heater to recap the year that was. As always, feel free to fill your cups with whatever temperature water your body desires.

Andrew Crawford: First things first, Beijing Ducks are the CBA champions. They led the league, then they had that slump, they needed five games to beat Shanxi- how surprised are you guys with the Ducks being the CBA champions?

Edward Bothfeld: After getting off to such a hot start, you had to expect there would be a mid-season letdown but with the way they started the season, it showed that they were going to be one of the best teams all year long. With Shanxi, I feel like they could have taken any team to the brink of defeat because Williams and Gaines can really score the ball. The first few games against Guangdong surprised me because I expected Guangdong to win but after their Game 2 victory, it seemed that Beijing might actually be better than Guangdong.

Jon Pastuszek: Regardless of how they started the season, I always thought it was going to be Guangdong again. Remember when Xinjiang went 31-1 last season in the regular season and people thought they were finally going to get a championship? Guangdong always plays below their level in the regular season because they know their final goal is a championship, so I never took much stock in Beijing’s hot start.

Plus, with Beijing only going seven deep, I also thought there’d be fatigue issues so to see Beijing lift the trophy was a huge surprise to me. That said, I wonder — and this to me is the big “what if” that doesn’t get raised enough — if a motivated Wilson Chandler had been playing in the playoffs, would Beijing have even made it past the first round?

EB: Jim Cleamons firmly believed, without a doubt, that if they had Wilson they would have won that series. A motivated Wilson that is. Cleamons also said that the Beijing team knew that too.

AC: That’s an interesting point which I was going to ask later but we might as well talk about now- Chandler, J. R. Smith and Kenyon Martin were the big names coming over this summer. Wilson walked out, Smith couldn’t get his team into the playoffs and K-Martin bought his contract out after half the season. When we look back at this season, did these three guys justify the hype?

EB: Wilson and J.R. were good when they wanted to be but once the lockout ended, all bets were off. Wilson really struggled once the lockout ended and he saw Kenyon board that plane back to the States so I think if the lockout had lasted a lot longer, the hype would have been justified, but the fact that Kenyon and Wilson didn’t even finish the season, I don’t think you can say they justified the hype. And J.R. Smith put up impressive numbers but when I saw him live it looked like he was goofing around the majority of the time – attempting impossible passes, etc.

JP: I think Ned is right about the impact of the NBA season resuming. All of those guys signed in China with the expectation that the NBA wouldn’t be playing, so for the lockout to end suddenly was huge. You can come out and say that it doesn’t bother you, but when you’re a free-agent who has the comforts of home and a big money contract waiting for you, of course it’s going to impact your performance. When K-Mart first got bought out, and then got his FIBA clearance, that just took things to a new level, but I think it also depends on how you interpret “hype”- even though none of those guys played in the playoffs, they helped to attract more attention to the league than ever before. Ratings and attendance were higher than ever before, so if you’re looking it at from that standpoint, I think they did live up to the hype. I’m sure their teams feel otherwise, however…

AC: Indeed. What have you guys made of less heralded names from this season? Before he got injured, I thought Ryan Forehan-Kelly was amongst the best imports in the CBA. Besides Marcus Williams (obviously), who stood out to you as an overseas guy really making a difference in the league?

JP: I’m with you on RFK; his numbers may not have jumped off the page, but he was a huge reason for Shanghai’s success before he got hurt. Having played under Panaggio and his triangle offense, in the D-League, he was a big part of their success in integrating that offense in Shanghai. Not only that, he was their best clutch performer and was their most versatile perimeter defender. Just from a fan standpoint, it was sad to see him get hurt. Other guys who stood out: I’ve always been a big James Singleton guy, I just like his unselfishness and how he’s commited to winning. Will McDonald in Fujian was also great to watch, he’s one of the most skilled bigs to come into this league in a while and I hope he’ll be back next year.

AC: I am a big Zaid Abbas fan. After watching him live, I really have an appreciation for all the little things he does; his hustle, his determination, his shit talking- I want him on my team, and as we’ve seen, every team he goes to starts doing really well. He’s a winner.

JP: Would either of you sign him as a regular, non-Asian import though?

AC: Personally speaking, I would- either him or Singleton would be perfect for Coach Panaggio’s setup. I know they are talking about scrapping the Asian import but regardless, he’s a proven player. I’d be delighted to see him pitch up Shanghai- the Yuanshen would go nuts for him.

EB: Another guy I liked besides Abbas was Lester Hudson. I realize he hoisted a ton of shots but he was all over the place, getting steals, rebounds, etc- and after talking with him after his game against Guangsha, it seemed like his head was really in the right place and that he was dedicated to winning as a team and becoming a better player personally.

AC: Okay then, lets move on- which Chinese player(s) really stood out for you? I know he flew under the radar because he plays for a terrible team in Tianjin but Zhang Nan looked like a tidy player in the forward posistion. Han Dejun looks like he could be a monster with the right coaching and conditioning and I’ve got to show some love for Zhang Zhaoxu who is getting better and better every game. The Sharks coaches really like him and he could well be an every night double-double guy next season.

JP: Beijing’s Zhu Yanxi was a guy who really caught my eye this season. A big part of the Ducks’ championship was their ability to spread the floor and let Marbury do his thing. Without Zhu drawing out opposing bigs, there’s no way they would have been as successful as they were. I’ve always thought China should look to produce more Euro-type big guys who can stretch the floor and shoot it from the perimeter; maybe Zhu will convince coaches of the same. I’m looking forward towards seeing him develop both on Beijing and the National Team in the years ahead. Other guys I liked this year- Han and Zhang both looked good and I also really liked Xinjiang’s Xirelijiang.

EB: For Guangsha, I felt like Wang Zirui made a lot of progress in terms of developing. At just 18 years old, he was the youngest player in the CBA. He started the season on Jim Cleamons’ bench but was the starting PG by the time the playoffs rolled around. If he continues to develop, he will be a starting caliber PG for years to come.

AC: What about coaches? I know I’m writing from a Shanghai perspective but I have to say that the turn-around sparked by Coach Panaggio here has been impressive. What are your thoughts on guys who’ve made a big impact from the touchline?

JP: I agree about Panaggio, and I think Brian Goorjian in Dongguan also has done really well. Both overcame slow starts to make the playoffs and both made it a priority to develop their Chinese players, which is ultimately what this league should be about. Yang Xuezeng was the first coach ever to lead Shanxi to a post-season berth, so I think that has to be commended as well.

EB: Yeah, I also thought Daniel Panaggio did an excellent job with Shanghai. He preached defense and it showed. He also managed to incorporate Marcus Landry into the team’s system after Ryan Forehan-Kelly went down with the Achilles injury. Shanghai finished the 2011 season 12-20 and was ranked all the way down at fifteen on NiuBBall’s season preview. Coaching had a lot to do with their turnaround.

AC: What teams did well this season? There have been a few surprises this season but which teams really caught your eye?

EB: Qingdao and Fujian were nice surprises. I can’t say it enough- Lester Hudson is a hell of a player, although he does shoot the air out of the ball. Qingdao were fun to watch and it was good to see them have some success. As we anticipated, Fujian would get a boost due to the addition of Abbas, who was their Asian import. But I don’t think anyone saw them making the playoffs. Besides Abbas, McDonald really came on strong and played well — and if Roberson was shooting well, they really had a three headed monster. I thought they could make some noise in the playoffs, but with Roberson and Abbas battling injuries, they had no chance.

JP: You have to start with Beijing. I think a lot of people expected them to be a playoff team, but hardly anybody thought they’d be serious championship contenders. For a team to go from a periphery playoff squad to CBA champion is unheard of in this league, even more so when you consider that Beijing was among the younger teams this season. Shanghai was another team that surprised me; a new coach, a new offense, lots of young players and relatively unknown imports- I thought it was going to be a long season in Yuanshen.

AC: You’ve mentioned the improbable success of Beijing but we should also talk about the poor seasons endured by Jiangsu and Bayi- what were the critical factors in their seasons being so bad? Do you think this will be a blip or could you see these teams starting to stagnate?

JP: We all know Bayi doesn’t have any imports. Back in the late 1990s and early and mid-2000s, when the league was attracting mid to lower-level imports, that wasn’t an issue because they could contend every year knowing they had the best Chinese players. Things are a lot different now, though: First, their star player, Wang Zhizhi, is old and not nearly the player he once was. Second, the CBA is attracting better imports with every passing year, with this season’s NBA-to-China exodus clearly standing out as the best crop of foreign players in league history. So with every team around them getting better while Bayi themselves decline, it wasn’t a huge shock to see them take a dive this year. For Jiangsu, I think they missed having Tang Zhengdong in the middle. They also did a terrible job selecting their imports. Mardy Collins and Dan Gadzuric were both gone shortly after the beginning of the season. Jackson Vroman was a good pick-up, but Marcus Williams (the UConn one) was without a doubt the worst foreigner in the league this season.

EB: With Jiangsu, I thought the problem was with Williams. He looked really out of shape and only averaged 11.34. That’s not going to cut it for an import. Vroman was a nice surprise, but they need an imported upgrade in their back court. As for Bayi, maybe it’s time for them to change the system. Their demise was seen eight months ago, when Jon predicted they would miss the playoffs. Wang Zhizhi is really old — they need a new face to the franchise. When I saw them live, they played without any hint of passion.

AC: Let’s return to the players for one last time. Who have been your favorite guys to watch? For me, Osama Daghlas was a masterful point guard- he crushed Shanghai when they went away to Jilin and he’ll be another ‘Asian’ player that teams should look to sign this time next year, regardless of what the status is with imports. Mike Harris could really put on a show and should expect several suitors if he comes back to China. J.R. was also unbelievable in person and was absolutely worth the price of admission.

EB: Marcus Williams was just so efficient. I loved his game. Whether his team needed him to slow the game down by getting to the line or hit a big three, he was there for them. At times, it seemed like he would never miss! Abbas is also a blast to watch. His hustle and passion were infectious and he’s so annoying. I would hate to play against him. I was sitting first row behind the Guangsha bench and he would not stop talking shit, “Alright guys- one on five, one on five!” (in the fourth quarter when Chandler was attempting to take over”. I really hope he’s back in the CBA next season.

JP: I’ll give you three: I enjoyed watching Marbury for obvious reasons. He was able to perfectly balance his point-guard duties with his import ones, running the offense and distributing effectively for the first three quarters before taking over himself in the fourth. Shanxi’s Marcus Williams was fun to watch, he’s pretty much able to get whatever he wants on offense and looks very smooth while getting it. And last, Liaoning’s Guo Ailun. I’ve always been a fan of Guo, he doesn’t play the point guard position like a typical Chinese, he’s very vocal, energetic and enthusiastic. Plus he can be a beast out of pick-and-roll. All of that is fun to watch, even if he’s bricking jumpers and turning the ball over.

AC: Final question then- what has been the highlight and lowlight to your CBA season? I’ll take any of the big results Shanghai got against Guangsha, Xinjiang, Beijing, or Zhejiang for the former and the latter will probably be losing both home games in that Shanxi playoff.

JP: The highlight of the season was being a part of the 18,000 fans who filled up Wukesong Arena to watch Games 1, 4 and 5 of Beijing – Guangdong. As for the low point of the year, I think it’s a tie between Shanxi fans’ behavior during and after Game 4 of the semi-finals and Li Chunjiang ordering his players to sweep the leg and injure someone.

EB: The highlight of the season was watching Jin Lipeng hit the buzzer beater against Shanxi. It was a game that the Lions should have won, but gave away their lead at the end of the game…. until Jin came up huge. The lowlight has to be watching Wilson Chandler and the rest of the Lions team mailing it in during some games. It was so frustrating to watch. Against Bayi, with the playoffs on the line, they showed no sense of urgency. Just thinking about what could have been if Chandler and the Lions had remained motivated. I think that once Chandler had checked out, so did his teammates.

AC: Lovely stuff. Well, we finally made it happen and the much-vaunted three-man weave was well worth the wait. Thanks for your various contributions over the season, gentlemen. Enjoy the offseason!

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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: CBA Playoffs And More Wilson Chandler Shenanigans

March 1, 2012

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The NiuBBall water cooler/heater: Where you can chat with friends about hoops while sipping either hot or cold water.

This chat originally appeared on Shark Fin Hoops before last night’s pair of Game 4s were played.

After a brief break to take in the madness of the CBA postseason, Edward Bothfeld is back to survey the wreckage of Fujian and Guangsha’s seasons now that they have been knocked out of the playoffs, as well as giving his thoughts on Wilson Chandler’s acrimonious departure from Hangzhou.

Andrew Crawford: I think we should start by talking about the Guangdong-Fujian series?

Edward Bothfeld: Well it’s hard to be surprised that Guangdong won like they did. I thought Fujian would get a game, but without Abbas and Roberson, they were hopeless and weren’t going to have a chance versus a well-oiled, all-cylinders firing Guangdong team who are without doubt the team to beat.

AC: It does look kind of ominous. Guangdong’s big players are all heating up nicely- I noticed they were averaging 123 points a game in that series, which says a lot about how their offense is functioning right now. That said, we should probably doff our caps to Fujian, who’ve made the playoffs a year after finishing second from bottom in the CBA. If I’m Jiangsu, I want Zaid Abbas signed up for 2012/13 ASAP to try to have the same sort of recovery.

EB: His hustle is infectious. If you’re on his team and he’s on the court, you would feel guilty if you weren’t going at 100% because of the type of effort he puts in. He’ll be a welcome addition to any bottom dweller.

AC: Beijing Ducks swept a Wilson Chandler-less Guangsha Lions? I guess that can’t have been fun for you?

EB: The writing was on the wall really. It was a really difficult situation for the team and coaching staff after losing your best player in that fashion and at that time. They put in a good effort and showed a lot of heart in Game 1 but I think after losing that game, it was all downhill from there; Jin Lipeng struggles on the road, as do many of their other role players. Rodney White played hard and tried to show some leadership, which was good to see, but Stephon Marbury was too much.

AC: Yeah, that series looked pretty tricky but I think Guangsha got a lot of respect considering how they went down fighting. Obviously, Chandler’s gone but how much more personnel change do you think there’ll be at the club now that the season is done?

EB: I’ve been told that Ramos is still under contract, and the owner said the team will have a new import to pair with him for next season so it will be interesting to see who that is. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lipeng retires, whilst Jim Cleamons still doesn’t know if he’ll be back- although he doesn’t sound opposed to the idea. They need to make sure to develop Wang Zirui at the point and try to get some national team players in because Guangsha’s Chinese supporting cast just isn’t very good.

AC: We should also cast our eye to Xinjiang-Dongguan- any thoughts?

EB: Ike Diogu is certainly giving them some offense but Tim Pickett isn’t 100% healthy and he’s a very important part of that team. They were fortunate that Diogu caught fire to win Game 3 because Pickett only scored 10 points. If Dongguan can pull out Game 4, anything can happen in Game 5, although Xinjiang has experience on their side.

AC: Another live series is obviously my own Shanghai Sharks against the Shanxi Dragons. Every game has been really close so far and tonight’s game is a sell-out. How do you seen the series going?

EB: It will probably go down to the wire. I have always been a fan of Shanxi’s tandem of Gaines and Williams. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Shanghai force a Game 5 but I think that Shanxi is too strong with Williams’ ability to get to the foul line. He WILL get 30 a night but the same can’t be said about Landry. It’s harder for Shanghai to win.

AC: This is all true but Williams has looked tired. He always has the potential to go out and put up a triple-double but so far he hasn’t been himself. Obviously I don’t want to tempt fate for tonight but with Shanxi, everything goes through Williams- if he isn’t on fire, generally neithier are the Dragons. Also Liu Wei has been inspired this series- maybe he knows he isn’t going to have too many more trips to the playoffs, but he’s gone all out during the last few games.

EB: Well, now’s the time to go all out. This is the playoffs, you have leave it all on the table.

AC: We should probably talk about one man who certainly didn’t leave it on the table. As a Guangsha fan, I imagine you’re not impressed at Wilson Chandler’s no show at the crucial stage in the season?

EB: I can sort of understand his predicament; Thursday is the deadline for him to sign a long-term deal in the NBA- a deal that would set him up financially for the rest of his life so that’s one side of the situation but leaving the team at this stage in the season is kind of whack, especially now it’s being reported that he might sign in Italy. Should that happens, I would be disappointed because during the CBA season, he could put up 40-15 if he wanted to and that Guangsha Beijing series would be really competitive. If he signs in Italy it would be like he left China for nothing and the fact that he didn’t even get to say goodbye to his teammates or coach leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Overall, it’s a little crazy how it went down but would you expect anything less from the CBA?

AC: It also sounds like the CBA isn’t going to let Chandler just walk away and they are going to make life difficult for him [Edit: Chandler has since got his letter of clearance -AC].

EB: Guangsha’s season is over, so what else do they want?

AC: To me, it feels like they want to reclaim some face after the Kenyon Martin balls-up, but like you say, Guangsha’s season is done so I don’t know how they can make that work.. Its kind of weird to think that of all the big name guys that came over this season, only the craziest one in JR Smith saw out his contract.

EB: He finished it, but it was a rollercoaster of a ride- and to think he was fined $1 mil for not going to practices…

AC: Yeah, that’s a lot of money the Bulls have now got saved away in a jar for next season’s overseas recruiting drive. Alright man, its been great. Let’s try and do this again next week.

EB: For sure. Bye.

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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: Guangsha’s Woes, Looming NBA Paydays And The Best Basketball Jerseys In China

February 11, 2012

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The NiuBBall water cooler/heater: Where you can chat with friends about hoops while sipping either hot or cold water.

This chat originally appeared on Shark Fin Hoops shortly before last night’s games were played.

Fresh from penning a cracking article about Wilson Chandler for NiuBBall, Edward Bothfeld swings by to talk playoff runs, how to stay true to the CBA but still get paid in the NBA, Guangsha’s malaise, All-Star selections and the best and worst jerseys in the league.

Andrew Crawford: First question, on a scale of 1 to 10, how stressed as a Guangsha fan are you right now?

Edward Bothfeld: I don’t want to put a number on it but I don’t think the Lions will win tonight or Sunday or next Wednesday, and if they are fortunate enough to make the playoffs, I don’t think they will last long. I don’t know what happened before that Qingdao game (the one that snapped their winning streak) but it hasn’t been the same since then. They aren’t playing with any heart- they were lucky to win against Bayi, a game that should have been a blowout. I hope I’m wrong though- tonight will be telling against Beijing

AC: I’m guessing its still the same problem- an over reliance on Wilson Chandler, or do you think there is an even deeper problem going on?

EB: Its the reliance on Chandler and Ramos. Coach Cleamons said at the press conference that on defense, teams are putting a lot guys on Chandler, which is why he is settling for a lot of outside shots. Basically, they haven’t been able to get into a rhythm. If some of the supporting cast could hit some threes, they would be set but Lin Chih-Chieh has really struggled shooting lately and Jin Lipeng can only play a few minutes a night so there’s nothing to take the pressure off of PJ and Wilson, who I think is ready to head home and get back to the Nuggets. Danilo Gallinari, who Chandler would compete for minutes with, is injured so there are a lot of game time available for Wilson right now.

AC: Yeah, the Gallinari injury has been a nightmare for my fantasy team but in real terms, Chandler is suddenly a lot more important for Denver. What sort of fall-out do you think there could be if Guangsha fail to make the playoffs or sneak in but then don’t play very well?

EB: Well, Chandler won’t be back next year and I doubt Cleamons will be either. I think PJ is signed for next season but Guangsha needs some national team players as well as some good imports in order to really make some noise, so if the season ends poorly, there will be a lot of turnover. If I were the GM, I would keep Lin around as well as Wang Zirui, who is the youngest player in the league at eighteen but has earned more minutes as the season has gone along.

AC: Its been a crazy season so far- previously mighty teams like Jiangsu and Bayi have struggled, Xinjiang blew the roster up but are coming back strong and Fujian and Shanghai are still in the playoff mix- do you think we could see any more shocks in the next three games?

EB: The only consistent thing about the CBA right now is Guangdong. It will be interesting to see how the NBA-bound guys play in these last rounds. The Guandong-Xinjiang game will be interesting, although I guess almost every remaining game has playoff ramifications so it’s time to see who’s for real and who isn’t.

AC: The CBA is probably delighted right now- they couldn’t have asked for a more dramatic ending to the regular season. As for the NBA-bound players, I can safely say that Smith is still going hard having seen him do his thing on Wednesday against Shanghai but if I was his agent, I would be going crazy right now- JR’s chasing a multi-million dollar contract and the last thing any normal person would be doing is trying to drive to the basket in heavy traffic or fighting for rebounds with 6″11 forwards. You have to give Smith credit, he’s still going for the win every game despite his itchy feet.

EB: It’s refreshing to see that though. Guys like Smith, Chandler and Brooks are playing for NBA contracts that will most likely set them up financially for life. If I were in their shoes, it would be difficult to know what to do; wouldn’t they feel foolish if one of them suffered a serious injury in one of the last games? Its tricky; there’s something to be said for honoring your CBA contract, but at some point you have to be practical and whether you like it or not, money is an important aspect of life.

AC: Indeed. Looking at Shanghai for a second, they are in seventh place right now. Do you think they’ll still be there after games against Jiangsu, Beijing and Tianjin. First and foremost, I desperately want them to make the playoffs but a lot of people have talked about finishing seventh and getting a Shanghai-Beijing series, which could be massive.

EB: The Jiangsu and Tianjin games should be winnable Beijing might be tough since it’s on the road against a very good team. Ultimately, I think the Sharks will be there and a Shanghai-Beijing series would be a lot of fun

AC: Yeah, an old timers vs. new money derby in the playoffs would be epic, especially after the complete mayhem of the Ducks’ last visit to the Yuanshen. Basically, I just want them to get to the postseason but facing Beijing would make it even sweeter. I’m guessing you saw the All-Star line-ups? Any thoughts?

EB: Well, J.R. Smith is a fan favorite and Marbury was always going to be a safe bet but generally speaking, I don’t put too much into All-Star games. That said, the jerseys are awesome.

AC: Yeah, I will be interested to see who makes the bench- I didn’t think any of the Sharks who got nominated (Liu Wei, Zhang Zhaoxu, Mike Harris) would make the starting line-up but the Chinese pair might slip onto the bench. Is there anyone from Guangsha you think might make the final cut- I’m guessing Chandler is going to be the other overseas player for the South but will anyone else from the Lions creep in?

EB: Maybe PJ? His sheer size and intimidation abilities are an all-star attraction

AC: Perhaps, no chance for Jin or Lin?

EB: Jin is a fan favorite but only plays 18 minutes a night and sometimes doesn’t have any energy at all- it would be different if Guangsha were at the top of the standings but they aren’t, so I don’t necessarily think they deserve to have a bunch of All-Stars.

AC: Alright, last question; we touched upon the awesome All Star jerseys- aside from your team, whose got the best jerseys in the CBA?

EB: I have always liked Zhejiang jerseys- that might be because I’m a Bulls fan back in the States though and they are the Golden Bulls here.I look forward to seeing them live in Hangzhou next Wednesday!

AC: Yeah, I like Zhejiang too but for different reasons ie. the preposterously bright colours. I also like the Fujian Sturgeons jersey but more for the improbable animal that they blaze across the chests. Bayi’s are pretty sweet too- its simple but effective. I would say that Tianjin’s are the worst though. Like the team itself, not very eye-catching and lacking ideas.

EB: If I remember correctly I think Qingdao’s were pretty bland.

AC: I don’t know, I can roll with a bit of Qingdao but that’s just my conservative British tastes coming through. Anyways, I think that’s us done. thanks for your time, man.

EB: No problem. Let’s do it again

AC: For sure. Do you have a prediction for tonight’s Guangsha game?

EB: I think either we win in a tight one or Beijing wins by 10.

AC: Well, good luck all the same.

EB: You too.

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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: Play-Offs, CBA All-Stars And The Magic Of Marbury

January 26, 2012

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The NiuBBall water cooler/heater: Where you can chat with friends about hoops while sipping either hot or cold water.

This chat originally appeared on Shark Fin Hoops.

With regular web-chatter, Ned Bothfeld out of the country, the man behind NiuBBall, Jon Pastuszek, makes his long awaited debut at the water cooler to talk CBA playoffs, potential All-Star snubs and Stephon Marbury. As always, our Chinese water dispensers are equipped with hot and cold water. 

Andrew Crawford: We should probably start by talking about the previous round of games and there were obviously more than a few crackers. The most eye catching one for me was Beijing’s win over Zhejiang- a 45 pt/10 ast/ 12 rbd triple double from Marbury and JR Smith’s 39 pts. What did you make of that game?

Jon Pastuszek: It was one of the most anticipated games of the season — Marbury is beloved by almost every Chinese hoops fan from Beijing to Urumqi, and J.R. has gained a sizeable following himself due to his on-court offensive explosions and off-court drama. Not surprisingly, they’re number one and two respectively in All-Star voting but Marbury showed why he’s clearly the better player in this league. For me, his triple-double solidified himself as the top choice for league MVP this year. He’s been able to balance his role as both a distributor and scorer almost perfectly this year, sharing the ball early in the ball game and taking games over himself when he needs to down the stretch. He’s changed the entire Duck culture this season, taking what was barely a playoff team with a lackluster fan base and turning it into one of the hottest tickets in town this year.

AC: That’s very true. In our first webchat, me and Ned talked about the star power of Marbury and how he has endeared himself to the different Chinese fanbases. On the other hand, it has felt like a circus at times with Smith, do you think how he has settled in China, in spite of his huge numbers, has affected his game; could he be even better with a different set-up?

JP: I’ve always felt that it’s not so much a player’s individual talent that determines success in the CBA, but rather a player’s individual make-up. For many reasons — the coaching, the travel, the food, the officiating, the media, the living conditions, the quality of one’s teammates — a lot of players fail to adapt to the differences between the CBA, the NBA and even Europe. As we’ve learned from the countless numbers of foreign players who have left China prematurely in years past, it’s not easy to play here. Individual and team success is by no means guaranteed, no matter how good the player. Taking on an NBA player who’s played in the league for several years, like J.R., is a challenge for CBA teams. China is not the United States, and Yiwu is certainly not Denver — I think the Bulls management has tried to make J.R. comfortable, allowing his sister to live with him and bringing in an American assistant to ease the on-court transition, but at the end of the day you’re never going to replicate the NBA lifestyle while playing in China.

AC: All very true. I’ve think that’s part of the fascinating thing about international players and the mindset they need to have to succeed in some of the more unorthodox basketball leagues. Ned was saying last time around that PJ Ramos loves it in China and wouldn’t want to go back to the NBA. Equally, Mike Harris in Shanghai, clearly adores being in Shanghai. Still, regardless of the JR drama, I’ll be looking forward to the Bulls’ visit next month so I can see the man in person.

Moving on, Guangdong has handled their business by beating Wilson Chandler, Ramos et al. in Hangzhou. After a shaky start, is there a better team in the CBA right now?

JP: No. Guangdong is the hands-down favorite to win the title this year, and I see no team that is even close to giving them a problem come March.

AC: Their form is so good that I can see them resting Aaron Brooks, Zhu Fangyu, James Singleton, etc with a couple of games to spare. That eighth play-off place is a real poisoned chalice now because you’ll probably be facing a box-fresh Guangdong side after you’ve just spent the last few weeks battling your way to the post season.

JP: I could definitely see that too. In fact, they’ve already been resting their guys during the season, playing sometimes up to 11 guys in a game in order to keep their stars fresh for the post-season. Last year, when they went through a solid chunk of the season without a full import roster, proved that Guangdong doesn’t really need to tear through the regular season and play their best players for long periods of time. For them, it’s all about staying healthy for a Finals run and since nobody has been able match-up with all of their Chinese talent in a five or seven games series over the last eight years, its hard to argue with that strategy.

AC: Indeed. Guangdong’s opponents in the final last year, Xinjiang, had another set back with a loss with Shandong. They’ve got a tricky last few games coming up. What do you think the mood is like there in Urumqi and can they save their season?

JP: Xinjiang has been without a doubt the most disappointing team of the year. This is a team that went 31-1 last season and yet still didn’t win a championship. After spending close to US $10 million this summer on the 2000 NBA Draft number one overall pick and 11 year NBA-pro Kenyon Martin, Chinese Men’s National Team head coach Bob Donewald Jr. and three-time CBA MVP Tang Zhengdong among others, the expectation was that they’d storm their way past Guangdong to a title. But Donewald was fired 11 games into the year, K-Mart followed him out the door quickly and Tang hasn’t been able to find his dominating form. Simply, at 12-12, the season has been a disaster. Once the favorites for a championship, the Flying Tigers are now fighting for a playoff spot. Six of their last eight are at home, so their destiny is in their own hands, but the mood is obviously not a very optimistic one in Urumqi.

AC: We’ve touched on the play-offs so we might as well wade right into the matter itself. Looking at the table right now, Guangdong look like they’ve got their place in the bag and Beijing should be okay with their run of games at home but after that, it’s a scramble for six places between eight, possibly ten teams. Who do you think are the strongest teams coming into this final push?

JP: It’s certainly going to be a crazy end to the season, isn’t it? It’s going to come down to whoever takes care of business at home. It’s always been tough to win on the road in the CBA but this year the discrepancy between home and away records have been even more profound. Only two teams, Beijing and Guangdong, have winning road records this season. As I mentioned before, Xinjiang has six of their last eight at home, and that will be big as they’ve only lost once all year in Urumqi. Guangsha also has a bunch of home games coming up. If they can sort out their problems during Spring Festival, they should be in good position to get a top four seed.

AC: Shanghai are in the same situation with regards to having the majority of their games at home. We have Fujian and Zhejiang in the Yuanshen, and these are going to be HUGE games and ones the Sharks certainly can’t afford to lose. Home advantage is certainly key here as we’ve also got Xinjiang, Shanxi and Beijing on the road, which is going to be tough for us. It’s too close to call here in Shanghai and there’s going to be a lot riding on Harris and Marcus Landry going down the stretch. Indeed, who do you think isn’t going to make it in the end?

JP: Well unfortunately for you, I think it’s going to be tough for the Sharks to hang onto their playoff spot. The loss of Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who was on my shortlist for MVP before getting hurt, is tough because he’s the one who kept their triangle offense nice and congruent. Marcus Landry has been decent in replacement, but he’s not a player built for the triangle. They’ve got those tough games against Zhejiang, Xinjiang, Beijing and Shanxi — maybe they’ll prove me wrong, but I don’t see them winning a lot of games post-Chinese New Year. Fujian may be another squad that falls short, they have five of their last seven on the road, including a three-game finale that takes them to Guangdong, DongGuan and Xinjiang.It’s going to be a wild finish, every game will count, which is why taking care of business at home will be so important.

AC: For sure. The RFK point is a massive one. He did everything like you said and the little things like setting the pace of the game and being a calming influence in a young team; those are all tough things to replace. I think the consensus is that Fujian won’t make it- that run of games in the last week is an absolute killer. I can also see Zhejiang crumbling under the pressure, but that’s just a feeling.

Anyway, All-Star week coming up. Marbury and Smith are the top choices as we speak but is there anyone who isn’t getting the recognition they deserve? Osama Dahglas is probably pissed at being in the same division as Marbury because I thought the Jilin PG has been pretty good this season but its highly unlikely he’ll be in the team.

JP: With the CBA only limiting two foreign players to each All-Star team, there’s always going to be snubs. Dahglas is certainly a guy who could be put in that category. Another could be either Marcus Williams or Lester Hudson, each whom have had very nice seasons for their teams. J.R. and Marbury are the obvious shoe-ins, Wilson Chandler will probably get in as a reserve, so that leaves just one player left. Somebody will definitely get left out.

AC: For sure; Harris, Singleton, Brooks, Zaid Abbas and Shavlik Randolph to name but a few. I guess that brings me onto my next point. If I’m Chandler or Smith, do I risk playing even one more game than I need to if I’m looking for an NBA contract when the CBA ends in March? I guess this would be extra pertinent if their team didn’t make the play-offs?

JP: Certainly, both of those guys are looking at the big picture. At the end of the CBA season, they’ll head back to the NBA where they will be prize commodities to teams looking to add a piece for a playoff run. They both stand to make a lot of money on long-term deals, if not this season then definitely next year. Since neither player have gotten their so-called “big payday” yet, I’m sure they’re anticipating going back to the States and cashing in. Both have substantial money at stake, so the last thing either them wants is to get hurt. So I think you have to take that into consideration when you’re looking at their late season performances.

AC: Could you see a situation where eithier man tried to pull out of the game if they were voted?

JP: Absolutely not! The All-Star game amounts to a very low intensity pick-up run. Plus, I’m sure they’d like to get out of their respective cities and head down to Guangzhou for a relaxing weekend.

AC: Wouldn’t we all, sir. Alright, final question; as the Middle Kingdom stops for Chinese New Year, we have some time to think back to the games that have already been played. What’s been your favourite game so far in this season?

JP: I thought Xinjiang at Beijing in Round 6 was for me, the most exciting game of the year. At the time, you had Kenyon Martin and the new look Flying Tigers coming into a supercharged Shougang Arena that was just as fired up to see last year’s runners-up as they were to see their new look Ducks with Stephon Marbury. The game was completely sold out and for the first time in Beijing history, the media had to be seated on the upper level because there was so much hype surrounding the game. The game didn’t disappoint — after going down by almost 20 in the fourth quarter, Patrick Mills and the Flying Tigers roared back to take a one-point lead with just under a minute left. But Beijing held on to hit two critical free-throws after a loose ball foul, and Xu Guozhong and Mills both rattled out three-pointers that would have likely given the Flying Tigers the win. It was one of the rare games that actually lived up to all the hype.

There’s been some great games in Shanghai this year, what’s been your favorite?

AC: Probably Beijing’s visit to Shanghai on Xmas Day. Obviously, you had the Shanghai-Beijing factor but with Marbury, a packed house in the Yuanshen and a comeback of sorts in the fourth quarter from the Sharks, it had everything you could want from a grudge match. When Shanghai retook the lead with a minute or so left, the noise around the place was crazy- even the press box was high-fiving each-another; the whole place was going nuts. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of an atmosphere like that.

JP: There’s something about that guy that makes this league more exciting. I think having Marbury around is great for the CBA – he’s brought in a lot of casual fans that likely would have continued to turn away from the league if he wasn’t here, and I think that’s a real positive thing for Chinese basketball.

AC: Amen. Hopefully he’s got another couple of seasons in him because he’s compelling viewing. Anyway, we should probably call this a day. Jon, your web chat debut has been a pleasure.

JP: Thanks for having me, glad I could finally make it out for one. Let’s do this again, maybe a three-man weave with Bothfeld?

AC: That would be a joy to behold. Let’s keep our fingers crossed when and see what happens. Thanks to you as well from coming on.

JP: No problem. Happy Chinese New Year to you.

AC: And to you, sir.

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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: Guangsha/Shanghai In Trouble, Play Off Speculation And The Mad, Bad World Of J.R. Smith

January 17, 2012

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The NiuBBall water cooler/heater: Where you can chat with friends about hoops while sipping either hot or cold water.

This chat originally appeared on Shark Fin Hoops.

With the Chinese New Year about to start, its time to talk losing streaks, play off places, JR Smith and hometown bad ass players in another installment of the CBA Water Cooler, where you can have your water hot or cold. Edward Bothfeld and Andrew Crawford break it down.

Andrew Crawford: Well it looks like both our teams are in spectacular funks right now. Shanghai are on a three game losing streak whilst the Lions are in the same situation but with four games down the toilet, right?

Edward Bothfeld: There’s lot’s of struggles all around. I’m starting to worry about Guangsha’s funk. I sit in the first row behind the bench at their home games and they are having trouble playing as a team. I think Wilson [Chandler] and PJ [Ramos] are frustrated that they are relied upon so heavily and I also have a feeling that Wilson is battling some nagging injuries and wants to stay healthy for the NBA season, because let’s face it, he has millions of reasons to be cautious.

AC: For sure. Is the crowd starting to turn on their team or is everyone still singing from the same hymn sheet?

EB: Their last home game was a week ago so we’ll see when they get back. The GM, Ye Xiangyu, who is the very feisty looking woman who sits on their bench, is also very frustrated.

AC: What can Coach Cleamons do to change things; by the sound of things, its down to the players now?

EB: The Chinese players need to play with more confidence instead of when they get behind in a game, praying that Wilson and PJ can bring them back. Jin Lipeng has been out and Lin Chih-chieh hasn’t been able to hit the broad side of a barn recently.

AC: Shanghai are in a similar bad situation, although two of those losses were on the road and the other was against Guangdong. You’ve seen the Sharks move up from the bottom end of the table- do you think this is it for them now or can they still make the play offs?

EB: I think they will make it. I’m sure Marcus Landry is still jet lagged and he and his new team still need to learn to play together. Also, is Mike Harris is injured?

AC: There was a death in his family. It happened before the Jilin game and he didn’t tell anyone and played on. He went home before the Guangdong game.

EB: Any word when he is coming back?

AC: I got the impression he will be back for Dongguan but whenever he does, the crowd will be vocal. They love him in the Yuanshen and something like a death in the family puts everything in perspective. They’ll probably cheer him everytime he touches the ball.

This probably has relevancy to the NBA in its reduced formwat this season too, but previously high-flying teams like Beijing are still in erratic form and now Guangsha and Shanghai are in real lulls- what do you think spark these runs or is every case unique?

EB: Teams become complacent, and their opponents have a chance to do a lot of scouting and watch a lot of tape. Then there are injuries. Its the ups and downs of a basketball season, which is why it’s so exciting.

AC: Well, not if you a Guanghsa, Beijing or Shanghai fan. These next few games are going to be painful. Looking at the play-off run in, who do you think we should look out for besides the obvious names to make the play offs?

EB: Firstly, wouldn’t it be wild if after all the pre-season and early season talk, Xinjiang missed out?

AC: For sure. I don’t think they can ride that home record to a top eight finish place. They might not make it unless they become a bit more ruthless on the road.

EB: I also think Qingdao will make it behind Lester Hudson, but that’s a hunch. I think they’ll overhaul Fujian and contend for one of the top spots.

AC: That’s a interesting call. I don’t want to sound like a bandwagon jumper but Hudson and Osama Daghlas look excellent when they get going. For what its worth, I think Shanxi look legit as well. I think they’ll be trouble for anyone if they get in. I know they’ve got a crazy owner and a slight reliance on their two Americans but they are seriously slick.

EB: Shanxi will make it, but Marcus Williams deserves a lot of the credit this season. He has been unbelievably efficient this season. I have to look twice at his gamelog because I’m curious if it’s even real, but he’s shooting over 80% from three and and 67% on all other FGs according to eurobasket.

AC: Yeah, I had a look myself recently. Its NBA Jam-esqe stuff. Do you think Zhejiang Bulls are going to get a spot?

EB: I think they will but Smith, like Chandler, is another player I would watch as the end of the CBA season approaches and they return to the NBA- he needs to stay healthy to get that next contract. He probably won’t be doing anything too wild now, especially with his sister getting into an altercation recently.

AC: Yeah, i saw it. I think it was interesting that JR Smith has got himself all this attention. It hasn’t felt like K-Mart and Chandler have all this exposure. There does seem to be a bit of a circus going on whenever JR is involved.

EB: Kinda represents his style of play and his erratic way of doing things. He’s just a crazy dude.

AC: When Smith leaves, I think his departure will put a dozen writers out of work. There seems to be a cottage industry based around churning out stories about ‘ JR Smith doing [x]‘. Could the club have protected him more or is this just ”JR being JR’, so to speak?

EB: They probably should have had some preventative measures in place. If they did their homework on him, they would know that he attracts a lot of attention

AC: Alright, last question. Last night, James Singleton decided he was going to bait a capacity Yuanshen crowd in the final quarter of the game and seemed to be revelling in the boos like a heel in a WWE event. For your money, who is the best or most notable villain in the CBA?

EB: I can’t remember who it was, but one of Shanghai’s Chinese players was doing the cocking motion (as if he had a gun) after making a shot, and then putting his hand to his ear because he wanted to hear the crowd.

AC: I’m still really curious to work out who that Shanghai player was. They all seem like such nice young boys who’d help old ladies across the road and always open doors for people. It wasn’t a small guard with light hair and a hefty fringe was it? [I'm thinking of Meng Lingyuan because this sounds exactly like the sort of thing he'd could do when he gets his obligatory fourth quarter adrenaline rush- AC]

EB: I don’t think so. The crowd absolutely hated your short bald guy, although I might be totally wrong and it could have been in the previous game.

AC: I think so – all of our guys are impressively hirsute; they’ve all got the regulation floppy cut. It’s like a K-Pop band strolled out onto the court at times [It is probably Shandong Lions, who were the previous visitors to Hangzhou before Shanghai came to town. The player in question is Sun Jie, who is unquestionably a pest of a player- AC].

EB: On the flipside, PJ is fantastic at getting the crowd going. He will flex and shout after a dunk, and wave his hands in the air to get the crowd on its feet.

AC: I think its written into Harris’ contract that he has to do the same in Shanghai. Tseng Wen-ting is also a kind of a cult hero here. He’s a towering bear of a man with a huge ponytail, massive beard and a nice line in dropping big threes. Its a shame he’s such a nice guy because when you look like Genghis Khan, which he absolutely does, I’d like to see him indulge in some merciless posterising of unsuspecting opposition players and other general bad ass’ery. That said, I also absolutely think its Ramos’ destiny to stay in the CBA and blossom into this force of nature who doesn’t care about what you think. It would be fantastic; baiting crowds, shouting the odds, dunking on people because he can- marvelous.

EB: I don’t think he has any intentions of trying to make it in the NBA, and I’ve been told he could definitely make a team but that he likes it here [in Hangzhou].

AC: Lets hope Ramos is still flexing the guns and terrifying away fans for years to come. Anyway, last week it was cheerleaders, this week its James Singleton and PJ Ramos. Times changes real quick. Have a good holiday, sir.

EB: Thanks. You too.

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NiuBBall CBA Water Cooler/Heater: The half-way mark

December 29, 2011

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The NiuBBall water cooler/heater: Where you can chat with friends about hoops while sipping either hot or cold water.

This piece was originally posted on Shark Fin Hoops before Round 17.

Round 17 is in the books and just like that, the 2011-12 CBA season is at its half-way point. To mark the occasion, the NiuBBall duo of Andrew Crawford and Edward Bothfeld took some time out to chat about the year so far, including the Beijing Ducks’ surprising run to first place, the comings and goings of Crawford’s hometown Shanghai Sharks and Bothfeld’s hometown Guangsha Lions, the always relevant Stephon Marbury and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Andrew Crawford: Well, its been a pretty crazy first half of the season so let’s talk first about the league before we get into our teams; despite two loses in a row, Beijing are setting the pace with a 13-2 record- do you think they can go deep into the play-offs or is this two-game losing streak a sign that teams have started to figure them out?

Edward Bothfeld: Thirteen wins in a row is no joke. They have two important players who have more than a season of CBA experience each. One of which, Stephon Marbury, is a former NBA All-Star and is immensely talented. That being said, teams now have a lot of tape of the Ducks to look at, and can be more prepared. The season is long and pretty constant so nagging injuries and fatigue may be starting to rear their heads. Their remaining schedule is pretty friendly and they have almost twice as many home games as away game remaining so they will be a tough out in the playoffs.

AC: You might notice this when your Lions play the Ducks on Dec 28th but Marbury is a game changer in some unpredictable ways; at times he can nullify a home crowd. I mean, he was being cheered by the Shanghai crowd last night and he plays for Beijing!

EB: He attracts a lot of attention because of his name and history. Being cheered by the home crowd is just respect. There’s no doubt that the majority of the time, he’s the most talented player on the court. Also, not enough attention has been given to how well he has adapted to Chinese culture. If you remember, he didn’t have a good departure from the NBA – the strange videos he posted on the internet, failed playoff run with the Celtics and his time with the Knicks was an absolute disaster. Now it seems he is really happy [in Beijing], doing what he loves and serving as a role model for other foreign players — like J.R. Smith

AC: All very true. He certainly looks happier in Beijing; his company’s taking off and he’s a basketball hero out here. The days of being run out of New York must seem like a long way away. Anyway, let’s move on; what are your thoughts on Xinjiang Tigers; they’ve fired Bob Donewald and Kenyon Martin looks like he wants out; do you thing the Tigers are in trouble even at 9-5 or was this a knee jerk reaction?

EB: I don’t think the knee jerk reaction was wise and now they are in definite trouble. They had a very expensive offseason — and are already blowing it up before the season is halfway done! It takes time for coaches to put their systems in place and for players to get to know each other. What happened to Donewald wasn’t exactly fair. Sources have told me that the Xinjiang management puts a TON of pressure on its players; the expectations are so high there.

AC: Do you think things could get worse?

EB: They lost one game last year and have already dropped five this year. They’ve also fired their high profile coach and bought out Kenyon Martin; I don’t know how it can get any worse! That being said, I don’t know what Xinjiang were expecting from K-Mart- 30 point and 15 rebound performances? Those days are long behind him

AC: Strong stuff, sir. Finally, what’s your take on Jiangsu Dragons; NiuBBall had them 3rd in their preseason rankings and instead the boys from Nanjing find themselves bottom of the league, below even Tianjin Lions, who are historically terrible. What’s gone wrong there?

EB: I saw them play last night. Despite their history of success, they are very mediocre this year; they are already on their second set of imports and I don’t know if Marcus Williams is a long-term answer. To put it kindly, he looks very “muscular”; it looks like he has packed on a few pounds. Also, like Xinjiang, Jiangsu need time to work with one another so making so many changes makes it difficult to truly become a team. I have talked with [Guangsha Lion's] Coach Jim Cleamons multiple times. As a rookie CBA coach, he always stresses to me that Guangsha is a work in process and they probably won’t be going on all cylinders until much later this year.

AC: Well, let’s talk about your boys, Guangsha; 11-4 after Round 16- would you have taken this at the start of the season?

EB: Yes. Having P.J. Ramos has really helped- he has taken some of the burden off Wilson Chandler and they have a very functional basketball team; everyone has a role.

AC: I’ve noticed you’ve been very big on the form of P.J. Ramos; has anyone else stood out for you so far besides him and Chandler?

EB: Jin Lipeng gets points. He is only playing 17 minutes a game, but is fourth on the team with 11.3 points. Lin Chih Chieh is our glue guy. He is incredibly scrappy and although he can be too cute sometimes (making fancy passes etc), he gets it done. Some games, he will go off for 20, sometimes he will only get 4 points but he always leaves an impression on the game. If Lipeng and Lin are on their games, Guangsha is hard to beat

AC: Yeah, when Guangsha came to Shanghai last month, I could see Lin had some sparkle to him and Chandler seems to enjoy playing with him. We’ve obviously got to talk about Chandler when we talk about Guangsha; how do you feel he’s been used in that team and do you feel that Coach Cleamons is under pressure to use him as much as possible?

EB: Having worked with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, etc., Coach Cleamons is no spring chicken when it comes to using star players effectively. Guangsha’s GM sits on the bench with the team during games (you might notice her as she is the only female and looks like one tough cookie)  so everyone is on the same page in terms of when Chandler is playing, etc.

AC: This could essentially be a league-wide question, but how do you think CBA teams like Guangsha will be able to build on their post-Chandler season in 2012-13? I’ve met people who argue that bringing in big names creates a ‘pass-to-the-superstar’ mentality and a team’s progression gets stunted as a result

EB: Before it was Wilson Chandler, it was Rodney White; a team will always have a go-to player and they will most likely be the import players. If you look at most CBA rosters, teams have two imports, one big man and one back court player. If you bring in players with the same skill-sets each season, the role players don’t have as much difficulty adjusting.

AC: Do you think teams like Jiangsu and Xinjiang have had weaker seasons because they hadn’t scouted players with the same skill sets as the guys who were there during the previous season?

EB: Losing Quincy Douby really hurt Xinjiang. He was their team last year so they were going to have a different dynamic once he was lost, but Jiangsu had Antoine Wright last year- he has a different style than Marcus Williams, not to mention plays a different position.

AC: All very true. Well seeing as I write for a website about the Shanghai Sharks, we should probably talk about them as well. The Sharks appear to have hit form at the right time and have won five out of their last six games; do you think they can squeak into the play-offs or is their bad start too much to overcome?

EB: Why not? At 7-8, they are only a few games out of fourth place; suddenly games against the likes of Xinjiang and Jiangsu are winnable when in the past you could mark those up as losses. The Sharks absolutely have a shot to be in the playoffs despite a slow start.

AC: Journalistic integrity aside, I would love to see them make it  but their away form has been so bad until the last couple of games that I wonder if it will be too much to overcome. We’re 5-1 at home but on the road, it’s not been anywhere near as stellar and going to Xinjiang and Beijing so late in the season is still a big ask in my books, even if we continue to grow in confidence.

EB: Yep, times are always tough on the road.

AC: Indeed. Any Shanghai players you expect to see in the All-Star game come March?

EB: Mike Harris can fill it up. If Shanghai continues on their current run, Harris or Ryan Forehan-Kelly could warrant an All-Star bid.

AC: Absolutely. For my money, Forehan-Kelly has been the star of that team. Harris has got the big dunks and gets the crowd going but RFK has been consistently clutch throughout the season. Okay, last question; like me, you probably have a fantasy basketball team. Should I be picking up a Chandler or a J.R. Smith and storing him for when they return to America in March/April time or will their impact be negligible after playing one intense season already?

EB: I would say the chances are high that one of the high-profile Americans over here will be playing in the NBA Finals.

AC: You buying Bill Simmons’ theory that a returning K-Mart is the Heat’s missing piece to all but confirm the 2012 championship?

EB: He could be- there are always veterans like K-Mart that championship contenders add to push them over the top. I mean, Marbury was supposed to be that player with the Celtics a few years ago

AC: Alright; we should probably call it quits but thanks for your thoughts. There’s a lot of really interesting stuff here and I hope we can do this again sometime

EB: For sure, Any time. I enjoyed it.

AC: Excellent stuff. I’ll let you get back to the daily grid but there’s a beer waiting for you when we next come face to face.

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