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Post by Jon Pastuszek 

June 24, 2013


Craig Smith Interview



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.

Continue reading…

Post by Jon Pastuszek 

June 17, 2013


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


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? Continue reading…

Post by Jon Pastuszek 

June 17, 2013


Giannakis released by Limoges, to stay with Team China


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 EuroHoops.net, 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.

Continue reading…

Post by Jon Pastuszek 

June 11, 2013


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


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.

Continue reading…

Post by Andrew Crawford 

June 11, 2013


Lost and Found: Shanghai Sharks recover misplaced championship trophy


Shanghai does not do logical, particularly its basketball team, the Sharks.  So it will be no surprise then to learn that the Sharks, the hometown team of one of China’s most iconic athletes, Yao Ming, recently lost their 2002 CBA championship trophy and its accompanying net, which was cut down after the decisive game four of the series against the Bayi Rockets.

The discovery was only made a couple of weeks ago as the Sharks’ front office started to move parts of its administration team to a new location. After not finding the trophy anywhere in their office, the team quickly established theft as the most likely cause. Yao, who lead the team to the team’s first and only championship that year, was said to be upset about the disappearance.

However, the panic soon turned out to be a false alarm. The trophy and the net were eventually found and soon afterwards, Larry Zhang, the Sharks’ amiable chief press officer posted a photo of the rediscovered trophy and the net on his Weibo account. Turns out, however, that the trophy and net wasn’t stolen — instead, it was sitting in some random room elsewhere in the city for the last four years.

Continue reading…

Post by Jon Pastuszek 

June 5, 2013


Wukesong Basketball Park to open in July


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.

Continue reading…

Post by Wang Xiaonan 

June 4, 2013

1 Comment

Wang Xiaonan: Gerald Green’s delusional disorder


Living in Beijing, two things consistently warm our hearts: Buy one, get the other half off McFlurry’s at McDonald’s and when we get emails from people who want to write for NiuBBall. We’re really not that tough to please.

The latter is how we got in touch with Wang Xiaonan, our website’s newest contributor. Xiaonan is way more legit than we’ll ever be: During the NBA season, he works in the States as Sohu’s beat writer for the 76ers and the Knicks. Beyond that, he also writes more fluently in English, which is his second language, than we do. He’s a sharp guy, to say the least.

To start off his NiuBBall career, Xiaonan gives us a piece on Gerald Green, who had a cup of coffee in China two years ago before eventually finding his way back to the NBA with the New Jersey Nets. As he writes, Once a feel good story of redemption, Green looks to have fallend back into his old ways…

The NBA Playoffs is entering its climax. LeBron is still insanely great; Paul George is still radiating charms; Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are still doing what they are doing even though I still have no idea exactly what that is.

Instead, it is someone on the bench who got engrossed in deep thought — Gerald Green. Earlier this season, I talked with him earlier after a game at the Wells Fargo Center, one of a multitude of games where he logged zero minutes.

Green, of course, spent some time in the CBA two seasons ago. I asked him about his experience and whether or not he will go back to China again when his NBA career ends; all these cliches you can imagine for a NBA player who has ties with China. His response to my dummy cliches were quite telling about his disposition, which I postulated as utterly delusional.

Continue reading…

Post by Jon Pastuszek 

May 28, 2013


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


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.

Continue reading…

Post by James Howden 

May 23, 2013


The Ol’ Basketball Coach Goes to Beijing: NiuBBall Lives!


Beijing Youth Politics College: No this isn’t the basketball court, but you get the idea.

Anyone who has snooped around NiuBBall’s Twitter feed or the “About Us” section should know that we’re way into pick-up hoops. So when NiuBBall contributing scribe, James Howden, sent an email to tell us that he was going to be in Beijing for a weekend, we responded in the only way we know how: Bring your basketball shoes.

And it’s a good thing he did because Howden, despite the self-deprecation and the old-fart jokes, plays pretty darn well. Possessing high basketball IQ, great fundamentals, a keep-em-honest jump-shot and an understanding of the value of the hockey assist (as all proud Canadians should), he was an extremely stabilizing and useful addition to our usual Saturday afternoon squad’s backcourt. James, next time you come we’ll try to get you some better comp. In the meantime, stay well in Dalian and good luck trying to find a decent full-court out there.

Because I have connections with cool people in Beijing – well, okay, one – my itinerary on a recent trip to the capital was not the usual middle-aged tourist fare. My weekend in The Big Smoke (literally, if you look at the skyline or scout the pollution figures) was highlighted by a Saturday afternoon not pounding the pavement at Tiananmen Square or fast-breaking into Temple of Heaven Park or (thank heaven!) being full-court pressed by the salesfolk at the pearl or silk markets.

Instead, this lone man loose in the city went hooping. My ace contact had given me a standing invitation to “get in a run if you’re in ever in Beijing”, perhaps not thinking I’d be silly enough to take him up on it. I was, and (heaven help me) I was jazzed about it. Our rendezvous was set for 12:30 on the platform at the Xizhimen station of the number two metro line, the loop that runs a rough underground rectangle of the city center. I had no idea where I was going, but I had a mobile phone and a tall young American to look for at Xizhimen – that is, until he phoned to say that he was stuck in a police station, doing the obligatory bureaucratic dance of renewing his residence permit for foreigners. He wouldn’t be able to meet me.

(Who is this masked man? And was he the ringer? Read on, friends, read on.)

Continue reading…

Post by Jon Pastuszek 

May 21, 2013


The NBL: Kinda sorta worth paying attention to this summer


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.

Continue reading…

Post by Jon Pastuszek 

May 16, 2013


Shanghai Sharks announce Wang Qun has head coach; re-sign Max Zhang


Things are going to be a lot different in Shanghai next season.

Last Friday, the Sharks held a press conference to announce a combination of decisions that will have a huge impact on the club’s short-term and long-term direction: the appointment of Wang Qun as head coach, and the re-signing of “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu.

Wang, who has had a long history with the Sharks and owner Yao Ming, will become the first official Chinese head coach since Yao took control over the club in 2009. He had been serving in an interim role after American Dan Pannagio was fired mid-season last year.

Continue reading…

Post by Jon Pastuszek 

May 15, 2013


Legless 13 year-old plays basketball, doesn’t use a wheelchair, and shoots the crap out of it


The frequently used, “My legs are dead,” is no longer a valid excuse to get out of playing a game of hoops.

Not after seeing this.

Qin Xulei, like many other 13 year-olds, loves basketball. He lives in Luoyang, Henan where he attends middle school. He plays ball with his classmates when he can during the schoolday, and gets in extra practice everyday when his class lets out.

None of that makes Qin special. That he has no legs, however — and chooses to play without the aid of a wheelchair — that is special.

More amazing: The kid is nice with it. Just take a look at the video below.

Continue reading…

Post by Jon Pastuszek 

May 2, 2013

1 Comment

Brittney Griner signs in WCBA with Zhejiang Chouzhou


Apparently not satisfied enough with their previous 6’8 dunking female center, the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls have taken things up a notch, signing not only the world’s greatest women’s dunker, but possibly its most dominant as well.

In an official announcement posted to the team’s website today, the Golden Bulls have signed Brittney Griner for the 2013-14 season. She will replace Australian center Liz Cambage, who helped lead the team to a Women’s Chinese Basketball Association Finals appearance before they ultimately lost to Maya Moore and the Shanxi Xingrui Flame.

Griner, who finished out her stand-out four-year collegiate career at Baylor in March, was recently selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury.

Continue reading…

Post by Jon Pastuszek 

May 2, 2013


Thursday Morning Jianbing


Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links…

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Post by Jon Pastuszek 

April 30, 2013


Boss Wang to sell Shanxi Zhongyu; team to move to Beijing


With his eccentric behavior, can’t miss quotes and and in-game diagramming of plays, Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons owner, Wang Xingquan, better known to many as “Boss Wang,” has been one of the most newsworthy and entertaining figures in the Chinese Basketball Association over the last eight years.

Count us among the many who will miss writing about all of it.

Confirming the longtime rumors that had been swirling about for the last several months, the Brave Dragons will be sold to a Beijing-based investment group, who upon completion of the transaction will move the club to China’s capital city for the 2013-14 season. According to Sina, Beijing Enterprises Group Co. Ltd. has reached an agreement to pay CNY 120 billion (US $194.5 million) CNY 120 million ($19.4 million), a price which includes the rights to all of the club’s senior and second team players, including imports Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines.

The move marks Beijing Enterprises first foray into professional basketball. Continue reading…

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