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Tag Archives: 2012 CBA Finals

Beijing to play in Wukesong for entirety of post-season

February 8, 2013

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Good news for Beijing, bad news for everyone else: The Ducks will be defending their championship in the same place they won it last year, the 18,000 seat MasterCard Center (formerly knows as Wukesong Arena). And this time, they’ll be playing every home game there.

The move was officially approved last week by the Beijing City Sports Bureau.

Last season, the Ducks, capitalizing off of the unprecedented attention and popularity from a cinderella-esque run to the CBA Finals, successfully moved their home court from the smaller and comparatively drab Shougang Gymnasium to the NBA-quality Wukesong Arena, which served as the main basketball stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Coming into the final series as heavy underdogs against four-time defending champ, the Guangdong Southern Tigers, the Ducks shocked the nation by handily defeating their opponents in five games, going undefeated at home while playing in front of sold out crowds.The Ducks’ intensified home court advantage served as a major reason why the team was able to upset their opponents, and the three games were the largest crowd ever for a CBA game

The Ducks attempted to move the regular season home opener to the arena, but were eventually blocked due to an Elton John concert.

With every home game to be played there in the post-season, the Ducks now have what is without a doubt the best home court advantage in the league, assuming of course fans flock to the stadium like they did last season. And now that the Ducks seem to have found their groove after beating first-place Guangdong last Sunday, talks of a repeat are now squarely back on the table.

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After all of that Finals MVP controversy jibber jabber, Lee Hsueh-Lin now has a golden sneaker

November 13, 2012

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Almost eight months after the 2011-12 CBA Finals, Beijing guard, Lee Hsueh-lin, finally has his MVP trophy… er, sneaker.

Remember when Stephon Marbury should have won CBA Finals MVP, but didn’t because he’s a foreigner? Seems like a while ago, right? Well, that’s because it was a while ago. Almost eight months to be exact.

Remember who won the award instead? No? Well up until this very day, neither did anybody else.

Whether it was to allow almost three-quarters of a year to let the public backlash against the anti-foreigner rule cool off, or because the decision was just that difficult, the powers that be at the Chinese Basketball Association held off in officially handing out the award… for eight months. As in 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Like, count-that-on-two-hands eight. Or one if you know how to count Chinese style. You know what I mean. A long time.

Of course within that amount of time, the league refused to do the one thing in which it should have done — change the rule — but did you really expect that to happen?

Instead, the league settled on Beijing’s Taiwanese guard, Lee Hsueh-lin. And we’ll give out some credit: If foreigners are ineligible, Lee is the right call. Dubbed “Mr. 48 Minutes” by Chinese media because dude practically never came out of the game during the Ducks’ magical Finals run, Lee  averaged 11.4 points, 3.4 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals and a three-point percentage of42% over five games against the Guangdong Southern Tigers. All while playing with a back injury.

For his troubles, he gets a golden sneaker that according to this NetEase article made out of 270 grams of gold. Another interesting factoid: Lee becomes the first Taiwanese player to win a CBA MVP. So that’s cool.

…But Stephon Marbury still should have won.

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Su Wei got married

July 28, 2012

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Su Wei and his new wife.

It’s been a rough few months for Guangdong center, Su Wei.

Back in April during Game 1 of the CBA Finals against Beijing, the big seven-footer was caught on live television cursing out Stephon Marbury after Su’s teammate, Zhou Peng, tried to intentionally injure Marbury with a Kobra Kai sweep the leg reenactment.

That incident then gave rise to “Su Wei Sha Bi” — Su Wei is a stupid cunt — which was yelled at the highest possible volume by each and everyone of Wukesong Arena’s 18,000 Ducks fans before the CBA stepped in and threatened to move Beijing’s home Game 5 to a third-tier city if fans couldn’t clean up their mouths.

By the time Game 4 came back to Beijing, Su, had lost his spot in the Guangdong rotation altogether thanks to some truly awful play on both ends and thus found himself strapped to the bench for the entire game and the rest of series. And so ”Huan Su Wei,” — sub Su Wei — was born, becoming the chant/movement/slogan that defined the series and will continue to haunt him every time he plays in Beijing (and possibly other cities, too).

It got worse for Su, though. After losing their title to Beijing, Su then lost something arguably of greater value: His spot on the National Team. On the roster for both the 2010 FIBA World Championship and 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, Su was one of the final cuts for London as head coach Bob Donewald Jr. opted for a smaller, more athletic team in where all 12 players could catch passes and make open lay-ups.

But after being made a national mockery and losing his spot in London, it appears things are looking up for Big Su: Dude apparently got married earlier this week.

A set of photos, which were sent into Sina Sports by a Sina Weibo user on July 23rd, show Su and his new wife at a wedding ceremony somewhere in China. No word as to what the bride’s name is or where she’s from. Congrats to dude and the new wife, who hopefully won’t want to “Huan Su Wei” if he loses his minutes again.

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Stephon Marbury Has Silenced His Critics This Year, Maybe For Good

April 3, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on Beijing Cream; big ups to Anthony Tao for his reads and edits.

It’s November 2010, and Stephon Marbury has locked himself inside a hotel room in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, sad, hurt and uncertain over his future in China.

Eight months earlier, after basically being told he wasn’t welcome anymore in the NBA, he had come to play for the Shanxi Brave Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association. American media cackled at this desperate move from a desperate man, and eagerly awaited what they felt sure would be a quick return Stateside.

In China, fans saved their laughter for the team Marbury was joining. Known equally for their dirty coal-crusted home city, an obsessive-compulsive owner, Wang Xingjiang, known as Boss Wang, and a huge pile of losses over the years, the Brave Dragons were their own punch line.

But it became clear from the beginning that Marbury didn’t consider any of this a joke. Arriving in January with a one-year contract and an ambitious business plan to sell his line of Starbury sneakers, Marbury quickly ingratiated himself to fans both on and off the court. He willingly engaged the media. He patiently signed autographs. He took pictures with locals. He learned a few basic Mandarin words. He tried Chinese food. He was, genuinely, it seemed, happy.

This was in stark contrast to Shanxi’s previous expensive import, Bonzi Wells, who hated it so much in China – the food, the long travel, the cold gyms, the endless practices, the crowds, everything – that he went back to the US during the CBA’s annual Spring Festival break and never came back. He lasted 14 games. After 15 games, Marbury’s CBA career seemed to be just taking off, culminating with the MVP award in the CBA All-Star Game. Shanxi was ready to sign Marbury to a multiyear extension. In a little under half a season, he had turned the Brave Dragons into the CBA’s hottest ticket while transforming himself into the foreign darling of China.

But maybe most important of all, he’d found peace. With the Chinese either not knowing or not caring about his past, here was a rare opportunity to reinvent himself, a clean slate. He used that opportunity to show love – “love is love,” as he was fond of tweeting.

Which is why, back in the hotel just two weeks before the start of the new season, it hurts so much to realize that Shanxi no longer has love for him: Boss Wang has just informed him he isn’t wanted.

~

It’s December 2011, and Stephon Marbury and the Beijing Ducks have just won their 13th straight game to open the season, the best start in team history.

“Our goal is to win a championship,” he says.

Over a year earlier, after his separation with Shanxi, he had come to Beijing to offer his services. Boss Wang and his newly appointed general manager, Zhang Aijun, became the latest to laugh at him, adding to his desire to prove his doubters wrong.

The reasons for Marbury’s separation from Shanxi are unclear. Shanxi claimed he showed up to camp out of shape and with too many demands; Marbury says he merely wanted health insurance for his family and that he was committed to leading the team toward the playoffs. Whatever the case, Wang and Zhang proposed that Marbury stay on as an assistant, with the possibility that he would play if the team made the playoffs. Though they never said it publicly, they likely felt that he wasn’t good enough to lead their team.

Feeling cheated, Marbury declined, and after holing himself up in his room to recover and plan his next move, he boarded a plane to China’s capital. For Marbury, the timing of Shanxi’s decision could not have been worse — with the season starting soon, most teams had signed their allotment of foreign players, making his options severely limited.

One team that still had a spot was the Beijing Ducks. Marbury literally showed up at their front door. If they wanted him, he was theirs.

It turned out, though, they already had a guy lined up, another former NBA All-Star, Steve Francis. And though the deal hadn’t been finalized and Francis wasn’t in China, they said they were going through with it.

Known as Fu Lao Da (roughly translated as Don Francis, in reference to the mafia) by every Chinese who watched the Houston Rockets during Yao Ming’s first two years there, Francis was at the time one of China’s favorite NBA players. Idolized for his high-flying dunks just as much for his generosity toward Yao during his rookie season, the announcement of Francis’ contract with the Ducks was met with pinch-me-is-this-really-happening frenzy.

But the truth was, as informed fans and journalists knew, Francis was coming off major knee surgery and hadn’t played professional basketball in almost two years. And while television reports were announcing his lucrative two-year deal with clips of the old Stevie Franchise throwing down sick dunks, an old, skinny and out-of-shape retired basketball player got on a flight from the States bound for Beijing.

What followed was the most disastrous stint for a foreigner in Chinese basketball history. His 13-day, four-game stay included a 17-second debut with an ice pack around his ankle, a middle-finger, an outright refusal to practice and a grand total of 14 minutes played.

Francis would serve as the most extreme case in a season that was dominated by similarly failed jumps to China by former NBA players. Undoubtedly influenced by Marbury’s success in Shanxi, Javaris Crittenton, Ricky Davis, Mike James and Rafer Alston all at one time or another came to China with a goal to cash in on China’s big basketball market, and all left within a month.

Marbury ended up on a newly established team in Foshan, Guangdong province. His team, the Dralions – a cross between a Dragon and a Lion – had just moved from Shaanxi (not to be confused with Shanxi), where the owner had essentially gone bankrupt. As is the case with most bankrupt teams forced to relocate, Foshan stunk. At the core of the problem, their Chinese players were all very young, and they weren’t very good.

Meanwhile, not an hour away from Foshan were the Guangdong Southern Tigers, winners of seven CBA championships, and the DongGuan Leopards, an up-and-coming team with several young players who will one day play for the Chinese national team. Once the most popular player in all of China, Marbury was now barely the most popular player in his province. No matter how charming and nice he remained, people were unable to get excited about watching a losing basketball team. No longer the newest sensation in China, some in the media wondered if Marbury Mania had run its course.

He paid no mind to it, though. While players were running to US-bound planes at full sprint, Marbury remained happy with his life in China and maintained that his future rested here. As the losses mounted, he tried to stay positive by saying his goal was to develop the team’s young players.

Foshan ended the season by winning four of its last five. Still, the Dralions were 11-21, the fourth-worst team in the league. And the critics were clapping: two years in China, no playoff appearances. Some things never change, they thought.

Which is why, back in the Beijing locker room as he changes to leave the arena after starting the year 13-0, Stephon Marbury is feeling so good.

~

It’s August 2011 and Marbury has just signed a contract with the Beijing Ducks, the same team that rejected him for Steve Francis a year ago.

Reports of a decrease in Starbury’s popularity were premature, at least from a front-office standpoint. Once it became obvious that Marbury wasn’t headed back to Foshan, several teams expressed interest, including the Guangdong Southern Tigers, fresh off yet another CBA title.

In the end, he chose Beijing. As one of China’s biggest markets, it meant it would be good for his shoes. It was also, as he finds out after attending a Beijing Guo’an soccer match at Workers Stadium in the summer, a city passionate about sports. The fact that it’s a bustling metropolis rife with foreign restaurants and supermarkets doesn’t hurt, either.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s my new life in China.”

~

It’s March 18, 2012, and Stephon Marbury is shredding the Shanxi Brave Dragons for 30 points and eight assists as the Beijing Ducks punch their first-ever ticket to the CBA Finals.

A week earlier, after torching his old squad for 53 points in Game 2 and 52 points in Game 3 to lead Beijing to a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-five series, Marbury was accused of striking a fan after a tense Game 4 in Taiyuan that Beijing lost. (In all likelihood, the fan made it up, as no witnesses corroborated the story and no video evidence was produced. Marbury received no punishment from the league.) Once again, American media laughed: it took more than two years, but the real Steph has come out for everyone to see. They laughed at Marbury, they laughed at his shoes, they laughed at his goal of winning a CBA championship.

But all they really did was give him more motivation.

Game 5 was delayed four days because CBA officials wanted tempers to simmer, but the game itself, in front of a packed Shougang Gymnasium on national TV, produced little by way of drama. The Ducks cruised to a 110-98 victory. Afterwards, Marbury ducked into a bathroom and sobbed with joy.

This moment, by all accounts, was portrayed as the denouement of the 2012 Stephon Marbury saga. Because the team that waited in the finals was the four-time defending champs, the Guangdong Southern Tigers, with their NBA-level imports in Aaron Brooks and James Singleton and a roster of full of National Team players. Surely the Ducks wouldn’t be able to write a happier ending than the one they just got.

Right?

It’s March 30, 2012, and Stephon Marbury is a champion. Nobody is laughing anymore.

In five games, Beijing upends Guangdong in the biggest upset in CBA history. And then, with his teammates and the coaching staff still in the locker room, Marbury emerges by himself and stands at midcourt while 18,000 – the largest crowd to ever attend a CBA game – chant his name.

Over the last season, Year Three, Marbury found his home as a Beijing ye menr – a true Beijinger, in the eyes of the people who live here. He’s not just a basketball player, he’s a fixture of the city, a daily participant in its day-to-day. He continues to go to Guo’an soccer games, he chats with fans on Sina Weibo (Chinese Twitter), he writes a weekly China Daily column and occasionally rides the subway to practice. People feel that it’s genuine.

In his own locker room, he’s Ma Dao, the undisputed leader of the team. He is lauded as an on-court coach by head coach Min Lulei. His Chinese teammates point to his positive attitude and work ethic as major reasons this year’s team came together so quickly, going from an eighth seed in last year’s playoffs to champions. Two rookies, Zhu Yanxi and Zhai Xiaochuan, both of whom played critical roles in Beijing’s success this year, were selected to the National Team training camp roster this summer; they credit Marbury with helping them achieve that.

In the CBA, he’s a spokesperson for the league and an advisor for newly arrived foreign players. He’s not just an advocate of basketball, he’s an advocate of Chinese basketball. He says he wants to help the sport, the league and its players grow. He says he wants to play in Beijing for four more years. He says he wants to stay in China until he’s old. He says he wants to coach the National Team one day.

That will come later, maybe. The only thing that matters now, though, are the fans showering him with love. He thumbs the front of his “Champions” t-shirt while fans chant, Zongguanjun – “We are champions!”

Shortly after lifting the trophy, he tweets, “I wanna thank all of the reporters who said I couldn’t play basketball anymore. I took your negative energy and turned it in positive energy.”

Love is Love. So is proving everybody wrong.

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Beijing – Guangdong Game 5: Ducks win, Ducks win!

March 31, 2012

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Stephon Marbury and the Ducks celebrate the franchise’s first ever CBA championship. (Photo: Osports)

Guangdong – 121 @ Beijing – 124

After doing almost everything on the cout to lead Beijing’s success this season, all Stephon Marbury could do as Aaron Brooks’ potential game-tying three went into the air in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, was watch from off the court — fouled out, on the bench.

And when Brooks’ shot missed, all he could do was run onto the court, sit down on the floor and take in Beijing’s first ever Chinese Basketball Association championship.

In a thrilling fourth quarter comeback, Marbury scored 41 points and seven assists to lead Beijing to an improbable 4-1 series victory over four-time defending champs, Guangdong. Beijing becomes only the fourth team in the CBA’s 17-year history to win a title, joining Guangdong, Bayi and Shanghai.

Down 111-101 with seven minutes left in the fourth, Beijing looked like they were all set to book tickets to DongGuan for a Game 6. But after several trips to the free-throw line, and a switch to 2-3 zone on defense, the Ducks tied the game at 114 on Lee Hsueh-lin’ wide open three from the wing with before taking the lead on the very next possession on Marbury-to-Zhai Xiaochuan hook-up on the break.

Shortly after, James Singleton would come back with a three to put Guangdong back ahead 119-118. But that didn’t last long as Morris hit a free-throws after being fouled while going up for an offensive rebound, then hit two more after getting fouled on a defensive rebound. Li Yuanyu answered to to tie the game at 121 with two minutes left, setting up what would be an exciting, down-to-the-last-second game.

Marbury though, who guarded Brooks in the fourth quarter for the first time all series, wouldn’t participate it in. With just over a minute left, he was called for a block on Brooks’ drive and was forced to head to the bench with six fouls for the first time this post-season. On the ensuing two possessions, Brooks missed a three and Lee Hsueh-lin missed a tough lay-up in traffic before Zhai Xiaochuan blocked Li Yuanyu’s lay-up attempt at the rim. Morris corralled the loose ball and barreled full steam ahead before eventually crashing into Zhu Fangyu, who was called for the block with 21 seconds left. Morris hit both to give Beijing a two-point lead.

Brooks’ potential game-tying lay-up was blocked out of bounds, and his three-pointer from the corner drew iron. Chen Lei split two free throws and with no timeouts left, Guangdong was forced to race the ball up the court and shoot a desperation three, which Singleton barely missed. And with that, the celebration was on.

Zhai Xiaochuan scored 22 points and five rebounds, Lee Hsueh-lin and Zhu Yanxi each had 16, and Randolph Morris finished with 14 and eight. For Guangdong, Brooks scored 33 points while Singleton had 29.

Once again, this game was dominated by referees’ whistles. Beijing shot 47 free-throws to Guangdong’s 23, many of which came in the fourth quarter. Beijing entered the penalty with just over seven minutes left in the game; Guangdong on the other hand, didn’t draw a single foul on their opponents until a few minutes after.

The CBA Finals MVP will be announced later today.

Box Score

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The looming question of CBA Finals MVP

March 29, 2012

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Ask, and no one would question that Stephon Marbury has been the best player in the Chinese Basketball Association this season. And nobody would question that he’s been the best player in the first four games of the Finals.

But, thanks to two CBA rules, Marbury won’t be officially recognized by the league as such. Forget for a minute that at 3-1, the Finals aren’t over and with Games 6 and 7 both to be played (if necessary) in DongGuan, they are far from over if Beijing doesn’t finish the job tomorrow night at home. No matter who wins this, no foreigners will be officially etched into the CBA history books. Both the regular season and Finals MVP awards are only handed out to Chinese players.

If that seems unfair given Marbury’s mastery over the last four games, sit down, take a deep breath and repeat the three words that often can provide oneself with some closure in these situations: mei ban fa. There’s nothing that can be done to change it for now, and probably forever. For the last 17 years, that’s way the rule has always been.

Which means the chants of “M-V-P!” from the 18,000 strong at MasterCard Center are falling on deaf ears. No matter how much the people want it and no matter how much Marbury deserves it, the player standing on the podium at the end of this series will be Chinese.

“The rules on selecting our Finals MVP award  are all written in this season’s official league handbook,” said a CBA spokesperson earlier today. “They’re not the result of somebody just coming out and specially changing them. If someone has a suggestion, we’ll consider it after the season.”

In the handbook, the rules stipulate that the award can only be handed out to one of the top three Chinese scorers on the winning team. Heading into Game 5, those are Zhai Xiaochuan (11.5 points per game), Lee Hsueh-lin (9.9) and Zhu Yanxi (8.5).

So who wil it be? First, let’s go with who it probably won’t be. Lee Hsueh-lin, who in our eyes has been the most deserving due to his averages of (almost) 10 points, four assists and two iron lungs, likely won’t receive the award for political reasons. Remember: Lee is from Taiwan, a country China doesn’t recognize. And since the CBA is run by the government, I highly doubt Lee will get the trophy over his Chinese teammates.

And if that is indeed the case, that leaves us with either Zhai Xiaochuan or Zhu Yanxi. Zhu missed most of Game 4 with an injury, but has otherwise been pretty solid. Zhai has better numbers, but hasn’t been as consistent — in Games 2 and 3 on the road in DongGuan, he only managed a combined 10 points and three rebounds, and looked out of his element for large parts of both contests.

Obviously, there’s still some games to play so there’s still time for people to separate themselves from each other. With no clear-cut Chinese candidate, its obvious what should happen: They should give it to the guy who deserves it, Marbury. But since the CBA is bent on encouraging/promoting/hyping/propping their own players, we just have to move on and say: Mei ban fa and move onto other things, like why Su Wei is on the bench yawning during Game 4 of the CBA Finals.

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Beijing – Guangdong Game 4: Ducks move one win away from CBA title

March 29, 2012

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Randolph Morris’ excellent performance on offense, which included three big dunks, was key in Beijing’s Game 4 victory. (Photo: cfp.cn)

Guangdong – 98 @ Beijing – 107

The Beijing Ducks are one win away from their first ever CBA championship and the biggest upset in CBA history.

Stephon Marbury scored 28 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds, Randolph Morris hit for a double-double with 32 points and 12 boards, and Zhai Xiaochuan came up big with 17 points as the Ducks pasted the Southern Tigers inside to pick up a huge Game 4 win.

After struggling to cope with their opponents’ Game 3 adjustment, the Ducks answered to their opponent’s small ball lineup last night by pounding the ball inside to Morris, who responded with arguably his best game of the series. All too aware that Guangdong was switching on all of his screen-and-rolls, Marbury called Morris over almost exclusively to run the two-man game in the second half with excellent results. When Marbury’s man, Zhou Peng, switched on to the much bigger Morris, Marbury gave up the ball let the center go to work on his physically overmatched opponent. Isolated with little help behind him, Zhou hardly stood a chance as Morris either drove by him or shot over him with equal ease.

And when Marbury wasn’t dishing off, he was scoring it himself, often it key moments. In the fourth quarter with Beijing down one, Marbury hit a deep three and a tough lay-up in quick succession to put the score at 87-81. Later, with Beijing up four in the closing minutes, Marbury hit another big three to put the game at 99-92 and effectively out of reach for Guangdong.

Committed to going small from the beginning, starting Dong Hanlin over Su Wei, Guangdong elected to focus their offense on the perimeter. And while Zhu Fangyu got many open looks, neither he nor anyone else was really able to get it going from the outside. Guangdong as a team shot 8-34 from three, including 1-6 from Zhu, 1-7 from James Singleton, 3-12 from Aaron Brooks and 1-4 from Wang Shipeng. Wang, who has been awful this series, reached a new low in Game 4. He went 1-5 from the field, with his lone make coming on a meaningless three-pointer in the game’s final minute. Unlike in last year’s Finals against Xinjiang, he has been unable to get his own shot  off or create for teammates and is in a total funk.

Singleton finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds and Brooks has 28 points and six assists.

Game 5 is on Friday night.

Box Score

Other notes:

  • Before the game and at half-time, Beijing played a video featuring Chen Lei, Min Lulei, Marbury, Morris and members of the front office urging fans to keep their language under control and behave properly. On Tuesday, the CBA threatened to move Game 5 to another stadium or city if fans continued to act “uncivilized.” Minutes before tip-off, Chen Lei grabbed a microphone to personally ask fans to keep themselves in check. Unlike Game 1, there were no incidents and fans refrained from cursing and throwing things onto the court.
  • Zhu Yanxi went down hard midway through the second quarter after a big collision with Chen Jianghua at mid-court. Zhu stayed down for several minutes before laboring to the sidelines with an apparent injury to his midsection, where he remained on the floor for quite some time. He did not re-enter the game and was later driven to the hospital after the game. Doctors declared the injury as not serious. He was back at practice today and is expected to play tomorrow.
  • Su Wei, who has become public enemy number one in Beijing after his much publicized on-court spat with Marbury in Game 1, played only four minutes and was serenaded by mocking chants of huan Sui Wei – sub Su Wei — the entire night. Fans also chanted shang tui in reference to Li Chunjiang’s order to ”sweep the leg,” also from Game 1.

 

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CBA threatens Beijing, “uncivilized” fans with a move to a new arena for Game 5

March 27, 2012

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Beijing Ducks fans: If you want to see your team play inside the MasterCard Center (formerly known as Wukesong Arena) on Friday night, stop yelling “stupid cunt” at the top of your lungs towarsd anything with a Guangdong Southern Tigers logo on it.

At their limit over Beijing’s “uncivilized behavior” from their last two home games, the powers that be at the Chinese Basketball Association have declared that if  fans continue to scream cuss words and/or throw things onto the floor tomorrow night during Game 4, then the league will take away the team’s right to set the location of their own home court and force them to play somewhere else for Game 5 on Friday.

Where will that somewhere else be? According to CBA spokesperson, Xu Lan, it may not be in Beijing.

“As to whether it will be moved to another stadium [in the city] or to a third-tier city [outside Beijing], the league has not yet made a final decision,” said Xu yesterday.

During Game 1 last Wednesday, fans chanted cuss words at Guangdong the entire night and during the third quarter threw lighters onto the court in protest of a violent intentional foul on Stephon Marbury. Beijing was fined RMB 110,000 for the incident.

In the Sina report where Xu was quoted, the league specifically mentioned cursing and throwing things onto the court, but still stressed that if anything happens to interrupt the game or jeopardize stadium security, the CBA will move Friday’s Game 5 elsewhere. Given that Beijing is scheduled to play the next two in the 18,000 seat MasterCard Center, playing Game 5 in another stadium would take away what has literally become the biggest home court advantage in the history of the CBA.

Beijing general manager, Yuan Chao, came out and supported the league’s decision while also vowing that he will work hard to ensure that fans are behaving properly. Stephon Marbury has recorded a video to thank fans for their support and ask them to refrain from swearing loudly.

The seven-game series currently stands with Beijing up 2-1.

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“Mr. 48 Minutes” Lee Hsueh-lin may finally get some rest

March 26, 2012

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With nobody else able to help Stephon Marbury run the show, Beijing’s Lee Hsueh-lin has played 238 out of a possible 240 minutes the last five games. (Photo: Osports)

Quick, other than Stephon Marbury and Randolph Morris, who has been Beijing’s most valuable player this season?

If you took a poll, either of the Ducks’ rookie soon-to-be National Team training camp combo, Zhai Xiaochuan and Zhu Yanxi, would likely receive some votes. And maybe out of respect to longtime team captain and CBA laotou, Chen Lei would get some too. And that’d all be fine.

As long as they were all second-place votes.

You can try to make the case all you want, but if you’ve come up with someone other than Lee Hsueh-lin, then you’re just plain wrong.

(My) case in point: So important is Lee to the Ducks cause against Guangdong, that coach Min Lulei has called on the Taiwanese point-guard to play 142 out of a 144 possible minutes over the Finals’ first three games. And so important was he against Shanxi in the semi-finals, that Min played him every minute of Games 4 and 5.

Let that register for a second. Five games, two whole minutes of rest.

“Mr. 48 Minutes,” as he’s recently been called by Chinese media after playing every minute for four games in a row (he was on the court or all 48 in Games 1 and 2 of the Finals), has simply been an iron man and an indispensable player for the Ducks during their playoff run.

A former star in Taiwan for the SBL’s Yulon Dinos, where he won three SBL championships in a row from 2004-2006, Lee made the jump to the CBA in September 2010 when he signed a for the Ducks, and immediately jumped into the starting lineup at point guard. Considered as one of the best guards in Taiwan when he was in high school, the 27 year-old has been a part of the Taiwanese National Team setup for the last ten years, most recently at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship last summer in Wuhan.

After a solid debut season last year in where the Ducks made the playoffs, Lee came back even better and saw increases in steals and assists though his first eight games — all wins — while also keeping his turnovers at his usual low rate. But during that eighth game, he suffered a serious back injury that would keep him out for a little over two months. Beijing would go onto win their next five without him, but as Beijing’s thin group of guards tired as the season progressed, the team struggled to win games. After going 13-0, Beijing went just 7-10 over their next 17 games.

Lee came back for the team’s last two regular season games of the season against Shanghai and Guangsha, and his minutes had been steadily increasing throughout the first-round and semis until his recent string of 48 minute games. If you watch games, it’s hard not to see why Min feels he needs to be on the court at all times: Other than Marbury, Beijing has nobody who can handle the ball and organize the offense. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he can pressure opposing guards full-court (just ask Aaron Brooks) and he nails open threes pretty regularly. Once dubbed “the Allen Iverson of Taiwan,” Lee should really be called “the Earl Watson of Taiwan.” He may not be flashy, but he’s a solid starting point guard who generally knows what to do.

And luckily for the long-term future of Lee and of the Ducks, it looks as if Coach Min has seen why playing a dude with a bad back 48 minutes a night is probably a bad idea. Lee’s been receiving treatment immediately after every game, and with his back not completely healed and maybe getting worse, the coach has vowed that he’ll get some in-game rest from now on.

How much rest exactly, is in serious question because unless Xie Libin magically wakes up and is able to throw the ball to his teammates without an opponent getting a hand on it, Beijing still doesn’t have any other options. When at their best, Beijing goes seven deep. Guangdong of course, goes much deeper, meaning if Lee is in fact exhausted, this series is far from over; no matter where the next two games are being played.

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Beijing – Guangdong Game 3: Guangdong goes small to win big

March 26, 2012

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Beijing – 93 @ Guangdong – 111

Using a variety of smaller lineups for most of the game, Guangdong was able to limit Stephon Marbury from getting into the paint while completely shutting down Beijing’s bigs from getting good looks on the perimeter. Putting James Singleton at the five and Li Yuanyu at the four for large parts of the second half, Guangdong switched many of the pick-and-rolls that have become the staple of Beijing’s Marbury-centric offense. And although Marbury hit 7-10 from the three-point line, the strategy worked at both keeping him away from the basket and from keeping his passes out of the hands of wide-open teammates.

For Guangdong, the return of Zhu Fangyu’s scoring touch helped things as well. So did Aaron Brooks’ decrease in turnovers. Zhu scored 26 on 8-13 shooting to record his best game of the Finals, while Brooks put in a team high 30 points on only three turnovers. Singleton also enjoyed his best game of the Finals, scoring 21 points, grabbing 19 rebounds and generally making life difficult for everyone he guarded.

The key in this game, however, was Guangdong’s adjustment to go smaller. Su Wei, who missed several easy looks at the basket to go 3-11 from the field en route to an all-around awful performance in Game 2, only played 12 minutes and Wang Zheng never got off the bench. Against more traditional back the basket bigs, like Xinjiang’s Mengke Bateer, Su Wei is at his best. But, against an agile Beijing Randolph Morris-Zhu Yanxi-Ji Zhe rotation of bigs who can all shoot the ball, the lumbering seven-footer is simply not the answer on defense, either in pick-and-roll defense, help-side rotations or in close out situations.

Li Yuanyu, however, looks to be better suited for all of that. He scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in nearly 24 minutes before fouling out in the fourth quarter, all of which are playoff highs. He hasn’t received much playing time this season — only 23 appearances at an average of seven minutes per game in the regular season — but, with him and Dong Hanlin as the only two mobile Chinese bigs on the squad, it’s quite likely that coach Li Chunjiang will be calling his name more often as this series progresses.

For Beijing, Marbury finished with 39 points and three assists, and Morris had 21 and 14 rebounds. Nobody else finished in double figures.

Once again though, this game was plagued by fouls. 65 of them were called all together with Ji Zhe, Zhu Yanxi, Li Yuanwei and Zhou Peng all finishing the game on the bench with six apiece. For such an exciting series on the final scoreboard, we have yet to really see good, flowing basketball from start to finish.

Box Score

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Beijing – Guangdong Game 2: Beijing takes 2-0 lead behind steady Morris, clutch Marbury

March 24, 2012

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Beijing – 109 @ Guangdong – 106

Winning on the road at Guangdong? Tough. Coming back from 10 points in the fourth quarter? Also tough. Taking a 2-0 lead against four-time defending CBA champs? Even tougher.

But, toughest of all? The Beijing Ducks, who managed to check off all three last night during Game 2.

Randolph Morris had a game-high 33 points to go along with 12 rebounds as the Ducks stole home court advantage away from the Southern Tigers last night in DongGuan. Stephon Marbury added 23 points — 21 of which came in the second half — and nine assists, while three other players Chen Lei had (15 points), Zhu Yanxi (14) and Lee Hsueh-lin (13) all chipped in with double figures. It’s only the second home loss of the season for Guangdong with both coming at the hands of the Ducks.

Heading into the fourth quarter down 10, things looked like they were getting back to to normal for Guangdong. But Marbury had other ideas, scoring two buckets in the paint before leading a three-on-one break that ended with a Morris dunk. He’d keep coming until Beijing took the lead 94-93 with just over seven minutes left: A three from the corner, a driving lay-up to the left, two free-throws and a driving lay-up to the right. Zhou Peng would give the lead right back for Guangdong, but that’d be the last time the champs would be ahead.

A steal by Marbury and a turnover on Aaron Brooks gave four easy points to the visitors, and with the score 100-98 with Beijing inbounding under Guangdong’s hoop, Chen Lei got free on the baseline for an and-one to make it 103-98. After a bunch of missed threes by Guangdong, Morris hit a shot from the elbow to push the lead up to seven. Marbury then got it to nine with under two minutes left on a pull-up jumper to seemingly put the game away.

But for the second game in a row, the Ducks were the ones who nearly gave the game away. Marbury handed three points to Brooks after he fouled him on a three-point shot. Two possessions later, Morris traveled and James Singleton answered with a three on the other end to cut the lead to three. On Beijing’s next trip, Morris was called for an offensive foul and Guangdong had a chance to tie the game. Zhou Peng’s three missed as did Zhu Fangyu’s, so Marbury went to the line with 14 seconds left to ice the game. He missed both, and Guangdong had a third chance to tie the game. Brooks’ pass to Zhou Peng bounced off his chest, however and Beijing came away with a 2-0 series advantage.

Once again, Guangdong will point to turnovers and volume three-point shooting. They coughed up the ball 20 times and shot 7-28 from downtown, which were enough to counter the 22-8 advantage on the offensive glass. Brooks scored 25 for Guangdong, but also had seven turnovers. Singleton had 18 and 10, and Zhu Fangyu had 15.

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Beijing fined 110,000 RMB for “uncivilized behavior” from fans

March 23, 2012

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Yelling sha bi (stupid cunt) at the top of your lungs is worse than throwing bricks at an opposing team’s bus. Or so that’s what the CBA says.

Upon reviewing Wednesday’s Game 1 of the CBA Finals, the CBA has fined Beijing 110,000 RMB (US $17,460) for “uncivilized behavior” that included cursing Guangdong’s players, splashing them with drinks on their way into the tunnel after the game was over, and throwing stuff onto the court.

The report specifically mentions Zhou Peng’s flagrant foul on Stephon Marbury in the third quarter as the precursor to the cursing and throwing. This is the second time Beijing has been reprimanded by the league for cursing and the the third time for throwing things onto the court.

The fine is almost twice the amount that Shanxi was fined after Game 4, when fans threw lighters, bottles and cups onto the court at the end of the fourth quarter before ultimately taking to the parking lot to throw things at Beijing’s players and bus, which they prevented from leaving the arena for over an hour.

Known as jing ma, Beijing fans from Worker’s Stadium to Shougang Gymnasium have become synonymous with angrily cursing referees and opponents over the years. Other than put a muzzle around each fan’s mouth before entering the stadium, I really don’t know what the team can do to prevent this from happening again.

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Beijing-Guangdong Game 1: The night the CBA was at its best and worst

March 23, 2012

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Zhou Peng and Stephon Marbury exchange words midway through the third quarter. Moments before, Zhou intentionally took Marbury out while he was in mid-air shooting a three-pointer. (Photo: cfp.cn)

Guangdong – 101 @ Beijing – 108

Box Score

As I settled into my seat, took my coat off and looked around MasterCard Center (formerly known as Wukesong Arena) last night shortly before tip-off for Game 1 of the CBA Finals between the Beijing Ducks and Guangdong Southern Tigers, two thoughts immediately entered my head:

First, this nice cushy seat is way better than anything in Shougang Gymnasium.

Second, holy schnikes! There is not an empty seat in this entire arena!

The latter made me forget where I was for a second. Whoa, whoa, whoa. 18,000 seats totally sold out? The 2008 Olympics, of course. NBA China Games, ditto. But, the Chinese Basketball Association? The running joke of China; the league who’s mere mention typically elicits a scoff and a laugh from most Chinese?

The CBA? The NBA is waaay better. I don’t watch that…

But last night, people were watching that. A packed house of 18,000 people were watching to be exact — the most amount ever for a single CBA game.

And it was awesome. There was an atmosphere. It felt like basketball should feel. It felt like the Finals should feel. Whereas most CBA games typically are played over the staccato backdrop from fans — good play, let’s cheer! Poor turnover, let’s groan! Bad call, let’s throw water bottles! – this game had ebb and flow. Fans roared during Beijing’s player intros. They shut up when Guangdong’s Wang Shipeng splashed a three to open the scoring. Once at a rolling boil, they simmered when the visitors took 14-8 lead on a Zhu Fangyu three from the corner. They worked themselves back up when Ji Zhe knocked first knocked down a three, then drove by James Singleton baseline for a lay-up. They exploded when Lee Hsueh-lin cashed a three to give Beijing their first lead of the night. And they became flat-out delirious by the end of the quarter when Beijing was going into the huddle up 37-22.

Last night even the in-game DJ, the man every team employs to play horrible, loud music during every second of every game, couldn’t ruin what was going on. The slow buildup that starts from a dribble-drive and ends with a loud, satisfied cheer of appreciation when the play ends off of a made three from the kick, swing-swing that came after it; Wukesong had that last night. Instead of artificial noise being pumped in through the speakers, fans were actually chanting FANG-shou (de-FENSE). Instead of being instructed to cheer their team on, fans did it instinctively. Instead of loudly chorusing the Southern Tigers with sha bi (stupid cunt), they were instead just booing them loudly chorusing the Southern Tigers with sha bi.

Some things never change, I thought to myself.

Little did I know that my state of awesomeness would be soon interrupted by that same thought.

Guangdong managed to cut the lead to eight by the half, but after numerous turnovers and defensive breakdowns, they quickly found themselves down 71-52 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter. Coming down on offense, Guangdong’s Wang Shipeng drove right from the left side, ran into three defenders, stumbled and lost the ball. Wang felt like he was tripped (he was). The ref called a travel. Wang stamped up and down, ran to the official, pointed at the official, kicked the air, pointed to Marbury (the tripper), then stood incredulously at half court with his mouth open and his hands on his hips.

After the tantrum, Wang was called for T and Guangdong’s head coach, Li Chunjiang, called a time-out. Now down 20 after Marbury split the free-throws, stopping the game to calm the seven-time champs down seemed like a good idea. With 17 minutes left in the game, there was still plenty of time to stage a comeback.

But Coach Li didn’t do any calming. He did the exact opposite. He poured gasoline.

First, he ordered his two imports, Brooks and Singleton, to sit; a strange move considering nobody ever sits their two imports in the third quarter of a CBA game, nonetheless a Finals game. Maybe he was sending a message to his foreigners? Maybe he was sending a message to the league and the refs? Maybe he was throwing in the towel?

From my seat, it was obviously difficult to figure this one out. About a minute later, however, when Marbury was flat on his butt outside the three-point line, Li’s intention became quite clear — he had sent them out to hurt someone.

(YouTube people, go to Beijing Cream)
Amazingly, Zhou Peng stayed in the game. Even more amazingly, Marbury was called for a technical for his candid discussion with Guangdong center, Su Wei (Marbury hit two of three free-throws, Zhou Peng hit two of two).
Yet the most amazing was that Coach Li, a man who has won seven CBA championships, was the one who ordered the hit.
One good thing about CBA telecasts (and there are few, trust me), is that they don’t cut to commercial during time-outs. Instead, they go inside each team’s huddle so viewers can listen (and sometimes see, when players aren’t blocking the camera) what the coaches are saying. When the cameras went into Coach Li’s huddle, here’s what they recorded.

Shang tui! Shang tui!
“Sweep the leg! Sweep the leg! Do you understand?! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!” (H/T China Sports Review for that excellent translation).

Zhou Peng, one of four Guangdong players who represented the National Team in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, understood perfectly. Hence, the sweeping of Marbury’s leg and the attempted elbow to his face that went extra. Unable to stop Beijing from winning fairly, Guangdong had resorted to its Bill Lambier catalogue.

And with that, all the night’s awesomeness was ruined. The chant of sha bi from the 18,000 strong fans rained down, as did a couple pieces of debris. The game resumed, albeit very sloppily. Guangdong came back in the fourth and Wang Shipeng even had a chance to tie the game late with a three. It clanked, and Beijing ultimately took the game 108-101. It didn’t matter, though. By the final whistle, 73 fouls had been called. 79 free-throws had been shot Four players, Zhou Peng, Su Wei, Ji Zhe and Randolph Morris had all fouled out. And Guangdong, winners of seven out of the last eight championships, had been exposed as a dirty, classless team.

It’s the last point that makes me the most disappointed. Don’t confuse it for surprise, though. Cheap shots like the one on Marbury are common in Chinese basketball. In combination with terrible officiating, they’re often the cause of the many in-game brawls, National Team, Bayi Rockets and second-tier leagues included, that have occurred within China over the last few years. Instead of letting your game do the talking, you let your elbows do it for you.

The thing about this particular incident, however, is that the refs had the game in control for the most part. As evidenced by the high number of fouls, the game was being called with a tight whistle. This wasn’t a situation where things kept escalating until they hit Code Red. The only other pre-sweep the leg incident came in the first quarter when an in-air Marbury planted his knee onto the face of an on-ground Brooks while Marbury was going up for a lay-up right outside the charge circle. Marbury thought it was a dangerous play on Brooks; Brooks thought it was an unnecessary collision given that the whistle had gone off about two seconds before. Both got in each other’s face about it, but it didn’t carry over and affect the game in any major way.

Guangdong was just plain frustrated. Were the refs giving Beijing some home cooking? Maybe. Did Guangdong have a right to be aggrieved about the trip on Wang Shipeng, and a few other calls as well? Maybe, but that’s true of any game. Refs are always going to make mistakes.

In this case, the blame lies squarely on Guangdong and on Coach Li. And to be honest, I’m probably even more disappointed with Zhou Peng, who is by far China’s best and most versatile perimeter defender. Guys who take the challenge of guarding each team’s best outside scorer every night should have more pride in their craft. No matter if you’re getting torched; nobody should have to stoop to that level.

Yet, too often does Chinese basketball stoop to that level. Five years from now, people won’t remember Beijing and Shanxi’s semi-finals series because it went the maximum five games, the first time that’s ever happened in CBA history. They’ll remember it because Shanxi’s fans blocked Beijing from leaving their stadium and baselessly accused Marbury of hitting a fan… after Shanxi won Game 4. Five years from now, nobody will remember that outside the 2008 Olympics and possibly the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship last summer, last night was arguably the best in-game atmosphere in Chinese hoops history. They’ll remember Zhou Peng and sweep the leg.

And as rode back to my home on the subway after the game, it made me think: What a waste.

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2012 CBA Finals Preview

March 21, 2012

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Considered underdogs against seven-time champions Guangdong, Beijing will be looking to Stephon Marbury even more in the Finals. (Photo: cfp.cn)

The best CBA Finals ever?

With two hours away from Game 1′s tip-off, it’s obviously tough to answer that question.

Most anticipated CBA Finals ever?

Now that’s something we can answer more definitively.

Yes, yes and yes. Yes, 18,000 times over. With tickets in such high demand this Beijing-Guangdong match-up, the league agreed to take tonight’s opening game out of dumpy Shougang Gymnasium and into the world-class 18,000 seat MasterCard Center (formerly Wukesong Arena). Given that some CBA games sometimes struggle to draw 18,000 television viewers, everybody figured the arena would offer plenty of room.

At 8:00pm tonight, however, there will hardly be any room to put your elbows. On Monday, tickets sold out in eight minutes.

Outside China-United States’ opening group stage game during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Game 1 of the 2012 CBA Finals will undoubtedly be the most electric atmosphere in Chinese basketball history. And the series itself, despite its end result, will be the most talked about and watched CBA Finals of all time.

Since things in China come in threes, we thought we’d add to the most in-depth English language preview on the CBA Finals to make a nice trio of “best ofs.”

#1 Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers vs. #2 Beijing Shougang Ducks

Regular Season Series:
(1/4) Beijing – 104 @ Guangdong – 92
(2/10) Guangdong – 112 @ Beijing – 99

How They Got Here:
#1 Guangdong over #8 Fujian, 3-0
#1 Guangdong over #4 Xinjiang, 3-0
#2 Beijing over #7 Guangsha, 3-0
#2 Beijing over #3 Shanxi, 3-2

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 8:00 pm, @ Beijing
Game 2: Friday (3/23) 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 3: Sunday (3/25) 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 4: Wednesday (3/28), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing
Game 5: Friday (4/30), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing (if necessary)
Game 6: Sunday (4/1) 7:30pm, @ Guangdong (if necessary)
Game 7: Wednesday (4/4) ) 7:30pm, @ Guangdong (if necessary)

In seven game series, Game 1 is always an important game. So

But in the CBA, the 1-2-2-2 Finals format puts even more importance on Game 1. As in must-win importance. A win tonight by Beijing would not only put them up 1-0, it would ensure two more home games, which would be good consolation in the likely event they’re heading back for Game 4 down 2-1. A loss, however, and Beijing is looking at a potential 0-3 hole and the end of their title dreams.

So while Beijing can talk all they want about having nothing to lose and being the underdogs, there is considerable pressure tonight. In front of 18,000 of their fans, they’ll have literally the biggest home court advantage anyone’s ever had. What they’ll do with it remains a mystery: Not only is it Beijing’s first time in the Finals, it’s the first time for most of their players playing in this big of an arena. Will they freeze up under the bright lights? Or will they feed off the energy and play better as a result?

There is one thing that’s not a mystery, however — Guangdong has been to the Finals eight times and they’ve won it seven times. They’re not scared of this stage. And with their stable of National Team players, they won’t be scared of playing in Wukesong. Beijing will have to go out and win this one, because Guangdong certainly isn’t going to play like it’s their first time doing this.

Winning will be tough, not just because this is Guangdong, but because this is the best Guangdong team ever. Their regular season doesn’t indicate how good they really are, but when does it ever? Aaron Brooks is a legit NBA player and James Singleton is too. Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Su Wei, Zhou Peng and Chen Jianghua are all going to be in Beijing in a few weeks for National Team training camp. There simply has never been a more talented roster in Southern Tiger history.

The counter to that is that Beijing has never had a more talented import than Stephon Marbury. Wins for Beijing start and end with him, and he’ll to play just as well if not better than he did against Shanxi for his team to have any shot at pulling this off. Seeing how he was near perfect, it’s difficult to see how that’s possible. It’s even more difficult when you consider the waves of defenders that come his way this series. Guangdong can throw Wang Shipeng, Chen Jianghua, Aaron Brooks and even Zhou Peng at him if he really starts to go off. Heck, they might even throw Zhou Peng at him right away and deploy him in the same defensive-stopper role Coach Li Chunjiang used him at against Xinjiang’s Quincy Douby last year. 50+ points will be tougher for Steph to come by in this series.

Life will be a a lot little easier for Brooks, however. Lee Hsueh-lin and Marbury are the only two who will be considered to check him and both will have a tough time of executing their assignment. Nobody can stay in front of in the NBA; nobody can stay in front of him in China. He’ll get into the lane whenever he wants and once he’s there, it’s pick your poison for Beijing.

The 12 day layover may be a factor tonight for Guangdong, which is why I see a Game 1 win for Beijing. But, I don’t see them winning four against the champs.

Prediction: Guangdong in 6

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Ducks Fever: Game 1 sells out in eight minutes

March 20, 2012

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With demand so high in Beijing for the Ducks’ first ever Finals game, the team and the league elected to hold Wednesday’s Game 1 at the MasterCard Center (aka Wukesong Arena). Saying its an upgrade from Shougang Gymnasium would be like comparing NBA 2K12 on PlayStation 3 to the original Pong: Originally built for the 2008 Bejing Olympics, the stadium is able to hold up to 18,000 people and is one of three NBA quality arenas in China.

Should be more than enough for some measly CBA game, right?

Wrong.

According to Sina, tickets sold out in eight minutes on DaMai.com, the official online retailer for the Beijing-leg of the Finals.

Eight minutes.

Guess the CBA isn’t so measly anymore.

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