Tag Archives: Antoine Wright

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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Breaking down the 2011-12 CBA schedule

November 18, 2011

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Thumbs up if you’re excited to watch Xinjiang – Guangdong in December. (Photo: Osports)

China can be complicated and foreign place to the newly arrived; the Chinese Basketball Association arguably more so. So to make things easier for those who are new to the China basketball game, we’ve broken down the 2011-12 schedule and not only bolded each interesting match-up, we’ve italicized them as well. That’s how excited we are about the season starting up.

We’re also excited about the latest addition to NiuBBall, Andrew Crawford. Andrew is based in Shanghai, where he’s recently started his own blog about the Shanghai Sharks, Shark Fin Hoops. He also writes for one of NiuBBall’s comrades, Wild East Football, the only English-speaking/writing website about Chinese soccer.

He’ll be checking in from Shanghai frequently this season with Sharks updates, analysis and first-hand accounts from every home game. Working in combination with our man in Hangzhou, Edward Bothfeld, who will have the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions on equal lock this year, and NiuBBall is looking way more… well, niu bi, than ever.

And if you’re not new to the CBA, take these viewing recommendations as you will and of course, if you’re into leaving comments, feel free to leave some of your own opinions on some intriguing games this season.

Round 4: Zhejiang Chouzhou @ Xinjiang (11/27)

Former teammates in Denver, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin, match-up in what should be a very entertaining encounter in Urumqi. J.R. has vowed to put up nightly triple-doubles while he’s here in China — if he’s going to live up that claim, he’ll possibly have to do it at the expense of K-Mart, who very well could switch onto him in the second half if Swish is ripping the nets.

Jon Pastuszek

Round 5: Zhejiang Chouzhou @ Shanxi (11/29)

As evidenced by his 30-point, 10-rebound and 10-assist stat-line in only one half of a preseason game, J.R. Smith can fill it up. Even in the NBA, he was known as one of the best pure scorers in the league. On November 29th he will make a visit to Shanxi Zhongyu and square off head to head with last year’s scoring champ, Charles Gaines, who will be looking to defend his title.

NiuBBall’s guess? Smith: 53 points, Gaines: 44.

Edward Bothfeld

Round 6: Liaoning @ Zhejiang Guangsha (12/6)

On December 6th, Josh Powell of Liaoning Panpan will visit his former assistant coach, Jim Cleamons, who is now the head coach of Zhejiang Guangsha. Powell and Cleamons were together with the L.A. Lakers for their back-to-back title runs in 2009 and 2010.  Both will be trying to use their championship experience to elevate their respective teams to the upper-echelon of the CBA. On this night they will have to put their personal relationship on the backburner to focus on willing their teams to victory.

Edward Bothfeld

Round 8: Shanghai @ Guangdong (12/7)

Guangdong did an accomplished job of disposing of the Sharks in their recent preseason clash and will be looking to repeat the feat come round eight.  The headline will be the clash between the former face of Chinese basketball, Yao Ming, here embodied by the team he now owns, and his heir apparent, Guangdong’s Yi Jianlian.

The Tigers, who can also call upon the services of players like experienced National Teamers, Zhu Fangyu, Wang Shipeng and Zhou Peng, as well as forward James Singleton, are amongst the favourites to take home the CBA title come the spring. Their home clash with the Sharks will be a test of their championship credentials and Guangdong will have to be weary of a Shanghai team that are more than capable of causing an upset.

Andrew Crawford

Round 13: Foshan @ Zhejiang Chouzhou (12/18)

Who’s the better dunker? Gerald Green won the 2007 NBA Dunk Contest by doing a windmill over a table. The next year, he blew out a candle stuck inside of a cupcake perched on top of the rim. J.R. Smith went behind his back while in the air in 2009 and caught a 360 alley-oop during a game in 2010.

Either choice is fine with me. But if you’re still undecided, watch their game on December 18th in Yiwu, where there should be dunks galore.

Jon Pastuszek

Round 15: Zhejiang Guangsha @ Zhejiang Chouzhou (12/23) 

The first battle in the war for Zhejiang provincial supremacy will take place on December 23rd. Last season, the two games between these bitter rivals was decided by a combined nine points (which by CBA standards is remarkably low). During the off-season, Zhejiang Guangsha and Zhejiang Chouzhou both signed high profile NBA players to the roster, Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith, respectively. Fans always bring a lot of energy to this match-up, and as teammates last season in the NBA, expect Chandler and Smith to bring their best efforts in a game of provincial and personal importance.

Edward Bothfeld

Round 15: Xinjiang @ Guangdong (12/23), Round 29: Guangdong @ Xinjiang (2/3)

In a league has seldom, if ever, enjoys any amount of parity or excitement, in its 16 year history, either in the regular season or the playoffs, the Xinjiang-Guangdong rivalry should feel like the Super Bowl, Hannukah, your 21st birthday, March Madness, Thanksgiving, the NBA Finals, Christmas Day and New Year’s all wrapped into one.

The two teams have met up in the Finals each of the last three seasons, the latest of which turned into intense series went to six games. Once again, the result went to Guangdong. But, not content to give up on their title aspiration, Xinjiang spent almost $US 10 million to bring over Bob Donewald Jr., Kenyon Martin and Tang Zhengdong among others to put them over the hump. In an attempt to one-up their northwestern rivals in the summer arms race, Guangdong signed locked-out Yi Jianlian and Aaron Books, and former Flying Tiger James Singleton.

Finally, the CBA’s champion isn’t pre-determined. These two teams will meet again for a fourth time at the Finals in March. We, like every other CBA fan, can’t wait.

Jon Pastuszek

Round 16: Beijing @ Shanghai (12/25), Round 33: Shanghai @ Beijing (2/12)

Depending on who you talk to, one of these cities is a cold, stuffy, bureaucratic smog hole, whilst the other is a noisy neighbor with no history, tradition or class. The Shanghai and Beijing populaces love to beat each other in anything and everything so these two fixtures will generate a lot of interest in both cities.

Fittingly, the first skirmish will be played on Christmas Day and the visiting Beijing players can look forward to a variety of festive heckles about their mothers’ sexual preferences and the Ducks’ overall lack of talent. The opposition, plus the visit of Stephon Marbury will ensure a bumper crowd at the Yunshan. Moreover, the return visit to the Celestial City will be so late in the season that it may well have play-off implications, not only for the two sides on the court but other teams around them in the CBA rankings.

Andrew Crawford

Round 22: Xinjiang @ Jiangsu (1/8/)

Tang Zhengdong, who finally got out of Jiangsu after years of pouting, returns to play against the team that he’s played with his entire basketball career. Oh, and it could also be a pretty good game, too. Even without Tang, Jiangsu still has a nice squad led by National Team up-and-comer, Yi Li, and local products Hu Xuefeng and Meng Da.

Jon Pastuszek

Round 24: Beijing @ Shanxi (1/13)

Shanxi’s favorite foreign son, Stephon Marbury, returns to play for the team that he started his Chinese career with. The divorce was a messy one, but Steph and the city of Taiyuan still have lots of mutual love for each other.

–Jon Pastuszek

Round 25: Jiangsu @ Zhejiang Chouzhou (1/15)

Jiangsu eliminated Chozhou from the first round of the playoffs last year thanks to an incredible Antoine Wright buzzer beater — and a hometown time-keeper who started the clock about two seconds too late. With a chance for some revenge, Chouzhou coaches, players and fans are likely to have this rematch circled in bold on their schedules.

Jon Pastuszek

Round 30: Guangdong @ DongGuan (2/5)

The local DongGuan derby has always been must-see down in basketball-crazed Guangdong province, but the always one-sided rivalry took a competitive turn for the better last year as DongGuan transformed from an occasional playoff team into a legitimate semi-finals contender. For the first time in years, the Leopards beat their crosstown rivals last season in an epic overtime encounter in December. They met in the semi-finals, but by then key import Jackson Vroman had already suffered a season ending injury, and what could have been a great series ended undramatically with a 4-1 Guangdong triumph.

After having lost a few players this year, DongGuan won’t be as good as they were last year, but there’s still enough intrigue left to make this a good game.

Jon Pastuszek

Round 31: Xinjiang @ Liaoning (2/8)

Current National Team head man, Bob Donewald, who coaches Xinjiang domestically, and Liaoning’s Guo Shiqiang, the guy who Donewald replaced, don’t like each other. The two cursed at each other in English and in Chinese from opposite sides of the scorers table last year in a game at Shanghai, an altercation that nearly turned into a fist fight. The two’s relationship has detoriated so much as a result, that some people speculated Donewald cut every Liaoning player from the National Team roster as a way to stick it to Guo.

It’ll be Donewald’s first trip to Liaoning since the incident and I’m sure the fans will have something for him when he gets there.

Jon Pastuszek

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Friday Afternoon Bubble Tea

August 5, 2011

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It’s Beijing, it’s summer, it’s hot. So cool down with some bubble tea (with ice), chill out and take in these afternoon links.

  • As we recapped yesterday, both Titan Weekly and the Chengdu Daily reported that several CBA teams have offered deals worth over $1 million a month to superstars like Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. According to the Chengdu Daily, Wade was offered $2 million a month by Zhejiang Guangsha. But, according to a source speaking with NiuBBall, Chinese reports have been exaggerated. “There’s no way any CBA team is going to fork over $2 or $3 million for one player,” said the source. “With these new rules, there’s too much risk.” Guangsha’s GM, Ye Xiangyu, publicly denied the report.
  • John Lucas III, who has played the last two years in Shanghai, out-gunned some dude named Kevin Durant a couple days ago at Rucker Park. Maybe most of the domestic players aren’t anything to write home to the States about, but as we’ve maintained throughout this blog’s soon-to-be one-year existence, the imports here can ball.
  • Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin is considering playing in Taiwan next year, according to the China Post. Why not China, you ask? Because he has an American passport, that’s why. Taiwan passport-holding players are considered as domestic players in the CBA, but since Lin would have dual-citizenship if he were to obtain his Taiwanese passport, the would be ruled as an American import player. And though Lin can ball well enough to probably warrant a spot on a roster as an import, CBA teams traditionally do not go after young players. So with little interest in China, Lin would be smart to look at his native Taiwan.
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Monday Night Chuanr

June 20, 2011

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Nighttime links served up proper with a hearty helping of lamb on a stick.  The beer is on you, though.
  • Great stuff by Sam Amick over at SI.com on Antoine Wright, who played this past season for the Jiangsu Dragons.  The brutally honest Wright touches on a number of subjects, including his own failure to live up to the hype that surrounded him when he went into college and then the NBA.  But the most eye-opening of all is his choice words for his last NBA team, the Sacramento Kings.  Wright also talks a bit about his stay in Nanjing, which he claims helped him put things more into perspective.  We caught up with Antoine last Febuary in Nanjing — if you haven’t read that yet, go here.
  • Speaking of brutally honest, you know Stephon Marbury is always going to speak his mind when presented the opportunity.  Speaking to the New York Post’s Marc Berman, Marbury confirms that he’s happy in China and will be back for another season next year.  Also worth checking out for his pretty spot on appraisal of LeBron James. Is it just us, or does it seem like Steph really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the League?
  • After months and months of anticipation over who the Duke Blue Devils will play when they come to China this summer for an exhibition tour, the school has announced their official schedule.  And their opponent will be… the Chinese Men’s National Second Team! No official dates have been set, but the Dukies will arrive sometime in mid-August and will play a three-game series against a second-tier National Team that will include everybody who’s not good enough to play on the Senior National Team.  Which means Duke is going to win by a lot.  Why not play against the Senior Team, you ask?  Because the Senior team will be gearing up for the September FIBA Asia World Championships, and a loss to an American college team ahead of the big tournament would probably be a big face-loser for the Chinese.  There’s just not a whole lot to gain from the process.  At least, that’s our take on it.
  • If you’ve always wanted to follow an NBA cheerleading team as they hit the road in China, the Philadelphia 76ers dancers are in Chongqing… and they’re blogging about it.
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Monday Morning Jianbing

May 23, 2011

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Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links…
  • At first glance, Chris Herren, whom I watched play for the Celtics while growing up near Boston, and whom Chinese watched play for Beijing and Jiangsu in 2002-03 and 2003-04, doesn’t seem the caliber of player worthy of his own book.  After being drafted out of Fresno State by the Denver Nuggets in 1999, Herren played 70 games over two years with the Nuggets and Celtics before trail blazing different continents for various professional basketball gigs.  Yet, as his new autobiography, Basketball Junkie, details, there was a lot more going on behind the scenes than just hoops.  Co-authored by Bill Reynolds, Herren’s tale of deep and prolonged substance abuse has been received well and is worth the read for hoops fans.  Plus, as this interview suggests, there’s probably some interesting tidbits on playing in China.  You can check out an excerpt from the book online at SLAMonline.
  • ESPN’s “Player X,” an anonymous NBA player who writes for the Worldwide Leader on various NBA issues, thinks China is going to be “NBA-lite” within the next ten years.  A lot of things need to happen here for that to become a reality, the first of which includes heating up China’s southern stadiums and hotels.
  • Yale basketball’s blog, which highlights the team’s experiences during their ongoing tour of China, is aptly called “Yale Basketball in China Blog.
  • The Chinese Women National Team’s WNBA exhibition tour in the States has gotten off to a tough 0-2 start, as the Connecticut Sun ripped Big Red 101-63 on Thursday before the Washington Mystics slipped by them last night in a scrimmage 72-67.  To China’s credit, they are missing several of their top players, including Miao Lijie, as the coaching staff is looking at younger players in preparation for this summer’s FIBA Women’s Asia Championship in Japan.  China will play another scrimmage on Tuesday in Chicago against the Sky before they play another pre-season game against the New York Liberty on May 27th.  The schedule closes in Connecticut on the 30th, where China, the Sun and the Liberty will play a three-way scrimmage in the Sun’s practice facility.
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CBA Semi-Finals Preview

April 1, 2011

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Jiangsu’s Antoine Wright celebrates his game winner at the buzzer to sweep Zhejiang Chouzhou in Nanjing. (Photo from Xinmin.cn)

Round One of the CBA Playoffs went into the books last Sunday when DongGuan closed out Guangsha on the road to win their best-of-five series three games to one.  It was the only series that went more than three games.  As expected by most (except apparently for me), all the favorites won out: Xinjiang swept Beijing and Guangdong took care of Bayi in straight sets, Jiangsu won three straight close games against Zhejiang Chouzhou.

The semi-finals start on Sunday with the same 1-2-1-1 best-of-five format of Round One, with the lower seeded team hosting Game One.  The next two will be played by the higher seeded team and if necessary, Game Four will go back to lower seed and Game Five will be played at the higher seed.

Though highly uninteresting on paper, the first round made headlines not for good basketball, but rather for poor, corrupt officiating that affected the result of Xinjiang and Beijing’s Game Two matchup in Urumqi, and Jiangsu and Zhejiang’s Game Three in Nanjing.

As with the first round, the semi-finals are highly unlikely to see any upsets.  But, because we got you like that, we’re previewing the action anyways.

 

#1 Xinjiang (31-1) vs. #4 Jiangsu (20-12)

 

Jiangsu 109 @ Xinjiang 93, Round 8
Xinjiang 113 @ Jiangsu 103, Round 24

The Road:

Xinjiang over Beijing, 3-0
Jiangsu over Zhejiang Chouzhou, 3-0

Going up against a shorthanded Beijing team in round one, Xinjiang perhaps thought they could waltz right into the semi-finals.  But, as the Flying Tigers quickly realized from the outset of Game Two on their home court, heavy underdogs Beijing, playing with absolutely nothing to lose, wasn’t going to go down without a fight.  Perhaps exposing a chink in Xinjiang’s almost invincible armor, the Ducks posted up their guards against Quincy Douby and Zhang Qingpeng with great success, scoring lots of points in the paint while racking up fouls.

Up for most of the game, Beijing saw its tremendous effort undercut by and endless sound of whistles that ultimately led to Randolph Morris, Zaid Abbas and Ji Zhe all fouling out by the end of the game. With the officials clearly on Xinjiang’s side, Beijing was never allowed to get ahead by too much and when the game was close down the stretch, Douby took over to lead the regular season champs to an unlikely – and probably undeserved – victory.

Jiangsu meanwhile also relied on some home-cooking by the officials in their Game Three.  Antoine Wright’s series clinching buzzer beater was allowed to go down because the time-keeper started the clock about one second later than he should have, which guaranteed Wright enough time to get his shot off.

The two teams will meet in the semi-finals on the heels of both of these questionably officiate games.  But, unfortunately for Jiangsu, it looks like they’re going to share the same result as their opponents from the round before.  The Dragons’ big man in the middle, Tang Zhengdong, has been suspended by the team for violating team rules for the third time this season and starting point-guard, Hu Xuefeng, is still recovering from a nerve injury and is unlikely to be healthy in time.

That means that Liu Yahui and Yi Li are stuck guarding the far stronger, far more physical and far better James Singleton, Jerome Moiso is left to handle the Mai brothers and Megke Bateer on his own, and Wright is probably handed the task of guarding Douby for every minute of the series.  Not enough size and not enough bodies for Jiangsu to win a game this series, which is too bad considering Wright can do a solid job on Douby with his length, and that Jiangsu played Xinjiang pretty close in Round 24.

Key Matchup: Liu Yahui and Yi Li vs. James Singleton

In Round 24, Jiangsu went zone for large portions of the game to try and limit Singleton from overpowering the Dragons’ feather soft forwards.  Without Tang in the middle, they’ll likely resort to the same strategy, but it may not make a difference – Singleton thrives off of intimidation and physicality, and Liu and Yi simply don’t have the attitude or the physical to stand up to him for a prolonged basis.  Singleton struggled against Beijing – expect the energetic forward to gradually wear down Jiangsu on the inside.

 

Prediction: Xinjiang in 3

 

#2 Guangdong (25-7) #3 DongGuan (25-7)

 

DongGuan 112 @ Guangdong 103 (OT), Round 15
Guangdong 124 @ DongGuan 108, Round 32

The Road:
Guangdong over Bayi, 3-0
DongGuan over Guangsha, 3-1

This series would be totally different if Jackson Vroman hadn’t fractured his hand before the start of the playoffs, or if Zhang Kai hadn’t hurt his ankle at the beginning of Game Three last Sunday.  But, injuries are part of the game and they are unfortunately the only aspect of the game that can completely swing a series in another direction.  Kai, who missed Game Four on Wednesday with the ankle, won’t be 100% for their series against crosstown rivals, Guangdong and that’s a big deal.  Kai finished third in MVP balloting behind Mengke Bateer and Wang Shipeng, and has been one of the major reasons why DongGuan has exceeded all expectations this year.

DongGuan fans can take some solace in the fact that Vroman’s replacement for DongGuan, Courtney Sims, got better as the series went along against Guangsha.  He went for 20 points and 15 rebounds in Game Four, and looked a lot more comfortable within the offense than he did a week ago.  And for us, that’s understandable: Coming off of the plane to the sight of Guangsha’s enormous Puerto Rican center, 7-3 Peter John Ramos, wasn’t the warmest of welcoming presents for the 2010-11 D-League All-Star MVP.  Matched up against Marcus Haislip, who is a similar height a build, might be a better matchup for him.

But, Guangdong’s deep and experienced roster of national team players have been here before – they’ve won six out of the last seven CBA championships, remember? – and even though they had a disappointing regular season, they’ll have their sights firmly set on getting back to the finals where Xinjiang will likely await them.  The Southern Tigers have been relying on a scoring by committee concept on offense.  Lester Hudson has been scoring the ball a little bit better recently as well, and could  see his number called more often this series, as he’ll have a favorable matchup against the much smaller Josh Akognon.

DongGuan was a nice story this year, but Guangdong will be pretty big favorites entering this one.

Key Matchup: Lester Hudson vs. Josh Akognon

 

With Sims adjusting to his new team, the offensive load was placed squarely on the small shoulders of Akognon and he came through in a big way in the deciding Game Four: 43 epic points, 21 of which came from beyond the three-point line.  Akognon, a slight guard who isn’t physically strong, is a streak shooter who can get hot in a hurry.  But, as we saw when he was matched up against Tianjin’s Vernon Hamilton last February, Akognon struggles with stockier, physical guards who can get up into his body and push him further out on the perimeter.  Hudson, who is similar in build to Hamilton, might give Akognon a lot of problems which could force Sims to take on a bigger role on offense.  Being that Sims has only four games under his belt for his new team, that wouldn’t be a good thing.

 

Prediction: Guangdong in 4

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CBA Playoffs Preview

March 23, 2011

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The CBA playoffs start tonight with all eight teams tipping off tonight at 7:30pm.  The first and second rounds are a best-of-five series, while the finals will be best-of-seven.  For the first round and semi-finals, the format will go 1-2-1-1, with the lower seed hosting game one before going on the road for two games on the road.  All potential Game Fours will be played in the lower seed’s arena, while the deciding Game Five would be played on the higher seed’s floor.

To get you ready for all the action, NiuBBall is previewing every first round series, pointing out key matchups and making predictions.  So let’s get right to it.

 

#1 Xinjiang (31-1) vs. #8 Beijing (16-16)

Regular Season Series: Xinjiang 2-0
Beijing 72 @ Xinjiang 103, Round 1
Xinjiang 105 @ Beijing 85, Round 18

Beijing fans have waited a long time for a trip to the playoffs – four years to be exact – but, unfortunately for the Ducks, it’s going to be a very short stay in the postseason bracket.  Save for a random Rodney White explosion in Round 20 that put the only blemish on the regular season champs’ record this season, Xinjiang has steamrolled the entire league en route to a 31-1 record. Led by the best foreign duo in the league, Quincy Douby and James Singleton, and supported by CBA MVP Mengke Bateer and Chinese National Team shooting guard, Zhang Qingpeng, Xinjiang will have the advantage over Beijing at every major position.  The Ducks swapped out Joe Crawford for Orien Greene with the hope that Greene could stay in front of Douby, but due to a FIBA suspension Greene received for tampering with urine samples in an attempt to dupe drug testers that hasn’t expired, Greene won’t be allowed to play.  That means Beijing will only be playing with one American import, which will make an already impossible task that much more hopeless.

Key matchup: Beijing’s domestic guards vs. Quincy Douby

With Orien Greene out of the picture for Beijing, the Ducks will have to rely on its Chinese guards to matchup with Douby, the most prolific scorer in the league.  Xie Libin, Lin Xuelin and maybe even Chen Lei will all get their shot, but let’s be real: Not even Greene, who was considered a defensive ace at one point in his career, would have been able to check City Weekend’s unofficial CBA MVP.  If he feels like it, Douby could average 40 for the series.

Prediction: Xinjiang in 3

#2 Guangdong (25-7) vs. #7 Bayi (17-15)

Regular Season Series: Guangdong 2-0
Bayi 89 @ Guangdong 116, Round 10
Guangdong 116 @ Bayi 95, Round 29

Heading into the playoffs, Guangdong is in the unfamiliar position of underdog for the first time in seven years.  Failing to nab the top seed since 2004-05, the Southern Tigers will go up against one of their biggest rivals, the Bayi Rockets, who won the league title in 2006-07 at their expense.  The win is notable, because it put the breaks on a potential Guangdong seven-peat.

Last year, Guangdong swept Bayi in the first round and this year is expected to do the same.  Bayi, still depending on the creaky 34 year-old Wang Zhizhi, will have trouble matching up against Guangdong’s athletic foreign guard-forward combo, Lester Hudson and Marcus Haislip.  Haislip went for 31 in their Round 29 win and will likely enjoy similar outputs against Wang and Mo Ke.  Guangdong also has the luxury of being able to depend on its large reserves of National Team players, with Zhu Fangyu, Wang Shipeng, Su Wei and Zhou Peng all able to carry their teams’ offensively for entire games if the matchups are right.  Bayi will have a lot of pride on the line, but it won’t be any match for Guangdong, who will no doubt come out with something to prove after hearing all season that they’ve taken a backseat to Xinjiang.

Key Matchup: Marcus Haislip vs. Wang Zhizhi and Mo Ke

Because of Guangdong’s great domestic roster, Haislip won’t have the pressure of some of the other imports this post-season, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be expected to just put up mediocre numbers.  Haislip was brought in to try and take some of the load off of the aging and fatigued Guangdong frontline, and so far has done a decent job, averaging 22.6 points and 6.6 rebounds a game.  If Guangdong is going to add another title to their trophy case, however, Hailsip is going to have to up his game a little bit.  He’ll have a good opportunity to put up some good numbers against the older, slower and far less athletic Wang and Mo.  Maybe feasting on three straight double-doubles will give the former University of Tennessee standout some confidence.

Prediction: Guangdong in 3

#3 DongGuan (25-7) vs. #6 Zhejiang Guangsha (18-14)

Regular Season Series: DongGuan 2-0
DongGuan 115 @ Guangsha 112, Round 7
Guangsha 100 @ DongGuan 110, Round 26

Guangsha has turned into a somewhat trendy pick to pull off the upset after DongGuan’s offensive centerpiece, center Jackson Vroman, went back to the States to undergo season ending surgery on a fractured finger a little less than two weeks ago.  Replacing him on short notice will be Courtney Sims, who comes over to China after playing most of the season in the NBA D-League.  Sims, who has had a couple of NBA call-ups over the years in between winning D-League MVP in 2008-09 and D-League All-Star Game MVP last February, while not the passer that Vroman is, can rebound, block shots and score reliably facing the hoop.

Some feel that Guangsha’s massive 7-3 Peter John Ramos could have himself quite a series against the more slender Sims, but we think DongGuan is too well coached to just simply wilt without Vroman.  Head coach Brian Goorjian has had the New Century Leopards practicing together for almost nine months, which has been one of the reasons why the team was able to finish the season above all pre-season expectations.  Their chemistry and cohesiveness is what sets them apart from other teams, and although not having Vroman impacts their stuff on offense, they still have highly capable players in Josh Akognon and Zhang Kai.

Key matchup: Courtney Sims and Zhang Kai vs. Peter John Ramos

Ramos has preyed on opposing post players all year, averaging 24.5 points, 14.2 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game on 63.9% from the field, and could potentially go off against against the 6-10 Sims and Zhang.  DongGuan’s number one priority will be keeping Ramos off the offensive glass.  The Puerto Rican national grabbed 3.6 offensive rebounds per game this year and could very well eclipse that number against the physically weaker DongGuan front line. Ramos’ biggest advantage over opponents on both ends is obviously is 7-3 275 pound frame, but if he’s forced to come out on the perimeter to guard Sims, his effectiveness on the defensive end could be minimized.

Prediction: DongGuan in 4

(4) Jiangsu (20-12) vs. (5) Zhejiang Chouzhou (19-13)

Regular Season Series: Tied 1-1
Jiangsu 101 @ Zhejiang 95, Round 4
Zhejiang 88 @ Jiangsu 86, Round 19

Throw out the two teams’ Round 4 result because at the time, Ricky Davis and Mike James were still running suiting up for Jiangsu and Zhejiang respectively, soon to be on their way out of the league.  Since then, both rosters have changed dramatically.  After both teams got off to rough starts to the year, Zhejiang brought in point-forward Marcus Williams and Jiangsu signed five-year NBA veteran, Antoine Wright.  Both have had successful stints with their teams, turning around poor early season records into middle seeding position for the playoffs.

With little separating these two teams in Round 19, this series looks like it could come down to injuries: Jiangsu is limping into tonight’s away game with their starting point guard, Hu Xuefeng out with a knee injury and big man, Tang Zhengdong, dragging a gimpy knee that has plagued him all year.  Factor in Zhejiang’s Williams, who other than Douby has arguably been the best import in China this year, and the blue collar Josh Boone, who is totally fine with just rebounding and setting good screens, and the Golden Bulls look like a great upset pick.

Key Matchup: Antoine Wright vs. Marcus Williams

How good as Williams been since arriving in Zhejiang midseason?  The Golden Bulls have gone 17-6 in his 23 games with the team, including 11 of their final 12.  So good has Williams been in fact, that Zhejiang sits Boone for the entire first half in order to allow their star import four quarters of uninterrupted basketball.  In 41.5 minutes per game, Williams put up 29.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.4 steals, crazy numbers that are only made even crazier by the fact that he finished the year with four straight triple-doubles.  At 6-7, Williams’ ball-handling combined with his length makes him a tough check for most players, but Wright, who is 6-7 himself, has spent the last five years in the NBA and won’t be intimidated in the least.  The individual matchup is arguably the first-round’s best, and could go a long way in deciding the outcome of this very close series.

Prediction: Chouzhou in 4

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Antoine Wright Interview

February 21, 2011

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After, living in China for over two and a half years, we’re used to unpredictable randomness.  So when we found out that our next interview, Antoine Wright, was staying right across the hall from a just interviewed James Singleton in the team hotel in Nanjing, we were a little surprised, but not totally shocked.  It was just yet another reason to expect the unexpected in the Middle Kingdom.

Already happy that we wouldn’t have to schlep across the city in the rain to go out and meet Antoine, we were even happier when he allowed us to sit down and interview him immediately after introducing ourselves.

As old NiuBBall readers know already, Wright’s been a big hit in Jiangsu.  Coming into the team midseason after several former NBA veterans and China had enough of each other, including Ricky Davis in Jiangsu, the 6-7 guard/forward came into the league and immediately went to work, and his team reeled off five wins in his first five games after getting off to a shaky start to the season.

Battling a big, nagging injury to their big center, Tang Zhengdong, however, the Dragons have slid a bit in the standings recently. And with Tang likely to miss the remainder of the season with the troublesome right knee that has gotten worse and worse as the season has advanced, a team that was already thin up front suddenly lacks a big body to go alongside the team’s other import player, Jerome Moiso.

Shorthanded, Wright and Jiangsu have still been finding ways to win games.  Winners of three of their last four, Jiangsu has a one game lead over Zhejiang Guangsha for fourth place with nine games to go in the regular season.

We were able to talk to Antoine about his time so far in Nanjing, living without central heating in Southern China, and a lot more in our conversation on Friday.

NiuBBall: It looks like you guys just lost your big man in the middle, Tang Zhengdong, for a while, maybe for the rest of the season.  How is that going to affect the rest of the season going forward?

Antoine Wright: Well, he’s a big part of our offense.  We run a lot of plays for him and just his presence alone makes other teams need to scout for him and prepare for him, so with him being out, it’s going to fall on some of the other guys.  They’re going to have to pick it up.  Some of the guys who haven’t been getting minutes are going to be thrown in there and they have to give us something, because we don’t have a lot of size otherwise.

NiuBBall: I asked [former Dallas Mavericks teammate] James [Singleton] the same thing, although your situation differs from his because you came into the league mid-season and he came before the season in October, so you might have a different answer.  You joined Jiangsu to replace another NBA veteran who had some problems adjusting to this country and this league, and I think upon arrival you were able to fit in with the team and help them win games.  Why do you think that adjustment was made so smoothly?

AW: It’s a business, and this being my first overseas experience, I wanted it to go well.  So I took it seriously.  We didn’t really have much time for me to practice with the team or really figure out the plays, but I’m a smart basketball player. I know how to play the game.  This is my sixth year as a professional, so a lot of times its just about professionalism and approaching the game with the right attitude and trying to play the game the right way and not underestimating the guys your playing with.  [The local players] have been around this league for a while, so they pretty much know what to expect, and you just try to feed of those guys’ energy and the way they play so you can try to find your way through the maze.

NiuBBall: This being your first time playing overseas, were you nervous at all about coming to a new country with a totally different culture and language?

AW: I wasn’t nervous about the game, but about the lifestyle and the distance and the change in expectations.  I didn’t really know what to expect from the actual competition standpoint.  But, I’m confident in what I can do as a basketball player.  Most of my nervousness came from the off-court things, off-court issues, but not from the game itself.  I was more anxious to play and see what it was like, as opposed to being nervous about the competition level.

NiuBBall: What were some of your initial expectations when you got to China about the competition level?  Did you have some thoughts based on things you’d heard about the league from before?  Had you even heard anything about the league before?

AW: To be honest with you, I hadn’t heard much.  I really hadn’t.  The only person I had really gotten some feedback from was Patrick O’Bryant.  And that’s when he was leaving [China], when I talked to him he was in Vegas and he had just left [Fujian SBS].  He and I were training together and I was surprised to see him back, so I asked him about his experience and why he was back and all that stuff.  He really didn’t give me much, but the information that I had gotten from him wasn’t how I expected my experience to go.  I thought, with Patrick and myself being in different stages in our careers and our lives, I approached coming out here differently.  So, I didn’t really get much from him about coming out here.

NiuBBall: Living in China, what are some of the biggest day-to-day lifestyle adjustments you’ve had to make after living in the States for your whole life?

AW: It’s pretty structured around here.  Lunch is the same time every day, dinner is the same time every day, breakfast… it’s just a different culture.  So you have to make those adjustments on the fly.  For me, the biggest adjustments are lifestyle.  The travel, being in cold gyms, the officiating, the different rules, not being able to start, having to come off the bench sometimes, playing two quarters some games, three quarters other games… All of those things have been major adjustments.  But, I’m competitive.  I see those things, if anything, as a handicap, really.  They’re things you have to play through.  For me, it’s been a challenge.  Those things are a challenge every game, because you never know what’s going to happen.  You never know if the gym is going to be heated, you never know what the refs are going to be like and if you’re going to get in foul trouble, you never know if you’re going to start or come off the bench, so you just have to adjust.

NiuBBall: I wanted to ask you about that, about the cold here in Nanjing.  I know you’ve played in cold areas like New Jersey and Toronto, so you know what cold is.  But, I’m not sure everyone out West knows what it’s like over here.  Try to explain to people what it’s like to be cold here and what it’s like to be cold out in Canada or the States.

AW: Cold at home is when you’re outside [laughing].  That to me is the difference.  When you’re outside.  When you’re cold here, it’s everywhere.  The hotel’s cold, the gym’s cold, the bus is cold, the plane’s cold, bus to the plane is cold, everything is cold.  It’s not a situation where you can run and be out of it, like “Hey, it’s warm here.”  It’s just a different level.  Canada is cold and at times we would play in the arena and they had just taken the ice up so it would still be kind of cold in there, but once the game gets going and once the fans get in there, it warms up pretty quickly.  It’s just an adjustment, man.  It’s hard.  Right now I’m dealing with a swollen thumb and sometimes it’s tough to get in a rhythm, catch the ball and do those things just because of the temperature in the gym.  It’s just completely different, man.  It’s nothing like I anticipated.  It’s something you have to try and play through each game because I’ve never played in gyms as cold as the ones out here.  And it’s every night.  Some gyms I’ll think, “Oh, its a little warmer here,” but it’s still cold!  So it’s just a major adjustment.  It’s been rough, it’s been really rough.  Especially playing on the road.  During shoot-arounds, you might as well be outside most of the time.  I mean, it’s difficult, but once you get over it and just kind of understand that this is something you’re going to have to live with and that it’s not going to change, you just kind of got to fight through it and just remember what you’re here for.  Just try to get it done.

NiuBBall: In a cold gym, is it harder to warm up and get loose? Is that something you have to adjust your game for?

AW: They give us enough time to warm up and to shoot before the game.  But, it’s not something that you can warm up to I don’t think.  It’s just something you have to deal with.  Some nights, you have to adjust your game.  You can’t shoot a lot of jump shots just because it’s not falling for whatever reason.  It might not be the mechanics, it might not be all that stuff.  It might just be nature taking its course.  You got to start taking it to the basket or make other things happen.  So, that’s the adjustment I’ve learned.  When I first got here, I was shooting the ball really well and then I ran into some situations where the gym wasn’t as accommodating and I didn’t have a great shooting night or whatever.  But, in those times you just got be a basketball player.  You got to adjust your game, get to the basket, get to the free-throw line and try to find another rhythm of the game.

NiuBBall: Now that you’ve been here for part of a season, if there was a lockout next season and a NBA guy came up to you said “Hey, I’m thinking about playing in China,” what would you say to him?  Would you recommend him to come out here?  Is there any advice you’d give him?

AW: I would tell him it’s a good opportunity to play in a good league.  I would say it’s completely different than the NBA, so don’t expect to be like that.  I wouldn’t have anything really negative to say.  I would just say be prepared to make some pretty drastic adjustments as far as your lifestyle to what you’re used to.  But, as far as basketball, it’s all business.  When you come here, expect to be thrust into a position where a team is counting on you to produce.  And if you don’t produce, you know what the outcome will be.

NiuBBall: Are you trying to get back to the NBA?

AW: Absolutely.  I’m here because I’m not in the NBA.  I signed with a team this summer, and I was expecting to fulfill that commitment for the year and then make plans after that.  I wasn’t expecting to be here.  My number one goal is to be playing in the NBA again and to take my career to another level hopefully.

NiuBBall: In the event of a lockout, would you consider returning to China or possibly going somewhere else overseas?

AW: I think we’d all have to.  Like I said, I think it’s a business.  Sometimes it throws you curveballs and you just kinda gotta roll with them.  I don’t think there’d be many players opposed to playing overseas with a lockout, and China’s an option.  It’s definitely a feasible option for guys to consider with the amount of money that’s being given here and the competition level.  Guys are coming out here and its raising the level and it’s something that would have to be considered once those other things are ruled out.

NiuBBall: What’s the food been like for you?

AW: Man, the food’s been really different.  I’ve tried the Chinese food and I pick and choose to try to sort through it and see the things that I like, the things I can recognize and the things that I don’t like.  For the most part, that’s how it’s been for me.  I try to eat some of it.  I’ve always liked rice; I’ve always eaten a lot of rice.  I’ll eat rice for the most part.  Sometimes I’ll find something that I like and I try different things.  Other times, you just got to order McDonalds [laughing].  You gotta get some McDonalds or some KFC, man.  Because, those are your options [for American food] out here, that’s what you got to live with.  The team has tried their hardest to make it better for me eating wise.  They get me steaks, they get me pasta.  Here [at the hotel Jiangsu was staying at that day], we’re fortunate enough to get steak and pasta, but it’s been an adjustment eating wise.  I’ve lost a lot of weight.  I’ve lost about eight or nine pounds since I’ve been here.  It’s something that if I was better prepared for, I would have made some adjustments.  I would have brought some things from home.  But, that’s something that the guys who have been here all year have already adjust to.  Me, learning on the fly, it’s something I haven’t really been able to get in a rhythm with.  I’ve just been doing my best with it.

NiuBBall: Nanjing is not like Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou, there’s not as much Western culture here.  So what have you been doing to pass the time?  What’s your day-to-day routine like?  Do you hang out with [teammate] Jerome [Moiso]?

AW: You know, not that much.  Jerome’s kind of quiet and he’s more of an adventurer than I am.  He’ll go out, walk around, go to find things… I’m not really like that.  I stay in my room for the most part.  I talk on Skype, on the phone, I watch movies, internet.  That’s pretty much what I’m doing, that’s pretty much how my life has been since I’ve been here.  I haven’t really been exploring as much.  Over the [Spring Festival break] I did get to get out a little, I went to Macao and I had a cool time over the break.  But, for the most part, my life consists of hanging out in the room.  It’s pretty boring, but what can you do?

NiuBBall: Just another one of those adjustments you were talking about before, huh?

AW: Yeah, you just kinda gotta roll with it.  My family’s been really good, I call home a lot.  I’m on Skype a lot.

NiuBBall: Picked up any Mandarin?

AW:  You know, I’ve learned some words and then forgot them.  Every now and again I’ll ask somebody how to say something and that’ll be my word for the day.  But, I haven’t really picked up any.  From what I’ve heard, Stephon Marbury is learning it pretty good.

NiuBBall: Yeah, I just posted up a video of him speaking Chinese on the site.  As a foreigner who has learned the language and can speak it OK, his pronunciation is pretty good, it’s gotten a lot better.

AW: Oh, yeah?

NiuBBall: He studies and everything, he seems pretty into it.  He’s picking it up.

AW: Yeah, that’s what I heard.  He’s been over here longer than me, he’s been over here for a couple of years right?  Who knows?  Maybe if I come back next year, I’ll look into it a little bit.  It’s not something I’m trying to get down right now, though.

NiuBBall: Antoine, thanks again for the conversation and good luck with the rest of the season.

AW: Thanks.

Follow NiuBBall on Twitter @NiuBBall, or on Sina Weibo @NiuBBall.

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Wednesday Afternoon Tanghulu

January 13, 2011

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Sweetening up your afternoon with a stick of Beijing’s timeless sugar coated snack and some links…

  • On Monday, NetEase Sports and Asia Basket reported that the Jilin Northeast Tigers had signed former Florida State star, Tim Pickett, to replace David Young.  But three days later, Young is still playing in a Jilin jersey and the team appears to have gone back on their initial decision with Pickett: “We’re actually in contact with a few players that could replace Young.  But unless something crazy happens, Young will play these next three away games for us.” In 12 games, Young is averaging 21.3 points and 4.6 rebounds for the 3-10 Northeast Tigers, who have lost their last four games. (H/T hoopCHINA)
  • Two-time NCAA champion, three-time WNBA champion and 2010 FIBA World Championship gold medalist, Swin Cash, checks in from her professional team in China, DongGuan, on SLAMonline.  We’re laughing at the word “Foolishgate,” but we’re also respecting her interest in learning the basketball culture in China.  Well worth the read and we’re looking forward to more updates.
  • NiuBBall.com has learned from an anonymous source that Shanxi Zhongyu is on the verge of swapping imports — again — this time signing A.D. Vassallo in place of Leon Rogers.  Vasallo played four years at Virginia Tech and currently plays for the Puerto Rican national team.  Last year, he played professionally in France for Paris-Levallois.
  • Since coming down with a fever and a stomach ailment that kept him out of the lineup in a loss at Shanghai on December 29th, Randolph Morris has seen a pretty steep dip in offensive production.  After leading the league in scoring for a good chunk at the beginning of the year,  Morris is averaging 24 points on 40.6% shooting over his last six games.  Speaking to a reporter following Beijing’s fourth loss in their last five, this one coming on the road against Zhejiang Guangsha, head coach Min Lulei had some choice words for his center, who shot 6-20 and struggled defensively: “We had planned on leaning on Morris in this game, but tonight everyone saw that he just wasn’t there both mentally and physically.  He didn’t follow our game plan and he didn’t get back on defense.  There’s no way you can win like that.”  Making matters worse, Zaid Abbas hurt his back in the second half and its unclear how long he’ll be out of the lineup.
  • Antoine Wright has been sentenced to 15 days in jail for a drunken driving arrest last November near Sacramento.
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Antoine Wright: Saving Jiangsu’s season and the reputation of NBA players

January 11, 2011

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Though no fault of Antoine Wright, former NBA players kind of have a bad rap in the Chinese Basketball Association right now.  Giddy over increased ticket and merchandise revenue from Stephon Marbuy’s half-season with Shanxi last year, the CBA moved to eliminate the long standing import player cap that limited how much money teams could spend on foreign players per month.  With unlimited amounts of money to throw at players, owners looking to cash in Shanxi-style on an ex-NBA star went out en mass to sign a record number of instantly recognizable former NBA players.

At pre-season, a three handed man couldn’t count all of the new players on his fingers.  Ricky Davis, Steve Francis, Fred Jones and Mike James were the elder Logo-representing statesmen who were enticed by higher salaries and easier competition. Younger guys came, too — Javaris Crittenton, Patrick O’Bryant, Josh Boone, and Dwyane Jones — as well as James Singleton, an established League player who decided on playing in Western China over signing an offered contract from the Washington Wizards.

Before the start of the CBA season, there was a buzz around the league that hadn’t existed before.  People were genuinely excited to see “The Year of the NBA.”  And who could really blame them?  For the 99.999999% of China’s 400 million or so basketball crazed fans who will never get the chance to see a real NBA game, this was going to be their best chance to watch NBA players live at their hometown team’s arena.

But, as the players started first to trickle, then totally spill out of the league, NBA players in the CBA gained a newer, very different reputation: entitled, privileged, spoiled, out of shape and washed up.  In the eyes of Chinese fans, these guys didn’t come here for the basketball, they came here to cash an easy check based on their name alone.  They came here — to China — because they thought it’d be a joke.  But, to the owners who write those big checks, the general managers who build the teams and the coaches whose jobs are on the line when imports don’t work out, there was nothing funny about their investments flaming out in less than a month.

Things have gotten so bad in fact that people are throwing out the words “salary cap” and “draft camp” as a possible deterrents to teams who want to try this NBA thing all over again next season.  Thanks to a group of shaky ex-import players, if you’ve had a decent career in the NBA, you’re probably not welcome this year and possibly the next couple of years.

Just three games into his new stint as a Jiangsu Dragon, however, six-year NBA pro Antoine Wright appears to be changing some of the newly formed perceptions, not only his by his stellar play (32 ppg, and 7 rpg, all wins), but also by his humbleness, work ethic and seriousness towards playing in China.

From an article on Sina Sports, titled “Jiangsu’s Saviour Has Really Come!”

Antoine Wright and Fujian’s [Andre] Emmett both fell hard to the floor, the end result of a huge collision between the two.  As Wright sat on the floor with his arms extended with everyone in the building thinking that he was looking for the referee, his fingers instead locked hands with Fujian’s dolphin mascot, who was standing on the sidelines.  The mascot helped Wright up off the floor, where Wright and the dolphin gave each other a big bear hug as an end to the ceremony.

Whatever you do, don’t underestimate January 7th as a potential turning point for Jiansu’s season, a date that saw Jiangsu’s new import Antoine Wright prove his calm, reason and rationality.  At that point during the third quarter when Emmett put him on his butt…  Other foreign players definitely would have yelled back at the refs, but Wright didn’t and his calm and relaxed demeanor allowed his team to play the same.

In a season that’s been anything but for Jiangsu, “calm” is a welcome adjective.  Before the season, a large portion of the team held out of most of training camp over unpaid bonuses from last year and disagreements over this season’s payment structure.  Two weeks ago, it appeared as if the wheels were quickly coming right off.  Sitting on a disappointing 4-4 record with the highly hoped for Ricky Davis unhappy, underperforming and on the way out, the team’s other import, Jerome Moiso, struggling to pick up the slack and key domestic player, Yi Li, injured and on the sidelines, it seemed as if the Dragons once promising season was coming to a premature end.

And then came Wright, a former lottery pick who had been playing serious minutes for a 50-win Dallas Mavericks team in 2008-09.  Yet, contrary to what you may believe, it wasn’t easy for Wright to get a job here.  Things are so bad for NBA players that before joining Jiangsu early last week, he was actually being discriminated against by multiple teams simply because he was coming over from the NBA.

Yes, that’s right: NBA guys have such a terrible reputation in China right now that teams are separating themselves entirely from anybody who has played recently in the League, regardless of the team’s need and the player’s ability and makeup.  Teams didn’t want him strictly because he had the perceived stink of the Association all over his basketball resume.

Yet, judging from the “season savior” moniker he’s earned after just a few games, those other teams are probably kicking themselves for passing Wright up, who is already in the conversation for the league’s top foreign player.  In his first game, Wright lit it up in a win against three-time defending champs Guangdong for 38 points on 8-11 from three, only to follow that up with 33 and 9 while limiting Fujian SBS’s Emmett, known mostly in China as the guy who dropped 71 points last year — against Jiangsu, nonetheless — to a ho-hum 25 point tally in another win.

In this article published by Net Ease Sports, its obvious that the team still had Emmett fresh in their mind and generally feels ecstatic about the arrival of their new star import:

[Jiangsu] won the game and limited [Emmett], so last night Jiangu was one very happy team. “Mr. 71 Points is like floating clouds.  We have [Antoine] Wright!”  yelled somebody on the bus after the game as the entire team erupted into laughter.

(浮云 fu yun translates as “floating clouds” and has several uses as a metaphor in Chinese language.  In this case , it means that like a floating cloud, Emmett’s 71 points have been wisped away and are in the past.)

“…Wright’s a smart player, he’s always taking what the defense is giving him.  And I think he’s a player who is extremely conscious of the team concept.  Obviously, his beautiful three-point shot was something we didn’t know he had.  But, we can see that his three-point shot is very consistent,” said [head coach] Xu Qiang.

As for Wright’s defense, Xu Qiang was extremely satisfied: “He’s got a great body and really knows where to be on defense. Plus, his arms are real long so he can cover a lot of space defensively.  Trying to shoot a three in his face is pretty much impossible.

The players are sold on him too:

He’s the glue of our team.  He’s not just an all-around player, he’s a guy who can straighten out our team’s continuity issues.  Obviously, him feeding me the ball also makes me feel comfortable out there,” said [starting center and China national team member] Tang Zhengdong.

Sure, Wright may be the spark that ignites Jiangsu’s turnaround this season.  But, he also might just be the mensch that gets the players of the NBA back into the good graces of Chinese owners.

Follow Jon Pastuszek on Twitter @NiuBBall

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Monday Morning Jianbing

January 3, 2011

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

  • If you’re looking for yet another reason why the NBA is keenly interested in China, about 33.9 percent of China’s population is now online.  That’s roughly 450 million internet users.
  • According to Hakeem Olajuwon, Yao Ming is going to give it his “best try” to come back from another devestating foot injury.  The original interview from Sohu in Chinese can be seen here; the English translated version is here via Yao Ming Mania.  Also from YMM – the first public photos of Yao Ming’s baby girl.
  • Antoine Wright arrived in Nanjing yesterday morning China time and has already started working out with his new team, Jiangsu.  If all continues to go well as expected, he’ll likely be in uniform for Wednesday’s Round 11 match away at Guangdong.
  • Happy New Year to Beijing public transportation — five brand spanking new subway and light rail lines opened up on the 31st, including a line out to suburb Shunyi, an area that is rich with private international schools and their spotless indoor basketball courts.  More ball in winter makes this blogger a happy guy.
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Zaijian means goodbye: Davis, James both officially cut

December 31, 2010

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Confirming a report published by NiuBBall.com last week, both Mike James and Ricky Davis have been officially cut by their Chinese teams, Zhejiang Chouzhou and Jiangsu.

According to The Modern Express (via Sina), Jiangsu will replace Davis with Antonie Wright.  Wright was signed last night after Jiangsu faxed over the final contract to Wright’s agent.  Wright will fly out to Nanjing and join up with his team for practice on January 2nd, and barring any unforeseen setbacks, will be officially added to the team’s roster by the 4th.

Chouzhou, meanwhile, will go ahead as planned with Marcus Williams.  Struggling at 2-6, Chouzhou feels that the large amount spent to bring James over is being wasted and can be better used on a more versatile two-way player. Though James had been averaging 28.7 points in his eight games, the team felt he wasn’t doing an adequate job of getting his teammates going on offense and wasn’t fully committed to practice.

Williams played 30 games with Chouzhou last year, averaging 19.3 points and 11.2 rebounds.

Unsatisfied with Davis for weeks, Jiangsu and Wright have been in informal discussions dating back to last month. The holdup was over whether Wright, who was cut by the Sacramento Kings on November 30th, could land a roster spot with another NBA team.  When the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were considering Wright for a roster spot along with a group of other free-agents, went with Alonzo Gee, Wright had Jiangsu to fall back on and the two sides quickly came to an agreement.

James and Davis are two of the latest big name former NBA players to have been cut since the beginning of the season on December 10th, joining Patrick O’Bryant, Javaris Crittenton and Steve Francis.

A TOM Sports story posted two days ago quoted an anonymous figure within Jiangsu, who took a parting shot at Davis before getting some words in on the team’s other American import, center Jerome Moiso: “…When [Davis] was in the NBA he was an import who loved to cause trouble.  It’s very difficult for an import like this to have success at Jiangsu. And then you look at our other import, Moiso, you see his stats and you see that he’s definitely not an outstanding import.  I really have no idea how the team thought about getting these two guys.”

“The first few games of the season he was scoring 20 points a game.  Now a good game for him is scoring in single digits.  What use does this import have?”

I find it hilarious, yet all too typical, that the mystery figure still used wai yuan, the word for “foreign player” that literally translates into “foreign aid,” when talking about Davis in his NBA days in America where he’s from. The word wai, which means “outside,”  commonly precedes other words to make various forms of the word “foreigner,” such as wai guo ren (foreigner, literally “a person from outside the country”), wai jiao (foreign coach) and of course, wai yuan.  I guess once a wai guo ren, always a wai guo ren, even when being referred to in your pre-China, pre wai guo ren days of yonder.

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Tuesday Afternoon Tanghulu

December 29, 2010

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Sweetening up your afternoon with a stick of Beijing’s timeless sugar coated snack and some links…

  • Jeremy Lin has been sent down to the D-League to play with the Reno Bighorns.  Lin wasn’t really playing with the Dubs and this is what it’s here for, right?  Go down, get some in-game reps, improve your skills, come back to the League a better player.  Said Lin on the demotion: “It’s not the end of the world, and I can learn and grow a lot as a player.”
  • Andrew Bynum has a Sina weibo, which is Chinese for “micro-blog” aka Chinese Twitter.  By the looks of his first few weibo‘s, he’ll be weibo-ing to fans in China in English.  Hope that he gets somebody to translate for him sometimes, being that they speak Chinese in China. (H/T theBeijinger).
  • The Taiwanese Super Basketball League kicked off its opening round over the weekend, an my man Andrew Lowman over at Asia Basketball Update is all up in there.  That, and actual proof that Jeremy Tyler is playing in Japan.  Looking forward to checking back frequently for some Taiwanese hoops action and more Tyler updates as the season goes on.
  • A source told me this morning that Antoine Wright, who last played in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors last season, is working out a deal with an undisclosed CBA team.  Expect a lot of foreign player movement in the next few weeks as teams being to clear out disgruntled/underperforming players before the season gets too late.
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