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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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Senior and Olympic National Team Rosters announced

March 16, 2012

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After starring at the youth international level, Wang Zhelin has been selected for the Senior National Team, despite never playing at the top level in the CBA.

The CBA Playoffs are approaching its end and spring is coming to Beijing, which means soon we’ll be able to sit outside and engage in our favorite warm-weather pastime, beer and chuanr. Oh, and it also means that the National Team season is about to kick off.

Yesterday, the official rosters for both the Men’s Senior National Team and the Men’s Olympic National Team were announced. 21 players were selected for the Senior Team, while 19 were picked for the Olympic Team.

To answer some people’s question: No, the Olympic Team doesn’t actually play in the Olympics. I know, it’s strange. Just roll with it. According to the CBA, the goal of the Olympic Team is to ”prepare for the 2012 Asia Stankovic Cup, to be played this September in Japan, and the 2013 East Asia Games in Tianjin. To select the best players for the 2016 Olympics and develop high level backup players.”

The Senior Team, however, does play in the Olympics. And with the Olympics coming up in August, this is a huge summer for Chinese basketball. The CBA considers the Olympics as the most important international competition, and views the tournament as the best way for China to showcase themselves to the rest of the world.

In order to space everything out and give players some rest, the Senior team roster has been split up into three groups, with players whose season ended at the end of the regular season to report first, while players who are in the midst of deep playoff runs to report last.

The usual suspects are all on there, but the big story are the three players making their National Team debut, including one who doesn’t even play in the CBA yet. If you’ve been paying attention, you shouldn’t be shocked by the inclusion of Beijing’s young duo of Zhai Xiaochuan and Zhu Yanxi, who’s selection into Bob Donewald’s roster was basically assured by midseason.

The real shocker is Wang Zhelin, Fujian’s long hyped 18 year-old seven-foot center. One of the brightest prospects in China, Wang nabbed tournament MVP in China’s gold medal run FIBA Asia U-18 Championship in 2010 and was a key member in the FIBA World U-19 Championship last year where China finished 13th. Wang did not play top level CBA ball this year, as the team opted to keep him with the second team in order to improve his body and conditioning. One of the key long-term pieces for China, his entrance onto the team says a lot about the expectations the CBA has for him going forward.

He is widely expected to make his CBA debut next season.

Notable omissions from the Senior squad include 2010 FIBA World Championship and 2011 FIBA Asia Championship backup guard, Yu Shulong, who plays domestically for Jilin and Qingdao’s Li Gen. With Osama Dahglas getting most of the minutes at point guard in Jilin this year, the 22 year-old Yu averaged a career low 15.5 minutes per game. Li Gen, who played under Donewald in Shanghai in 2008-09, missed the cut despite averaging 17.5 points per game, the most of any Chinese player in the CBA this season.

For the Olympic squad, Guo Ailun and Fan Bin come back together for the first time since Guo reportedly lead a U-19 player rebellion against their head coach last year, demanding that he be removed due to his repeated physical and verbal abuse. Guo and most of the team signed a ”blood letter” to show the seriousness of the situation. Fan was suspended in April before finally being reinstated in May, promising to be more sensitive to his players emotions.

The entire rosters are listed below. The Senior team will eventually be cut down to 12, the timeline of which has yet to be publicly announced.

Men’s Senior National Team

Head Coach: Bob Donewald Jr. (USA)
Assistant Coaches: Li Nan (China), Selcuk Ernak (Turkey)

Group 1 (to report on March 20th)

Yang Ming, Han Dejun, Li Xiaoxu (Liaoning Hengye); Wang Zhizhi, Zhang Bo (Bayi Fubang); Zhang Zhaoxu (Shanghai Dongfang); Ding Jinhui (Zhejiang Chouzhou); Yi Li (Jiangsu Nangang); Wang Zhelin (Fujian SBS)

Group 2 (to report on April 8th)

Liu Wei (Shanghai Dongfang); Xirelijiang (Xinjiang Guanghui)

Group 3 (to report 15 days after each player’s respective season)

Wang Shipeng, Chen Jianghua, Zhou Peng, Zhu Fangyu, Su Wei (Guangdong Hongyuan); Sun Yue (Beijing Aoshen); Zhai Xiaochuan, Zhu Yanxi (Beijing Shougang); Duan Jiangpeng (Shanxi Zhongyu); Yi Jianlian (Dallas Mavericks)

Men’s Olympic National Team

Head Coach: Fan Bin (China)
Assistant Coaches: Du Feng, Wu Naiqun (China)

Li Muhao, He Zhongmian (DongGuan New Century); He Tianju, Guo Ailun (Liaoning Hengye); Wang Zirui (Zhejiang Guangsha); Dong Hanlin (Guangdong Hongyuan); Xu Zhonghao, Cao Yan, Tian Yuxiang (Bayi Fubang); Ge Zhaobao, Yan Pengfei, Xing Zhiqiang (Shanxi Zhongyu); Ding Yanyuhan, Sui Ran (Shandong Kingston); Yu Changdong (Xinjiang Guanghui); Zhang Zhihan (Tianjin Ronggang); Zhao Tailong (Fujian SBS) Yu Shulong (Jilin SBT); Li Gen (Qingdao Double Star)

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It’s here! The official 2012 NiuBBall CBA Playoff Extravaganza!

February 22, 2012

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(Graphic via China Daily)

We have a saying over at NiuBBall: There is no parity in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Understand: Since the CBA went to a best-of-five format for the first round and semis in 2005, never has there been a do-or-die Game 5. Since the CBA went to a best-of-seven format for the finals a year later, only two teams – Bayi and Guangdong, both seeded 2nd, in 2007 and 2011 – have upset the regular season’s best team. Only one series has gone past Game 5 – last year, when Guangdong beat Xinjiang in six. In that same span, only three lower seeds have upset the higher seed.

The CBA is entertaining for many reasons, but the playoffs is definitely not one of them.

Its predictability has affected even the postseason schedule makers: best-of-five first round series take the 1-2-1-1 format in which the lower-seeded team hosts Game 1, based off the reasoning that attendance will be higher if a fan base’s optimism hasn’t been completely dashed by their team being in a 0-2 hole.

This year, though, we’re guaranteed at least this bit of variety: for the first time in three years, there will be at least one new team in the finals. That’s because Xinjiang and Guangdong are on the same side of the bracket, which means if everything goes to plan, they’ll play each other in the semis.

Expect it – and every other series – to go according to plan.

That doesn’t mean that we’re not rolling out the red carpet on this, though. Because in addition to reading a breakdown of every single first-round series here at NiuBBall, you can also check out Andrew Crawford’s roundtable approach to previewing things over at Shark Fin Hoops. Two English-language CBA Plaoff previews? Now that Niu Bi.

And while you’re at it, check out main man, Anthony Tao, and his new site Beijing Cream, which will cover everything and more about China’s capital city. Tao and NiuBBall are xiongdi – in 2010, he wrote great stuff about Stephon Marbury’s first season in China when he was with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons, a piece that not only stood (and still stands) as one of the best ever written about Chinese hoops, but also one that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. We’re honored to have this preview appear on his site, and we’re looking forward to pitching in more CBA coverage throughout the playoffs and beyond.

And now, without further ado…

(Note: all start times subject to change.)

#1 Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers (25-7) vs. #8 Fujian SBS Sturgeons (17-15)

Regular Season Series:
(12/21) Guangdong – 85 @ Fujian – 90
(2/8) Fujian – 116 @ Guangdong – 126

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 7:30 pm, @ Fujian
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ Fujian (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong (if necessary)

The question isn’t whether the Southern Tigers will win their fourth straight championship and eight of the last nine – feel free to pause to let that sink in – but how many games they’ll need to do it and who they’ll beat. So there’s absolutely no chance of a first-round upset…

Yet – a big yet, but yet – if there was a team with a fighting chance of achieving the most monumental upset in Chinese basketball history, Fujian would be the pick. Able to trot out three foreigners to Guangdong’s two because of its abysmal record last season (a quirk in the CBA rules), Fujian can compensate for its inferior Chinese roster better than any other team in the playoffs. And those foreigners are good. In his first season in China, Will McDonald has become the hands-down best center in the league, blending the inside-outside game he developed in Spain with solid work on the boards. The tireless Zaid Abbas, the team’s Asian import, led the league in rebounding (14.7 per game) and minutes (42.7). Anthony Roberson rounds out the foreign lineup doing what he’s always done: shooting the air out of the ball, which is good if he’s hot (bad if he’s not).

But the best thing about Fujian’s imports? They actually match up pretty well with their opponents. Guangdong’s center combo of Su Wei and Wang Zheng have no offensive skills to speak of and don’t move well on either end of the floor, which means they’ll likely struggle to guard McDonald, who can stretch the floor. The more athletic yet smaller Dong Hanlin might have to shoulder that burden. The ever-active Abbas will make James Singleton work very hard to get his. And Roberson, who can and sometimes does go completely off, will probably have to garner at least some defensive attention from Aaron Brooks, who will resume his NBA career as soon as the season ends.

As CBA watchers know though, talking about foreigner matchups is usually a moot point when it comes to Guangdong, a team that relies on its Chinese guys to get it done: Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Zhou Peng, Chen Jianghua, Dong Hanlin and, yes, even the aforementioned duo of Su Wei and Wang Zheng make up seven of the top eight Chinese players in the series. So long as Brooks doesn’t get caught up trying to match Roberson’s shot total and does what he does best in this league — work out of the pick and roll and get into the lane at will — Guangdong will be more than fine.

*Roberson, who has been battling an injury the last few games, missed practice today and his status is in doubt for tonight’s game.

Prediction: Guangdong in 4

#2 Beijing Shougang Ducks (21-11) vs. #7 Zhejiang Guangsha Lions (18-14)

Regular Season Series:
(12/28) Guangsha – 118 @ Beijing – 112
(2/15) Beijing – 94 @ Guangsha – 114

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 7:30 pm, @ Guangsha
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ Guangsha (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing (if necessary)

While Wilson Chandler is back in the U.S. getting a haircut for the first time since August and negotiating a $40 million-plus contract, the team he used to play for, the Guangsha Lions, is trying to figure out how in Mao’s name to replace the singularly most destructive foreigner in the CBA (when he wanted to be) not named Stephanie Smith.

They can contemplate all they want, but the reality is that they won’t find that replacement. Well, technically they have found a replacement, Hangzhou old-hand Rodney White. But let’s be clear: 2007 Rodney White ain’t walking through that door. And even if he was, it probably still wouldn’t be enough. So even though they swept the season series vs. Beijing, they’re about to get paid back in full. It’s a sad thought when you consider that the Lions were in third place in mid-December and looking like somewhat serious title contenders.

If you ignore, for a moment, the Chandler-exodus storyline, Guangsha’s season was interesting in its own rights – and also interesting because it mirrored Beijing’s. The Ducks sprinted out to a 13-0 start, then lost 11 out of the next 19. Yet because of the instability in the teams under them, Beijing was able to hang on to second place.

A lot of that incredible start was due to Stephon Marbury, who has played his butt off every night in a city he now considershome on a team with players far more talented than his teammates in Shanxi and Foshan. He was always meant for the big city, and in a place where he’s comfortable, his rededication to basketball is evident.

Two of his teammates, Zhu Yanxi and Zhai Xiaochuan, are in their first years in the CBA, and both have thrived playing with Marbury. Zhu, a rookie sensation who was picked up from China’s second-tier National Basketball League, is the most Euro China big man you’ll see in this country. That may be an insult in the NBA, but in China it’s a huge compliment. Big under the boards and accurate from deep, Zhu amounts to the Chinese poor man’s version of Ersan Ilyasova. Zhai has no far-fetched NBA comparison, but he is a young, long and bouncy effort guy who does nothing particularly bad.

The Ducks’ longer-term success, i.e. a trip to the finals, will be predicated on whether Chen Lei and Lee Hsueh-lin are healthy. The good news is that they’re both back in the lineup after missing extended time with injuries; the bad news is that they haven’t really gotten an in-game run in a while, especially Lee, who, before coming back in Round 33 against Shanghai – the penultimate round of regular season games – had not played since December 9.

It boils down to this, though: Guangsha is bummed about Chandler, and Beijing is amped on making a finals run. Quack, quack.

Prediction: Beijing in 4

#3 Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons (20-12) vs. #6 Shanghai Dongfang Sharks (18-14)

Regular Season Series:

(12/16) Shanxi – 90 @ Shanghai – 92
(2/3) Shanghai – 108 @ Shanxi – 119

Playoff Series Schedule:

Game 1: Tonight 8 pm, @ Shanghai
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Shanxi
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 7:30 pm, @ Shanxi
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ Shanghai (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Shanxi (if necessary)

As Jim Yardley just expertly shared with the rest of the world in his book, Brave Dragons, what the rest of the CBA has known for quite some time: the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons are a flipping mess of a team.

Run by an owner who can switch from head coach to assistant coach to video coordinator to sports psychologist on a whim – or just hold all those titles at once – the Brave Dragons have gone through coaches, general managers, translators and players of all nationalities at an alarming rate over the years as “Boss Wang” continues his search for people who will give him the instant results he craves. Not surprisingly, as success in basketball usually comes from a gradual building process that nurtures familiarity and chemistry, Shanxi had never made the playoffs since their inception in 2006.

Which is why this year is so special: The Brave Dragons are finally in. How’d they do it? Boss Wang reportedly stopped meddling (as much – he definitely still meddles), and he stopped trying to bring in big-name NBA players who may come with NBA talent but also bring their NBA requirements, which the coal city of Taiyuan is largely incapable of fulfilling.

Wang took the safe bet this summer by bringing in Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines, two players who have played inChina before and have had no problem adjusting to the culture while accumulating monster stats. The two have developed into the best and most dependable foreign duo in the league. Gaines, who’s been putting up huge numbers ever since he played for Xinjiang two years ago, enjoyed another fantastic season, averaging 29.2 points and 13.1 rebounds on 64.1% shooting. Williams, who turned around Zhejiang Chouzhou’s season last year after coming in midseason after the Mike James experiment blew up, hasn’t missed a beat in his second season, averaging 32 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.5 steals.

The problem for Shanxi, though: Nobody else can consistently score and nobody defends. Yeah, Lu Xiaoming can get out in transition and probe around for dump-offs and kick-outs, and Duan Jiangpeng has had some big nights on the offensive end, but this team starts and ends with their foreigners.

Shanxi’s obvious reliance on their foreign studs is in stark contrast to Shanghai. Allowing just 89.6 points per game, Shanghai boasts the stingiest defense in the league. First-year head-coach Dan Pannagio, following in the defensive footsteps of China national team coach Bob Donewald Jr. from two years prior, has stressed solid team D while also installing the equal-opportunity triangle offense. The jury’s still out on the effectiveness of the triangle — the Sharks score a league-low 91.1 points a game – partly because they’ve dealt with injuries. Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who played the triangle under Panaggio in the D-League, was enjoying a great season, possibly even a NiuBBall MVP-type season, in his familiar offensive surroundings before rupturing his Achilles in late December.

His replacement, Marcus Landry, and especially Mike Harris, who stepped up with some big games down the stretch, have both helped the team move forward. But several Chinese players do their part here. The Sharks go nine, occasionally 10 deep, led most notably by their two national team players, veteran point guard Liu Wei and the young, ever-improving 7-3 center “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu. Liu Ziqiu is one of the better Chinese perimeter defenders in the league and Meng Lingyuan provides a lefty herky-jerky change of pace off the bench.

Throw in the fact that Shanghai’s very-much-on-the-same-page American coaching staff will have the freedom to make whatever adjustments they deem necessary, while Shanxi’s half-American, half-Chinese staff may or may not depending on how Boss Wang is feeling, and you’ve got the makings of a very intriguing and competitive first-round series. But with two NiuBBall All-CBA first-teamers in Gaines and Williams and an important home-court advantage that will challenge the road-weary Sharks (4-12 on the road this year), we’re giving the nod to the Brave Dragons.

Prediction: Shanxi in 5

#4 Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers (19-13) vs. #5 DongGuan New Century Leopards (19-13)

Regular Season Series:
(12/25) Xinjiang – 90 @ DongGuan – 97
(2/12) DongGuan – 89 @ Xinjiang – 97

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 7:30 pm, @ DongGuan
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Xinjiang
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 8 pm, @ Xinjiang
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ DongGuan (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Xinjiang (if necessary)

No team has gone through more turmoil, more changes and more disappointment this season than the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. Once drooling over the prospect of having Kenyon Martin, Quincy Douby, Tang Zhengdong and Mengke Bateer all being coached up by the American head coach of the Chinese National Team, Bob Donewald Jr., the team is now devoid of all three of those Americans (Douby broke his wrist in pre-season, Donewald was fired 11 games into the season and Martin left shortly after with 12 games under his belt).

They’re also short the player they replaced Douby with, Australian national team point guard, Patty Mills, who was released controversially mid-season after tearing his hamstring against Guangdong on December 23rd. And now, they’re going to be short the player who they replaced Martin with, Gani Lawal, who is reportedly being replaced by Ike Diogu.

Not coming as a shock, the team is likewise devoid of any real shot at the championship that’s they’ve come up just short of achieving the past three seasons.

They will however, storm through DongGuan. Because even though this has been the most drama any team has ever had to endure in one season, Xinjiang is still a very good team, a much better one than their opponents. Though they haven’t been the force that some people thought they’d be, Bateer and Tang still get it done on the inside and DongGuan’s light frontline will be pushed around without too much effort. On the wings, Xu Guochong is as lights out as ever from three and Xirelijiang is as good a two-way guard this league has. And that’s just domestic players. Tim Pickett has done very well coming into the team on short notice and before being released, Lawal was serviceable as a rugged blue-collar rebounder.

The team’s make-up will change wit Diogu, but even if he starts a big sluggish, Xinjiang will still win this series. Though DongGuan head coach Brian Goorjian for the second year in a row has done a masterful job at the helm, leading his team to a No. 5 seed after starting the year 0-4, they don’t hold any discernable advantage in any key category. Xinjiang is bigger and better than DongGuan’s big man rotation of Shavlik Randolph, Zhang Kai and Sun Tonglin, and should dominate the offensive glass. On the perimeter, nobody American or Chinese can handle Pickett.

The one mystery, maybe the only one of this series, is how Diogu, who’s been sitting at home all winter while professional basketball has been going on all around the world, will play in the face of loads of playoff pressure. This being his first time in China, it’s quite a lot to ask of a player to come into a new country, play in a new league, and suit up for a team who is expecting you to carry them to playoff glory. Lucky for him, he’ll probably be able to gradually find his rhythm this series without it affecting the final result.

Prediction: Xinjiang in 3

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Catching up on all things China National Team

June 24, 2011

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June 14th: China’s young “second team” goes down to Japan in East Asian Championship semi-finals

Coming off of a solid win against South Korea on June 12th in the last game of the group stage, young Team China entered their semi-finals game last Tuesday against Japan with a marquee win over one of their biggest Asian rivals. Knowing that a rematch in the Finals was all but assured after the Koreans beat China Taipei in the game before, the Chinese knew that their toughest work still lay ahead of them.

If only they knew.

Forcing the Chinese into 17 second-half turnovers, Japan spoiled any thoughts of a China-Korea Round Two as they stormed back from a 12 point halftime deficit to upset the hosts 72-62 in Nanjing. Though the loss is a bitter disappointment for the Chinese, their failure to win won’t have any effect on their qualification for the FIBA Asia Championship in September. As the host nation, China has already received an automatic bid and will be assured the chance to play in the official Asian qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics.

Kenta Hirose, Shinsuke Kashigawi and Kosuke Takeuchi all scored 13 points to lead the Japenese. “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu led the Chinese with 16 points.  The Chinese Second Team hasn’t beat Japan in six years, dating back to when they lost to the Japanese in the 2005 East Asia Games semi-finals.

Yu Shulong, Meng Duo, Yi Li, Dong Hanlin and Su Wei started for Team China, but with the Chinese’s spot in the FIBA Asia Championship locked up as the host nation, substitute head coach Li Nan subbed in and out freely in order to give all players ample time to showcase their ability.  Yu, Meng, Zhang Bo and Han Shuo interchanged throughout the first half in a three-guard attack, with China’s four-headed inside combo of Su, Dong, Zhang and Mo Ke doing the dirty work up front.  Facilitating mostly out of the high-post, the Chinese offense looked decent at best and positively terrible at worst.

But, by the end of the first half, China’s huge size advantage up front translated into numerous offensive rebounds and putbacks.  On the defensive side, the Japanese couldn’t get anything going in their offensive sets, and when it got late in the shot clock, the Japanese guards had trouble breaking down anybody off the dribble for clean looks.  With their domination on the glass and solid defense, China went into the locker room up 38-24, despite turning the ball over nine times.

Coming out in the second half, Japan made a few key adjustments on both ends. Ramping up the effort on the defensive end, Japan swarmed China’s big men on the catch, sending two and sometimes three men into the post. Though all of China’s bigs struggled to do anything positive offensively in the second half, Su Wei stood out as the team’s worst performer.  Looking equally inept at either scoring or passing, Su charged into defenders, lost the ball in traffic, threw the ball away and got his shot blocked en route to six turnovers.

It didn’t get much better for China’s guards.  Meng coughed up the rock seven times, most of which came as a result of forcing reckless drives into traffic.  Yu, who threw a couple of loopy passes that were picked off and converted into points on the other end, didn’t fare much better, finishing with four himself.

When Japan wasn’t racing out in transition off turnovers, they were calmly executing in their half court offense off of dribble penetration and ball screens.  Confounded by Japan’s steady second half diet of pick-and-rolls, the Chinese allowed their opponents easy access into the lane for simple lay-ups or kick outs.  Japan purposely picked on the immobile Su and Zhang on pick-and-rolls, and with the plodding duo slow to both show out and recover, Hirose and Kashigawi ran amok as China’s helpside defense refused to make even the most basic rotations.

Though the loss is disappointing, its key to remember that this was not even close to China’s best team.  Bob Donewald was back in Beijing with the team’s best players preparing for China’s trip to Australia, so this was a chance for China’s young and inexperienced players to pick up some game action.  But, don’t try telling that to Chinese fans. On a poll after the game on Sina.com, 76% of voters said the game was “a dissapointment, there’s no way they should have lost.”

In the third-place game, China beat Chinese Taipei, and Korea beat Japan in the championship.

June 16th: Before team heads off to Australia, Donewald trims National Team roster to 20

Forced to do another round of cuts in the days prior to China leaving for a an exhibition series in Australia, Bob Donewald released seven players from National Team duty.

Liu Ziqiu, Peng Fei, Duan Jiangpeng, Han Shuo, Zhang Kai, Dong Hanlin and Zhang Sontao were all axed.  Yao Ming, despite publicly contemplating retirement, remains on the roster.

The remaining players:

Guards: Wang Shipeng (王仕鹏), Zhang Bo (张博), Liu Wei (刘炜), Zhang Qingpeng (张庆鹏), Xirelijiang (西热力江), Meng Duo (孟铎), Guo Ailun (郭艾伦), Yu Shulong (于澍龙)

Forwards: Sun Yue (孙悦), Zhou Peng (周鹏), Zhu Fangyu (朱芳雨), Wang Lei (王磊), Ding Jinhui (丁锦辉), Yi Li (易立)

Centers: Mo Ke (莫科), Su Wei (苏伟), Wang Zhizhi (王治郅), Zhang Zhaoxu (张兆旭), Yi Jianlian (易建联), Yao Ming (姚明)

All except Yao, Yi, Guo and Meng went on the trip.  Yao is injured, Yi is back in the States training privately, and Guo is with the U-19 National Team preparing for the FIBA U-19 Championship.  Meng did not make the trip for undisclosed reasons.

China beat Austrailian professional club team, the Perth Wildcats, on Wednesday and will play the Australian National Team tonight.  The two teams will play again on Sunday in Singapore.

June 20th: CBA announces roster for FIBA U-19 World Championship

With the FIBA U-19 World Championship set to tip off in Latvia on June 30th, the CBA announced the official roster for the tournament.

Guards: Wang Zirui (王子瑞), Guo Ailun (郭艾伦), Luo Hanshen (罗汉琛)

Forwards: Zhai Xiaochuan (翟晓川), Gu Quan (顾全), Ju Mingxin (鞠明欣), Wang Pu (王璞), Zhu Xuhang (朱旭航), Sun Tonglin (孙桐林)

Centers: Xu Tao (徐韬), Wang Zhenglin (王哲林), Li Muhao (李慕豪)

China has been drawn in Group D with U.S.A., Egypt and Serbia.

This is considered to be one of the best U-19 teams China has ever fielded.  Beyond Guo, who should be one of the better players in the tournament, China also boasts Li Muhao, Gu Quan and Zhai Xiaochuan among a roster that is expected to at the very least make it out of the group stages.

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China cruises past Hong Kong in FIBA East Asia Championship opener

June 12, 2011

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China dominated Hong Kong in their opening game of the 2011 FIBA East Asia Championship in Nanjing, beating the visitors by a score of 104-43.

China raced out to a 15-0 lead to start the game and never looked back, outscoring Hong Kong 28-5 in the first quarter.  China continued to keep the defensive pressure on in the second quarter, holding Hong Kong to a mere 16 points in the first half.

Meng Duo led all scorers with 22 points, including 6-9 shooting from three.  Yi Li was a perfect 7-7 from inside the arc to finish with 18 and Yu Shulong missed only two of his eight shots to chip in with 17.  “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu nearly had a double-double with 9 points and 17 rebounds.

Coach Bob Donewald rolled out a starting lineup of Yu Shulong, Meng Duo, Yi Li, Han Donglin and Zhang Zhaoxu.  Making his FIBA debut for Team China, Han Shuo logged 35 minutes off the bench, netting 8 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.  Peng Fei, also debuting, played for 16 minutes and 6 points on 1-5 three-point shooting.

Zhu Fangyu, Sun Yue and Zhang Bo all were ineligible to play because they were serving suspensions for their involvement in last year’s brawl against a Brazilian club team.

We would give you some statistics for Hong Kong, but staying within the tradition of Chinese stat-keeping, none of the Chinese sites found it necessary to post individual or team statistics for their opponent.  Tack on another one for “basketball with Chinese characteristics.”

With China already having qualified for the FIBA Asia Championship in September as the host nation, this competition is merely an opportunity for Donewald to test out new players and lineups, as well as a chance for China’s trio of suspended National Team regulars to sit some games out.  China will play South Korea this afternoon.

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CBA announces 12-man roster for FIBA East Asia Championship

May 31, 2011

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Once seen as a potential NBA player, Chen Jianghua’s chances to remain on National Team are looking very dim at the moment. (Photo courtesy of TheFirst.cn)

Earlier today, the Chinese Basketball Association officially announced its 12-man roster for the upcoming FIBA East Asia Championship, which will be held in Nanjing, Jiangsu province from June 10-15.  The East Asia Championship is the qualifying tournament for the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, which will held from September 15-25 in Wuhan, Hunan province.

The East Asia Championship will comprise of six teams split into two preliminary round groups: China, South Kore and Hong Kong will be in Group A, and Mongolia, Japan and Chinese Tapei will be in Group B.  As the host nation, China has received automatic qualification for the Asia Championship in September.  The top three teams will join China in qualifying for the Championship.

With a long summer of warm-up matches ahead of them, China National Team head coach, Bob Donewald, and decision makers at the CBA decided to rest National Team regulars Wang Zhizhi, Ding Jinhui, Liu Wei, Wang Shipeng, Zhang Qingpeng, Zhou Wei and Yi Jianlian in favor of a younger, more inexperienced roster that includes several players who are on the bubble for September’s Asia Championship, including Yu Shulong, Zhang Zhaoxu and Dong Hanlin.  Han Shuo and Peng Fei will make their National Team debuts.

The roster is also full of players who need to fulfill their FIBA-imposed suspensions as a result of last October’s notorious on-court brawl with a Brazilian club team in Henan.  Zhu Fangyu received a three-game suspension, while Sun Yue and Zhang Bo each received one-game suspensions as a result of their actions during the bench clearing fight. Automatically qualified, China’s end result will not affect their participation in the Asia Championship, which makes this FIBA-sanctioned qualifier the perfect time for China’s star players to sit out and serve their suspensions.

Clearly, the most notable name left off the roster is Guangdong Hongyuan’s point-guard, Chen Jianghua.  Chen, who exhibited so much promise when he exploded onto the global basketball after he became the subject of a New York Times piece, has suffered a series of serious injuries in recent years, the latest being a torn ACL in 2010 that caused him to miss the CBA Finals and the 2010 FIBA World Championship.  With deteriorated physical skills and diminished confidence, Chen was a shell of his former self this season and may never regain the game-changing quickness that garnered him so much interest from both inside China and abroad.

With his name not on the roster for Nanjing, Chen very well could find himself among the next round of players cut from the National Team training camp roster, which currently stands at 29 players.  As fans of the game, we hope this latest setback for Chen doesn’t put him back for good — in a league that generally lacks exciting individual players, we believe guys like Chen are good for Chinese basketball, which could use all of the genuine fan interest it can get.

FIBA EAST ASIA CHAMPIONSHIP ROSTER:

Guards:
Yu Shulong (于澍龙), Jilin Changchun
Zhang Bo (张博), Bayi Rockets
Sun Yue (孙悦), Beijing Aoshen
Han Shuo (韩硕), Bayi Rockets*

Forwards:
Yi Li (易立), Jiangsu Nangang
Zhu Fangyu (朱芳雨), Guangdong Hongyuan
Peng Fei (彭飞), Shanghai Dongfang*
Dong Hanlin (董瀚麟), Guangdong Hongyuan
Meng Duo (孟铎), DongGuan New Century

Centers:
Zhang Zhaoxu (张兆旭), Shanghai Dongfang
Su Wei (苏伟), Guangdong Hongyuan
Mo Ke (莫科), Bayi Rockets

*Denotes Senior National Team debut

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Guangdong takes exciting Game 5, now just one win away from seventh title

April 25, 2011

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Nobody likes watching Wang Shipeng’s shots go in more than Wang Shipeng.

Thanks to two clutch performances from Wang Shipeng and Lester Hudson, the Guangdong Southern Tigers took a big step towards securing their seventh CBA championship tonight by defeating the Xinjiang Flying Tigers 110-104.

Playing for the last time this season at home, Guangdong took a commanding 3-2 lead over Xinjiang in pivotal Game 5 to put them one win away from winning a fourth straight title.  Wang scored a team high 29 points on 6-8 shooting from three, while Hudson filled the stat sheet with 27 points,  7 rebounds, 8 assists and 6 steals to provide the Southern Tigers with a balanced blend of foreign and domestic production.  Marcus Haislip pitched in with 18.

Deciding to play the matchups, Xinjiang head coach Jiang Xingquan shook up his usual starting lineup, inserting James Singleton into the game first instead of Quincy Douby. With Guangdong opting to keep Hudson on the floor to start, Singleton went to work early and often against Han Donglin, scoring 11 points in the quarter.  But with Xinjiang’s other players failing to hit the mark, Guangdong took a five point lead into the break behind Wang’s three three-pointers.

Entering down 25-20, Douby came in for the second and helped get Xinjiang back on even terms by the middle of the quarter.  Having troubles with both turnovers and rebounding, Guangdong put Hudson back into the game for Haislip, and Xinjiang responded immediately by taking Douby out for Singleton.  Matched up against Han again, Singleton went for seven more points and Xinjiang entered the half up 55-50.

Shortly after the start of the second half, Douby hit a three from the corner to put the Flying Tigers up 60-55.  It would be the last time they’d hit a shot with the lead.  Hudson, Wang and Haislip paced a 12-0 run to put the Southern Tigers up 67-60, a lead that would ultimately prove to be insurmountable for the visitors.  Whether tied, down one, two or three points, Xinjiang was never able to put in the shot to get them back over the hump.

Guangdong, however, played well enough down the stretch, particularly on the defensive end, to ensure they’d be flying back to Urumqi with control over their own destinies.  After Mengke Bateer hit a cutting Douby for a lay-up to bring the score to 103-101, Hudson hooked up on the other end with Haislip for an electrifying alley-oop that send the crowd — and Hudson — into a screaming frenzy.

Up four, Guangdong wouldn’t allow Xinjiang to get any closer.  Playing individual and team defense, Zhou Peng and his Guangdong help defenders didn’t allow Douby to get a shot off on two straight crucial possessions.  With over a minute left, Zhang Qingpeng turned the ball, which led to Hudson getting fouled on the other end.  Making one of two to make the score 106-101, Zhou blanketed Douby again to force a miss from a contested Singleton three from the corner.

Up five with a chance to seal the game, the ball somehow found its way into Guangdong’s offensively challenged center, Su Wei, and he predictably missed from close in.  But, as he did all night long, Hudson came flying in from the top of the key to snare the offensive board.  Xinjiang fouled, Hudson made both from the stripe and Guangdong put the final touches on a huge win.

Game 6 will be played on Wednesday in Urumqi.  Though the Flying Tigers will have to win two in a row to avoid losing to the rivals from the south for the third straight year, they can take some comfort knowing they’ll be playing in a stadium where they’ve only lost once all year.  Or maybe not — the one team to beat them in Xinjiang this season was Guangdong in an epic come from behind victory in Game 2.

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CBA Finals Preview

April 15, 2011

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Guangdong will be trying their best to prevent Xinjiang’s Quincy Douby from getting into the teeth of their defense. (Photo from Sina)

You were expecting something else?  In the league of no parity, regular season champ, Xinjiang, and three-time defending league champs, Guangdong, waltzed through their respective quarter-final and semi-final matchups to come to their inevitable clash for league supremacy.  Game One of the best-0f-seven series starts tonight in Guangdong at 7:30 Beijing time.  Games Two and Three will be played in Xinjiang, Games Four and (if necessary) Game Five will be back in Guangdong.  Game Six and Game Seven will go back to Xinjiang.

At the buzzer, NiuBBall previews what we think could be the most competitive series in league history.

#1 Xinjiang (31-1) vs. #2 Guangdong (25-7)

The Road:
Xinjiang over Beijing, 3-0 (Quarter-Finals)
Xinjiang over Jiangsu, 3-0 (Semi-Finals)

Guangdong over Bayi, 3-0 (Quarter-Finals)
Guangdong over Bayi, 3-0 (Semi-Finals)

Regular Season Results:
Xinjiang 97 @ Guangdong 88, Round 5
Guangdong 70 @ Xinjiang 86, Round 23

Our advice before advancing any more in your thought process about this series: take these two teams’ regular season clashes in your hand, crumple them up into a ball, and toss them into a garbage can.  They don’t matter.  And it’s not because of the old “regular season doesn’t matter” adage — it’s because in Round 5, Guangdong was still rolling with Fred Jones, and by the time Round 23 rolled around, it was basically decided that Xinjiang was going to come away with the top overall seed for the playoffs.  So we’re not taking too much stock in Xinjiang’s two wins against their southern rivals, even if sweeping Guangdong, which doesn’t happen often, if ever, is an admittedly impressive accomplishment.

No, instead we’re judging the two team’s relative health, playoff performances, and other intangibles that may help us come to a conclusion about this very evenly matched series.

After limping/resting through the regular season, Guangdong finally has its deep roster of National Teamers fully healthy and ready to go, which should cause some concern for the challengers.  Guangdong’s strength in numbers gives them a number of ways to attack opponents, and having a fully healthy roster will make the champs dangerous. Most key is the return of Zhu Fangyu to full fitness, whose size and spot-shooting accuracy on the perimeter has been an integral part of the post-Yi Jianlian Guangdong dynasty.  When put alongside Lester Hudson and Wang Shipeng, Guangdong boasts the most balanced perimeter attack in the CBA, which unlike a lot of other teams, allows them to effectively and efficiently attack defensive mismatches.  If Xinjiang’s thin stable of guards, Guo Xucheng, Zhang Qingpeng and Quincy Douby, get into foul trouble and/or get hurt, Guangdong could do some serious damage.  And if Hudson can build off his season-high 41 point performance in Game Three against DongGuan, Xinjiang could have their hands full keeping track of everybody.

That’s merely hypothetical, however.  Unlike Guangdong, Xinjiang will enter Game One with the confidence of knowing Quincy Douby will certainly be a match-up nightmare for whoever is given the unenviable task of guarding him.  No matter who he’s gone up against, the long-armed Douby has tore up every player in his path this season en route to establishing himself as the best import in the league.  Sag off of him, he buries the three; force him to drive and he pulls up for jumpers and floaters.  Close down on him in the lane, and Douby kicks out to shooters Zhang, Guo and even CBA MVP, the mammoth Mengke Bateer.  Hudson has the strength to possibly give Douby problems, but lacks the foot speed, height and wingspan to negate his unique build and style.  We expect “Q” to stay par for the course, and score 30 points or more every game this series.

Up front, Guangdong is also quite deep.  Marcus Haislip had a very effective series against DongGuan.  Su Wei, Du Feng, Zhou Peng, Dong Hanlin and Wang Zheng, though not dependable to score in bunches, can all play big minutes if needed.  Peng, a long and versatile forward who can play both the three and four, may even be called upon to guard Douby in order to limit the long armed bomber from going off from distance.

As always, the uber-physical Xinjiang combination of Bateer, James Singleton and the Mai brothers will be knocking the heck out of anything/everything that moves in the paint.  Worth watching is the Singleton vs. Haislip matchup. Though taller, Haislip, who prefers to face up defenders from outside the paint, is slight of frame and struggles against stronger defenders.  Singleton, who is hands down the best defensive player in China, stands a pretty good shot at limiting his dribble-drives and rebounding.

But, the Flying Tigers, who alongside Douby, rely on pulverising their opponents into submission under the glass, have never played against a team like Guangdong who can just send waves of big bodies at them.  If the referees call games extra tight and Xinjiang’s bigs go to the bench, Guangdong will have a series advantage on the boards.  Since we think its a given that both backcourts are going to score, this series very well may be decided under the basket.

Key Matchup: Lester Hudson vs. Quincy Douby

In the pre-game buildup to Game One, Hudson reminded a group of gaga for Douby reporters that like his opponent, he also has played in the NBA before.  Sounds to us like Hudson is coming into this match-up with something to prove. Stopping Douby is going to be an impossible task: Xinjiang’s entire offense is run almost completely through Douby, who gets on-ball screen after on-ball screen from his massive teammates before putting the ball in the hoop or kicking out to an open teammate.  But, on the other end?  Hudson, though not tremendously quick, has a quick first step, and a big time three-point shot.  As we saw against DongGuan in Game Three, Hudson, who surprisingly hasn’t put up huge scoring numbers since coming over mid-season, has the ability to go off.  By design, Douby focuses most of his energy on the offensive end, which sometimes comes at the expense of guarding people.  Though a capable defensive player on this level with his go-go gadget arms, if Hudson can find ways to score — such as going into the post and using his bigger frame to muscle Douby around, like Beijing did with some success in the quarter-finals — then it’ll put a ton of pressure on Douby to play both ways.  We’d expect Xinjiang is aware of this, and as a result Hudson will likely see a heavy dose of Xu and Zhang in order to allow their star player to rest on defense.

At the end of the day, however, we think Douby and Singleton are the superior import tandem to Haislip and Hudson. Throw in a huge, physical front line, the addition of Zhang, who was sitting at home watching on TV at this time last year, and a collective hunger to bring northwest China its first ever CBA title, and we’re officially predicting the Flying Tigers will be flying highest by the end of the month.

Prediction: Xinjiang in 6

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1st round of CBA playoffs marred by referee controversies

April 1, 2011

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Embattled referee, Wang Zhuoping, breaks free from a reporter after a controversially officated Game Two in Xinjiang.

Just before All-Star Weekend a few weeks ago, we touched on the drop of quality in in-game officiating this season that was blamed largely on young, inexperienced refs rising through the ranks too quickly and a general lack of organization and leadership by both the league and lead referees.  But, instead of those problems being cleaned up in time for the post-season, increasing evidence of corrupt and biased officiating has made itself even more present for all to see under the bright lights of playoff basketball.

We say increasing evidence because this season especially, the fairness of officiating has been called into question due to some serious testimony that suggests officials heavily favor home teams over their road opponents.  This season, home teams enjoyed a 63% home winning percentage, a number which at first doesn’t jump off the page.  But, its the gap between winning at home and winning on the road that has people inside and outside of the CBA worrying about referee bias.  Only five teams out of 17 finished the season with .500 or above records on the road, and one team, Tianjin, finished the year 0-16.  The most troubling example of home-away discrepancy would none other than Bayi, the team that represents the People’s Liberation Army, who won 81% of its games at home (13-3), while winning only 25% (4-12) on the road.

This season in particular, clearly something has been up.  And right from the outset of Bayi’s first-round opener at home against heavily favored fierce rival, Guangdong, it became evident that the pattern was trying to repeat itself.  At the 8:37 mark in the second quarter, Guangdong’s Dong Hanlin, Zhou Peng and Su Wei had all received their third fouls and Bayi had already entered the bonus.  At 6:33, Su was called for his fourth foul and after incredulously leaning against a sideline billboard, was whistled for a technical foul. Up just five at the half over a team they were expected to beat handily, Guangdong head coach Li Chunjiang reportedly went into the locker room to tell his team, “Just play the game and not worry about other things.”  Guangdong eventually won the game 95-89 despite the questionable officiating.

More home-court bias followed into the first-round’s second set of games, the most egregious of which took place during first-seeded Xinjiang’s home match against eight-seed Beijing last Friday.  Up for most of the game, Beijing eventually fell victim to consistently questionable calls that ultimately led to the Ducks’ entire foreign roster, Zaid Abbas and Randolph Morris, as well as Chinese forward/center, Ji Zhe, fouling out by the end of the game.  Several phantom fouls were called on Morris and Abbas for highly interpretative infractions throughout the game, particularly in the fourth, and both appeared to be singled out for special treatment when Beijing went on runs.

To add, Xinjiang’s star import, Quincy Douby, also appeared to get away with several fouls in the paint as Beijing made it a point to force the former Rutgers standout to defend in post-up situations.  Douby finished with four personal fouls, a number that was deemed too low by both observers and players.

“If they called the game fair,” said an anonymous Beijing player after the game, “Douby would have probably fouled out pretty early.”

In total, 57 fouls were called on both teams in what was an extremely tense and physical game.  But in the end, it was Douby’s barrage of three-pointers inside of three minutes before Zhang Qingpeng finally put the Flying Tigers up for good with 2:25 left with a three of his own.  Once Douby put the finishing touches on the comeback with a slick scooping lay-up with under a minute left, Xinjiang squeaked out a 104-98 win.

During the broadcast on Beijing Sports TV, even the typically snore-inducing announcers went as far to question the integrity of the game, saying “The refs are really not calling this came fairly at all.”  So appalled by the clearly biased officiating, a reporter rushed the court at the conclusion of the game to ask lead official, Wang Zhuoping, “How do you evaluate your officiating for this game?”  Angered, Wang shoved the journalist aside, who then grabbed him in attempt to get an answer.  Wang eventually broke loose and stormed off the court.

On Saturday, Wang spoke to reporters saying, “I’ve reffed games for many years, and I’ve always been honest and open. This game was the same.”

Because of the incident with the reporter and the circumstances in which the game was called, what happened on Friday night has received a lot of media attention over the last week.  But, talking to reporters in the days following the game, nobody sounded too hopeful that lasting change would come from the top.

“What good is an appeal going to do?” asked Beijing general manager, Yuan Chao.  ”I’ve gone to the league to complain about the refs once before, and as a result they punished us for a bunch of years.”

Technical Director, Lu Ping, the person who is responsible for the scorer’s table during games, came under fire for not stepping in to put an end to the referee’s power trip after reporters saw Lu, along with the in-game supervisor, take a phone call with 6:45 left in the fourth quarter with the score 85-78 Beijing.  On the phone was Minister of the CBA Competition Committie, Bai Xilin, and though reporters who heard the conversation couldn’t hear what Bai was saying on the other line, they were able to get Lu’s side of the conversation.

“Minister Bai, both of us are in the lounge,” said Lu. “We’re coming out out now… I know, I know, you’ve said it a bunch of times already — this game must be called stricter without fail, we can’t be careless… Yes, yes, I’ve already said that the third quarter there were nine fouls called against [Beijing].  The first two quarters the two teams were going at it with each other the whole time.  Like I said, there is no logic to the way this match is going right now.  I’ll let you talk to Director Liu later, I have to back to the game now.”

But by that late point, the game and the refs were too out of hand to be reeled back in.  Lu, who has defended himself by saying he is only responsible for the scorer’s table, went on record as saying “This [search to blame someone] is ‘Chinese characteristics’.”

Controversy over in-game officiating continued into Sunday night’s Jiangsu – Zhejiang Chouzhou Game Three matchup on Sunday.  Down one with 2.2 seconds left at home against Zhejiang, Jiangsu’s Antoine Wright inbounded the ball on the near sideline to a cutting teammate a few feet outside the top of the three-point line.  Wright quickly bolted to the ball and after his teammate pivoted to seal off his defender, Wright took the hand off on his right foot, made a big step with his left towards the left three-point wing, and launched a rediculous near-impossible three-pointer off one foot with Chouzhou’s Marcus Williams in his shirt that somehow went in at the buzzer.

But the shot, which reminded us of a certain Kobe Bryant ridiculous near-impossible three-point shot over an outstretched Dwyane Wade last year in Los Angeles, came about under some pretty shady circumstances: The time keeper didn’t start the clock until Wright came back inbounds and grabbed the ball from his teammate.

The media attention and public outcry over these incidents — especially the Beijing – Xinjiang game — has ultimately led to the demotion of a lead official, Wang Zhuoping (who refereed Game Two in Xinjiang), to China youth league basketball.  The other two refs in that game were suspended for the rest of the playoffs.

It has also caused the CBA to put out a letter “On Further Strengthening Referees for the Playoffs,” that include such resolutions as “strengthening understanding,” “strengthening business learning” and “strengthening self-discipline and improving professional ethics.” Calls for technical directors to take more responsibility for their job were also mentioned, and a board of foreign referees will also be established after the semi-finals to participate in exchanges and hold seminars geared at increasing the level of officiating.  Referees must also limit contact from the outside world. Notifications and written reports must be handed into the CBA Competition Department by all referees who leave their hotel alone, and cell phones must be given to the technical director on gamedays.

Though not admitted by the league and never technically proven by anyone, its well known around the league that referee corruption is a rampant problem that has plagued Chinese professional basketball for years.  Home teams in particular are given opportunities to pay off refs before games.  The practice has become a common one in the regular season and practically a necessity in the playoffs, where the stakes are higher.

Speaking to Sina on last Friday, newly signed Houston Rocket, Mike Harris, who spent the entire season in the CBA with Shanghai this year, summed up what most people feel about the future of the league.  (Translated from Chinese): “I think the CBA really needs professional referees. There’s some games that they call unreasonably, they should be more like the NBA, they should go through training.”

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Team China cuts Yu Shulong, Dong Hanlin, roster down to 13

November 3, 2010

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Sina reports that Bob Donewald has cut guard Yu Shulong and forward Dong Hanlin from his 2010 Asia Games roster, which puts the roster down to 13 players.  The roster as it stands look like this:

Guards: Liu Wei, Wang Shipeng, Sun Yue, Zhang Bo, Zhang Qingpeng, Guo Ailun

Forwards: Zhu Fangyu, Ding Jinhui, Zhou Peng, Li Xiaoxu

Centers: Wang Zhizhi, Tang Zhengdong, Zhang Zhaoxu

With China thin up front, the final cut is believed to be down to Zhang Qingpeng and Guo Ailun, two young point-guards with somewhat redundant skill sets.  On a poll posted on Sina.com, 37.6% think that it’ll be Guo who gets the axe, while Zhang Qingpeng comes in at second with 26.9%.

China finished up its last game of a three game exhibition set against an American All-Star team yesterday, winning two and losing one.  Paced by Wang Shipeng’s 23 points, China played its best lineups for most of the game and won the first game convincingly 94-68 on October 29th.  On Halloween, Donewald let the kids come out for a little trick or treating, resting his starters in a one point 78-77 China loss.  Yesterday, China won the finale 92-86, led once again by Wang Shipeng, who scored 18.

Zhang Qingpeng, who is still recovering a concussion suffered at the chest of a Brazilian, didn’t play the first two games, but clocked ten minutes in the finale, scoring three points and dishing out two assists.  Guo played sparingly in the front and back ends, but played over 20 minutes in Game 2, scoring 11.

In the end, who gets cut won’t really matter on the court.  China will be going eight deep for most of the tournament, and whomever of the two makes the team will probably not see more than mop-up duty in blowouts.  I’d be mildly surprised if Guo is the one who is cut.  He’s the future of the position for China and I believe he should be given every opportunity to be developed under Donewald.

The Asian Games start on the 13th, and the final cut is expected to be announced within the next few days.

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