Tag Archives: Earl Clark

Friday Morning Jianbing

December 16, 2011

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

  • We’re not sure if this “extreme form of basketball” can actually be considered as basketball since there are no baskets… but, it’s still pretty lihai nonetheless.
  • Gerald Green wasn’t good enough for the Foshan Dralions, but he’s apparently good enough for the 16-time NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have reportedly agreed on a deal to bring Green into the Staples Center this season. And Earl Clark, who was with the Guangsha Lions for about seven minutes during pre-season, is back with the Orlando Magic.
  • But the most shocking signing of all? Bonzi Wells, who Shanxi Zhongyu fans are quite familiar with, has signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
  • Stephon Marbury talking to the New York Times: “I never thought in my life that I’d end up going to China and wanting to spend the rest of my life here.”
  • The Triangle offense may be dead in the NBA, but it’s definitely alive (and sort of) kicking in China. The Shanghai Sharks are doing their best to run it with longtime Triangle-disciple Dan Pannagio at the helm, and longtime Phil Jackson assistant, Jim Cleamons, is in Zhejiang running some of its elements at Guangsha.
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Tyson Chandler says no to Guangsha, Jiangsu pursuing Rashad McCants

November 23, 2011

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No start to a CBA season is complete without at least two teams switching imports and 2011-12 is no different as both Zhejiang Guangsha and Jiangsu Nangang are already unhappy with their choices in the foreign market.

Two days ago, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein wrote that Guangsha had offered a lucrative contract to Dallas Mavericks center and 2011 NBA champion, Tyson Chandler. According to the report, if Chandler accepted, he would play out the season in China, which goes into March, before returning to the NBA to sign a short-term deal either with the Mavericks or another contender.

But upon considering the offer, Chandler has turned Guangsha down, according to a report written by Chris Broussard, also of ESPN.com.

“I was considering it but I don’t think I’m going to do it,” Chandler said in a text message. “It was hard to turn down.”

Guangsha has been looking for an NBA-caliber big man ever since Earl Clark left the team in September for personal reasons. As a stopgap, the team signed Dwyane Jones, who last played in the NBA in 2010 with the Phoenix Suns. He played last season for Fujian SBS and led the league in rebounds. But in the short amount of time he’s been in Hangzhou, the team has come away unimpressed with overall game, especially on the offensive end. In Guanghsa’s season opening win against Tianjin, Jones manged to score only two points in 27 minutes.

As NiuBBall.com previously reported, before ultimately settling on Jones, Guangsha had also made serious offers to Los Angeles Clippers center, DeAndre Jordan, and Boston Celtics forward, Glen Davis. The team is also looking into bringing back center Peter John Ramos, who was cut by his Korean team a few weeks ago.

Guangsha already has another Chandler on its roster, Wilson Chandler, who signed with the team back in August as one of the first NBA-to-CBA players this year.

In Nanjing, Jiangsu is also unhappy with one of their imports and are looking to make a change. In fact, they had already decided on who to replace Mardy Collins, who has not lived up to the standards of general manager, Wang Min. That player, Luther Head, was scheduled to fly into Beijing yesterday and join the team for their game today against Guangdong. But before he could fly out, Head sustained an injury that requires 20 to 30 days to recover, a period of time deemed too long by the team’s front office.

Marc Stein, on the China beat once again, tweeted that Jiangsu has now turned their attention to Rashad McCants. McCants was linked with Liaoning last season and almost came over, but the deal fell through and the team ultimately settled on Donta Smith. McCants, the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, has been out of professional basketball since he left the NBDL’s Texas Legends in December 2010.

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2011-2012 CBA Preview

November 20, 2011

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J.R. Smith is just one of many reasons why people are more excited than ever to watch the CBA this season.

Technically, the 2011-12 regular season started tonight. Paced by Othello Hunter’s 11 points and 21 rebounds The visiting Shandong Golden Bulls took out the Foshan Dralions in front of a national audience, 93-79.

Normally, that’d take some of the shine off of fresh off the press 2011-12 CBA preview. Thing is though, this preview is anything but normal.

For your viewing pleasure, we’re not only previewing every single team for the new season, we’re putting in a power rankings, too. Yeah — there’s almost 6,000 English words on Chinese basketball in this beast. We don’t want to toot our own horns or anything, but we think that’s got to be a record.

Read it all at once right now, print it out and take it on the go, or break it all up into easy to manage blocks. And as always, if you have any questions, hit up the comments.

Throughout the season, we’ll be updating the power rankings, probably every Monday.

Note: *Indicates an import who is playing his first season in the CBA.

1. Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers
2010-11 record: 25-7 (2nd place, won CBA Championship)
Head Coach: Li Chunjiang (5th year)
Imports: James Singleton, Aaron Brooks*

Rule number one of NiuBBall Chinese Basketball Association power rankings: The champs are put at the top at the beginning of the year — no matter what other teams with Tigers for mascots have done in the off-season.

So like they would have been for the past four years, Guangdong starts the season in pole position. And that decision isn’t solely based on the fact that their reigning champs. As it stands right now, they’re also a lot more talented than they were last year, primarily thanks to an ongoing labor dispute in America.

No team has benefited more from the NBA lockout than Guangdong, who have bolstered their already championship-caliber roster with not one but two players who played in the League last season.

Both will be very familiar to China. After spending five years in the States, Yi Jianlian, has returned to his hometown squad that raised him from youth. Having clearly emerged as the leader of the post-Yao Team China setup at the FIBA Asia Championship this summer in Wuhan, Yi returns to China playing perhaps the best ball of his career. Unlike other NBA-to-CBA hoopers, Ah Lian has a special out-clause that will allow him a free passage back to America if/when the lockout ends.

Joining him will be another lockout casualty, Aaron Brooks, who according to Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reportedly committed to joining Guangdong cause.

But, wait! There’s more recognizable faces heading to southern China — after helping Guangdong overcome Xinjiang in six games in the Finals, the team says goodbye to both Lester Hudson and Marcus Haislip, and hello to the guy they were game-planning against, James Singleton. A rugged player whose willing to sacrifice his own numbers for wins, Singleton will be a good fit next to Guangdong’s prolific roster. Besides making for good basketball, his move down south also adds an extra element to the Xinjiang-Guangdong rivalry, which in our eyes is the best in CBA history.

You should know the rest of the roster by now: Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Zhou Peng and Su Wei comprise the team’s core of National Teamers that give them the match-up edge against virtually every team in the league.

If there’s any bones to pick against Guangdong this year, its that there may be too much talent. How a low-percentage chucker like Brooks will mesh with China’s laoda, Yi, and the team’s other Chinese players is a question that is on our minds heading into the season. Brooks will have his 40 point games, but as Guangdong has built its championship formula around its Chinese players, is he really what the team needs?

In any case, just mark Guangdong as a lock to be back in the Finals this year. As to who they’ll face, well that’s pretty much a lock, too…

Jon Pastuszek

2. Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers
2010-11 record: 31-1 (1st place, lost in Finals to Guangdong)
Head Coach: Bob Donewald Jr. (3rd year)
Imports: Kenyon Martin*, Quincy Douby**

What do you do if you’re a basketball-infatuated billionaire owner who’s team has lost in the Finals the last three years in a row? You spend close to USD $10 million in the summer to make sure that losing streak doesn’t become four in a row.

How do you spend 10 mil in the Chinese Basketball Association, you ask? You start by bringing in the head coach of the Chinese National Team and noted CBA miracle worker, Bob Donewald Jr.

What could have been: Douby and K-Mart chat during practice pre-Douby wrist-break.

Donewald, who rose to the top of Team China after leading the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks from the depths of bankruptcy to a magical semi-finals run in 2009, will now be aiming to rise to the top of the CBA in Urumqi, where expectations reside somewhere between championship and championship. If you don’t believe that, think about the guy who he replaces, Jiang Xingquan; he only went 31-1 last regular season. Having spent all this money, there is no room for failure now.

If there’s anyone who’s up for the task though, its Donewald, who had to deal with the “win, or else” pressure that was placed upon him this summer in Wuhan, and media firestorm that came with it. The regular season is just a prelude to a Finals match-up against Guangdong, and the team’s result in that series will determine the success of the season.

Coaches need players to coach, though. And good thing for Donewald, Xinjiang added some good ones. Former NBA number one overall pick, Kenyon Martin, was signed in September to the richest contract in franchise history. He may not score 30 a night, but he won’t need to either — unleashing K-Mart inside an arena near you will be more than enough to deter opponents from even venturing into the lane. Simply China has never seen that type of defensive intensity. While J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler will be making headlines for their offensive outbursts, expect Martin to make his mark on the winning end of the court, the defensive side.

Xinjiang also added three domestic players who will play a large role in determining the result of this season. Former three-time MVP, Tang Zhengdong, who’s been wanting to get out Jiangsu since forever, finally got his wish. Though not what he once was when he was with Jiangsu back in the mid-2000s, he’ll be a load for opposing second units to handle when he subs in for current three-time reigning MVP, Mengke Bateer.

Chao Yonggang, a sharp shooting small forward who played with Foshan last year, was also signed for a large transfer fee. The team has big expectations for him: He’s been playing as a starter during pre-season games. China U-23 Olympic Team member, Meng Duo, who has been with DongGuan New Century since his teenage years, has been brought over on a two-year loan. A six-foot guard, Meng is an athletic and capable player who will be relied upon to provide scoring off the bench.

Keep in mind, though: This is a team that lost one game last regular season. There’s still a lot of veteran talent on this team. Bateer is the best Chinese big man in the league and will continue to be a rock inside for the Flying Tigers. Local product, 20 year-old Xirelijiang, spent the entire summer under Donewald with the National Team and looks primed to improve on last year’s promising campaign. The Mai Brothers combo will be short one after Maiwulan went to Foshan via the short-term transfer draft, but Maierdan will be back to smash heads/get called for moving screens under the basket.

There is bad news, though. Xinjiang’s title hopes took a hit when arguably the best import in league history, Quincy Douby, suffered a broken left wrist during a pre-season match last Sunday. Douby has already returned to the States and undergone surgery and it appears that the team is looking at other options to replace him.

Whether they choose to wait it out until he’s healthy or they go with a replacement player right away, Xinjiang will have a healthy and supremely talented import guard at the end of the year to play alongside K-Mart, Bateer and sons. So start getting ready now for Guangdong – Xinjiang, part III.

Jon Pastuszek

3. Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls

2010-11 record: 18-14 (6th place, lost to DongGuan in first round)
Head Coach: Ding Wei (2nd year)
Imports: J.R. Smith*, Josh Boone

Based in the sock capital of the world, Yiwu, the Golden Bulls enjoyed moderate success last season with Marcus Williams and Josh Boone as the focal points of the team. They got off to a slow 2-7 start with Mike James, but finished the year 17-6 once Marcus Williams came over as a replacement. Williams’ dominance ended in the playoffs though, and with it so did Chouzhou’s run as they suffered a disappointing first round playoff sweep at the hands of Jiangsu.

During the off-season, Chouzhou let go of Marcus Williams and made what might be the biggest acquisition in the CBA by signing former Denver Nuggets guard J.R. Smith. If Marcus Williams could average nearly 30 points a game for Chouzhou, the sky is the limit for Smith, who is one of the best pure scorers in the world. He possesses unbelievable range on his beautiful jump shot and has incredible athleticism that allows him to finish above the rim. With the Nuggets, he was relegated to the sixth man role due to the presence of Carmelo Anthony and his head-scratching shot selection. This won’t be the case with Chouzhou, where he will have the green light as the first, second, and third option.

Alongside Smith will be veteran big man Josh Boone, who is be entering his second season with the Cyclones. Boone is an athletic shot blocker who lacks a refined offensive game. He scores most of his points off of put-backs and broken plays. With J.R. Smith commanding so much defensive attention, Boone should enjoy a productive season on the offensive end. Ding Jinhui has been a National Team regular since Donewald took the reigns for his non-stop motor, and he’s one of the better Chinese forwards in the league.  The Golden Bulls’ success rests on the shoulders of Smith and Boone; if they can get their role players involved, the victories should add up.

Edward Bothfeld

4. Jiangsu Nangang Dragons

2010-11 record: 19-12 (4th place, lost to Xinjiang in semi-finals)
Head Coach: Xu Qiang (13th year)
Imports: Dan Gadzuric*, Luther Head*

The Jiangsu Nangang Dragons are coming off another successful season in which they finished with the fourth best regular season record and an appearance in the semi-finals. With three returning starters and two new imports, the Dragons have a good chance of replicating last year’s success.

Jiangsu's Yi Li took a big step forward this summer with his strong performance for the National Team at the FIBA Asia Championship.

Although he may still be fighting jetlag during the home opener, Luther Head is a capable combo guard who might excel in the CBA’s style of play. He is mostly known for his shooting abilities, but if Head can find some success driving to the hoop and keep defenders honest, he could be in for a big season. While Head makes plays on the perimeter, nine-year NBA veteran Dan Gadzuric will be doing dirty work in the paint. Known for his defensive presence and ability to run the floor, Gadzuric is limited on offense, where he has difficulty creating for himself.

Even with the loss of their force in the middle, three-time CBA MVP, Tang Zhengdong, who was sold to Xinjiang, Jiangsu still has the solid core of Chinese players that have made Jiangsu a perennial threat. The spindly Yi Li, who had a strong showing for the National Team as their sixth man at the Asia Championship this summer, will be asked to play a more prominent role now that Tang is gone. Fan favorite Hu Xuefeng will continue to be ageless at the point guard position and Meng Da, though also getting up there in age, should average double figures in scoring once again.

The culture of winning cannot be understated, and NiuBBall believes Jiangsu will be heading back to playoffs for a ninth straight year.

Edward Bothfeld and Jon Pastuszek

5. Zhejiang Guangsha Lions
2010-11 record: 18-14 (6th place, lost to DongGuan in first round)
Head Coach: Jim Cleamons (1st year)
Imports: Wilson Chandler*, Dwyane Jones 

Hangzhou is home to the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions, a usually mediocre team that annually flirts with being among the CBA’s elite. For the past three seasons, the team has revolved around big man P.J. Ramos, otherwise known as “The Puerto Rican King” (at least that’s what the large tattoo on his wrist says). Ramos enjoyed some success with Guangsha, but after finishing last year with an 18-14 record and a first round playoff exit, the club’s management decided to make drastic changes, and during the off-season they overhauled their roster and coaching staff in an attempt to permanently join the upper-echelon of teams.

In comes Coach Jim Cleamons, who is by far the most experienced and heralded NBA coach in the CBA. He has spent the majority of his coaching career as an assistant in the league under Phil Jackson. He has over a decade of experience teaching some of the most talented players of all time – Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal. In his basketball career, he has won a staggering ten championships – ten as a coach and one as a player. Guangsha is hoping Cleamons’ leadership and addiction to winning will transform the Lions into a championship contender.

However, a coach cannot win games by himself. Fortunately for Cleamons, Guangsha was also able to sign Wilson Chandler. Standing at a broad 6-8 (208 cm), Chandler has spent his NBA career with the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets. He possesses a unique skill-set with his ability to shoot from long range and use his size to score inside, thus making him difficult to defend. Look for Cleamons to make Chandler the focal point of the team, and for him to average around thirty points a game.

During training camp, the Lions suffered a significant setback. To complement Chandler, they had recruited fellow NBA star, Earl Clark. After arriving in Hangzhou, Clark received the wonderful news that his girlfriend was pregnant and understandably returned home. With Clark gone, Guangsha turned to former NBA player, Dwayne Jones. While he is not nearly as talented as Clark, he is tall (211 cm), has already spent a year playing professionally in China for Foshan, and is a capable post defender and rebounder.

Expectations are high, but with Chandler filling up the box score, Jones doing the dirty work, a talented supporting cast led by Taiwanese National Lin Chih-Chieh, and Jim Cleamons roaming the sidelines, the Lions should be in for a successful and winning season.

Edward Bothfeld

6. Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons

2010-11 record: 15-17 (9th place)
Head Coach: Yang Xuezeng (2nd year)
Imports: Marcus Williams, Charles Gaines

As Jim Yardley’s new book on Shanxi will tell us when it his stores in February next year, it’s probably pretty stupid to bet on a team that is owned by a raging lunatic. Still, there’s enough talent here — both American and Chinese — to convince us that this team can overcome that to make the playoffs.

Let’s start with the U.S. guys. After trying to sign Kobe Bryant to a one-month deal before the CBA squashed that idea, Shanxi made two sound decisions in the import market by signing China old-hands Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines. Williams made everyone look really stupid for passing him up at the beginning of the year when he came over to Zhejiang Chouzhou mid-season as a replacement for Mike James. His one man band show that culminated with four straight triple-doubles to end the regular season, parading the Golden Bulls to a playoff birth, and an appearance on the NiuBBall.com All-CBA First Team. Boasting the best all-around game in China, there’s no reason for us to believe he shouldn’t be there again this year.

Gaines is no slouch either. Two years ago for Xinjiang, he averaged over 30 points a game, and last year he led the league with 33.7 per contest on top of 13.5 rebounds. Yet, he remains most famous for slapping the eff out of Du Feng in the 2010 CBA Finals. And probably rightfully so. But Gaines, who was also a NiuBBall.com First Teamer last year, in combination with Williams will probably be famous this season because he’ll be part of one of the most potent import duos in the league this year.

On the Chinese side, swingman Duan Jiangpeng is coming off a strong summer that saw him suit up for the China Under-23 Olympic Team before earning a brief call-up to the Senior National Team. His Brave Dragon teammate, Zhang Xuewen, also averaged double-figures for the Brave Dragons last year and is another young piece expected to help the playoff cause.

If there is one weakness with this team — besides their bumbling mad owner — it’s that this team lacks a point-guard. Williams, who excels when the ball is in his hands, may be enough to compensate for that though. This is a team with a ton of talent and they should make the playoffs, despite an owner that made the late George Steinbrenner seem like Abe Polin.

Jon Pastuszek

7. Liaoning Jiebao Innovators

2010-11 record: 14-18 (10th place)
Head coach: Guo Shiqiang (6th year)
Imports: Rodney Carney, Josh Powell

The normally relevant Liaoning PanPan Dinosaurs were anything but last season, finishing with an unimpressive 14-18 record. Their struggles could be mainly attributed to the poor play from any of the four imports they put on the court during the year, Donta Smith, Anthony Myles, Myles McKay and Chris Richard.

This season, however, could be different. In fact, it’s already different — at least in name. Provincially-owned Liaoning dropped their longtime shareholder sponsor, PanPan Doors, turned around and bought the club themselves. Once dubbed the PanPan Dinosaurs, Liaoning is now the Jiebao (a car company)… Innovators? The name of the team in Chinese is 前瞻, which according to nciku.com means “to look ahead; to forecast.” I don’t think the Liaoning Weathermen sounds very good, so I went with “innovators.” That is very likely 100% wrong. If you know their name in English — if they have one — holler at us in the comments.

It also could be different, because Liaoning looks pretty darn good on paper. Overpowering every other storyline is the return of guard Zhang Qingpeng, who is back after a one-year loan to Xinjiang. A common sight on Team China a few years ago, Zhang has fallen out of favor with Donewald’s National Team. But he’s on the short list of top Chinese guards in the league, and his accuracy from the outside will be a big boost for the team this year.

Former L.A. Laker and two-time NBA champion, Josh Powell, and NBA journeyman Rodney Carney have joined the Hunters. Together, they are hoping to kick start a Liaoning revival (they were finalists in 2008). With poor ball-handling skills, Carney is reliant on his leaping ability and athleticism on the offensive end. The game needs to be played at a frenetic pace for him to be effective. While Powell has size – 6’9 and 240 lbs — he isn’t a banger and gets most of his buckets on midrange jumpers.

Up front, Liaoning can play with anyone. 6-9 power forward Li Xiaoxu played at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. 7-1 Han Dejun, participated in all-you-can-eat pork dumplings competition in Liaoning last year. OK that’s a joke, but the 300+ pound puffer can play a little bit, even if his body weight only allows him to play in short bursts.

If the Innovators can get consistent play from youngster Guo Ailun, one of China’s best prospects at the point-guard position, they’re headed back to the post-season.

Edward Bothfeld and Jon Pastuszek

8. Beijing Shougang Ducks

2010-11 record: 16-16 (8th place)
Head Coach: Min Lulei (14th year)
Imports: Stephon Marbury, Randolph Morris

Like NiuBBall, Starbury is way down with Beijing and Niu Bi.

Stephon Marbury says he’s been happy in China since signing with Shanxi in 2010. That’s impressive given who he’s played for and the cities he’s called home the last two seasons, Taiyuan, Shanxi and Foshan, Guangdong.

Now in Beijing for his third season, Marbury, who had his own feature in China Daily two days ago, is even happier.

Ducks fans should be happier, too. China likes themeslves some Marbury, but it seems that Beijing, who has taken to the Coney Islander with even more reverence, likes him the most. And that was before he officially signed for them in the off-season.

Partered up with Randolph Morris, who put up huge numbers for the Ducks last year, fans are going to like what they see at Shougang Arena this season. Neither have ever played in China with a better import, and seeing how both of them were pretty good on their own last year, logic would suggest that they’ll be pretty good together.

The one concern for Beijing this year is the loss of their Asian import, Zaid Abbas. The tireless forward ran circles around opponents last year rebounding, defending and picking up garbage points. Because there are no rules that restrict Asian import players’ playing time, Abbas is one of the most valuable players in the league and Beijing will definitely miss him.

But, is the loss of Abbas really going to affect the Ducks that much? After all, Beijing snuck into the eight spot last season, despite playing a good portion of the year with only one American. (Steve Francis, that was totally on you, man.) Pint-sized Taiwanese point-guard, Lee Hsueh-lin, likes to push the pace and find open teammates, and him and Marbury will be sharing the same backcourt most of the time. Forward Chen Lei is a good all-around player, and “The Journalist,” Ji Zhe, is a big man who can stretch defenses out with his outside shooting.

I think Abbas’ departure is a big blow, but with two Americans playing alongside what basically amounts to the same roster as last season, the Ducks will be in the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Jon Pastuszek

9. Jilin GBT Northeast Tigers

2010-11 record: 12-20 (13th place)
Head coach: Wang Han
Imports: Cartier Martin*, Jameel Watkins, Osama Dahglas (Asian import)

Unlike our good friend Guan Weijia over at Sheridan Hoops, I’m not hopping on the Jilin post-season express right now. But, get back to me in a few weeks and see what I say then, because Jilin definitely has a ton of potential.

Why? The Northeast Tigers are simply loaded in the backcourt with Dahglas, Martin and Yu Shulong, who has spent considerable time with the National Team over the last two summers. Dahglas, who starts at point for the Jordanian National Team, played well for Shanxi last year. With Daghlas, you know what you’re getting — a good playmaker at the point-guard position who is looking to get in the lane and dish to teammates. But he’s not much of a scorer and that’s where Martin will come in. He didn’t get too much run for them, but some people liked him when he was with the Wizards and he should have a big year scoring the ball in this league.

Up front, Jameel Watkins comes back for his second season with Jilin and his fourth overall in the CBA. The 34 year-old isn’t going to put the ball in the hoop too much, but he protects the paint well and rebounds the ball. With Martin doing most of the scoring, they won’t need him to do much else. Zhong Cheng played with the Chinese U-23 Team this summer.

Since the Asian import rule was implemented in 2009, one team has gone from bottom four to the playoffs each season. Of all the teams who qualify for an extra foreigner, Jilin has the best chance to be the third.

Jon Pastuszek

10. Bayi Fubang Rockets

2010-11 record: 17-15 (7th place)
Head Coach: Adijiang (10th year)
Imports: None

You probably know them as the guys who went WWF on the Georgetown Hoyas last August in Beijing. But, in China, they’re mainly known as the team that always wins. If the NiuBBall prophecy is indeed true, however, and the Bayi Rockets do miss the playoffs this year, it will end a 50+ year reign of dominance over Chinese basketball.

Like many people, including a growing number of Chinese, we won’t be needing any tissues when it happens.

Protectors of the old guard, Bayi is primed to miss the playoffs for the first time since the CBA was founded in 1996. Like always, the team that represents the People’s Liberation Army is devoid of any foreigners and will go into battle with a roster comprised entirely of Chinese players. Most famous, of course, is Wang Zhizhi, who will creak into his 15th professional basketball season, his 12th in CBA. The spindly left-hander is running on his last legs — the 2012 London Olympics will be his last international competition for China — and though he’s still capable of throwing up 20-30 points in a game, his best days are way behind him.

That’s not a good thing for the Rockets, who have rode Wang to eight championships since he made his debut in 1995-96. While all solid in their own right, Mo Ke, Zhang Bo and Wang Lei aren’t centerpieces, which means once again the burden will be placed on an aging center who’s played year-round for 15 straight years.

With their superior height advantages all over the court, Bayi will present match-up problems against smaller teams. And like every year, they’ll still get great whistles at home, even when they’re playing bad. Bayi could sneak into the playoffs — especially if the CBA decides that the league still needs soldiers playing under the bright lights — but, I think this is the end of the road for the Rockets as we know them.

Jon Pastuszek

11. DongGuan New Century Leopards
2010-11 record: 25-7 (3rd place)
Head coach: Brian Goorjian (2nd year)
Imports: Josh Akognon, Shavlik Randolph*

The CBA is rarely surprising, which is why DongGuan was such a refreshing team to watch last season. Put under the control of longtime Australian National Team head coach, Brian Goorjian, DongGuan exceeded all pre-season expectations to go 25-7 in the regular season. Goorjian arrived in the spring right after the 2009-10 season and went straight to work on improving the team’s defense. Centering both the offense and defense around Jackson Vroman, whose mobility, passing and versatility made him a organizer and facilitator on both ends, and leaning on Nigerian-American, Josh Akognon, to light the scoreboard from three point-line, the Leopards were able to overcome a young and inexperienced roster to go all the way to the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual champion, Guangdong.

Thing is though, maybe they could have done better. Jackson went down with a fractured hand just before the playoffs and with it, so did DongGuan’s fairy tale season. Was it always unlikely that they were going to beat their DongGuan neighbors? Yes, but it would have been a much more competitive series.

This year, Goorjian is back, but Jackson has left for the Korean Basketball League. Akognon, who took more threes than anyone last year, is also back for another season. He’ll be joined by Shavlik Randolph, has been in-and-out of the NBA the last five years since leaving early from Duke in 2005.

With Goorjian, one of the best coaches in Asia, DongGuan will always be well prepared and will thus win games against teams with more talent. Last year, veterans Zhang Kai and Qiu Biao played arguably the best basketball of their career under him. But, what was already a young team got even younger with the departure of Meng Duo, who went to Xinjiang. Goorjian himself has said that this season is more about the development of DongGuan’s set of promising youngsters Li Muhao, Gu Quan and Sun Tonglin, and not so much about wins.

They’ll take a step backward with the loss of Vroman. But, with Goorjian still at the helm, DongGuan will never be an easy game for opponents and they may even sneak into the playoffs, despite their step back in talent from last year.

Jon Pastuszek

12. Fujian SBS Sturgeons
2010-11 record: 8-24 (16th place)
Head Coach: Joseph Stiebing (1st year)
Imports: Will McDonald, Anthony Roberson*, Zaid Abbas (Asian import)

Zaid Abbas has turned around both Shanghai and Beijing in the two years he's played in the CBA.

The Sturgeons will be happy with any improvements after a pathetic 8-24 record during the 2011 season. As a cellar dweller (bottom four teams), they were eligible to find a third Asian foreign import. Jordan National Zaid Abbas, who is no stranger to turning teams around, will serve as their third import alongside Anthony Roberson and Will McDonald. This will be Abbas’ third stint as the third import for struggling teams, but his previous two teams, Shanghai and Beijing, both improved dramatically with his addition. He doesn’t have a single skill that stands out, but his scrappy play and hustle are infectious.

If Fujian has any hope for a winning season, Abbas will need some help from Anthony Roberson and Will McDonald, who are probably among the least known imports in the CBA. Roberson is a streaky, shoot-first point guard who has occasional lapses on the defensive end. The 32 year-old McDonald has spent the majority of his career playing in Europe and will struggle against the likes of Josh Boone, Randolph Morris, and Kenyon Martin.

Edward Bothfeld 

13. Shandong Kingston Golden Lions
2010-11 record: 14-18 (11th place)
Head Coach: Gong Xiaobin (8th year)
Imports: Alan Anderson*, Othello Hunter*

Last year, Shandong replaced their longtime head coach, Gong Xiaobin, with Bob Weiss, who had coached Shanxi the year before and the Seattle Supersonics before that. Keeping it going with American CBA veterans, Shandong then went with two imports with China experience, Myron Allen and Rodney White.

The end result was not what they were hoping for: 14-18, 11th place.

This season, Shandong is going back with Gong on the bench, but they’re treading in uncharted import territory. Michigan State product, guard Alan Anderson, will mark the beginning of his Chinese career this year, as will power forward, Othello Hunter. Anderson has an impressive resume that includes stints the Charlotte Bobcats, FC Barcelona and Macabbi Tel Aviv. Hunter spent two years with the Atlanta Hawks from 2008-10. Last year he played for Dinamo Basket Sassari in Italy.

The rest we know: Sun Jie is thwacking threes and losing his hair, Sui Ran is flopping all over the place and pissing people off in between the occasional nice drive to the rack, and Ding Yanyuhang is a promising player with a really long name.

Behind Anderson, who I think will do well here, Shandong could be a dangerous match-up against the CBA’s middling teams. But, a lack of dependable Chinese to flank him will once again hold the Golden Lions back from a playoff spot.

Jon Pastuszek

14. Qingdao Double Star Eagles
2010-11 record: 10-22 (15th place)
Head Coach: Zhang Zhengxiu (2nd year)
Imports: Lester Hudson, Peter John Ramos, Sakakini Sani* (Asian import)

Qingdao recovered from their silly initial decision to sign Jarron Collins by first cutting him, and then signing combo guard Lester Hudson. Ike Diogu was on the radar at one point, but the team ultimately settled on 7-3 monster Peter John Ramos, who has spent the last three years with Zhejiang Guangsha.

If the Eagles can get a good big who can score to place alongisde Hudson, then I kind of like this team. Especially when the team’s Asian import, Jordanian forward Sakakini Sani, who played well in China’s second-tier professional league, the National Basketball League, this summer. Though not incredibly skilled, the 6-8 Sani has a big frame which he frequently uses to move bodies under the basket. He’s not on the level of Abbas, but he should have a solid year here playing as many minutes as his coach wants him to.

One cool thing about this team is that their head coach is Korean and the only non-American foreign coach in the league.

Part of me wants to put this team up further because of their nice trio of foreigners, but this squad’s Chinese roster is just too poor. Swingman Li Gen, who averaged a touch over 10 points a game last  year, is the only one I’d tell my friends about. Wang Gang moves to the coast from Shandong, and he’ll step into the point-guard slot. I guess I’ll have to go against impulse and instead settle with merely labeling the Eagles as a potential sleeper.

15. Shanghai Dongfang Sharks
2010-11 record: 12-20 (12th place)
Head Coach: Daniel Panaggio (1st year)
Imports: Mike Harris, Ryan Forehan-Kelly

After a failed attempt to sign with Shanghai last year, Taiwanese national Tseng Wen-ting is finally all set to go in China.

It is now ten years since the Sharks last finished as CBA champions and it remains to be seen if the notoriously fickle Shanghanese will pay much attention to the Sharks now that the days of Yao Ming averaging thirty-points a game seem so far away. These days, the shadow of Yao quite literally hovers over the Sharks team as the now-retired, newly-repatriated Chinese icon watches over the team he famously rescued from bankruptcy in 2009.

The 2011 side is very much one in transition as the Sharks adjust to life without the influential John Lucas III and the popular coach, Bob Donewald. The new man at the helm, former D-League coach, Daniel Panaggio, has arrived with intentions of utilizing the triangle offense, something that has taken a bit of getting used to. Panaggio’s hiring also coincides with the arrivals of Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who previously played for the Jiangsu Dragons in 2007-08, and Taiwanese forward, Tseng Wen-ting, both of whom featured prominently in the Sharks’ final pre-season games in Zhejiang province. Tseng’s addition will be particularly welcome — he was supposed to come over last year, but the deal fell apart after the transfer deadline passed.

Predicting how the Sharks’ will do this season very much depends on how full or empty your glass generally tends to be. Cynics will point to the departure of Donewald and lack of big name signings as symptomatic of the club’s lack of ambition. Those of a more positive persuasion can get excited about a new coach bringing fresh ideas to a side that already boasts experienced veterans like Liu Wei and Mike Harris as well as up-and-coming Chinese internationals, “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu, Peng Fei and Zhou Zhang. A mid table finish is the most likely outcome, anything higher would be a decidedly unexpected bonus.

Andrew Crawford 

16. Guangdong Foshan Dralions
2010-11 record: 11-21 (14th place)
Head coach: Jay Humphries (2nd year)
Imports: Marcus Douthit*, Gerald Green*, Michael Maadanly (Asian import)

Gerald Green will be bummed to know that the Chinese don’t typically do cupcakes.

–Jon Pastuszek

17. Tianjin Ronggang Gold Lions
2010-11 record: 5-27 (17th place)
Head Coach: Zhang Jian (11th year)
Imports: David Harrison, Donnell Harvey, Rony Fahed (Asian import)

After finishing at the bottom of the league last year, Tianjin opted not to retain American head coach, Bob MacKinnon Jr., instead going with the guy who coached them in 2009-10, Zhang Jian. They also decided against bringing back NiuBBall.com CBA Defensive Player of the Year, American guard Vernon Hamilton, despite his string of strong performances to end the year.

Instead they went with a familiar strategy — going with two big men as their Americans. Last year it was Lee Benson and Herve Lamizana, this year its David Harrison and Donnell Harvey. They used their Asian import spot on Lebanese point guard, Rony Fahed. If they’re lucky, they may get 40 points a night out of the three. Harrison is not even one year removed from a broken fibula and hasn’t looked good in pre-season games. Harvey, who enjoyed two great seasons for Jiangsu in 2008-09 and 2009-10, will do what he does best, attacking the offensive glass, but isn’t someone who they’ll be able to throw the ball into on the low block.

With their poor choices in the foreign market and their deplorable Chinese roster, look for Tianjin to once again finish at the bottom of the league.

–Jon Pastuszek

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After an early lockout rush, NBA free-agents may be turning their back on China

November 2, 2011

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Zhejiang Guangsha made headlines this offseason for signing Denver Nuggets forward, Wilson Chandler, as one of the first NBA-to-CBA player this season. And if it were up to them, they’d make more headlines for signing another NBA player to play along with him.

Too bad it’s not.

According to a source speaking anonymously with NiuBBall, Guangsha has been very active in trying to find a a high profile replacement for Earl Clark, who left the team in late September for personal reasons after becoming the first NBA player to sign in China in early August.

But instead of merely replacing Clark, Guangsha has been looking to upgrade at the position. According to the source, the team had entered negotiations with several NBA free-agent big men over the past two weeks, including Los Angeles Clippers center, DeAndre Jordan, and Boston Celtics forward, Glen Davis. Though there was enough interest on the player side to have back-and-forth talks, the two ultimately walked away from Guangsha due increased optimism back in the United States that there will be an NBA season this year.

With all other NBA big man options exhausted, Guangsha has officially turned to someone with Chinese experience, Dwyane Jones. Jones played last season for Fujian SBS, leading the league in rebounding at 15.8 per game while averaging a solid 18 points per game on 60% shooting.

The hesitation on Jordan and Davis’ end is understandable. As dedicated NiuBBallers know, choosing China as a lockout refuge comes with serious commitment. Per CBA rules, only players who are not under contact with an NBA team are eligible to play in China this season. In addition, any player who signs in China is barred from signing an out-clause that would allow him to return to the NBA whenever the lockout is over. The lone exception is Yi Jianlian, who can be registered as a local player. He is allowed to go back to the NBA whenever the season starts.

If there is any consolation for Guangsha in missing out on another NBA caliber player, they haven’t been the only team to have their offers to high profile free-agents rebuked in recent days. In fact, the market for higher profile free-agents may have already dried up altogether.

After seriously considering an offer from Jiangsu Nangang, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Sebastian Telfair has also decided ride out the lockout, according to an anonymous source with knowledge of the situation. The news ends what was a long period of on-again, off-again talks that peaked with an official announcement from Jiangsu general manger, Wang Min, stating that the two sides had agreed to a deal. Telfair’s agent, however, denied that there had been any agreement shortly after the news broke.

Wang was quoted in Basketball Pioneers two days ago saying that the team has given up on their pursuit of the former 2004 lottery pick and have begun to explore other options.

Meanwhile, Rodney Stuckey remains in a holding pattern with four-time defending champion, Guangdong Hongyuan. As ESPN’s Marc Stein tweeted on Monday, Guangdong is still waiting to hear back from the Detroit Pistons guard. According to Stein, Stuckey held off on accepting their offer last week when lockout negotiations were looking optimistic. And although negotitions broke down yet again, there is enough positive sentiment to warrant the belief that NBA basketball will resume this season. As of now, there appears to be no timetable on Stuckey’s decision.

With the NBA market now closed, Guangsha has settled on Jones and Jiangsu will quickly move onto to other players as well. But if Stuckey continues to take his time to decide, Guangdong is very likely to remain patient in signing their second import. Even if Stuckey’s final decision is to stay back West.

Unlike other CBA teams with thin and/or untalented Chinese rosters, Guangdong can afford to take their time in selecting their imports. Winners of seven out of the last eight CBA championships, including the last four, the Southern Tigers currently hold a monopoly on China’s National Team roster, which gives them a major edge over their competition. Four of Guangdong’s core players, guard Wang Shipeng, forwards Zhu Fangyu and Zhou Peng, and center Su Wei are all major pieces of the post-Yao Team China setup. Other teams rely almost solely on their high scoring imports to carry the load on offense. Guangdong on the other hand leans on its superior domestic talent to win games, opting to use their imports as added weapons on offense who can also keep opposing foreigners from going off on the other end.

Last season provided an excellent example of how Guangdong can their time to find the right mix of foreign players. In the league’s first week, center David Harrison sustained a season ending broken fibula on December 15th. For most teams, losing an established American center at a time where every other league in the world is in full swing would have been devastating. But, instead of rushing to sign any old American, the Southern Tigers remained patient, even as they started to lose a few more games than they were accustomed to in years past, before ultimately coming to a sound decision. Down one import ant Unsatisfied with the performance of another, Fred Jones, Guangdong waited more than a month later — January 20th — to cut Jones altogether and sign Lester Hudson and Marcus Haislip for the rest of the year. Guangdong ended up prospering from it all to win their fourth consecutive CBA championship later in April, despite finishing with their worst regular season record in eight years.

And with Yi Jianlian returning to his hometown team for at least the start of the season, Guangdong can take even more time in selecting their second import. So while Stuckey may be keeping them waiting, the team is hardly sweating it out — no matter how hot and humid the weather gets in DongGuan.

They’ll also feel better knowing they have an excellent import already in place. This season, Guangdong is all set up up front after having signed four-year NBA pro, James Singleton. Singleton played last season for the team that Guangdong beat in the finals, the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. In 43 games, he averaged 21.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.5 steals per game on 71.1% FG% and was a NiuBBall.com All-CBA First Team selection.

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Weekend Jianbing

October 9, 2011

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Getting your weekend going with China’s best and most versatile street snack.
  • Kenyon Martin is in Urumqi with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers and he’s talking to Yahoo!’s Marc Spears about his decision to come to China, his old NBA squad, the Denver Nuggets, and his future in the NBA. Definitely worth the read, but just know that unless the CBA has suddenly decided to extend the season by two months (and given the league’s propensity to do stuff at the last minute, that wouldn’t surprise us) the playoffs end in March, not May.
  • K-Mart’s not the only China Nugget to be talking, though. HoopsHype did an interview with Wilson Chandler, who will play this season with the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions.
  • Earl Clark, who was supposed to be Chandler’s teammate in Hangzhou, is officially back in the United States. Once the lockout ends, he’ll be an unrestricted free-agent.
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jim Yardley has written a very informative and detailed breakdown of the Bayi Rockets, aka the team that brawled against the Georgetown Hoyas back in August, on Grantland. Yardley, who was based in Beijing for the New York Times a few years before moving to India, is coming out with a book called “Brave Dragons,” which chronicles the Chinese Basketball Association’s Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons’ season in 2008-09. To say that we’re excited would be an understatement.
  • Guan Weijia, a Chinese writer for the China-based Titan Sports, is writing in English for former AP and ESPN basketball writer Chris Sherdian’s new website, SheridanHoops.com. We think that’s great — the more informed and accurate information/analysis the Western English-speaking world can get about Chinese hoops, the better. Guan’s must-read column will appear on the site every Wednesday. We’re looking forward to next Wednesday already.
  • And we’re not the only ones who think that, either. Truth About It’s Kyle Weide wrote a solid piece about Yi Jianlian and failed expectations in reaction to Guan’s piece on Yi written two weeks ago. Is Yi still worthy of the NBA? Our two cents: Yes, simply because teams will be willing to sign him to a deal in the hopes of penetrating the all important China market. Even if NBA ratings across China are down, there’s still a lot of Yi interest in his home province of Guangdong, population 100 million. And although he’s never really proven himself yet, with that body and athleticism, I’m sure there’s some GM’s who’d be willing to take a cheap flyer on him in the hopes that he can blossom into a solid role player.
  • AmericaPacers, we’re eagerly awaiting your reply.
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Earl Clark leaves Zhejiang Guangsha for “personal reasons”

September 28, 2011

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Earl Clark was the first NBA free-agent to sign in the Chinese Basketball Association this year. Now, he’s the first the leave.

Talking to HoopsHype, Earl Clark’s agent, Happy Walters, has confirmed a hoopCHINA report that Clark and his Chinese team, Zhejiang Guanghsa, have gone their separate ways. Walters said Clark is citing “personal reasons” after his girlfriend in the States has become pregnant.

“They have been very cool and cooperative about it because they understand the reasons,” Walters said to HoopsHype.

Devoted readers of NiuBBall shouldn’t be too surprised by the development. The CBA has one of the highest turnover rates for foreign players in the world. Either because of the player’s inability to adapt to the many on and off-court differences between China and the U.S., or because of the team’s dissatisfaction with the player’s performance or the team’s record, imports come and go with regularity from the start of pre-season to the beginning of the playoffs.

“But, wait!” you ask. “I thought there were no out-clauses in China? I thought players can’t just get up an leave whenever they want…”

Technically, yes that’s true. But you forgot to consider an important point — this is the CBA! Despite what the language of a contract may say, there are no such things as “guaranteed contracts” and “no out-clauses.” When it comes down to it, no team is willing to pay and play an import that doesn’t want to be here. With China’s paper thin pool of domestic talent, imports are relied heavily upon to be the focus of the offense and put up huge numbers. If a player doesn’t want to be here, there’s no reason for a team to keep him on board only to see his performance decline on the stat sheet and the team’s losses stack up in the standings.

So why have a no-out clause if it’s not enforced, then? The rule wasn’t put in to guarantee that guys like Earl Clark stay the whole year, but rather more as a preventive measure to avoid the insanity that would have ensued if NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade had signed in China. In the CBA’s eyes, superstars in China wouldn’t have raised the level of the National Team, something that the government run league takes very seriously. Plus, having big-name players in China for a month or two only to see them jet back to the States once the NBA lockout ended was not a scenario the CBA ever envisioned as positive for the development of its league.

But even after announcing their intentions of passing a no out-clause rule, a few teams still felt confident that they could find creative ways to sidestep it and still attract superstars to China. That in turn led the league to eventually squash any chance of an NBA-to-China exodus by barring all players with active NBA contracts from signing here this season.

So yeah, it’s a little surprising that Clark, who was the first NBA player to sign in China this season, is gone after only a short period of time. But, then again it isn’t. Because in China it’s not just basketball, it’s basketball with Chinese characteristics.

Jon Pastuszek can be followed on Twitter @NiuBBall or on Sina Weibo @NiuBBall.

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J.R. Smith signs for record amount with Zhejiang Chouzhou

September 14, 2011

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Move over Wilson Chandler and Earl Clark. You’re not the only two NBA players in Zhejiang, China, anymore.

An anonymous source with knowledge of the situation has told NiuBBall.com that Denver Nuggets free-agent guard, J.R. Smith, has signed a contract with the Chinese Basketball Assocation’s Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls. The deal is estimated to be worth around $3 million, making him the highest paid player in league history.

The news was first reported by Sina Sports on Sina Weibo (Chinese twitter) and has since been announced on Zhejiang’s official team website.

Smith joins Wilson Chandler, Earl Clark and Josh Powell on the list of NBA free-agents who have decided to play in China this season as a result of the lockout. Per league rules, Smith’s deal does not include an opt-out clause that would allow him to return to the NBA when the lockout ends.

Smith, like other NBA free agents, has received heavy interest from Chinese teams over the last three weeks. With the CBA having barred all NBA players with active contracts from playing here this season, free agents are the only NBA players who are eligible to sign with Chinese teams.

Before signing with Chouzhou, Smith was originally linked with a big money move to Shanxi Zhongyu. Owned by one of the league’s richest and most ambitious owners, Shanxi was the only team to openly disagree with the league’s rule. Before league officials voted to ban all NBA players with active contracts from signing in China, Shanxi was reportedly on the verge of signing Los Angeles Lakers superstar, Kobe Bryant to a lucrative month-to-month deal.

Unable to sign Bryant or another superstar, Shanxi has been seriously exploring bringing in a high level free agent to soften some of the blow. However, the source told NiuBBall.com that after having serious negotiations with Smith over the last week, the two sides simply walked away from each other after a final deal could not be a agreed upon.

Though Smith will join Chandler and Clark in province, he will be playing for a completely different team. Zhejiang has two teams, Zhejiang Guangsha and Zhejiang Chouzhou. Last season, the Golden Bulls signed Mike James and Josh Boone with the hope that two NBA-caliber players would catapult them up the standings. However, James never lived up to expectations and was released early in the season. Former 2007 San Antonio Spurs draftee, Marcus Williams, was brought in as a replacement and along with Boone, lead the team to a fifth place regular season finish. The team was then swept by Nanjing Nangang in the first round.

Last season for the Nuggets, Smith averaged 12.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 79 games.

Follow Jon Pastuszek on Twitter @NiuBBall or on Sina Weibo @NiuBBall

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For many foreign players, China is only temporary

September 9, 2011

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To the outsider, China and its population of 1.3 billion looks like a land of unlimited opportunity. With its booming economy, huge markets in almost every sector and a currency that is exchanged favorably from Western currency, the Middle Kingdom stands out like big red beacon for adventurous, global minded business people who think they can cash in here.

And with an estimated 300-400 million Chinese who claim to play basketball, a lot of people think there’s a lot of green to be made off the orange. China is considered by many as the go-to foreign destination for anything hoops. Whether its bringing an American university over to tour the country and up its exposure in the world’s leading foreign student market, or if its using the Chinese Basketball Association as a potential haven for locked out NBA players, basketball is viewed as a means to tap into China’s vast potential.

But rarely do these casual observers know the full story of doing business in China. And rarely do players, who are lured to China by six and seven figure paychecks, know the full story of playing basketball in the CBA.

Which is why, generally speaking, most of them don’t last here.

While scenarios are being formulated about Wilson Chandler and Earl Clark’s potential March NBA-return after the CBA finishes its season — or any other current NBA free-agent who decides to sign here this season without an opt-out clause — there is very little discussion about what will be the likely outcome in all of these players’ cases:

A mid-season flight back to the United States.

The evidence speaks for itself. The CBA has arguably the highest turnover rate of any professional league in the world. It is rare for a team to finish the year with the same two imports they started with, nor is it out of the question for teams to end the year with two completely different players altogether. Last year alone, only four teams, Xinjiang Guanghui (Quincy Douby and James Singleton); Guangdong Foshan (Stephon Marbury and Olumide Oyedeji); Qingdao Double Star (Dee Brown and Charles Gaines); and Shandong Kingston (Rodney White and Myron Allen) managed to hang onto their two imports the entire season.

There are a variety of reasons why so many players don’t finish out the full-season in China. First, Chinese teams are notoriously fickle with their foreign players and are quick to pull the plug if either the team’s record or the player’s individual statistics are not line with expectations. And as the CBA regular season is only 32 games long, owners won’t wait more than a few games to make a switch if they feel that’s what the team needs to turn itself around.

Granted, that’s as true in Europe as it in China. But, Chinese teams add to the situation by being blatantly corrupt about they way they do it, withholding letter-of-clearances (a FIBA document needed by a player from his former team stating that he is no longer under contract and is thus able to sign for another team), lying about the terms of deals, and sometimes not paying players altogether.

Shanxi Zhongyu, who is reportedly in negotiations with J.R. Smith, is arguably China’s worst offender. Owned by a Wang Xingjiang, an uber-rich former steel magnate who tried his hardest to sign Kobe Bryant during the NBA lockout before CBA officials barred all NBA players with active contracts from playing here this season, the Brave Dragons have a long reputation of unprofessionalism and corruption.

Lee Benson, a longtime CBA veteran who played most recently with Tianjin Rongcheng for part of last year, has played in China for parts of the 2004-05, 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. Picked up mid-season by Shanxi in 09-10, his stay was cut short as Benson was released after only five games in order to make room for the newly-acquired Stephon Marbury, who signed with the team in mid- January. Though nothing illegal was done by cutting him, Benson alleged that Shanxi never paid him his full salary after he was released, thus violating the terms of their contract. Benson ended up taking the the case to FIBA, who ruled in favor of Benson at a tribunal in April of the same year.

Marbury finished out the year in Taiyuan with no problems.  But he too eventually became familiar with Shanxi’s way of handling things when he was abruptly released less than two weeks before the start of the 2010-11 season after the two sides had reportedly agreed on a three-year contract extension earlier in October. Shanxi’s general manager at the time, Zhang Aijun, who had been hired that summer to change the team’s culture, told reporters that Marbury never actually signed with the team and that the club was only interested in making him an assistant coach. Marbury said in a May 2011 piece in GQ magazine that the team straight-up forced him out. Marbury ended up signing with Guangdong Foshan shortly after being released. Zhang and the team’s Chinese head coach ended up being fired later that season on December 31st after Shanxi started the year with a highly disappointing 1-5 record. Among the reasons for Zhang’s dismissal were unethically acquiring local players away from other teams and mishandling the team’s import situation.

Besides being at the mercy of teams, who can essentially terminate a contract whenever they want, players often fail to adjust to everyday life in China. Whereas some places in Europe offer a Western style of life that Americans are able to adapt rather easily to, China has a distinctly different language and culture. The case is even more apparent on the basketball court. After experiencing daily six hour practices, nine hour bus rides, unheated hotel rooms and stadiums, and endless meals of KFC and McDonalds — all while not being able to communicate directly with Chinese coaches, management and teammates — players often waive the white flag on their Chinese career and just pack up and leave.

In almost all cases, both longtime NBA veterans and players who are fresh out of the league end up going home for one reason or another. In 2009, Bonzi Wells said he couldn’t adjust to life in Taiyuan, so he went to the U.S. during the annual Spring Festival break and never came back. Last season, Zhejiang Guangsha’s Rafer Alston left for the States to attend a close friend’s funeral. He didn’t come back either. Javaris Crittenton, Mike James and Ricky Davis all reached mutual agreements with their Chinese teams last year because of issues with living in China.

Perhaps Chandler, Clark and Smith, if he signs here, will be different. Based on reality however, its highly unlikely that they are.

Jon Pastuszek can be followed on Twitter @NiuBBall or on Sina Weibo @NiuBBall

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With new rules officially set, CBA teams snapping up import players

September 5, 2011

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Now that the Chinese Basketball Association has set its rules on foreign players for the upcoming season, we’ve seen a ton of action over the last weeks as teams look to get their rosters set in time for the new season. Some of the league’s contenders/big-money teams have already signed a few guys — Xinjiang and Quincy Douby, Zhejiang Guangsha and Wilson Chandler and Earl Clark, Beijing Shougang and Stephon Marbury — but, there has also been action from other teams as well.

So let’s get everyone caught up.

Shanxi Zhongyu signs Charles Gaines, 2010-11 CBA scoring champ

Shanxi Zhongyu signed reigning scoring champion and 2010-11 NiuBBall.com All-CBA First Teamer, Charles Gaines, to a contract worth a reported $800,000  $80,000 a month according to hoopCHINA. This will be Gaines’ third team in three years in China. Last year for Qingdao Double Star, he put up 33.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game on 60% shooting. In 2009-10, he averaged 30.4 points, 10.7 rebounds per game on 63% shooting for Xinjiang Guanghui.

Shandong brings in Alan Anderson and Othello Hunter

Coming off of a disappointing season last year where both Rodney White and Myron Allen failed to live up to expectations, the Gold Lions will bring in two new players this year, Alan Anderson and Othello Hunter. Anderson, a graduate of Michigan State, played a couple of years with the Charlotte Bobcats from 2005-07 with a stint with the D-League’s Tulsa 66ers mixed in between. Since then he’s played with teams in Italy (VidiVici Bologna), Russia (Triumph Lyubertsy), Croatia (Cibona Zagreb), Israel (Maccabi Tel Aviv) and Spain (Regal Barcelona). Last year for Barcelona, the 6-6 Anderson won MVP of the Spanish National Cup.

Hunter, a 6-8 forward out of Ohio State, played two seasons for the Atlanta Hawks in 2008-09 and 2009-10. He’s played for two teams in Europe, of Dinamo Basket Sassari in Italy and of Ilisiakos B.C. in Greece.

Liaoning signs Josh Powell

In a dramatic change from years past, Liaoning has decided to sign a foreign player before the season, agreeing to terms with two-time NBA champion, Josh Powell. The six-year NBA veteran has spent time with the Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks. In 315 career games, Powell averaged 3.9 points and 2.9 rebounds.

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Agent: Thaddeus Young receiving ‘serious interest’ from Chinese teams

August 31, 2011

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With Earl Clark and Wilson Chandler having signed in China over the past two weeks, the NBA free-agent exodus looks to be just heating up. From Jorge Sierra over at Hoopshype:

Count free agent forward Thaddeus Young among those who could potentially end up playing in China. Agent Jim Tanner told HoopsHype Young has been drawing plenty of attention from several clubs in the CBA.

“I have been contacted by multiple teams in China expressing very serious interest in having Thaddeus Young play in their league this season,” Tanner said. “I have discussed this with Thad and he is intrigued by the possibility of playing in China if the lockout continues and has asked me to further explore these opportunities. At this point, our conversations with the teams have been preliminary but we are continuing to talk and to do our due diligence on each option.”

Like Chandler, Thaddeus is a restricted free-agent heading into his fifth year. He averaged 12.7 ppg and 5.3 rpg last year for the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Wilson Chandler signs with Zhejiang Guangsha

August 30, 2011

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Denver Nuggets forward, Wilson Chandler, is heading over to Hangzhou. From ESPN.com:

Wilson Chandler said he has signed a contract with the Zhejiang Guangsha of the Chinese Basketball Association, a move that would essentially preclude him from participating in the 2011-12 NBA season if the lockout ends and the games begin.

…Chandler’s agent, Chris Luchey, did not specify the amount of the one-year contract with the Guangsha, or Lions, but said it was worth less than the $3.1 million qualifying offer the Nuggets made in order to retain their rights to Chandler, and more than the $1.7 million offer that has been reported elsewhere.

On one hand, this isn’t a total shock. Chandler had been linked with a big money deal in China a couple of weeks ago, although the team mentioned was last year’s league runner-up, Xinjiang Guanghui. And Guangsha has been one of the summer’s most active teams in trying to sign locked-out NBA players for the upcoming season. Way before Guangsha had reportedly offered Dwyane Wade a big money month-to-month deal, and way way before the Chinese Basketball Association unceremoniously squashed that rumor by passing a rule barring all players with active NBA contracts from playing here this season, the team hired longtime NBA assistant, Jim Cleamons, who served under Phil Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles, as its head coach. To us, getting Cleamons on the bench was a clear sign that the team was going to do some serious work to recruit NBA players to Zhejiang. Before netting Chandler, Guangsha had signed former Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic forward, Earl Clark.

Not surprisingly, playing under Cleamons was one of the reasons why he decided to sign.

“If there’s a lockout and we lose the season, I’ll be over there playing, playing for Coach Cleamons,” Chandler said to ESPN.com. “I never had a close relationship with one of my coaches before. Maybe I can learn how to be a leader.”

Plus Chandler was obviously very serious about heading overseas as he came very close to signing with Italian club, Olympia Milano.

So yeah, we can understand how this happened.But that still doesn’t hide the fact that at the end of the day, this kind of is a total shock.

Chandler enjoyed a very good year last season with the New York Knicks, averaging 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game over 51 games before he was sent over to the Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster. In Denver, Chandler blended in nicely with his new team, helping them get into the playoffs while putting up 12.5 points and 5 rebounds in 21 games. Whether it was with Denver or another team, Chandler was due for a multi-year deal whenever the lockout ended. Coming here and risking injury, to us at least, seems like an odd move.

“It’s a huge concern,” Chandler said of the injury risk. “But as long as I take care of my body, I’ll be fine. We’ve got insurance.”

There’s also the CBA’s policy on opt-out clauses to consider. To prevent the league from becoming a convenient lockout haven where NBAers can come and go whenever their American paychecks start up again, the league passed a rule barring escape clauses that would allow players to return to the NBA whenever the lockout ended. Based totally on this rule, Chandler will be in China in March at the earliest and April at the latest, which means he’s going to miss a huge chunk of the year whenever the lockout ends.

Chandler is clearly cool with all of that, though. And he’s also cool with the idea of playing three games a week, which according to the ESPN.com report was another reason why he ended up signing. It’s interesting that he feels that way — a lot of players say that one of the biggest challenges playing in China is adjusting to the busy schedule and the brutal travel that comes with it. Chinese teams don’t fly unless the distance absolutely requires it, so most trips to away games are spent on long bus rides. With games being played on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, entire off days can be spent travelling. Make sure you charge that iPod.

Last year, Guangsha finished the regular season in sixth place at 18-14. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to DongGuan New Century.

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