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Tag Archives: Fujian SBS Sturgeons

Plenty on the line in CBA’s final weekend

February 15, 2013

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With both a playoff spot and the individual scoring title on the line, Zhejiang’s Quincy Douby has a lot on his plate this weekend.

It goes by quickly, doesn’t it? After a week-long Spring Festival break, the Chinese Basketball Association’s 34-round regular season will come to a close this Sunday. And while Guangdong, Shandong and Beijing have already locked up the top three spots, there’s still plenty of stuff going on below them. To help everyone out, let’s go over what everyone should be watching for over these last two games.

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Could China’s Back-To-Basket Centers Thrive In Today’s NBA?

December 4, 2012

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How well would would Wang Zhelin’s predominantly back-to-the-basket game translate in the NBA? (Photo: Osports)

NiuBBall has a new scribe. World, meet Kenya Brown. Currently based in Beijing, Kenya has spent 11 years in China, half of which has been spent in Baoding, Hebei province. With a bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Kent in England, Kenya is now a news editor with China Central Television News Content. He also contributes articles on sports-related issues involving China on the China Sports Review blog and covers soccer news for US-based Yanks Abroad website.

Kenya’s biggest basketball moment, playing-wise, was when he scored the game-winning basket for his junior varsity team in Germany back in 1991 in front of hostile crowd of 25 people. As he is usually busy with work, Kenya has yet to see a live CBA game. However, he considers seeing Guangdong Southern Tigers assistant coach Jason Dixon walking along Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong with his family as his biggest CBA moment so far.

For his opening piece, Kenya discusses China’s young generation of back-to-the-basket centers and wonders how well their games could translate in today’s NBA.

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McGrady’s turnover, Gaines’ buzzer beater highlight CBA’s opening round

November 25, 2012

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The Chinese Basketball Association has officially started after Round 1 of the 2012-13 season wrapped up tonight.

And save for Gilbert Arenas’ untimely hip flexor last night, we don’t think it could have started any better.

There’s an overtime game in Shanxi to get to as well as Xinjiang’s impressive home win over Guangdong, but no doubt the game everyone wil be talking about will be Fujian’s dramatic buzzer beater to spoil Tracy McGrady’s debut with Qingdao.

Oh, and that turnover.

The script was set up for a storybook start to the season. T-Mac, who was excellent overall amassing 34 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, set up in an isolation with the game tied at 92 and the shot clock off. “The whole world is expecting McGrady to get the ball here,” the announcer said. And probably everyone watching was expecting that once he got the ball, he was going to send the Eagles home with a win.

But what happened instead, nobody could have predicted. Being pressured by his defender, Fujian’s Zhou Qixin, McGrady exposed the ball and got stripped before he could even get in range for a shot.

After a timeout to set up the last play, Fujian gave the ball to their American, Sundiata Gaines, whose first CBA debut finished in very simliar fashion to his first NBA game: A buzzer-beating three pointer to win the game. Video below.

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The definitive NiuBBall.com CBA preview

November 22, 2012

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Stephon Marbury and the Beijing Ducks won the title last year… But will they have enough to repeat in 2012-13? (Photo: Osports)

Moreso than ever, the Chinese Basketball Association has become quite difficult to predict pre-season.

It’s hard to predict first of all because we generally stink at predictions, but more importantly that the league is as deep as its ever been top-to-bottom. There’s a more than a few reasons for that — more off-season player movement, more players going abroad to train in the summer, better coaching in-country, a commitment to strength and conditioning programs and better foreign players all round out the top of our list. But the end result of all that should be a very watchable and exciting league this season. Which is a good thing for us fans, of course.

Bad thing for NiuBBall’s annual predictions, however.

By our count, there’s 11 and possibly 12 teams (depending on how well you think Tracy McGrady is going to do in Qingdao) who have a shot at the playoffs. That’s well over half the league. If you think DongGuan is ready to make a jump (we do), then there are now four teams who could sport legitimate Finals cases. Building on Beijing’s buck-the-trend run to a championship last year, there appears to be a level of parody in the league. Pencilling in the top two, top four and top eight is no longer easy.

So as always, take what is about to come with a grain of salt and know that most likely this will all be very wrong.

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Last minute CBA import tidbits

November 12, 2012

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According to a source, Ike Diogu may be on his way back to China, this time with Guangdong.

The clock is nearing zero on the countdown to the start of the CBA regular season, which means among other things, all of the loose ends regarding foreign player spots are being tied up. To help you lace up your shoes and get ready for some Chinese hoops, we’re getting you on your feet quicker with some nice tidy updates (in bullet form, of course).

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Gong Songlin leaves Fujian, signs two-year deal with Zhejiang

July 25, 2012

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Longtime Fujian standout, Gong Songlin, is packing his bags for Yiwu.

“The King of Fujian Basketball,” Gong Songlin, will have to sit on his throne from Yiwu, Zhejiang province after the 6’5 guard/forward agreed to terms with the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls last week.

Gong, who has spent 13 years overall playing for his home-province Fujian, signed a two-year deal with the Golden Bulls that will start immediately this season. According to reports, the contract is a 1+1 with an option for the second year. NetEase reports that Gong’s salary will be somewhere in the range of CNY 2 million (roughly US $317,500).

The move away from Fujian comes after Gong’s contract expired in June. According to reports, though the two sides attempted to come to an agreement that would allow Gong to finish his career in Fujian, negotiations between team management and the player ultimately broke down due to differences over salary.

For Fujian, Song’s departure signals the end of an era. In 10 seasons — the first of which was played in Xinjiang on loan — Gong is Fujian’s all-time leading scorer with 5,148 points — good enough for 16th in the CBA all-time record books.

But with the highly anticipated arrival of 18 year-old center, Wang Zhelin, who will make his CBA debut for Fujian next season, the Sturgeons seem poised to turn the page and start a new chapter. In addition to Wang, Fujian also has another promising young player, shooting guard Zhao Tailong, who will likely see an increase in minutes and production next year as he fills in for Gong. Throw in the return of American center, Will McDonald, and Fujian should be able to cope just fine.

A more pressing issue on Gong though, was his decrease in production and efficiency over the last few seasons. In 2010-11, his points per game dipped to 12.9 on sub 40% shooting after averaging close to 20 points per game over his first eight seasons. And last year, Gong averaged a career low 11.1 points on 42.1% shooting.

However, one part of Gong’s game has held up through that downward period, his three point shooting, a skill that should mesh well with Zhejiang’s newly arrived foreign talent. Along with freshly signed import, Quincy Douby, Song should give the Golden Bulls a powerful one-two scoring punch in the backcourt and could benefit from Douby’s drive and kicks. With 858 career threes, Gong has a good chance to see his career total increase if he’s able to accept his role as a spot up shooter. And if everything falls into place, Zhejiang — with Douby, Gong, Cao Fei and Olympian Ding Jinhui — might just sneak into the top four next year.

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Shanxi re-ups Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines, Fujian to bring back Will McDonald

May 10, 2012

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Back for more: Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines will be teammates again in Shanxi next season. (Photo: Osports)

Great news if you liked watching the Chinese Basketball Association this year: Three of the league’s best import players are coming back next year.

Fujian SBS center, Will McDonald and Shanxi Zhongyu’s Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines have all signed new deals with their respective teams. Williams and Gaines have each signed two-year contracts, while McDonald has signed a contract for one.

Fresh off of a the most successful season in franchise history, the decision to bring back Williams and Gaines was a relatively simple one: Relying on arguably the best import combo in the league, Shanxi finished with a third place 20-12 regular season record, the best in franchise history, and their first ever playoff appearance. Once in the playoffs, they eliminated sixth-seeded Shanghai in four games in the first round before losing in five games to eventual CBA champions, Beijing, in the semi-finals.

Both playing in their first year with Shanxi, Gaines and Williams had extremely impressive numbers. Williams averaged 32 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals, while Gaines averaged 29.1 points and 14.3 rebounds en route to selections on the 2011-12 NiuBBall.com All-CBA First Team. It’s Williams’ second time achieving the honor and Gaines’ first.

Williams confirmed the news on his Sina Weibo account: “ITS OFFICIAL!!!!!! Im coming back the CBA and playing for Shanxi for 2 more seasons. It’s a honor to play for Shanxi and the city of Taiyuan once again. Thank you to the ownership and sponsors and for giving me the opportunity to play for the Club. #He’sBack”

Last year was Williams and Gaines’ third year in China. In 2009-10, Gaines debuted with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers before switching over to the Qingdao Double Star Eagles to play another full season n 2010-11. Williams’ first stint also came in 2009-10 with the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls. He then came back to Zhejiang mid-season in 2010-11 after the team cut ties with Mike James.

Meanwhile, Fujian will bring back its own NiuBBall.com All-CBA First Team performer of its own.

McDonald, who made his China debut this past season, showed little trouble of adapting to his new surrounds, averaging 27.6 points and 9.9 rebounds. The 6-11 center teamed up with Anthony Roberson and Asia import, Zaid Abbas, to bring Fujian back into the playoffs after they finished towards the bottom of the league the year before.

Before coming to China, McDonald spent several years playing in Spain with Gran Canaria, Student Asefa, Tau Ceramica and DKV Joventut.

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Wang Zhelin impresses at Nike Hoop Summit

April 9, 2012

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Wang Zhelin dunks home two of his 19 points during the World Team’s 84-75 win over the U.S. Select Team on Saturday night during the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit. (Photo: Ross William Hamilton, The Oregonian)

19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

To the casual eye, that reads as a pretty nice box score. But, for Wang Zhelin and Chinese basketball as a whole, it will remain as a historic stat line stuffed with something way more important than just numbers: Potential.

By now, word of Wang’s impressive aforementioned performance has gotten around to basketball circles all around the world. In China, he’s getting some love for what is by far the best showing a Chinese player has ever thrown down in Hoop Summit history (the previous high for points was Yi Jianlian in 2004 with seven). Arguably the best player on the floor for the World team that came away with a 84-75 victory over the U.S. Select team, the seven-foot center gained attention for his size, mobility, composure and his enormous chase-down block (video below via OregonLive.com).

The other thing that has people excited: He’s is only 18 years-old. Which means there’s plenty of the p-word still to be realized.

Portland may have been his break-out party to the rest of the world, but in the PRC, Wang has been a big-time prospect with big-time expectations for a while’ so much so in fact, that he’s been receiving the all-too-obvious Yao Ming comparisons by Chinese media as early as last year. Born in 1994 in Fujian province to two tall parents who played basketball, Wang grew to 5-7 (1.7 meters) by the time he was 11 and kept growing until he reached seven feet (2.14 meters) last year. In between, he’s been coached domestically throughout has represented China internationally at several levels to develop into one of China’s top long-term prospects.

In 2010 at the FIBA U-17 World Championship in Hamburg, Wang averaged 5.8 points and 4.9 rebounds as China took home eighth place. Last summer in Latvia, he went for 11.6 points and 6.6 rebounds the FIBA U-19 World Championship. He was also selected to the China Olympic National Team last summer, which is just a fancy way of saying China’s U-23 National Team. Duke fans may remember that as the team who played and hosted three exhibition games against the Blue Devils in Shanghai and Beijing in August.

But his biggest accomplishment of all came last month when Wang was selected to Bob Donewald’s 19-man Senior National Team training camp roster. It’s not so much impressive because of his age, but rather because of his experience, or lack thereof: Despite his considerable resume in international competition, Wang has yet to play a single game professionally.

Despite being meeting the Chinese Basketball Association age requirement, Wang didn’t play professionally this past season because his team, Fujian SBS, felt it would be better for his long-term future to let him develop his game and his body at the youth level for another year. Plus, as Wang has had considerable level of hype surrounding him in China for the last few years, the decision to hold him back was due also in part to take some pressure off and put him in a position down the road where he can deliver upon some of those expectations.

The decision was probably for the best: Given his National Team selection, and now his historic performance in Portland, those expectations are only going to increase. Though he’s practically a no-shot to make the final 12-man roster for this summer’s London Olympics, his inclusion in the Senior National Team setup indicates that the CBA feels he’ll be a big part of China’s basketball future.

And in the days after Portland, he may be a big part of China’s future in the NBA. Arguably more than any other prospect, he helped his NBA Draft stock the most. Even before the game, he was turning heads during practices due to his good frame and nice touch around the rim.

But where his ceiling is isn’t totally clear. Despite clocking it at close to 250 pounds with thick legs and a great motor, he lacks NBA athleticism and is equipped with short arms. Furthermore, he doesn’t run tremendously well, nor does he possess anything offensively close to the basket or facing up from midrange that truly stands out. And not to keep hating on the kid, but he put up those numbers against a U.S. team that had nobody even remotely capable of standing up to his giant 250 pound frame under the basket.

Still, players with that size don’t come that often, especially those who are 18 (if his age is indeed correct, not a given). As Tyler Ingle over at NBADraft.net writes in his World Summit recap: “If he continues to refine his scoring ability and upper body in China, then he’s a potential draftee in a few years. He’s already shown that he can bang in the post, shoot from mid-range and rebound at an effective rate. If he wasn’t on the NBA radar before this event, he definitely is now.”

Meanwhile, Wang is on the front page of Sina’s CBA page where Chinese media is churning out hype from every direction, both from the States (where they are translating almost everything being written about Wang) and from within the Middle Kingdom itself.

How he plays in the next few seasons in China and how quickly he can climb into the Senior National team will determine exactly how high he’ll climb up scouts’ draft boards, but it’s clear that at present there is nobody in China at that age group with a brighter NBA future than young Wang. For now though, it’s probably for the best to remain patient, temper expectations, wait until he gets some professional games under his belt, and remember that there will never, ever, ever, ever be another Yao Ming.

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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: End Of Season Review

April 9, 2012

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The NiuBBall water cooler/heater: Where you can chat with friends about hoops while sipping either hot or cold water.

This chat originally appeared on Shark Fin Hoops.

The end of the 2011-12 CBA season is here, which means its time to switch our NiuBBall coverage to other things. But before we do, our guy Andrew Crawford over at Shark Fin Hoops has organized a final Pastuszek-Bothfeld-Crawford three-man gathering around the water cooler/heater to recap the year that was. As always, feel free to fill your cups with whatever temperature water your body desires.

Andrew Crawford: First things first, Beijing Ducks are the CBA champions. They led the league, then they had that slump, they needed five games to beat Shanxi- how surprised are you guys with the Ducks being the CBA champions?

Edward Bothfeld: After getting off to such a hot start, you had to expect there would be a mid-season letdown but with the way they started the season, it showed that they were going to be one of the best teams all year long. With Shanxi, I feel like they could have taken any team to the brink of defeat because Williams and Gaines can really score the ball. The first few games against Guangdong surprised me because I expected Guangdong to win but after their Game 2 victory, it seemed that Beijing might actually be better than Guangdong.

Jon Pastuszek: Regardless of how they started the season, I always thought it was going to be Guangdong again. Remember when Xinjiang went 31-1 last season in the regular season and people thought they were finally going to get a championship? Guangdong always plays below their level in the regular season because they know their final goal is a championship, so I never took much stock in Beijing’s hot start.

Plus, with Beijing only going seven deep, I also thought there’d be fatigue issues so to see Beijing lift the trophy was a huge surprise to me. That said, I wonder — and this to me is the big “what if” that doesn’t get raised enough — if a motivated Wilson Chandler had been playing in the playoffs, would Beijing have even made it past the first round?

EB: Jim Cleamons firmly believed, without a doubt, that if they had Wilson they would have won that series. A motivated Wilson that is. Cleamons also said that the Beijing team knew that too.

AC: That’s an interesting point which I was going to ask later but we might as well talk about now- Chandler, J. R. Smith and Kenyon Martin were the big names coming over this summer. Wilson walked out, Smith couldn’t get his team into the playoffs and K-Martin bought his contract out after half the season. When we look back at this season, did these three guys justify the hype?

EB: Wilson and J.R. were good when they wanted to be but once the lockout ended, all bets were off. Wilson really struggled once the lockout ended and he saw Kenyon board that plane back to the States so I think if the lockout had lasted a lot longer, the hype would have been justified, but the fact that Kenyon and Wilson didn’t even finish the season, I don’t think you can say they justified the hype. And J.R. Smith put up impressive numbers but when I saw him live it looked like he was goofing around the majority of the time – attempting impossible passes, etc.

JP: I think Ned is right about the impact of the NBA season resuming. All of those guys signed in China with the expectation that the NBA wouldn’t be playing, so for the lockout to end suddenly was huge. You can come out and say that it doesn’t bother you, but when you’re a free-agent who has the comforts of home and a big money contract waiting for you, of course it’s going to impact your performance. When K-Mart first got bought out, and then got his FIBA clearance, that just took things to a new level, but I think it also depends on how you interpret “hype”- even though none of those guys played in the playoffs, they helped to attract more attention to the league than ever before. Ratings and attendance were higher than ever before, so if you’re looking it at from that standpoint, I think they did live up to the hype. I’m sure their teams feel otherwise, however…

AC: Indeed. What have you guys made of less heralded names from this season? Before he got injured, I thought Ryan Forehan-Kelly was amongst the best imports in the CBA. Besides Marcus Williams (obviously), who stood out to you as an overseas guy really making a difference in the league?

JP: I’m with you on RFK; his numbers may not have jumped off the page, but he was a huge reason for Shanghai’s success before he got hurt. Having played under Panaggio and his triangle offense, in the D-League, he was a big part of their success in integrating that offense in Shanghai. Not only that, he was their best clutch performer and was their most versatile perimeter defender. Just from a fan standpoint, it was sad to see him get hurt. Other guys who stood out: I’ve always been a big James Singleton guy, I just like his unselfishness and how he’s commited to winning. Will McDonald in Fujian was also great to watch, he’s one of the most skilled bigs to come into this league in a while and I hope he’ll be back next year.

AC: I am a big Zaid Abbas fan. After watching him live, I really have an appreciation for all the little things he does; his hustle, his determination, his shit talking- I want him on my team, and as we’ve seen, every team he goes to starts doing really well. He’s a winner.

JP: Would either of you sign him as a regular, non-Asian import though?

AC: Personally speaking, I would- either him or Singleton would be perfect for Coach Panaggio’s setup. I know they are talking about scrapping the Asian import but regardless, he’s a proven player. I’d be delighted to see him pitch up Shanghai- the Yuanshen would go nuts for him.

EB: Another guy I liked besides Abbas was Lester Hudson. I realize he hoisted a ton of shots but he was all over the place, getting steals, rebounds, etc- and after talking with him after his game against Guangsha, it seemed like his head was really in the right place and that he was dedicated to winning as a team and becoming a better player personally.

AC: Okay then, lets move on- which Chinese player(s) really stood out for you? I know he flew under the radar because he plays for a terrible team in Tianjin but Zhang Nan looked like a tidy player in the forward posistion. Han Dejun looks like he could be a monster with the right coaching and conditioning and I’ve got to show some love for Zhang Zhaoxu who is getting better and better every game. The Sharks coaches really like him and he could well be an every night double-double guy next season.

JP: Beijing’s Zhu Yanxi was a guy who really caught my eye this season. A big part of the Ducks’ championship was their ability to spread the floor and let Marbury do his thing. Without Zhu drawing out opposing bigs, there’s no way they would have been as successful as they were. I’ve always thought China should look to produce more Euro-type big guys who can stretch the floor and shoot it from the perimeter; maybe Zhu will convince coaches of the same. I’m looking forward towards seeing him develop both on Beijing and the National Team in the years ahead. Other guys I liked this year- Han and Zhang both looked good and I also really liked Xinjiang’s Xirelijiang.

EB: For Guangsha, I felt like Wang Zirui made a lot of progress in terms of developing. At just 18 years old, he was the youngest player in the CBA. He started the season on Jim Cleamons’ bench but was the starting PG by the time the playoffs rolled around. If he continues to develop, he will be a starting caliber PG for years to come.

AC: What about coaches? I know I’m writing from a Shanghai perspective but I have to say that the turn-around sparked by Coach Panaggio here has been impressive. What are your thoughts on guys who’ve made a big impact from the touchline?

JP: I agree about Panaggio, and I think Brian Goorjian in Dongguan also has done really well. Both overcame slow starts to make the playoffs and both made it a priority to develop their Chinese players, which is ultimately what this league should be about. Yang Xuezeng was the first coach ever to lead Shanxi to a post-season berth, so I think that has to be commended as well.

EB: Yeah, I also thought Daniel Panaggio did an excellent job with Shanghai. He preached defense and it showed. He also managed to incorporate Marcus Landry into the team’s system after Ryan Forehan-Kelly went down with the Achilles injury. Shanghai finished the 2011 season 12-20 and was ranked all the way down at fifteen on NiuBBall’s season preview. Coaching had a lot to do with their turnaround.

AC: What teams did well this season? There have been a few surprises this season but which teams really caught your eye?

EB: Qingdao and Fujian were nice surprises. I can’t say it enough- Lester Hudson is a hell of a player, although he does shoot the air out of the ball. Qingdao were fun to watch and it was good to see them have some success. As we anticipated, Fujian would get a boost due to the addition of Abbas, who was their Asian import. But I don’t think anyone saw them making the playoffs. Besides Abbas, McDonald really came on strong and played well — and if Roberson was shooting well, they really had a three headed monster. I thought they could make some noise in the playoffs, but with Roberson and Abbas battling injuries, they had no chance.

JP: You have to start with Beijing. I think a lot of people expected them to be a playoff team, but hardly anybody thought they’d be serious championship contenders. For a team to go from a periphery playoff squad to CBA champion is unheard of in this league, even more so when you consider that Beijing was among the younger teams this season. Shanghai was another team that surprised me; a new coach, a new offense, lots of young players and relatively unknown imports- I thought it was going to be a long season in Yuanshen.

AC: You’ve mentioned the improbable success of Beijing but we should also talk about the poor seasons endured by Jiangsu and Bayi- what were the critical factors in their seasons being so bad? Do you think this will be a blip or could you see these teams starting to stagnate?

JP: We all know Bayi doesn’t have any imports. Back in the late 1990s and early and mid-2000s, when the league was attracting mid to lower-level imports, that wasn’t an issue because they could contend every year knowing they had the best Chinese players. Things are a lot different now, though: First, their star player, Wang Zhizhi, is old and not nearly the player he once was. Second, the CBA is attracting better imports with every passing year, with this season’s NBA-to-China exodus clearly standing out as the best crop of foreign players in league history. So with every team around them getting better while Bayi themselves decline, it wasn’t a huge shock to see them take a dive this year. For Jiangsu, I think they missed having Tang Zhengdong in the middle. They also did a terrible job selecting their imports. Mardy Collins and Dan Gadzuric were both gone shortly after the beginning of the season. Jackson Vroman was a good pick-up, but Marcus Williams (the UConn one) was without a doubt the worst foreigner in the league this season.

EB: With Jiangsu, I thought the problem was with Williams. He looked really out of shape and only averaged 11.34. That’s not going to cut it for an import. Vroman was a nice surprise, but they need an imported upgrade in their back court. As for Bayi, maybe it’s time for them to change the system. Their demise was seen eight months ago, when Jon predicted they would miss the playoffs. Wang Zhizhi is really old — they need a new face to the franchise. When I saw them live, they played without any hint of passion.

AC: Let’s return to the players for one last time. Who have been your favorite guys to watch? For me, Osama Daghlas was a masterful point guard- he crushed Shanghai when they went away to Jilin and he’ll be another ‘Asian’ player that teams should look to sign this time next year, regardless of what the status is with imports. Mike Harris could really put on a show and should expect several suitors if he comes back to China. J.R. was also unbelievable in person and was absolutely worth the price of admission.

EB: Marcus Williams was just so efficient. I loved his game. Whether his team needed him to slow the game down by getting to the line or hit a big three, he was there for them. At times, it seemed like he would never miss! Abbas is also a blast to watch. His hustle and passion were infectious and he’s so annoying. I would hate to play against him. I was sitting first row behind the Guangsha bench and he would not stop talking shit, “Alright guys- one on five, one on five!” (in the fourth quarter when Chandler was attempting to take over”. I really hope he’s back in the CBA next season.

JP: I’ll give you three: I enjoyed watching Marbury for obvious reasons. He was able to perfectly balance his point-guard duties with his import ones, running the offense and distributing effectively for the first three quarters before taking over himself in the fourth. Shanxi’s Marcus Williams was fun to watch, he’s pretty much able to get whatever he wants on offense and looks very smooth while getting it. And last, Liaoning’s Guo Ailun. I’ve always been a fan of Guo, he doesn’t play the point guard position like a typical Chinese, he’s very vocal, energetic and enthusiastic. Plus he can be a beast out of pick-and-roll. All of that is fun to watch, even if he’s bricking jumpers and turning the ball over.

AC: Final question then- what has been the highlight and lowlight to your CBA season? I’ll take any of the big results Shanghai got against Guangsha, Xinjiang, Beijing, or Zhejiang for the former and the latter will probably be losing both home games in that Shanxi playoff.

JP: The highlight of the season was being a part of the 18,000 fans who filled up Wukesong Arena to watch Games 1, 4 and 5 of Beijing – Guangdong. As for the low point of the year, I think it’s a tie between Shanxi fans’ behavior during and after Game 4 of the semi-finals and Li Chunjiang ordering his players to sweep the leg and injure someone.

EB: The highlight of the season was watching Jin Lipeng hit the buzzer beater against Shanxi. It was a game that the Lions should have won, but gave away their lead at the end of the game…. until Jin came up huge. The lowlight has to be watching Wilson Chandler and the rest of the Lions team mailing it in during some games. It was so frustrating to watch. Against Bayi, with the playoffs on the line, they showed no sense of urgency. Just thinking about what could have been if Chandler and the Lions had remained motivated. I think that once Chandler had checked out, so did his teammates.

AC: Lovely stuff. Well, we finally made it happen and the much-vaunted three-man weave was well worth the wait. Thanks for your various contributions over the season, gentlemen. Enjoy the offseason!

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CBA fans: A history of throwing stuff

March 14, 2012

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(Thanks to Beijing Cream for the video)

For all of the coverage and commentary that has flooded Chinese media since Sunday’s ugly scene in Taiyuan, it’s been the three words that were smugly offered by Beijing Ducks head coach, Min Lulei, that have stuck out to me the most (which can be seen at the very end of the above video):

Hen zheng chang.

This is normal.

Shady officiating? Been there, done that. Blocking of an opposing team’s bus? Check. Throwing stuff onto the floor? Yep and then some.

The latter is so common in fact, that by our count the league has either warned or fined teams no less than nine 10 times for fan behavior this season. Go ahead see for yourself. (Big tip of the cap to my xiongdimen at hoopCHINA, whose CBA News section — an indispensable resource for all you Chinese readers out there — was huge in searching up all of this.)

December 4, 2011: Unhappy with the officiating, fans throw lighters onto the court midway through Beijing and Xinjiang’s game at Shougang Gymnasium. Beijing is fined 10,000 RMB. In another game, Shandong is warned for their fans’ bad behavior.

December 11, 2011: Fujian is fined 70,000 RMB, Fujian foreign player, Will McDonald, is suspended for one game and Shanghai head coach, Dan Panaggio, is warned by the league after an on-court fracas in the game’s final seconds. With one second left, McDonald spat in Panaggio’s face while the two were having words in front of Shanghai’s bench. McDonald later alleged that Panaggio had cursed at him. Fujian’s fans responded by pelting Panaggio and the Shanghai team with objects as they left the court.

December 23, 2011: Shanxi is warned by the CBA after a water bottle is tossed onto the court midway through their Round 15 matchup against Liaoning.

December 30, 2011: Jilin is fined 10,000 RMB for their inability to control their fans and for their criticism of in-game officials at a post-game press conference.

January 1, 2012: Liaoning is fined 30,000 RMB after their fans throw water bottles and cups at the court during Liaoning’s Round 17 game against Beijing. On the CBA official report, the league calls out stadium security for not managing the situation well. Liaoning had been warned about fan behavior prior.

January 6, 2012: Fans inside Shougang Gymnasium hurl lighters at the court for the second time this season, and Beijing is fined RMB 20,000.

January 29, 2012: Fans in Tianjin throw things onto the court after J.R. Smith’s sister, Stephanie Smith, gets into a verbal altercation with fans during Zhejiang and Tianjin’s Round 27 matchup. The team is fined 10,000 RMB.

February 12, 2012: In Round 33, Shanxi is fined 20,000 RMB after their fans throw lighters onto the court midway through the third quarter in their game against Guangdong. They weren’t the only ones upset with the referees, however. Guangdong’s players aggressively confront a referee during the fourth quarter and head coach, Li Chunjiang, is publicly criticized by the league for not keeping his players under control.

March 2, 2012: Xinjiang is warned after fans throw lighters and other objects onto the court during Game 5 of their first-round series against DongGuan. According to the CBA’s official report, fans were unhappy with the way the game was being called by the referees.

March 4, 2012: Two days after being warned by the CBA, Xinjiang is fined 10,000 RMB after fans throw lighters and other objects onto the court in protest of a bad call during Game 1 of their first-round series against Guangdong.

Meanwhile, Shanxi has been fined 60,000 RMB for Sunday’s water bottle throwing contest as the investigation continues. Judging from all of the other fines already dished out this season, the fine should act as a really huge deterrent for fans in the future.

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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: CBA Playoffs And More Wilson Chandler Shenanigans

March 1, 2012

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The NiuBBall water cooler/heater: Where you can chat with friends about hoops while sipping either hot or cold water.

This chat originally appeared on Shark Fin Hoops before last night’s pair of Game 4s were played.

After a brief break to take in the madness of the CBA postseason, Edward Bothfeld is back to survey the wreckage of Fujian and Guangsha’s seasons now that they have been knocked out of the playoffs, as well as giving his thoughts on Wilson Chandler’s acrimonious departure from Hangzhou.

Andrew Crawford: I think we should start by talking about the Guangdong-Fujian series?

Edward Bothfeld: Well it’s hard to be surprised that Guangdong won like they did. I thought Fujian would get a game, but without Abbas and Roberson, they were hopeless and weren’t going to have a chance versus a well-oiled, all-cylinders firing Guangdong team who are without doubt the team to beat.

AC: It does look kind of ominous. Guangdong’s big players are all heating up nicely- I noticed they were averaging 123 points a game in that series, which says a lot about how their offense is functioning right now. That said, we should probably doff our caps to Fujian, who’ve made the playoffs a year after finishing second from bottom in the CBA. If I’m Jiangsu, I want Zaid Abbas signed up for 2012/13 ASAP to try to have the same sort of recovery.

EB: His hustle is infectious. If you’re on his team and he’s on the court, you would feel guilty if you weren’t going at 100% because of the type of effort he puts in. He’ll be a welcome addition to any bottom dweller.

AC: Beijing Ducks swept a Wilson Chandler-less Guangsha Lions? I guess that can’t have been fun for you?

EB: The writing was on the wall really. It was a really difficult situation for the team and coaching staff after losing your best player in that fashion and at that time. They put in a good effort and showed a lot of heart in Game 1 but I think after losing that game, it was all downhill from there; Jin Lipeng struggles on the road, as do many of their other role players. Rodney White played hard and tried to show some leadership, which was good to see, but Stephon Marbury was too much.

AC: Yeah, that series looked pretty tricky but I think Guangsha got a lot of respect considering how they went down fighting. Obviously, Chandler’s gone but how much more personnel change do you think there’ll be at the club now that the season is done?

EB: I’ve been told that Ramos is still under contract, and the owner said the team will have a new import to pair with him for next season so it will be interesting to see who that is. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lipeng retires, whilst Jim Cleamons still doesn’t know if he’ll be back- although he doesn’t sound opposed to the idea. They need to make sure to develop Wang Zirui at the point and try to get some national team players in because Guangsha’s Chinese supporting cast just isn’t very good.

AC: We should also cast our eye to Xinjiang-Dongguan- any thoughts?

EB: Ike Diogu is certainly giving them some offense but Tim Pickett isn’t 100% healthy and he’s a very important part of that team. They were fortunate that Diogu caught fire to win Game 3 because Pickett only scored 10 points. If Dongguan can pull out Game 4, anything can happen in Game 5, although Xinjiang has experience on their side.

AC: Another live series is obviously my own Shanghai Sharks against the Shanxi Dragons. Every game has been really close so far and tonight’s game is a sell-out. How do you seen the series going?

EB: It will probably go down to the wire. I have always been a fan of Shanxi’s tandem of Gaines and Williams. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Shanghai force a Game 5 but I think that Shanxi is too strong with Williams’ ability to get to the foul line. He WILL get 30 a night but the same can’t be said about Landry. It’s harder for Shanghai to win.

AC: This is all true but Williams has looked tired. He always has the potential to go out and put up a triple-double but so far he hasn’t been himself. Obviously I don’t want to tempt fate for tonight but with Shanxi, everything goes through Williams- if he isn’t on fire, generally neithier are the Dragons. Also Liu Wei has been inspired this series- maybe he knows he isn’t going to have too many more trips to the playoffs, but he’s gone all out during the last few games.

EB: Well, now’s the time to go all out. This is the playoffs, you have leave it all on the table.

AC: We should probably talk about one man who certainly didn’t leave it on the table. As a Guangsha fan, I imagine you’re not impressed at Wilson Chandler’s no show at the crucial stage in the season?

EB: I can sort of understand his predicament; Thursday is the deadline for him to sign a long-term deal in the NBA- a deal that would set him up financially for the rest of his life so that’s one side of the situation but leaving the team at this stage in the season is kind of whack, especially now it’s being reported that he might sign in Italy. Should that happens, I would be disappointed because during the CBA season, he could put up 40-15 if he wanted to and that Guangsha Beijing series would be really competitive. If he signs in Italy it would be like he left China for nothing and the fact that he didn’t even get to say goodbye to his teammates or coach leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Overall, it’s a little crazy how it went down but would you expect anything less from the CBA?

AC: It also sounds like the CBA isn’t going to let Chandler just walk away and they are going to make life difficult for him [Edit: Chandler has since got his letter of clearance -AC].

EB: Guangsha’s season is over, so what else do they want?

AC: To me, it feels like they want to reclaim some face after the Kenyon Martin balls-up, but like you say, Guangsha’s season is done so I don’t know how they can make that work.. Its kind of weird to think that of all the big name guys that came over this season, only the craziest one in JR Smith saw out his contract.

EB: He finished it, but it was a rollercoaster of a ride- and to think he was fined $1 mil for not going to practices…

AC: Yeah, that’s a lot of money the Bulls have now got saved away in a jar for next season’s overseas recruiting drive. Alright man, its been great. Let’s try and do this again next week.

EB: For sure. Bye.

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Round 1 – Games 2 and 3

February 27, 2012

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(2/24) Game 2: DongGuan – 82 @ Xinjiang – 93

Xirelijiang came up with one of the games of his life, scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in 45 minutes to help lead Xinjiang stave off a 0-2 deficit. In his second game in China, Ike Diogu looked much more comfortable shooting 12-19 from the field to finish with 29 points and nine boards. Tim Pickett added 12 and Mengke Bateer had 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

(2/26) Game 3: DongGuan – 115 @ Xinjiang – 121

With Tim Pickett feeling the effects of a hamstring injury that caused him to miss morning shootaround, Ike Diogu took the reigns and then some, pouring in 42 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to give Xinjiang a 2-1 series lead over DongGuan. Showing a well-rounded offensive game, Diogu displayed an array of spins, drives and post-ups to score while also showing his ability on the perimeter by splashing 4-7 from three. Mengke Bateer added a double-double of his own with 15-10 and Xirelijiang scored 24.

In a furious fourth quarter that saw both teams score 37 points, Josh Akognon did his best to try and will his team to a win. But his 42 points ultimately came up short as DongGuan could never get over the hump. Down 2-1 in the series, they’ll have to win the next one in Guangdong to keep themselves from crashing out of the post-season.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

(2/24) Game 2: Shanghai – 95 @ Shanxi – 99

Despite a furious fight back in the final stages of the game, the Shanghai Sharks fell to their hosts, 99-95, meaning that Shanxi are now a game away from the playoff semi-finals. The Dragons owe tonight’s win to Charles Gaines, who emerged from the shadow of Marcus Williams to illustrate how important he was to Shanxi’s championship aspirations. The no-nonsense forward was a willing battering ram for the home side, who had to hold on for dear life in the dying seconds of the game whilst Shanghai, for the second successive game, just didn’t have the rub of the green that could have otherwise gifted them victory.

The middle stages of the game were controlled by Shanxi until, with barely two minutes left on the clock, Shanghai got themselves within a basket of tying the game and the Dragons were staying ahead of their guests only through some generous calls from the officials. The game went back and fourth until, with less than twenty seconds on the clock and Shanxi leading 96-95, Charles Gaines, who had been the Brave Dragons most dependable player, missed a set of free-throws and suddenly things got really chaotic. The Sharks, taking a time-out, restarted on the halfway line and whipped the ball over to Marcus Landry, who was creeping around by the Shanxi perimeter. With the game up for grabs, time seemed to stand still as the American’s shot hung in the air only to clip the front of the rim and bounce away to safety. Shanghai, desperate to get the ball back, fouled Pan Jiang and sent the guard to the free-throw line, where the Chinese converted his first attempt before scuffing the second one. Gaines, eager to finish the game on a high note, then acrobatically collected the rebound and whilst still in the air, forcefully jammed the ball home to the delight of the home crowd.

Gaines’ 31 points and 17 rebounds were critical in ensuring victory for the Dragons whilst his American team-mate, Williams, scored 28, and point guard Lu Xiaoming got 15. For the Sharks, Landry stood out with a fantastic 31 point haul whilst Harris picked up a 20 point, 10 rebound double-double as Shanghai came close to snatching victory but must now win the next game between the two sides or their season is over.

Andrew Crawford

Box Score

(2/26) Game 3: Shanghai –  101 @ Shanxi – 99

There are big games, there are huge games and then there are games where you are two-nil down in a playoff series and come back to win in the final seconds having been down by almost twenty points down at half time. Tonight was in the third category and the result means that the Sharks will be taking Shanxi back to Shanghai for Game 4 of this topsy-turvy series following an absolutely HUGE second half that saw the visitors find themselves with their backs to the wall only to respond with a performance of the highest order

It would be well into the fourth quarter but the Sharks eventually reached daylight and from that point onwards, an increasingly nervy Brave Dragons side looked awestruck by what was going on around them. Though Charles Gaines was chipping in with lay-ups, Marcus Williams looked like he was in pain after an earlier collision with Meng Lingyuan. In the meantime, the Sharks had not only tied the game, but taken the lead when Marcus Landry coolly dispatched a three-pointer with less than a minute to go. Gaines dispatched a set of free-throws shortly afterwards but with less than twenty seconds left, the game was tied at 99-99 and the Sharks, with momentum on their side, had the ball.

The moment of truth was now upon the Sharks and having restarted on the halfway line after the obligatory time out, the Sharks dished the ball out to Landry, who let the clock run down for as long as he could before charging into the paint, drawing the foul and dispatching the two free-throws. 101-99, Shanghai. Following the Dragons’ own restart, Shanxi then implausibly chose to put the ball in the hands of Williams, who hadn’t looked like himself all night as opposed to the red-hot Duan Jianpeng, who had already buried eight shots from downtown. The American’s effort clipped the edge of the rim and then fell into the hands of Harris, who held it for the final second or two to confirm the Sharks’ improbable victory.

Landry scored 24 points, whilst Liu  Wei (23), Mike Harris (22), Zhang Zhaoxu (12) and Wang Yong (11) all made crucial scoring contributions to the Sharks’ last gasp victory. Despite, Duan’s game high haul of 36 points that included eight three-pointers, the Dragons must now come back to Shanghai for Game 4 of this series against a suddenly rejuvenated Sharks outfit.

Andrew Crawford

Box Score

(2/24) Game 2: Guangsha – 87 @ Beijing – 104

Zhu Yanxi and Randolph Morris each scored a team-high 20 points and Stephon Marbury, Chen Lei and Zhai Xiaochuan all put down double-figures as the Ducks used a team effort to comfortably handle the visiting Lions in Game 2. 21 Lion turnovers contributed to the lopsided scoreline, six of which where commited by Wang Zirui.

Rodney White was better than his Game 1 performance with 23 points and 10 and P.J. Ramos had 22-10, but Guangsha’s Chinese players weren’t able to offer much in support.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

(2/26) Game 3: Guangsha – 91 @ Beijing – 105

After six years since their last appearance in semi-finals, Beijing is once again a Final Four squad. Beijing raced off to a big lead in the first quarter and gave it up in the second before putting the game away with a huge run in the third to sweep Guangsha out of the playoffs. Randolph Morris finished as the game’s high scorer with 31 points and Stephon Marbury had 24.

Starting Rodney White, Guangsha managed just 13 points in the game’s first frame and found themselves down 11 by quarter’s end. But with Ramos on the floor in the second quarter, Guangsha looked much more balanced and in control on offense, fighting back to take the lead heading into half-time. Beijing took the lead again in the third, but waited until midway through the quarter to make their big move. With the score at 60-55 with a little over six minutes to go, the Ducks stormed to a 20-11 run to make the score 80-66. They never looked back — now they’re looking forward to a semi-finals series against either Shanxi or Shanghai.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

(2/24) Game 2: Fujian – 104 @ Guangdong – 116

Seven Southern Tigers scored double-figures as Guangdong used its familiar home court to take a commanding 2-0 lead against Fujian. Adding to Anthony Roberson’s injury that will keep him out for the remainder of this series, all-around defensive ace Zaid Abbas missed this one with an ankle. Will McDonald tried to carry the Sturgeons with 24 points and 17 rebounds, but this game was pretty much over before it started after Guangdong hung up 37 in the first quarter to take a 15 point lead into the second quarter. Aaron Brooks lead all Guangdong scorers with 23.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

(2/26) Game 3: Fujian – 106 @ Guangdong – 137

Guangdong picked up the brooms, scored 137 points and swept Fujian to an early vacation. The 137 points stands as the second most amount of points scored in the CBA this season. The only team who scored more this season was Jiangsu, who won 142-127 against Jilin on February 15th. (H/T hoopCHINA)

Down one heading into the locker room at halftime, Guangdong outscored their opponent by nine in the third and 24 in the fourth to get the big win. Injured, both Anthony Roberson and Zaid Abbas missed the game, which forced Will McDonald to deal with the four-time defending champs basically on his own. With all attention on him, he scored 13 points. Aaron Brooks finished with 31 points, James Singleton with 21 and Zhu Fangyu 25.

Guangdong awaits the winner of Xinjiang-DongGuan.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Round 1 – Game 1

February 24, 2012

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Beijing – 106 @ Guangsha – 103

For recap, check out Edward Bothfeld’s full report from Hangzhou.

Box Score

Shanxi – 90 @ Shanghai – 85

A wretched third quarter and some dire shooting from the free-throw line condemned Shanghai to a painful 90-85 home defeat in game one of their playoff series with the Shanxi Brave Dragons. The hard work now beckons for the Sharks, who must now go to the north of China and win at least one of the next two games in Taiyuan to remain in the playoffs. For the Brave Dragons, Marcus Williams made 37 points, Charles Gaines picked up a beefy 27 point, 19 rebound, double-double whilst Duan Jianpeng got 10. For Shanghai, Mike Harris scored 22 points whilst Zhang Zhaoxu got 18.

‘We executed out game plan, we kept the score in the range we wanted to keep it in but unfortunately we didn’t make our free-throws’, acknowledged Shanghai head coach, Dan Panaggio, at his press conference. Though acknowledging that his side could have won the game had they been more clinical when they went to the line, Panaggio also stressed the unique situations that come with postseason games. ‘This is playoff basketball, and if you look at the history of playoff basketball, statistics decrease during a playoff series’, he stated in response to a question about the team’s scoring in the second half. ‘Teams have a week to prepare for one team, not three teams in a week- you’re preparing for one. [Shanxi] know our personal and we know theirs’.

The Sharks’ coach also made it clear that his side were nowhere near out of the series after one game and that he fully believed in his players’ ability to rally back from tonight’s defeat. ’We’ve got ourselves in a tough spot but we’re going to go up [to Taiyuan] and battle’. Having underlined his own intensity and determination, now Panaggio’s players must do the same on Friday when the Dragons host Shanghai in game two of the series.

Andrew Crawford

Box Score

Xinjiang – 95 @ DongGuan – 101

Widely seen as a major underdog in their opening round series, DongGuan came away with an important Game 1 victory at home against Xinjiang.

After being dominated on the offensive glass in their Round 33 regular match-up in Urumqi, DongGuan limited Xinjiang to a small +3 advantage. The home squad also got pretty hot from downtown, hitting 13-28 from three as a team. Shavlik Randolph 31 points and 14 rebounds, Zhang Kai came up with 16 points and nine boards, and Josh Akognon put in 24.

Meanwhile, Xinjiang struggled to find a consistent rhythm playing their first game without Gani Lawal. The team shot just 39% from the field and came up with only 11 assists. Newcomer Ike Diogu scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds in his CBA debut. Tim Pickett struggled to get going, scoring 19 points on 6-22 shooting, while Mengke Bateer had 18 and 11.

The series will move back to Xinjiang tonight, where the Flying Tigers have only lost twice all season.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangdong – 115 @ Fujian – 97

Without the injured Anthony Roberson, Fujian was no match for Guangdong, who turned up the intensity to record an easy blowout victory. Wang Shipeng, who has largely been in hibernation for most of the winter, came out of his cave for team-high 24 points. Aaron Brooks came up with 22 points and eight assists, and Zhou Peng had 18 points.

For Fujian, Will McDonald did his best, playing a full 48 minutes for 33 points and six rebounds. Zhao Tailong had 25 points.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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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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CBA Round 34 Recap

February 16, 2012

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Beijing – 94 @ Guangsha – 114

For a full recap, check out Edward Bothfeld’s report from Hangzhou.

Box Score

Qingdao – 101 @ Foshan – 107

Guangsha’s win put Qingdao’s late season playoff surge permanently to rest, but Qingdao ultimately buried themselves by losing their must-win game at Foshan. Marcus Douthit lead all Dralion scorers with 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Michael Maadanly had 25 points, 11 boards and three assists. Lester Hudson shot a miraculous 35 shots, 20 of which were threes, en route to 34 points. Hudson finishes the season as the CBA’s second leading scorer at 33.5 points per game.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

DongGuan – 114 @ Shanxi – 124

In the battle for third place, Shanxi were the ones who came away with the big win. Charles Gaines dominated with a 41 points, 10 rebound game; a performance only slightly more dominant than Marcus Williams’ 37 points and 10 rebounds. The win gives the Brave Dragons their first ever playoff matchup against Shanghai, while DongGuan will be matched up against Xinjiang.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Fujian – 79 Xinjiang – 104 

Tim Pickett played all 48 minutes and scored 42 points as the Flying Tigers made it a blowout by outscoring their opponent 32-15 in the fourth quarter. With the win, Xinjiang finishes the season in fourth place. Fujian drops to eighth.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Shanghai – 89 @ Tianjin – 85 

If there was ever a game that summed up the madness and drama of Chinese basketball, tonight was it. Shanghai got the victory- thanks to the uber-clutch Marcus Landry- but it was painfully close. However, what’s important now is that the boys from the Yuanshen are coming home with an 18-14 record before they return to north China to play the Shanxi Dragons in the first round of the playoffs.

As the game drifted into the final moments, the Sharks, having been down by around five points for most of the final quarter, suddenly burst into life and a splurge of well-taken opportunities brought Shanghai within a trey of the lead and Landry, lurking unmarked on the far left of the perimeter, had one more big shot left in the locker. Taking a couple of seconds to compose himself, the former New York Knick then dispatched his effort from downtown to give the Sharks an 86-85 lead with barely thirty seconds left.

When Zhang Nan failed his own moment of truth, the Lions had to give away cheap visits to the free-throw line to get the ball back. Harris converted both of his shots while Meng Lingyuan polished off his second effort and the Sharks were 89-85 winners at the death. Zhang Nan and Herve Lamizana both helped themselves to 22 points whilst Landry got 21 for Shanghai. Zhang Zhaoxu (19), Liu Wei (13), Mike Harris (12) and Liu Ziqiu (11), also made double-digit hauls.

Andrew Crawford

Box Score

Bayi – 91 @ Guangdong – 92

Guangdong added on to Bayi’s historically miserable season by doling out their franchise worst 22 loss of the season. Aaron Brooks played only six minutes, andJames Singleton played well below his normal burn with 24 minutes. Singleton managed 26 points and 12 boards, anyways.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Liaoning – 103 @ Zhejiang – 90

J.R. Smith’s last game in China ended with 25 points, 11 boards and another L as Liaoning was able to come up with a rare win away from home.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Jilin – 127 @ Jiangsu – 142

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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