Tag Archives: Guo Ailun

Guo Ailun back on senior squad, Sun Yue finally reports and other National Team goodies

April 26, 2012

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To the chagrin of a vacationing tourist, Zhou Peng and Yang Ming run on the beach in Sanya. (Photo: Osports)

Sanya: For most, the most southern city in China, located on China’s tropical Hainan island, serves as a holiday getaway for beach-minded tourists looking to get away from the monotony of the Monday-to-Friday workweek.

For the Chinese Men’s Basketball Team, however, Sanya’s relaxing innocence is completely lost on the set of grueling four-a-days — as in, four practices a day – they’re being forced to go through during the one week they’ll be there as they prepare for the 2012 London Olympics and the long set of exhibition games that will precede them.

The China NT in Hainan is nothing new and actually, neither is the intense practice schedule, which went down last year as well under the direction of head coach, Bob Donewald Jr. According to Chinese media, the days are comparable to a 24 Hour Fitness Center: Running, swimming, weights, individual skills work, full-team practices and recovery are all on the docket until the 29th, when they’ll get on a plane and come back to Beijing.

Liu Wei’s said he’s never felt this tired in four years, Wang Zhizhi says the hard work is only made harder by the four showers and four changes of clothes he’s taking each day. We say: We’ve never felt more dissapointed to see professional athletes running on the beach in shoes. Honestly, we don’t know what’s worse — knowing that those nice Nike’s are going be scuffed up and dirty after about 30 seconds, or that little specs of sand are going to permanently lodged inside the shoe no matter how hard or how long they shake them out once their run is over. Please, somebody make these guys run barefoot. (Which someone apparently did. That’s more like it!)

We’ll ignore the poor choice in beachwear and instead focus on the sweat being poured in Southern China. So in honor of Team Big Red and all of their hard work though these unenviable four-a-days, here’s four National Team bullets that should keep everyone up to date on what’s been going on during the last month of closed-door practices.

  • The best player not playing in the CBA, Sun Yue, is now officially with the National Team after he reported from Beijing Aoshen on the 24th. That means the team is short only one player, Yi Jianlian, who is with the Dallas Mavericks getting ready for their NBA title defense. Before getting into Hainan, Sun was with the Olympians as they toured Hunan province playing nine games against fifth-rate competition against teams like the San Diego Surf. Wang Shipeng is also now with the team; according to hoopCHINA (or are we supposed to call it HuPu now?) Wang was in Hong Kong undergoing treatment for an undisclosed injury.
  • Guo Ailun, who was originally put on the China Olympic National Team (which is just a fancy way of saying the Junior National Team), is now with the Senior squad after he was called up by the CBA powers-that-be on April 14th. Guo had a troubled year with the National Team set-up last year; first, he was cut early from Donewald’s FIBA Asia Championship roster and then followed that up by organizing a blood letter in an effort to removes Olympic National Team head coach, Fan Bin. Guo’s inclusion in the National Team set-up means there are now four young point-guards vying for spots on the final 12-man roster, Guo, Yang Ming, Xirelijiang and Chen Jianghua. Donewald has gone on the record saying that he’ll take two of the four to London; which ones will depend on who can defend and take care of the ball, the two attributes Donewald has historically looked for in his Team China point guards. Guo did not make the trip to Sanya.
  • Another addition: Du Feng, who is now working as an assistant after former assistant, Selcuk Ernak, left the team to pursue coaching opportunities in his native Turkey. Du recently retired from the CBA after spending 14 years with the Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers and acted as an assistant on the team’s bench this past season. He joins Li Nan to form what is for now, an all Chinese assistant staff.
  • Before the team went to Sanya, they were surprised by the visit of one Yao Ming, who took in practice from the sidelines in a black pants-white button up shirt combo. He declined interviews. But media, inspired by Big Yao’s appearance, went right to work on Donewald, asking him if he thought young Wang Zhelin could be China’s next Yao Ming. His answer: No. The question marked the 782nd time in the last month that a member of the media has made the Yao-Wang comparison, which puts everything on course for the golden 1,000-mark sometime by the end of May.
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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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Wang Zhelin selected to Nike Hoop Summit

March 27, 2012

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The hits just keep on coming for young Wang Zhelin. After being selected to train with the China Senior National Team a few weeks ago, Wang has now beed invited to play for the World Select Team at the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon.

At 18 years-old, the seven-foot Wang is arguably the brightest prospect at his age in China. Signed at Fujian SBS, management elected not to play him at the CBA’s top level this season, and instead put him on their second team to hone his strength and fundamentals.

In the 2011 FIBA U-19 World Championship in Latvia last summer, Wang averaged 11.6 points and 6.6 rebounds over five games.

We saw him live last year in Beijing against Duke; he doesn’t run the floor particularly well and he is atrocious from the foul-line, but he’s big and plays pretty physical. Whether he can handle all of the athleticism that will come his way when he plays against the U.S. team remains to be seen, but whatever happens he won’t back down from lights or the competition.

Last year, Liaoning Hengye point guard, Guo Ailun, went to Portland and turned some heads despite a decent-at-best performance in the actual game. Chinese players are typically at a disadvantage right from the start due to the language barrier. For Guo, who needs to bark out plays an instructions at the point guard spot, it was likely a bigger issue than it will be for Wang, who plays center. Still, he’ll have trouble communicating.

The 2012 Nike Hoop Summit will be played on April 7th at the Rose Garden.

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Marbury calls Game 5 win “best feeling I’ve ever had playing basketball”

March 19, 2012

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Stephon Marbury was visibly emotional after last night’s Game 5 win against Shanxi. (Photo: Osports)

New York State Mr. Basketball, McDonald’s All-American, NCAA All-American, NBA top four pick, NBA All-Star… say whatever you want about what happened between all of those accomplishments, but there’s no denying hat Stephon Marbury has a very impressive individual basketball resume.

So when he said “this is the best feeling I’ve ever had playing basketball” after last night’s Game 5 win against Shanxi, you have to take notice.

The video and pictures really say it all. Anthony Tao over at Beijing Cream has more post-Game 5 follow-up. He also live-blogged it, for anyone who’s interested.

Here’s some more stuff that we took in from last night’s game:

  • I’ve been to many CBA games over the last two years in many different cities, including the Finals last year in DongGuan between Xinjiang and Guangdong. I have never seen more security, maybe anywhere, than I saw last night. There were at least two policeman sitting in every section and one or two standing to the side of each section with 10 to 15 more standing in each corner. 15 minutes before tip, fans were lined up all the way out to the street waiting in line to go through security. At least four paddywagons were parked outside the north gate. A riot squad was outside the south gate.
  • All of that — and the fact that nobody was allowed to bring in anything throw-able — stopped anyone from having ideas of chucking stuff onto the court. It did not, however, deter anyone from yelling sha bi (stupid cunt) at the top of their lungs at: Marcus Williams, Makan, Zhang Xuewen, the referees and anything Shanxi in general. Several times, the entire stadium could be heard chanting it in unison. Even when standing policeman went over to some of the loudest sections to tell everyone to sit down and calm down, people were still standing, throwing up middle fingers and yelling obscenities.
  • And speaking of Makan, the kid did pretty well for himself considering every breath he took was met with a sha bi from nearby fans. Shanxi went away from Zhang Xuewen and used the rangy guard/forward almost exclusively to guard Marbury. He scored a career high 18 points and never once looked afraid, even when an enraged Charles Gaines was pushing him away after he rushed over to break-up an intense encounter between a referee and his American teammate during the second quarter. On a season-long loan from Xinjiang, he emerged as a key player for Shanxi during the playoffs and is reportedly working to make his move to Taiyuan permanent.
  • Chinese basketball has come a long way. Even in the three years I’ve been closely following it, the overall level of play and the individual play have all improved dramatically. But one thing that still needs work: Finishing lay-ups at the rim. Other than Chen Lei’s ridiculous one-in-a-million backwards flip lay-up, nobody Chinese could consistently make anything close to the rim in traffic. Beijing’s Ji Zhe even missed a wide-open dunk. Why that is, we still haven’t totally figured out. Now of course, all Chinese players don’t suck at finishing under pressure. Zhai Xiaochuan is actually pretty good, as are Liaoning’s Guo Ailun, Xinjiang’s Meng Duo and Jiangsu’s Yi Li. But it is a widespread problem.
  • Despite Stephon Marbury’s request, hardly anyone wore white. Tao, you know Chinese wardrobe too well.
  • Beijing’s offensive spacing is just so much better than Shanxi’s. While Marbury was finding open driving lanes and open passing lanes, Marcus Williams was finding his life to be much more congested in the three-second lane. Granted the Brave Dragons don’t have the shooters to space the floor like their opponents can, but if Boss Wang wants to find something to obsess over this summer, he should start with his team’s half-court offense.
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Senior and Olympic National Team Rosters announced

March 16, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men’s Senior National Team

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

Group 1 (to report on March 20th)

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

Group 2 (to report on April 8th)

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

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

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

Men’s Olympic National Team

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

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

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Breaking down the CBA playoff picture

January 28, 2012

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Zhejiang Chouzhou’s success will depend on whether or not J.R. Smith is still committed to playing at high level in the Chinese Basketball Association (Photo: Osports, via Sina Sports)

Let’s reflect for a moment on what we’re doing here right now. You’re about to read a post about the very complicated, very indistict Chinese Basketball Association playoff picture. That in and of itself is a huge accomplishment. Why? Never, and I mean never has the CBA enjoyed this much parity down the standings, and never have we seen a finish that we’re about to see starting tomorrow: Seven playoff spots up fo grabs with 11 teams in legitimate contention to fill them up.

Starting with Beijing, who at 17-8 currently sits in the No. 2 position, and going all the way down to Jilin, who’s at 11-13 occupying the No. 11 spot, more than half the league will be gunning for the post-season with eight rounds to go. Like I said, that’s just nuts for a league whose final standings can be predicted with stunning accuracy up to six months before the start of the season.

Making things even crazier, everyone pretty much has the same record right now. Only three games in the loss column separate DongGuan (16-9, third place) and Xinjiang (12-12, 10th place), which means that tiebreakers like head-to-head records and head-to-head point differentials will most definitely come into play by the time we hit Round 34. Added to all of the positional jockeying that will be going down in an attempt to avoid Guangdong in the semi-finals, and we should have a highly refreshing, exciting and unpredictable race to the finish.

To help you sort though the madness, NiuBBall is breaking down the post-Spring Festival break schedule while also providing predictions that will likely end up being very wrong.

1. Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers (21-4)
Remaining Games: Jilin, Liaoning, at DongGuan, Fujian, at Xinjiang, at Shanxi, Bayi

After losing to J.R. Smith and Zhejiang on December 30th, the Southern Tigers have reeled off eight straight wins to put some major distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. They’ve already clinched a playoff birth, and barring something as catastrophic as the 2012 Mayan Armageddon, they’ll have the No. 1 seed wrapped up with plenty of games to spare. No prediction needed here.

2. Beijing Shougang Ducks (17-8)
Remaining Games: Jiangsu, Tianjin, at Qingdao, at Shandong, Foshan, Shanghai, at Guangsha

The Ducks ran off 13 straight wins to start the year before proceeding to lose eight of their next 12. Yet despite the midseason slip-up, the Ducks are in excellent shape to hold onto their No. 2 spot. Their next five games, three of which are at home, are all against non-playoff teams. Even better, three of those five teams, Jiangsu, Tianjin and Foshan, have the three of the worst records in the CBA.

The Ducks wil also be boosted by the return of Taiwanese point guard, Lee Huseh-lin, who is practicing for the first time since hurting his lower back on December 9th. Lee is a key player for head coach Min Lulei — Playing off the bench this year with Stephon Marbury dominating the point, Lee is the only other guard who is able to take some of the ball handling duties away from their star import. There’s still no timetable on Lee’s return, but it appears as he’s well on his way back onto the court.

Prediction: 23-9, No. 2 seed

3. DongGuan New Century Leopards (16-9)
Games Remaining
: at Guangsha, Jilin, Liaoning, Guangdong, Fujian, at Xinjiang, at Shanxi

DongGuan goes back to work after their Year of the Dragon vacation with a visit to the notoriously unfriendly confines of Guangsha Hangzhou Stadium, where the visiting team has walked away with a win only three times this year. It’s a huge game because the winner will put themselves in pole position for the much coveted No. 3 spot, which guarantees that a playoffs matchup with Guangdong will come in the Finals.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Leopards afterwards — five of their last seven are against teams with winning records, and the other two, Jilin and Xinjiang, are teams on the cusp of a playoff spot. If DongGuan can lock up a top two position, nobody can say they didn’t earn it. After starting the year 0-4, third place is impressive. But when you consider that they’ve only beaten five teams with winning records this year, a drop in the standings looks to be the most probable outcome.

Prediction: 20-12, No. 4 seed

4. Zhejiang Guangsha Lions (14-10)
Games Remaining
: DongGuan, Fujian, at Xinjiang, at Shanxi, Bayi, Zhejiang, at Jiangsu, Beijing

Considered a potential contender to Guangdong’s throne just three weeks ago, the Lions have dropped six of their last seven, including loses to Foshan, Qingdao and Jilin. Much of that is on the shoulders of Wilson Chandler, who has scored 15.8 points per game over his last four. When Chandler is motivated, there’s not a more versatile player in this league. But the challenge for Guangsha all season has been maintaining a balance between him and the rest of the Chinese squad. Lin Chih-chieh, who put in 15.5 points a game last year, has seen his scoring drop to 11. Jin Lipeng is the only other domestic player to average double figures.

When Guangsha was winning, Chandler was content to let P.J. Ramos and his other teammates share the heavy lifting on offense for the first three quarters before taking over in the fourth. It was a good recipe when Chandler was up to the task. But when he’s coasting and content to throw up jump shots (33 three point attempts over his last five, 14 free-throw attempts over his last four), Guangsha is a highly beatable team.

Unlike most other imports, Chandler, like his inter-province NBA-to-CBAer, J.R. Smith, is heading back to a big payday in the NBA after the season is over. Long-term, this season will not affect anything he does in the NBA as long as he stays healthy. Whether it’s this season or next, Chandler will receive a lucrative multi-year offer from a wing-needy NBA team. That point is something to keep in mind as we close the season — if he’s already decided to play to not get hurt, then Guangsha’s chances at the No. 2 position have taken a big hit. The next few games should be a telling sign as to how dedicated Chandler is to finishing out the CBA season strong.

Guangsha hosts DongGuan tomorrow in the game of Round 26. DongGuan won the first match-up earlier in the year in DongGuan. Guangsha will have to win and win by more than the seven points they were beaten by if they’re to hold the tiebreaker against their opponents — something that will come in handy in sidestepping Guangdong in the semis if the two squads finish with the same record at the end of the year. Behind a rejuvenated Chandler playing at home, Guangsha gets a double-digit win and a leg up on the third seed.

Prediction: 20-12, No. 3 seed

5. Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons (14-10)
Games Remaining
: at Shandong, Foshan, Shanghai, Guangsha, at Jilin, at Liaoning, Guangdong, DongGuan

The good news for Shanxi: They’re four games over .500 and are in good position to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The bad news: It’s the Year of the Dragon, which means its the Brave Dragons ben ming nian, their Zodiac year, a year that is associated with very bad luck.

Wearing red underwear (or red Under Armour, if you’re a ball player) is one way, according to Chinese tradition, to help off-set the inauspiciousness of your Zodiac year. But for the Brave Dragons, taking care of business right away tomorrow night at Shandong would be the best way. Because after a game against Foshan at home, the schedule toughens up big time. Shanxi’s five of their last six are against teams they lost to earlier in the year. A trip to Liaoning before a home match-up against Guangdong is their most dangerous stretch, because it sets up an all important final game of the year against DongGuan. A three-game losing streak to cap off the year would not be a good way to go about securing that playoff spot.

One guy Shanxi will be counting on to avoid that fate: Marcus Williams. As a trusted CBA confidant dutifully reminded me this week, Williams needs to be included in any NiuBBall MVP talk from now on. Truth is though, he’s been on the short list for a while. 30.5 points, 4.5 rebounds 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals on a 14-10 squad is more than enough to earn that right, even despite the fact that he is most definitely not shooting 69.4% from three. Or 82.4% for that matter. They’ll need him, along with Charles Gaines, to come up with some big performances if the squad is to ward off the dreaded Chinese ben ming nian, and the clump of teams behind them.

Prediction: 18-14, No. 5 seed

6. Liaoning Hengye Jaguars (14-11)
Games Remaining
: at Guangdong, at DongGuan, at Fujian, Xinjiang, Shanxi, at Bayi, at Zhejiang

Liaoning is a team that should be way better than they are. Perhaps other than Guangdong, the Jaguars have the most talented group of Chinese players in the league. Li Xiaoxu, Guo Ailun, Zhang Qingpeng and Yang Ming have all played for the Chinese National Team, while center Han Dejun received an invite to camp last spring. Sensing that there was more to be had from this team, management went ahead and fired favorite son, Guo Shiqiang, from his position as head coach shortly before Christmas. Under the leadership of Li Ge, who was promoted from assistant, Liaoning has gone 7-4 to climb their way into sixth place.

The entire team has been playing better, but it’s been Han whose seen the most improvement. He’s put up 14.5 points and 8.6 boards on 61% shooting under Li, including a 30-20 game that saw him shoot 12-12 from the field and 6-8 from the free-throw line. With Josh Powell struggling so much that the team was seriously considering making a switch, Han’s emergence has been a key development in Northeast China.

Unfortunately however, the way their late season schedule has developed is not a good sign for their playoff hopes. With only two road wins all year, Liaoning is faced with the worrisome predicament of playing five of their last seven away from home. Right away, they’ll head on the road for the annual Southeast China triangle-of-death trip that will see them play Guangdong, DongGuan and Fujian before coming home for two tough ones against Xinjiang and Shanxi. Bayi at home looks to be the only slam dunk of their remaining schedule, which means that in order for them to keep their grasp on a playoff spot, they’ll have to take care of some business on the road. And that’s unlikely to happen.

Prediction: 16-16, out of the playoffs

7. Fujian SBS Sturgeons (14-11)
Games Remaining
: at Shanghai, at Guangsha, Jilin, Liaoning, at Guangdong, at DongGuan, at Xinjiang

Five on seven on the road screams “out of the playoffs,” but let’s break this down for a second: Jilin and Liaoning have won a combined three road games all year; there’s a good chance they win against both teams. A huge game hangs in the balance tomorrow night at Shanghai, a team who like themselves cannot afford any slip-ups at home this late in the season. Something tells us that in his Shanghai return, Zaid Abbas, has something for his old squad. Another road win, in combination with two wins at home, would put Fujian at 18-14, and as Abbas’ third playoff team in as many years, joining Shanghai and Beijing.

Prediction: 18-14, No. 6 seed

8. Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls (13-11)
Games Remaining
: at Tianjin, Qingdao, Shandong, at Foshan, at Shanghai, at Guangsha, Jilin, Liaoning

Even if J.R. Smith has lost his love for the game, it still doesn’t hide the fact that Zhejiang’s remaining schedule is cupcake soft. Even if the Golden Bulls survive a random explosion by Qingdao’s Lester Hudson, not a given by the way, they’ve got three other games against some of the league’s worst teams, Tianjin, Foshan and Shandong. The Golden Bulls will get their haul of wins over the next eight games.

How many they get beyond the games that they should win (at Shanghai, at Guangsha) will depend solely on that guy J.R. The entire league has been mesmerized by his entertainment on the court as well as off the court. So have his teammates, who have reverted to their early season ways of standing around on offense to watch the show. In his last two games, losses to Xinjiang and Beijing, J.R. has racked up a mere one assist. When J.R. is passing, this is a tough team to beat because it’s hard to keep him out of the paint. But like with Wilson, J.R. may have already put his mind and his full basketball repertoire back in the U.S. to prepare for his NBA return in March. That story line, at least to me, remains as the most interesting backdrop to this mad rush to the post-season.

Prediction: 18-14, No. 8 seed

9. Shanghai Dongfang Sharks (13-11)
Games Remaining: Fujian, at Xinjiang, at Shanxi, Bayi, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, at Beijing, at Tianjin 

No team other than Xinjiang was devastated as much by injury this year than Shanghai. He never put up insane scoring numbers, but the all-around consistency and offensive awareness of Ryan Forehan-Kelly, to us, was the main reason why Shanghai bucked a NiuBBall bottom four pre-season prognostication. With his familiarity of Dan Pannagio’s triangle offense, Forehan-Kelly fit seamlessly into the Sharks new offense. Marcus Landry, a capable player, has done solid in replacement, but isn’t an ideal fit for the triangle because of his inconsistent stroke from the outside.

The loss of RFK, plus more road games than they have home and I don’t see this team going anywhere over 4-4 over their last eight, which puts them out of the playoff picture.

Prediction: 17-15, out of the playoffs

10. Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers (12-12)
Remaining Games
: Foshan, Shanghai, Guangsha, at Liaoning, at Jilin, DongGuan, Guangdong, Fujian

I mentioned DongGuan only has five wins against teams with winning records, so therefore I have to bring up the humiliating fact that the Flying Tigers, runners-up the last three years, have beaten a mere three teams with over-.500 records. Oh, and that they’ve only won three road games all year. I guess that’s what US $10 mil buys you in Urumqi.

But no matter how disastrous this season has been, Xinjiang finds itself in good position to get into the playoffs. Their six home games to close the year is the most of out of any team in the league and with a home record of 9-1, they’ve got a chance to start piling up some wins. A loss against Guangdong in Round 31 is likely, so at least a split on their Liaoning-Jilin road trip will be needed if they’re to get into the No. 6 spot — another piece of prime real estate in the standings because it avoids Guangdong until the finals.

If Gani Lawal and Tim Pickett keep putting up the numbers and they can some sort of production from either Mengke Bateer or Tang Zhengdong, Xinjiang will find themselves in the post-season. The fact that I even have to write that, however, underlines what a miserable season it’s been for a team that thought of themselves as championship material.

Prediction:  18-14, No. 7 seed

11. Jilin GBT Northeast Tigers (11-13)
Games Remaining
: at Guangdong, at DongGuan, at Fujian, Xinjiang, Shanxi, at Zhejiang, at Jiangsu

How does an 0-3 start to the New Year sound? Sounds a lot like racking up mahjong tiles, which will be exactly what the Northeast Tigers, the Chinese ones at least, will be doing when they’re sitting at their houses in early March.

Prediction: 12-18, out of the playoffs

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China’s future at the guard spot is on hold

December 18, 2011

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For me, there’s no bigger question mark for the Chinese National Team going forward than the on that’s stamped in bold at the end of “point guard.” For now — just like it’s been for years and years and years — there’s Liu Wei, who will once again carry the load at the position for China at the 2012 London Olympics. But, the soon-to-be 32 year-old is clearly dribbling a basketball on borrowed time and his retirement from the National Team could come right after London.

Which means, for the first time in a while, China has to worry about a successor. Over the last two years, the young duo of Jilin’s Yu Shulong and Liaoning’s Guo Ailun have both played on Team China and have been widely tabbed as the front runners as Liu’s heir apparent. But, apparently northeast China hasn’t gotten the memo yet, because both Guo and Yu have found themselves buried on the bench for most of the domestic season.

For Yu, the situation has to be especially puzzling. The (listed as) 21 year-old point guard has averaged 35 minutes per game over the last two seasons and on paper heading into this year, was expected to remain on the court for around that time, even after Jilin signed Jordanian National Team starting point guard, Osahma Dahglas, as their Asian import this season. Instead though, Dahglas has taken most of Yu’s minutes and Yu has clocked a mere 15 minutes per game. Yu sat on the bench the entire game against DongGuan on Friday night.

When asked for a reason why, head coach Wang Han pointed to the match-ups and an overall preference to Dahglas at the point: “If Yu had played,” said Wang after the game, “and he had guarded Josh [Akognon], we would have been at a disadvantage defensively. Dahglas has a connection with the team, he runs the team well.”

Meanwhile in Liaoning, Guo finds himself in a similar situation. After playing on pretty much every international stage possible, Guo made the final roster in 2010 at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey as a 16 year-old. Because of that, Guo was able to bypass the 18-and-over age limit to play for the Liaoning senior team last season as a 17 year-old, becoming the youngest player in CBA history while simultaneously creating his own special clause. In his rookie year, Guo played in 31 games,  including 12 stars, and played 25 minutes, averaging 10.2 points and 3.1 assists.

This year, Guo was expected to build upon his promising campaign from last season and develop into an even more prominent member of the team’s backcourt rotation. But like Yu, Guo’s minutes have decreased. He’s only getting 17 minutes of run per game and has only hit the court for more than 20 minutes three times.

Some of that may have to do with the return of combo-guard Zhang Qingpeng, who is back with Liaoning after spending last season on loan with Xinjiang. It also might have to do with his involvement in a highly controversial “blood letter” signed to oust China U-19 head coach, Fan Bin, from the team. But at least officially, according to his head coach — and his uncle — Guo Shiqiang, Guo’s increased bench time is directly related to a lack of commitment of the defensive end.

“People are saying that I have no way to control the situation,” said Guo (the coach) on Friday. “Everyone knows our relationship. I’ll use whoever I want, I’m not going to give into selfishness. Our goal is to win games. Whoever is useful to the team will play more. If you don’t play well, then you’re off. Everyone’s the same, Guo is not an exception. Everytime he steps on the court, I’m always telling him to play defense. If you can’t get out there and guard someone, then you’re out of the game.”

Whatever the reasons really are, one thing is for certain: the National Team’s point guard depth chart for the Olympics is being messed with in a big way. Which to me strikes me as ironic, since the CBA’s official logo this season, which can be seen all over stadiums and on the cover of the official handbook, has “London” in both English and Chinese plastered onto it. CBA officials like to talk about the long-term development of its Chinese players and the success of its National Team. They view those two tenets so seriously in fact, that they blocked Kobe Bryant’s temporary NBA-to-China lockout vacation.

But if the two point guards who are being etched as the future of the postion aren’t getting on the court, what does that say about the CBA? And what does that say about the post-Yao, post-Liu Team China?

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CBA Power Rankings: Week 2 (11/30-12/6)

December 8, 2011

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*Note that the highly complicated methods that comprise these rankings do not factor in the results of Round 8, which was played on Tuesday and Wednesday night. These are as of Round 7, December 4th.

1. Beijing Shougang Ducks (7-0)

Last week — 1: Last week, perhaps the argument could have been made we were hopping on the Ducks bandwagon a little too soon. And we really stress the word “could,” since they won on the road at four-time defending champion Guangdong. After following that up with home win against three-time runner-up, Xinjiang, their spot at the top is now indisputable. But it’s not by any means permanent — Beijing’s next four games are on the road, including a Friday match-up against J.R. Smith and the 4-1 Golden Bulls.

2. Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers (5-2)

LW – 2: Guangdong, who like Xinjiang, hardly ever loses in the regular season, already has two more ticks in that column than most people thought they would this early in the year. And yet, we are still taking the champs’ word for it, despite issues surrounding Aaron Brooks so far unsuccessful integration into the lineup. Given the Southern Tigers’ winning ways over the years, we think he’ll come around eventually. Until he does though, and until the team stops losing games to Qingdao, Guangdong is riding shotgun to Beijing.

3. Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers (3-2)

LW – 3: The two losses don’t concern us as much as the lack of production Xinjiang has been getting from two of the three expensive Chinese players who transfered in this summer, Tang Zhengdong and Chao Yonggang. Tang, who’s knee is obviously not healthy, is now out with an ankle injury. Chao is averaging three points a game. K-Mart’s near 20-20s and Patty Mills’ offensive explosions are all fine and well, but if Xinjiang is to win a title this year, they need more from their local guys.

4. Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls (4-1)

LW – 9: Winners of four straight, the Golden Bulls find themselves back in the position we originally marked them down in before the season started. A lot of that has to do with J.R. Smith. 52 points (11-15 from three), 22 rebounds and 7 steals against Bayi and 32 the game before against Shanxi has his scoring average up to over 27 a game, good for fourth in the league. That number is bound to go up when J.R. figures out how to get some easier shots for himself (only 40% from two-point range).

5. Zhejiang Guangsha Lions  (4-2)

LW – 4: Peter John Ramos is back and up to his old tricks (20 points and 15.5 rebounds in two games), great news for Guangsha who were getting absolutely zilch from the guy he replaced, Dwyane Jones. A huge game on the road against Guangdong will tell us if Ramos’ return to his old home of Hangzhou makes the newly Wilson Chandler-lead Lions legitimate contenders this year.

6. Bayi Fubang Rockets (3-2)

LW – 10: In our eyes, there’s a big drop off after number five — not necessarily a bad thing when you consider that the CBA has enjoyed Grand Canyon-esque rifts between the have and have-nots since its inception in 1995. And speaking of have and have-nots, the Rockets have won every game at home (3-0). They have not won one game away (0-2). That trend won’t continue along that extreme line, but the Army’s home/away discrepancy, much like last year, will be something to keep an eye on.

7. Liaoning Hengye Jaguars (3-4)

LW – 11: Yeah, you’re in the playoffs, Liaoning, but it’s tough for us to excited about a team that can’t put together back-to-back wins. Since opening up his Sina Weibo account last week, Zhang Qingpeng is averaging 12 points a game. The lesson: opening up a Sina Weibo has only a minimal effect on struggling players. Bummer. The bigger bummer here though is Guo Ailun’s scanty 16 minutes per game average so far.

8. Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons (2-3)

LW – 6: Another team with loads of talent that hasn’t been able to win two games in a row. Despite having three studs, Marcus Williams, Charles Gaines and Duan Jiangpeng, the Brave Dragons are always going to be at somewhat of a loss because supporting players Zhang Xuewen, Shang Ping and Liu Shaoming are inconsistent. The roller coaster ride is going to continue, but we still think their Big Three is good enough to get into the post-season.

9. DongGuan New Century Leopards (3-4)

LW – 17: Shame on us for ever doubting Brian Goorjian. The Leopards’ three-game (and nearly four if they didn’t give one away to Beijing in Round 4) win streak is due in big part to Shavlik Randolph’s 25.5 points and 14.3 rebounds over that stretch, but who are we kidding. It’s obviously due to the fact that the entire team posted up last week’s power rankings, which had them last, on their locker-room bulletin board.

10. Fujian SBS Sturgeons (3-4)

LW – 13: Fujian’s on a two game win streak. They have five guys averaging double figures. Will McDonald is having the most underrated season of any foreigner out here (roughly 26 and 10 a night). They have Zaid Abbas. They have, what we think, is a playoff contending team. Trust us, they’ll be right there.


11. Jilin SBT Northeast Tigers (3-4)

LW – 7: Do Chinese coaches have it in for promising Chinese point-guards? Like his young 2010 FIBA World Championship teammate, Guo Ailun, Yu Shulong is collecting splinters. Since the DongBei Tigers have turned the ball over more than 20 times in their last two games, maybe more Yu would be a good thing.

12. Shanghai Dongfang Sharks (2-4)

LW – 15: Just when it looked like our man Andrew Crawford had an article about a three-game win streak in the books, the Sharks went out and got blown out by Liaoning on Sunday. Anyways, we think the Sharks are onto something. Either that our we’re just super biased. But it’s all starting on the defensive end. Mike Harris is leading the league in rebounds, and the team is holding opponents to a stingy 91 points per game so far.

13. Shandong Kingston Gold Lions (3-4)

LW – 5: In his last 79 minutes, Sun Jie has five points. Yeah, five. Definitely not the norm for a guy who is usually on fire from deep. Sun’s alarming recent lack of offense is directly related to the Gold Lions’ even more alarming 89.7 ppg, last in the league. In seven games, they have yet to crack the 100 point mark once, an unsettling statistic in a league that plays with a high pace.

14. Qingdao Double Star Eagles (2-5)

LW – 14: Congrats on beating Guangdong, but it still doesn’t mean Qingdao is a playoff team. It does mean, however, that Lester Hudson can go the heck off from at any given game. And for that reason alone, Qingdao will win some games. But their Chinese talent remains as one of the league’s worst and until they get their import big-man situation settled (Ivan Johnson was the second American sent home this year for the Eagles), they’re going to remain in tough shape.

15. Jiangsu Nangang Dragons (2-5)

LW – 11: By far the most disappointing team of the season, Jiangsu started at four pre-season, dropped to 11 at the first week and is now at lowly 15. As is always the case, the foreigner was blamed first after Dragons management finally got Mardy Collins on a plane back to the States. Jiangsu started slow last year with Ricky Davis before they brought in Antoine Wright as his replacement; is Marcus Williams (the UCONN one) this year’s savior?

 

16. Tianjin Ronggang Golden Lions (2-5)

LW – 8: Yeah, remember when we had them at number eight last week? Yeah, well we were really, really off on that.


17. Guangdong Foshan Dralions (2-5)

LW – 15: Gerald Green is out and Marcus Haislip is in. It’s not a bad idea at all — Haislip can definitely play — but we wonder if it’s going to be their last. Marcus Douthit has been putting up decent numbers, yet is he the right fit alongside Haislip? This team needs a guard and fast.

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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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Catching up on all things China National Team

June 24, 2011

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

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

If only they knew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The remaining players:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stuck in the middle, Liaoning’s 2nd team an “abandoned generation”

May 31, 2011

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With a solid senior domestic roster to build upon and an extremely promising U-16 youth team highlighted by China’s most intriguing seven foot prospect, Zhou Qi, Liaoning PanPan is focusing their energy on returning the senior team to its glory days of years past while also developing its youth with an eye on the future.

Equipped with Guo Ailun, Li Xioaxu and Han Dejun, Liaoning’s senior team has a talented young core that would have likely made the playoffs this season if the team hadn’t decided to dismiss Chris Richard and Donta Smith for three games — all which resulted in losses — in late January.  If Liaoning can get their act together next season and sign two decent imports, not a given considering their reputation in that department, the Dinosaurs will no doubt be a top-eight team.

Liaoning’s U-16s are also being watched quite closely.  Besides having a chance to play starring roles with the senior team in a few years, Liaoning’s third team will have a chance to bring the all important “glory” to their province when they participate in the prestigious 2013 National Games, which will be held in Liaoning province’s capital city, Shenyang.  Likely not a coincidence,  the 12th edition of the National Games will feature a U-18 basketball tournament. As Zhou Qi, and his promising point-guard teammate, Zhao Ziwei, will be mature enough to play by then, Liaoning is already being dubbed as the early odds on favorite.

But, remember: This is “basketball with Chinese characteristics,” and that means under all of the resources being piled onto these two teams, somebody is probably getting screwed.  And as it turns out, somebody is getting screwed — the team stuck in the middle of all this excitement, Liaoning’s second team.

According to a story released today in the Southern Metropolis Daily (via NetEase), the second team has been completely neglected and ignored by the franchise’s higher ups at the expense of these other interests.

Said second team head coach, Dong Shusui, “I have never been in communication with either senior or third team coaches.  They don’t come over here where we are, and I don’t go over there where they are.  Right now I’m with this team.  I have no say about who gets promoted to the senior team.  I have no control over who gets sent down to the third team.  Everything in that respect has already been set for this year.”

“The core of Liaoning’s work is centered on the first and third teams,” said an anonymous figure inside the second team. “At present, this group of second team players are pretty much an abandoned generation.  The ones who can get on the first team, like Liu Zhixuan, guys who have already played on the first team, those are the lucky ones.  I’m afraid that there are going to be very few players with that kind of luck in the future.”

One step below the senior team, Liaoning’s second team is composed of players born between the years 1991-1994. Backing up their coaches’ frustrations, the players also shared the harsh current reality of being on a team that receives little attention and even less resources.

Speaking privately to a reporters, Liaoning youth players disclosed that they are paid 1,000 renminbi (roughly $150) a month, regardless of performance.  A player complained: “Don’t look at all of this name brand stuff we’re wearing, this was all bought for us by our parents.  The team only gives us one pair of shoes for the whole year.

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Politics as usual: Liaoning’s Yang Ming laughs off National Team exclusion as “a joke”

May 18, 2011

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Since Chinese National Team head coach, Bob Donewald, surprisingly announced that 2010 Asian Games gold medalist, Li Xiaoxu, and two of his Liaoning PanPan teammates, Han Dejun and He Tianju, had been amongst the first six players cut from the 37-player training camp roster last week, insiders and media have been questioning the motives behind the three teammates’ early departure.

Li, Han and He’s teammate, however, point guard Yang Ming, is just laughing.

The National Team’s quest for gold in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship got off to a strange start this year when the CBA announced its 37-player roster in April.  Most odd was the inclusion of Yao Ming, who despite playing just five games in the last two years for the Houston Rockets, was placed on the name list.  Though privately the CBA is hoping that he’ll be a go in September, it’s unclear if the 7-6 center will be healed and in game condition in time for the tournament.

The release of Li Xiaoxu, who has been an important piece of the bench the last two years for Team China, along with his two Liaoning teammates, further added to the unpredictability.  Li was a CBA All-Star this season and was expected by many to be a near lock for the final roster.

When asked by reporters, Donewald blamed a multitude of injuries that prevented the Liaoning trio from even practicing with the team during the closed door training sessions.  Donewald said He Tianju was battling a bum knee, Han Dejun a bad back, and Li Xiaoxu an irregular heartbeat.

But, there has been serious speculation in the media that the decision to rid the National Team of most of Liaoning’s team is due completely to politics, not health.

Earlier this season in Shanghai, Donewald, who coaches the Shanghai Sharks during the CBA season, and Liaoning head coach, Guo Shiqiang, were involved in a high-profile sideline altercation during their game, with both coaches hurling swears at each other in Chinese and English.  The spat received a lot of attention in the media.  Besides being CBA rivals, Donewald replaced Guo as the head coach of the National Team in April 2009.

With Liaoning and Shanghai’s tenuous relationship, rumors have swirled about Liaoning refusing to send their players to the National Team to practice with Donewald.  Unlike Shanghai, which is privately owned by Yao Ming, Liaoning is owned by the Liaoning Provincial Sports Bureau.  Though it has been confirmed that He Tianju is in Hong Kong receiving surgery on his knee, there have been no official reports about injuries to Li Xiaoxu and Han Dejun.

Further fueling speculation is the absence of another Liaoning player from the National Team roster altogether, Yang Ming.  Yang, who averaged 13.8 points, 4.1 assists in almost 33 minutes a game this year for the Dinosaurs, is considered to be one of the better young point guards in China and his omission from the original 37-player list has led people to further believe politics are playing a major role in National Team affairs this summer.

When pressed about leaving off Yang, Donewald also said he was injured and unable to come to Beijing.

Upon hearing that, Yang laughed.

“That’s a joke,” said Yang to reporters over the weekend.  ”I have no idea what’s going on with that one.  Right now I’m just with [Liaoning] practicing, eating and sleeping.  I haven’t been worrying about anything else.  I’m not hurt, I feel great.  I guess I just have to wait until next year.”

In public, Liaoning’s story has been consistent with Donewald and the CBA’s, stating that injuries kept their players from reporting to camp.  And they have also been quick to point out that Zhang Qingpeng, who returned to Liaoning after playing this season for CBA runner-up Xinjiang, is training with the team and has not been cut yet.

“Guo Ailun also hasn’t been cut yet either,” said Liaoning assitant coach, Jie Jun last Saturday.  ”Liaoning has two players with the National Team right now.”

Whatever the real case behind the seasons, it’s evident that basketball with Chinese characteristics is in full bloom, and the drama is sure to continue on into the hot summer months in the lead-up to the FIBA Asia Championship.

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Guo Ailun selected to 2011 Barcelona NIJT All-Tournament Team

May 10, 2011

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China’s first ever appearance in the Nike International Junior Tournament this year in Barcelona started poorly, progressed decently and ended nicely as the U-19 national team finished up their three-day set with a 1-2 record, with point-guard Guo Ailun (Liaoning Panpan) being selected to the All-Tournament Team.

Against Lithuanian outfit IJT Zalgiris Kaunas on Day 1, China was demolished 73-46.  With head coach Fan Bin evenly spreading out minutes to the entire roster, only Zhai Xiaochuan (Beijing Shougang) was able to manage double-digit scoring.  Guo Ailun, the team’s only real point-guard, played only 22 minutes and his lack of big minutes obviously played a role in the big loss.

With Day 2 against Regal FC Barcelona went a lot better, but China still ended up on the wrong end of the scoreline, going down 83-77.  In 36 minutes, Guo finished with 18 points, 5 assists and 7 rebounds, but was sloppy with the ball, turning the ball over 5 times.  Zhu Xuhang (Guangdong Hongyuan) scored 10 points and grabbed 7 rebounds and Wang Zhelin (Fujian SBS) pitched in with 11 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.

NBADraft.net, who was in Barcelona for the entire tournament in the lead up to the EuroLeague Final Four, had this to say about the Chinese during the first two days:

For the first time at this Final Four event, China has been given a spot. China’s only serious prospect Guo Ailun had a nice sequence in the first half in Day 1 with a nifty drive through the lane and up and under with his left hand. He then found a teammate for a nice lay in with a wraparound behind the back pass. The Chinese team fell behind early and looked disorganized. Ailun is by far the team’s top player, but he obviously isn’t enough to keep them in the game. The Chinese team looked better on day 2 building a 18-11 lead and contending for most of the game before losing by double digits to the home team FC Barcelona.

Riding more on Guo, China got its first and only win on the last day, crushing Serbian IJT BC Crvena Zvezda 108-71. Guo Ailun led the winners with 22 points, while Ju Mingxin (Guangdong Hongyuan) added 17 and Wang Zirui (Zhejiang Chouzhou) contributed with 16.

Despite going 1-2, China finished in second place in their group on point differential.  KK Zagreb, led by tournament MVP Dario Saric, ended up winning the whole thing, beating Zalgaris in the finals 76-65.

Joining Saric on the All-Tournament Team was Guo, who finished the three day event with averages of 14 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists on 61% shooting.

What we know now about the U-19s is this: China’s only even borderline NBA prospect on this roster is Guo, and their success this summer in Latvia for the U-19 FIBA World Championship will largely depend on him.  Letting everyone no the team get some run, coach Fan’s main intention was to use this tournament to test out different lineups, evaluate individual player performances, and gauge the overall make-up of the team.  This team has enjoyed a lot of success together on the world stage, and are collectively considered one of the more talented Chinese youth teams in recent history.  The CBA has high expectations for Latvia — judging by the team’s improvement from Day 1 to Day 3, this team can certainly play against good competition, but one has to worry that there may be too much reliance on Guo to do everything offensively.

If you want to know a little more about Guo and where he stacks up on the NBA Draft radar, make sure to check out his scouting report, written by me, on NBADraft.net.

Team China NIJT official roster and final statistics can be found here.

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The 2010-11 NiuBBall CBA Awards

May 8, 2011

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Quincy Douby

Another season of CBA ball is over, which of course means that Guangdong has won yet another title.  To keep you from yawning yourself to sleep from the monotony, NiuBBall is coming at you our first annual CBA awards.

If you missed our mid-season Spring Festival awards, go ahead and check them out here.

Foreign MVP: Quincy Douby, Xinjiang

Like there was really a choice.

Marcus Williams’ barrage of triple-doubles to close out the regular season in Zhejiang may — and we really stress “may” — have created some debate, but let’s be real here: This award had been wrapped up with a fancy a bow on top shortly prior to Spring Festival.

The regular season record (31-1), the scoring numbers (31.9 points a game), the insane percentages (54.5% from the field, 41.7% from three, 89.8% from the free-throw line), the All-Star Game scoring record, the CBA Finals scoring record… There’s really little left to say about Douby, whose legacy is still still enshrined among the best single-seasons in league history, despite not being able to take out Guangdong in the finals.

No, Douby doesn’t play much defense.  But, he’s not expected to, nor should he have to.  When you are responsible for doing so much scoring, wasting your energy on the defensive side of the ball — especially in this league — is wasteful. As we saw against Guangdong, other than Douby and James Singleton, there wasn’t anyone else on this year’s edition of Xinjiang that could create offense.

Douby’s the pick, open-and-shut.

Mid-season MVP: Douby

Domestic MVP: Wang Zhizhi, Bayi

We’ve talked about the dangers of having a soon to be 34 year-old seven footer as the face of the league, but as hard as we try to find someone else, no Chinese player is more important to his team than Wang.

On a team with no foreign players to dominate the offense (or good Chinese players, for that matter), Bayi’s offense still relies on the creaky Wang to come up with points in bunches.  And like the good solider he is, Wang doesn’t disappoint. Craftier as ever, Wang pumped out three year highs in field goal, three-point and free-throw percentages as he led Bayi to another playoff birth.

And that’s not to take anything away from our Spring Festival pick, Zhang Kai, whose increased toughness and defensive focus helped spur DongGuan’s unexpected revival from cellar fodder last year into legitimate contenders this year.  It’s just Da Zhi, as evidenced by his performances last summer for the national team, is still the best and most important player to his team.  Yeah, to an extent it’s kind of cool to see the big lefty age like a nice wine, but admitting Wang’s superiority also gives light to the bigger and far more important picture here: The failure of China’s player development model to foster an upcoming generation of NBA-caliber players to take the torch from the old guard like Yao and Wang.

Mid-season Chinese MVP: Zhang Kai, DongGuan

Defensive Player of the Year: Vernon Hamilton, Tianjin

Trust us, we wrestled with the moral dilemma of selecting a player for an award who only played 13 games for a quite a while before ultimately deciding valuing games played over defensive performance would create far more objections in our mind than just selecting the guy who deserved it the most.  So we feel good about picking Hamilton, whose quick transition from the D-League to the CBA injected the league with some sorely lacking bent knees, sliding feet and defensive intensity on the perimeter.

Called upon game after game to limit volume shooters like Josh Akognon, Leon Rogers, Lester Hudson and Myron Allen, Hamilton continually proved he was up to the task, using his strong upper body and quick hands to frustrate opponents into a lot of missed shots.  Grabbing over eight boards and ripping close to four steals a game, Hamilton showed he was more than just a one-on-one stopper, too.  After getting a glimpse of the 6-0 point-guard this season, we think Tianjin would be crazy not to bring him back next year.

Mid-season DPOY: Dwyane Jones, Fujian SBS

Coach of the Year: Brian Goorjian, DongGuan

We’re not ignoring the great job Li Chunjiang did in Guangdong successfully integrating the mid-season arrivals Lester Hudson and Marcus Haislip after playing half of the season essentially without an import (as anyone who watched the Southern Tigers at the beginning of the year, Fred Jones didn’t really count).  Facing probably more adversity than the Canton’s had ever faced before, Li managed to piece it all together and deliver a familiar championship to Guangdong.

But, even as Guangdong fans might not like hearing about their intracity rivals’ waijiao, Goorjian has changed the game in DongGuan.  Goorjian’s ability to get his Chinese players practicing hard and valuing the defensive end is the biggest coaching accomplishment of the year, only slightly topping DongGuan’s near second place finish with a relatively low profile foreign tandem of Josh Akognon and Jackson Vroman.  Which is why it was such a shame for Vroman to go down for the year right before the start of the playoffs.

Goorjian will obviously be back next year, but the real question is: When is he going to come back as the head coach of the National Team?  It’s no secret that the CBA loves Goorjian’s professionalism, attention to detail and most importantly, overall calmness on the sidelines.  We’re not suggesting a coaching change is imminent by any means, we’re just saying it’s something to keep an eye on.

Mid-season COY: Goorjian

Rookie of the Year: Guo Ailun, Liaoning

Liaoning’s import situation was a total mess this year, but one bright spot for the Dinosaurs was the development of Guo into a CBA starting point-guard.  Inserted into the first five for seven of the team’s last eight games, Guo showed off a lot of the skills that have led people to believe he’s next in line at the one-spot for the National Team.

The stats don’t jump out: 10.2 points, 3.1 assists on 42% from the field.  But, as people who follow this stuff should know, Guo’s inclusion on the National Team roster last summer in Turkey promoted the league to pass the “Guo Ailun Clause,” which allows players with Team China experience to bypass the 18 and over age limit for top level CBA ball.  At 17 years-old (on paper), Guo was the youngest player in CBA history.  If his final three games are any indication of what’s to come, the league should be worried: 21.3 points, 7.7 assists, 2 steals on only 1.7 turnovers.

All-CBA First Team:

Guard: Quincy Douby, Xinjiang (43 gp, 31.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 6.6 apg, 3.7 spg, 54.5 FG%, %41.7 3PT%, 89.8 FT%)
Guard: Stephon Marbury, Foshan
(32 gp, 25.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.7 apg, 1.6 spg, 55 FG%, 51 3PT%, 81 FT%)
Forward: Marcus Williams, Zhejiang
(26 gp, 29.6 ppg, 5.4 apg, 8.2 rpg, 2.4 spg, 45.1 FG%, 44.2 3PT%, 83.5 FT%
Forward: James Singleton, Xinjiang
(43 gp, 21.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 1.5 spg, 71.1% FG%, 53.6 3PT%, 83.1 FT%)
Center: Jackson Vroman, DongGuan
(27 gp, 22.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.6 bpg, 2.8 spg, 55.6 FG%)

All-CBA Second Team:

Guard: Lester Hudson, Guangdong (29 gp, 21.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 4.5 apg, 3.1 spg, 45 FG% 82.4 FT%)
Guard: Josh Akognon, DongGuan
(39 gp, 29.1 ppg, 2.0 spg, 47 FG%, 39.1 3PT%, 87.1 FT%)
Forward: Marcus Haislip, Guangdong
(27 gp, 20.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 75 FG%, 77.7 3PT%, 87.8 FT%)
Forward: Charles Gaines, Qingdao
(32 gp, 33.0 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 2.4 spg, 60 FG%)
Center: Wang Zhizhi, Bayi (22.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.4bpg, 1.1 spg, 54.4 FG%, 42.5 3PT%, 85.5 FT%)

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Guo Ailun makes his mark at Nike Hoop Summit

April 14, 2011

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China’s young singer/point-guard, Guo Ailun, has had one hell of a three weeks.

In March, it was announced that Guo had been selected to participate in the prestigious 2011 Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon as part of the World Select Team.  Just a few days later, however, Guo wrote on his Weibo account that because of his commitments to the China Youth National Team, he would have to miss out on Portland in order to train with the U-19 team in Los Angeles.  Yet on the World Select Team’s first day of practice on April 5th, Guo was in uniform and on the court, participating in drills and playing in scrimmages.

The last second change in plans can probably be attributed to a few different things.  First, the CBA likely realized that letting Guo go to Portland was good exposure for both the player and Chinese basketball.  Guo, who opened some eyes at the Lebron James Skills Academy and the Nike Global Challenge in the summer of 2009, is a player who has some international scouts and GMs amongst his fans.

Another thing to remember here is that the Hoop Summit is put on by Nike, the same company that sponsors Team China. Since Guo is one of a handful of domestic players who wears Nike on his feet during the CBA season, and since he played with the Senior National Team in Turkey for the FIBA World Championship last year, assuming that the swoosh made a call to the CBA after hearing about Guo’s commitments to the youth team would not be far fetched in the the least.

And lastly (we’ll have much more on this before the weekend) is this “blood letter” signed and marked with red fingerprints by the U-19s in order to have former Bayi guard and National Team member, Fan Bin, removed from his position as head coach.  The letter, which was written and sent to administrators before the team left to train in Los Angeles, was reportedly lead by Guo.  News of the U-19s “mutiny” against their coach did not get out to the public until well after the team arrived in the States, and it was later learned that Fan stayed back in Beijing to act as an assistant on Senior National Team head coach Bob Donewald’s staff, while previous U-19 assistant, Hu Weidong, had been promoted to lead the youngsters.  To avoid Guo becoming even more entangled in this mess, the CBA may have sent him up to the Hoop Summit to get away from everything.  He has since been placed on the Senior National Team roster, and is back in Beijing participating in training camp.

In spite of all that, however, Guo played pretty well in Portland over the week.  Here’s what NBADraft.net had to say after watching several practices, who unlike Draft Express (who despite having corrected their error, still have yet to learn about Chinese family names), actually got his name right:

Guo Ailun – Guo might have been the highlight of the practice. During the drills he showed off his excellent ball-handling and shooting skills. Coming off screens, his midrange game was automatic. During the scrimmage, he would penetrate into the lane — bouncing around his defenders like a billiard ball with his 6’4″ frame — and set his teammates up for easy shots. Guo is also a scrappy defender. He competed hard the entire scrimmage and really showed that he belonged on the team.

As we at NiuBBall have watched Guo several times on television and a few of times in person, we’re not at all surprised about his competitiveness.  Though it may not have shown because of the language barrier, Guo is the most vocal and enthusiastic point-guard we’ve ever seen in China.  He plays with a level of confidence not usually seen in Chinese guards, and as he’s proven in multiple international camps, it shows in his overall performance.  We are, however, a little surprised about his newly found shooting touch.  Though a very good finisher in the lane, Guo has never been known as a knockdown shooter, making only 29% of his threes and 48% of his twos for Liaoning this season.

Not much of a scorer, Guo couldn’t match the actual game to his high performances in practice, but still came away with pretty good marks overall:

The quick, athletic Chinese kid didn’t have the game he wanted, finishing with only 4 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist. He did perform well at the practices and really made an impression on a lot of people. He’s a scrappy PG with a lot of confindence and an improving jumpshot. Though quiet on Saturday, you haven’t heard the last of Guo.

Though not a lock to make the final roster for the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship in September, we think Guo stands a pretty good shot.  With Liu Wei getting up their in age, Guo’s development is one of the most important priorities for the National Team going forward.  We’ll have plenty more on Guo and other young Chinese prospects as the Chinese youth/senior national team circuit gets rolling.

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