Tag Archives: Jim Cleamons

The definitive NiuBBall.com CBA preview

November 22, 2012

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

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

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

Bad thing for NiuBBall’s annual predictions, however.

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

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

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Yang Xuezeng hired in Zhejiang

May 23, 2012

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Yang Xuezeng, who recently resigned from Shanxi Zhongyu, is now officially the head coach at Zhejiang Chouzhou. He had been linked to Zhejiang since earlier this month, when it was announced that he had walked away from Shanxi.

Yang is the second head coach to sign with a new team this off season. In April, Zhejiang Guangsha brought back Wang Fei after releasing Jim Cleamons.

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Wang Fei officially returns to Guangsha

April 10, 2012

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After we posted last month about a coaching change in Hangzhou, Guangsha has officially announced that Wang Fei will be returning to act as the team’s head coach next season. He will replace Jim Cleamons, who is not coming back after spending this past season with the team.

This is Wang’s second stint with Guangsha. Wang coached the Lions from 2007 to 2011 before leaving the team due to health reasons.

Way before Guangsha, Wang coached the Bayi Rockets starting in 1994 and led them to six championships. He then took the reigns of the Chinese National Team twice, the first time from 1997-99 and the other from 2001-02 before coming back to the CBA in 2005 to coach Xinjiang. Wang worked this past season as a color commentator for CCTV-5.

According to Guangsha general manager, Ye Xiangyu, though Wang took this past season off, his contract never expired and deciding to bring him back “shouldn’t be considered as an unexpected decision.”

Wang will rejoin the team this month.

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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: End Of Season Review

April 9, 2012

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

This chat originally appeared on Shark Fin Hoops.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CBA off-season carousel in full swing

March 14, 2012

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As the the playoffs rage on come to a grinding halt (thanks, Shanxi), and as we’re back on the blogging trail, now seems as good a time as ever to update everyone on the coaching and front office changes that are going on around the league.

Jim Cleamons not coming back to Guangsha; Wang Fei set to return?

Jim Cleamons, like a lot of foreign coaches over the years who were originally promised long-term stays with their Chinese squads, won’t be back for a second season in Guangsha. Initially brought in to install a program that would promote long-term development, Cleamons was a big reason why Guangsha was able to land Wilson Chandler during the NBA lockout. With his Bulls/Lakers triangle-offense import working well along with his NBA import, the Lions got off to a great 13-4 start that had some people thinking that they were a legit threat to Guangdong.

But once the lockout ended and it became apparent that he had a huge contract waiting for him in the States, Chandler turned on the cruise control, Cleamons turned off the triangle, and Guangsha sputtered to a 2-9 record over their next 11. They eventually made the playoffs, but in order to get back before the March 1st offer-sheet deadline, Chandler left back to the U.S. and Cleamons was left with Rodney White to face Beijing. As most (but not all) would guess, Guangsha was swept out of the playoffs.

With Cleamons out, the team is reportedly considering bringing back former China National Team head coach, Wang Fei, who was in Guangsha from 2007-11. Nothing official has been announced at this time, however.

Liaoning get rejected by Jiang Xingquan, hire Wu Qinglong

It is the official opinion of NiuBBall that Liaoning should be better than they are. Like, way better. After Guangdong’s roster of National Team stars, Liaoning  has the best domestic lineup of players. With Guo Ailun, Zhang Qingpeng, Yang Ming, Han Dejun and Li Xiaoxu among others all healthy this season, there was simply no good reason as to why the Jaguars weren’t in the post-season.

And it’s an opinion that Liaoning management apparently agrees with. They fired Guo Shiqiang midway through the season and after his replacement, Li Ge couldn’t guide them to a better record, they’ve decided they’re done with him too. According to QQ Sports, Liaoning at first had decided to find a foreign coach, but with the National Games coming up in 2013 – a competition that foreigners are not allowed to participate — management felt going with a Chinese coach was the better decision.

Atop their list was Jiang Xingquan, who is from the province and coached Liaoning in 1970 and from 1976-90. Jiang’s homecoming in the twilight of his career seemed like a storybook ending to the most impressive resume in Chinese basketball history, until Liaoning’s master plan hit a snag: Jiang wasn’t down. Jiang has a good deal in Xinjiang and at 72 years-old, he’s not willing to go through the day-to-day grind of head coach.

So in comes Wu Qinglong, who coached at Liaoning from 1997-2001, where he lead the team to two appearances in the CBA Finals in four years. In the years after, he served as head coach in Yunnan, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Fujian among other teams before landing back with Liaoning as their youth coach, and with the China Youth National Teams. Last year, he coached the Chinese U-16 Team (lead by none other than Zhou Qito a gold medal at the FIBA Asia U-16 Championship.

Xinjiang signs Cui Wanjun to five-year deal, Jiang Xingquan to step down (again)

If his re-appointment as head coach just 11 games into the Bob Donewald era was shocking, this is the exact opposite: Jiang Xingquan, after telling Liaoning no thank you, won’t be in his big chair on the Xinjiang bench next season. The Xinmin Evening News is citing an anonymous source who says that Xinjiang has officially signed Cui Wanjun to a five-year deal. The 72 year-old Jiang will go back to his original position as advisor, a role that he agreed upon shortly after the team hired Donewald last summer.

Cui is actually a pretty interesting story. Hardcore Memphis Tigers fans will remember him as the Chinese guy who was with John Calipari and the rest of the Tiger coaching staff for the entire 2007-08 season in Memphis. As an intern, Cui followed Coach Cal and the team so he could learn their practice structure, up-tempo offense, strength and conditioning methods,and overall team management. After the season in June, he received a Final Four ring from Calipari when he and a group of players from Conference USA came to China for a set of exhibition games and coaching clinics.

Careful NiuBBall readers will recognize Cui as the former head coach of the NBL’s Jiangsu Tongxi, who in addition to winning a championship last year, also helped polish the game of NiuBBall.com Rookie of the Year, Zhu Yanxi. I’ve never seen Tongxi play, but they apparently liked to play fast; not surprising given Cui’s connection with Calipari.

Wang Min the latest head to roll at Jiangsu

Joining Liaoning and Bayi on the list of traditional CBA powers not to make the playoffs this season, Jiangsu is busy cleaning house as they try to recover from a dead last place 9-23 season. Longtime head coach, Xu Qiang, was the first to be axed before his replacement, Hu Weidong, was told not to come back after the season. Not content with just clearing out the bench, Dragons general manager, Wang Min, is also stepping down.

After finishing in fourth place last year after Antoine Wright saved their season from Ricky Davis, one would have hoped that Jiangsu had learned how to pick good imports this season. Instead, they signed Dan Gadzuric and Mardy Collins, both of whom didn’t last more than eight games. Gadzuric was replaced by 2010-11 NiuBBall.com First Teamer, Jackson Vroman, who CBA teams should have never let get away in the first place; Collins was replaced by Marcus Williams (the UCONN one), who may have been the worst import in league history.

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

March 1, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EB: For sure. Bye.

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Bothfeld: Beijing squeaks by Guangsha in Game 1

February 23, 2012

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An embattled Guangsha team entered the playoffs free of any expectations after their star forward Wilson Chandler was released from his contract prior to Game 1.  With his replacement, Rodney White, making his debut, the Lions had no choice but to leave it all on the floor while trying to adapt to their new teammate.

Leave it on the floor they did; adapt to White they didn’t. Beijing squeaked by Guangsha in a closely contested contest, 106-103. Stephon Marbury led the Ducks with 32 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals. He resembled a wrecking-ball as he was able to get to the basket at will.

“We have to stop his penetration and keep him off the free-throw line,” said Guangsha head coach, Jim Cleamons, post-game.

Beijing entered halftime up 55-48, although they should have had a double-digit lead considering they forced 11 Guangsha turnovers compared to their one.

After scoring four points in the first half, White made a concerted effort get going in the third quarter, but was unable to find a rhythm. His rust was obvious as his jumpers fell short and he committed five turnovers, and finished with 7 points on 2 of 13 shooting.

Nevertheless, Cleamons praised his performance.

“I thought he played very hard. This is a very difficult situation so I think he did well considering all the things that could have happened.”

With White a non-factor, P.J. Ramos carried Guangsha’s offense. He continually overpowered Randolph Morris on offense and caused him fits on defense. Morris’ third quarter offensive struggles allowed Guangsha to briefly take a 63-62 lead on a Wang Zirui three. However, after a timeout, Marbury took the reigns of his team’s offense, repeatedly burning his defender and getting to the hoop for lay-ups. With Guangsha’s momentum stalled, Beijing extended their lead to 86-70 at the end of the third.

Cleamons inserted Jin Lipeng in the game to start the fourth and he gave Guangsha the offensive spark they desperately needed. He scored eight early points and helped whittle Beijing’s lead to five with 4:45 minutes remaining. Guangsha continued to chip away at the lead and found them selves within striking distance with under a minute remaining. Up two, Marbury drove to the basket and was rejected by Ramos, which triggered a fast break that resulted in a game-tying lay up by Lin Chih-chieh. With 27 seconds left, Beijing called an isolation play for Marbury. He held the ball at the top of the arc before driving left against White. Wang Zirui cheated towards the lane and Marbury found Wang’s man, an open Lee Hsueh-lin, in the corner for a three. After a timeout, Ramos fumbled the inbounds pass and Guangsha was unable to get up a shot attempt as time expired.

Guangsha can view this game as missed opportunity. They lost on a last second shot despite the fact that White didn’t play well offensively and Marbury and Morris shot a combined 18 of 50. Ramos led the Lions with 26 points and 20 rebounds. Wang Zirui chipped in with a career high 19 points.

Game 2 will be played in Beijing on Friday.

Box Score

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Bothfeld: Guangsha easily defeats a resting Beijing to clinch spot in playoffs

February 16, 2012

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Coming off a disappointing loss to Jiangsu on Sunday and with playoff positioning on the line, Guangsha played with a heightened sense of urgency from the opening tip in their landslide 114-94 victory over Beijing on Wednesday.

Wilson Chandler set the pace in the first quarter, scoring 25 points on an array of outside jumpers and drives to the hoop.  Guangsha built a double-digit lead early and never looked back.

Fortunately for the Lions, Beijing was already locked in as the second seed heading into the playoffs and opted to rest their starters. Stephon Marbury and Randolph Morris, the Ducks’ two leading scorers, played a combined 11 minutes in the first quarter before resting for the remainder of the game.

After the game, Guangsha’s Jim Cleamons commented on Beijing’s rotation. “I understand what the opposing coach did in resting their players. I think we were focused and we would have played well even with their regular rotation. Obviously the game meant more to us than it did to them.”

In the second quarter P.J. Ramos picked up where Wilson Chandler left off, scoring 12 points. The crowd gave a loud ovation when the 7’9 Ming Ming Sun entered the game for Beijing and guarded Ramos. Size is Ramos’ main advantage, but with a taller defender playing 7 feet off him on the perimeter, he showed off his soft shooting touch, torching Ming Ming on multiple occasions.

Up 62-49 heading into the second, Guangsha continued to build their lead until the final horn. Wilson Chandler scored at will and finished with 41 points to go along with 18 rebounds. Ramos chipped in 23 points and 7 rebounds. With Marbury and Morris sitting, the Ducks were led by Zhai Xiaochuan with 18 points.

Heading into the playoffs, Cleamons is beginning to feel more confident about his team. “We are playing better. The challenge is to continue to play better each night. If we can get that consistency and extra effort that we had at the beginning of the season, I think we can be a team that other teams worry about.”

The C.B.A. playoffs are set to begin next Wednesday following this weekend’s All-Star festivities.

Follow Edward Bothfeld on Twitter @bothfeef

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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: Guangsha’s Woes, Looming NBA Paydays And The Best Basketball Jerseys In China

February 11, 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 shortly before last night’s games were played.

Fresh from penning a cracking article about Wilson Chandler for NiuBBall, Edward Bothfeld swings by to talk playoff runs, how to stay true to the CBA but still get paid in the NBA, Guangsha’s malaise, All-Star selections and the best and worst jerseys in the league.

Andrew Crawford: First question, on a scale of 1 to 10, how stressed as a Guangsha fan are you right now?

Edward Bothfeld: I don’t want to put a number on it but I don’t think the Lions will win tonight or Sunday or next Wednesday, and if they are fortunate enough to make the playoffs, I don’t think they will last long. I don’t know what happened before that Qingdao game (the one that snapped their winning streak) but it hasn’t been the same since then. They aren’t playing with any heart- they were lucky to win against Bayi, a game that should have been a blowout. I hope I’m wrong though- tonight will be telling against Beijing

AC: I’m guessing its still the same problem- an over reliance on Wilson Chandler, or do you think there is an even deeper problem going on?

EB: Its the reliance on Chandler and Ramos. Coach Cleamons said at the press conference that on defense, teams are putting a lot guys on Chandler, which is why he is settling for a lot of outside shots. Basically, they haven’t been able to get into a rhythm. If some of the supporting cast could hit some threes, they would be set but Lin Chih-Chieh has really struggled shooting lately and Jin Lipeng can only play a few minutes a night so there’s nothing to take the pressure off of PJ and Wilson, who I think is ready to head home and get back to the Nuggets. Danilo Gallinari, who Chandler would compete for minutes with, is injured so there are a lot of game time available for Wilson right now.

AC: Yeah, the Gallinari injury has been a nightmare for my fantasy team but in real terms, Chandler is suddenly a lot more important for Denver. What sort of fall-out do you think there could be if Guangsha fail to make the playoffs or sneak in but then don’t play very well?

EB: Well, Chandler won’t be back next year and I doubt Cleamons will be either. I think PJ is signed for next season but Guangsha needs some national team players as well as some good imports in order to really make some noise, so if the season ends poorly, there will be a lot of turnover. If I were the GM, I would keep Lin around as well as Wang Zirui, who is the youngest player in the league at eighteen but has earned more minutes as the season has gone along.

AC: Its been a crazy season so far- previously mighty teams like Jiangsu and Bayi have struggled, Xinjiang blew the roster up but are coming back strong and Fujian and Shanghai are still in the playoff mix- do you think we could see any more shocks in the next three games?

EB: The only consistent thing about the CBA right now is Guangdong. It will be interesting to see how the NBA-bound guys play in these last rounds. The Guandong-Xinjiang game will be interesting, although I guess almost every remaining game has playoff ramifications so it’s time to see who’s for real and who isn’t.

AC: The CBA is probably delighted right now- they couldn’t have asked for a more dramatic ending to the regular season. As for the NBA-bound players, I can safely say that Smith is still going hard having seen him do his thing on Wednesday against Shanghai but if I was his agent, I would be going crazy right now- JR’s chasing a multi-million dollar contract and the last thing any normal person would be doing is trying to drive to the basket in heavy traffic or fighting for rebounds with 6″11 forwards. You have to give Smith credit, he’s still going for the win every game despite his itchy feet.

EB: It’s refreshing to see that though. Guys like Smith, Chandler and Brooks are playing for NBA contracts that will most likely set them up financially for life. If I were in their shoes, it would be difficult to know what to do; wouldn’t they feel foolish if one of them suffered a serious injury in one of the last games? Its tricky; there’s something to be said for honoring your CBA contract, but at some point you have to be practical and whether you like it or not, money is an important aspect of life.

AC: Indeed. Looking at Shanghai for a second, they are in seventh place right now. Do you think they’ll still be there after games against Jiangsu, Beijing and Tianjin. First and foremost, I desperately want them to make the playoffs but a lot of people have talked about finishing seventh and getting a Shanghai-Beijing series, which could be massive.

EB: The Jiangsu and Tianjin games should be winnable Beijing might be tough since it’s on the road against a very good team. Ultimately, I think the Sharks will be there and a Shanghai-Beijing series would be a lot of fun

AC: Yeah, an old timers vs. new money derby in the playoffs would be epic, especially after the complete mayhem of the Ducks’ last visit to the Yuanshen. Basically, I just want them to get to the postseason but facing Beijing would make it even sweeter. I’m guessing you saw the All-Star line-ups? Any thoughts?

EB: Well, J.R. Smith is a fan favorite and Marbury was always going to be a safe bet but generally speaking, I don’t put too much into All-Star games. That said, the jerseys are awesome.

AC: Yeah, I will be interested to see who makes the bench- I didn’t think any of the Sharks who got nominated (Liu Wei, Zhang Zhaoxu, Mike Harris) would make the starting line-up but the Chinese pair might slip onto the bench. Is there anyone from Guangsha you think might make the final cut- I’m guessing Chandler is going to be the other overseas player for the South but will anyone else from the Lions creep in?

EB: Maybe PJ? His sheer size and intimidation abilities are an all-star attraction

AC: Perhaps, no chance for Jin or Lin?

EB: Jin is a fan favorite but only plays 18 minutes a night and sometimes doesn’t have any energy at all- it would be different if Guangsha were at the top of the standings but they aren’t, so I don’t necessarily think they deserve to have a bunch of All-Stars.

AC: Alright, last question; we touched upon the awesome All Star jerseys- aside from your team, whose got the best jerseys in the CBA?

EB: I have always liked Zhejiang jerseys- that might be because I’m a Bulls fan back in the States though and they are the Golden Bulls here.I look forward to seeing them live in Hangzhou next Wednesday!

AC: Yeah, I like Zhejiang too but for different reasons ie. the preposterously bright colours. I also like the Fujian Sturgeons jersey but more for the improbable animal that they blaze across the chests. Bayi’s are pretty sweet too- its simple but effective. I would say that Tianjin’s are the worst though. Like the team itself, not very eye-catching and lacking ideas.

EB: If I remember correctly I think Qingdao’s were pretty bland.

AC: I don’t know, I can roll with a bit of Qingdao but that’s just my conservative British tastes coming through. Anyways, I think that’s us done. thanks for your time, man.

EB: No problem. Let’s do it again

AC: For sure. Do you have a prediction for tonight’s Guangsha game?

EB: I think either we win in a tight one or Beijing wins by 10.

AC: Well, good luck all the same.

EB: You too.

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Bothfeld: Guangsha survives Bayi’s late run

February 10, 2012

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“Sometimes you win games and don’t play very well.”

Coach Jim Cleamons’ post-game comment summed up Guangsha’s 90-89 win over Bayi perfectly. The match-up was hard on the eyes and both teams played like it was a rec-league game.

While Bayi is well out of the playoff picture, Guangsha’s lack of intensity is surprising, if not alarming, given they are vying for one of the final playoff spots.

Trying to mix it up and get off to a better start offensively, Jim Cleamons went with P.J. Ramos to start the game. But Guangsha’s offense was still stagnant and finished the first quarter down 16-19. Wilson Chandler, who was under the weather after missing the morning shoot-around with a headache, played the second quarter, scoring 5 points and leading Guangsha to 38-30 half-time lead.

Both teams’ complacent style of play continued in the second half. With Chandler starting the third quarter on the bench, P.J. Ramos scored 9 of his 20 points, including a spin move and lay-up while being fouled – after which he flexed his muscles to rile the crowd. Guangsha was able to score at will against Bayi’s nonexistent defense, but Bayi took advantage of numerous Guangsha turnovers, keeping their deficit within striking distance. Bayi entered the fourth quarter trailing 55-66.

With Guangsha’s turnover party continuing, Bayi, behind Wang Lei’s outside shooting, whittled away at Guangsha’s lead and closed the gap to 2 with 3 minutes remaining. Although Chandler clearly was not on his offensive game, he did come through in crunch time with 3 steals in the final two and a half minutes, all of which led to baskets on the other end. Jin Lipeng made a driving lay-up to put Guangsha up 5 with 10 seconds remaining, putting the game away.

Chandler finished with 14 points on 4 of 14 shooting, but it was Ramos who carried Guangsha offensively with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Wang Lei led Bayi with 29 points.

Signed to be the star of the team, Wilson Chandler has been a non-factor when his team needs him most. He has been held under 15 points in four of the last eight games. On the bench he looks disengaged and doesn’t even wear the team warm up suit – versus Bayi he dawned a lime green sweatshirt. It is likely that he is distracted by his imminent return to the NBA, where he will likely sign an eight-figure contract.

It is also evident that he does not drive to the hoop as much as in the first half of the season, instead settling for outside jumpers. However, Jim Cleamons had his own explanation, “He is being guarded not only by his man, but also by the guy in the middle of the key. If he beats his man, there is always someone to help. That’s why he is settling for more outside jump shots.”

Cleamons went on to say that if Guangsha isn’t shooting the ball well from the outside, that teams can get away with that always sending help to cover Chandler. In the second half of the season, their outside shooting has been suspect.

That said, Wilson Chandler’s recent play leaves something to be desired. In the heat of a competitive playoff race, missing morning practice because of a headache doesn’t pass the sniff test. The rest of Guangsha’s games have playoff ramifications. If Chandler and the Lions don’t show more passion against Beijing on Friday, check your post box, because they are mailing in the season.

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Follow Edward Bothfeld on Twitter @bothfeef

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Bothfeld: In Hangzhou, Wilson Chandler gets by with a little help from his friends

February 9, 2012

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We took our seats at a Western-style restaurant in Hangzhou, China, after another Zhejiang Guangsha Lions win. Wilson Chandler, Guangsha’s star player and the best NBA player under contract in China, scored 19 points and pulled down 8 rebounds that night in the blowout victory over Shanxi.

Joining Wilson and me was Larry, Wilson’s childhood friend and personal manager, his agent Chris Luchey, and Guangsha’s assistant coach Rodney Heard. This was the China Crew.

“Can I get a spoon?” Luchey asked a waitress. She stared blankly so he tried again. “A spooooon,” Luchey slowly pronounced as he carefully drew a picture of the utensil in the air with his finger.

Seemingly simple luxuries of daily life can be difficult for a foreigner living in China, but Chandler and company knew the challenges ahead when he signed his one-year deal with Zhejiang Guangsha in August. It was a well-calculated decision.

At the time, the NBA and the Players Association were embroiled in a bitter labor dispute. Most people involved figured that the lockout would last well into January or even cost the NBA an entire season.

“I thought the lockout would last a while,” said Heard. “My sources in the NBA said [the labor dispute] was a bad one. Everyone else was losing money, [Wilson] would be making money.”

Heard touts an impressive basketball resume and is one of Wilson’s most trusted friends. His coaching career started in the early 90’s when he spent a season in China coaching in Guangzhou before returning stateside to coach at the University of California at Berkeley. After his coaching stints, Stu Jackson (now the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations) hired him as a scout for the Vancouver Grizzlies. He went on to be the director of player personnel for the Atlanta Hawks before being hired as a head scout under Isiah Thomas with the New York Knicks.

In the midst of his NBA personnel jobs Heard also served as the president of the Team Detroit AAU team. It was there he met Luchey, who founded and coached the rival Michigan Hurricanes on the AAU circuit, and the two became good friends.

Chandler didn’t start playing basketball until he was 16, and it was immediately apparent that he had a natural gift for the game from the moment Chris first saw him on the court.

As Heard recounted, “They told us about a good player up in Benton Harbor. There had been good players who came from there before, so Chris went up there, met him, and got him to join the Michigan Hurricanes.”

Chandler played two years of AAU ball under Luchey before heading to DePaul University on a basketball scholarship. Still, Luchey was in constant contact with him and although DePaul was losing, Chandler was blossoming as a player, so much so that he was garnering attention as a prospect for the NBA.

After his sophomore season, Chandler entered the NBA draft and hired Luchey as his agent. At the time, Heard was working for the Knicks as a scout and advised then-GM Isiah Thomas to draft Chandler as the 23rd pick.

“We worked him out for the New York Knicks before the draft. I had worked him out in the summers at different camps — ABCD or Reebok camp, so I was seeing him developing and getting better every summer,” recalled Heard. “He puts in a lot of hard work and is very focused. He doesn’t have a lot of miles on his body. A lot of guys have a lot of miles from before AAU and high school. There is a lot of untapped potential. He could one day potentially be a multiple-time All-Star.”

Upon being drafted by the Knicks, Heard made the conscious decision to take the 20-year-old Chandler under his wing and help him develop as a basketball player and a person. While in season they kept in constant contact and in the off-season Heard is Chandler’s personal trainer.

“I’ve trained him every summer since he’s been in the NBA. We have been trying to develop his game, and I’m proud to say, every year he has gotten better.”

Heard’s assertion is true. In each of his three and a half seasons with the Knicks, Chandler improved in every major statistical category, and averaged a career-high 16.4 points in 2011 before being included as a key piece in the trade to the Denver Nuggets for perennial All-Star Carmelo Anthony, which left Heard devastated. “That was a sad day for me. It was like losing your first-born.”

After the Nuggets’ first round playoff defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA lockout set in and Chandler faced a difficult decision; would he flee the U.S. and play overseas like many of his peers, or would he wait in the States and hope the lockout ended? Chandler was at a pivotal juncture in his career as a restricted free agent. If he were to get injured, he would potentially lose out on a huge payday. On the other hand, playing overseas would allow him to stay in shape and get play a lot of minutes.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for him to grow because he is still developing,” said Heard.  “Guys like Carmelo [Anthony] or Amare [Stoudemire] don’t need to come over, but Wilson still needed game experience.”

After fielding multiple offers from teams in Italy and China, Chandler decided to sign with Guangsha not because they offered the most money, but because it was the right situation. Guangsha’s owner and GM both have a great reputation for their dedication to winning (“GM” as she is referred to, whose name is Ye Xiangyu, even sits on the bench with the team). Furthermore, they had also hired longtime former Chicago Bulls and L.A. Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons as head coach.

When asked about Cleamons’ role in Chandler’s decision Guanghsa, Heard said, “I had met Jim in previous years. He is a great person, a great leader, and a proven winner. It was a good opportunity for Wilson to be coached by him. He has helped Wilson grow as a player and a person.”

Yet as the season approached, Cleamons still did not have a complete coaching staff. As the focal point of the team, Wilson lobbied for Heard to join Guangsha. “I told Chris it would be good if he were here working me out.” Luchey agreed, “It made sense. It’s a short season, both of them are familiar with each other, and having coached in China before, Heard is familiar with some of the issues we would deal with.”

With Guangsha, Chandler has excelled as their leader, averaging 26 points and 11.3 rebounds. These numbers come even though Chandler plays within the team’s game plan. He often enters half time having scored under 10 points, instead looking to get his teammates involved. Then, in the second half he will assert himself, using his strength and athleticism to get to the basket at will and his shooting touch to burn opponents from the outside.

Chandler led Guangsha to a 13-4 record, and for a while it looked like they were legitimate championship contenders. However, they have struggled in recent months and now find themselves at 15-13, in the thick of the playoff race. With his return to the NBA imminent, Chandler has remained committed to his Chinese teammates. In the four games leading up to the Chinese New Year, during which the CBA has a week off, Chandler made only 31 of 104 shots, good for 29%. Instead of heading to the sunny beaches and warm weather of Hong Kong like many of the American basketball players in China, Chandler remained in a cold and wet Hangzhou, working on his game with Heard and shooting over 500 shots a day.

Although his experience in China is coming to and end, Chandler feels he has improved as a basketball player. “I’m getting better in every aspect of the game. Working with Heard every day has been helping with that. I’m a more mature player in terms of my outlook and approach to the game.”

Having been together for the ups and downs of life in China, Chandler’s relationship Heard has also grown. They eat every meal together; sit together on the team bus, and spent a turkey-less Thanksgiving together on the road, instead eating pizza and potato chips. They are also there for each other during bouts of homesickness – Wilson has a young daughter and Heard has a wife and two kids anxiously awaiting their return.

Reflecting on his time With Guangsha, Chandler said, “I won’t forget this experience. I didn’t know what to expect. I came with these guys and it gave me a comfort zone. I got a chance to be with people I know and care about in another country.” “That will probably never happen again in life for us as a group. I don’t think any of us would be able to last without all of us. We need each other.”

Luchey’s spoon finally arrived as we chatted about the other CBA results of the night and which teams would pose Guangsha the biggest threat in the playoffs. The conversation then shifted to the NBA – how the lockout ended and which teams were in need of a wing player.

Upon his return to the NBA, Chandler is likely to rejoin to the Denver Nuggets, who retain his rights and are said to be interested in signing him long term. It’s unclear where Heard will work once the Chinese season is finished, but he will train Wilson during the off-season. “I need a break from Heard for about a month,” laughed Chandler.

Edward Bothfeld can be followed on Twitter @bothfeef

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Bothfeld: Fujian defeats Guangsha behind Zaid Abbas’ determination

February 2, 2012

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In NiuBBall’s season preview, we predicted that with the addition of Zaid Abbas, Fujian could see a drastic turnaround from their disastrous 2011 season, in which they went 8-24. On Tuesday night, Abbas and Fujian proved that they are deserving of their 15-12 record on national television by beating Guangsha 132-125 in a double overtime thriller.

After struggling offensively in recent weeks, Guangsha was hot in the first half, led by Lin Chih-chieh’s 17 points. However, while their offense was flowing, their defense was stagnant. Abbas hit myriad of mid-range jumpers and every time it seemed like Guangsha was about to make run, he grabbed a key offensive rebound or came up with a big steal. He and Will McDonald, who P.J. Ramos had a difficult time guarding on the perimeter, led Fujian to a 63-61 halftime lead with 43 combined points.

After the game, Guangsha coach Jim Cleamons lamented his team’s first half defense, “Our defense in the first half was not very good. We just got beat in one on one situations. We didn’t follow the game plan. We have to be aware and help each other.”

Earlier in the season, the third quarter was when Guangsha would take control of games. Against Fujian, they came out sloppy and committed numerous sophomoric turnovers (including three botched inbounds plays). Fujian took advantage and built a nine-point lead heading into the fourth.

Having stayed in Hangzhou to work on his shot instead of vacationing over the Chinese New Year holiday, Wilson Chandler went to work in the fourth. With Abbas covering him, Chandler muscled his way by him for easy baskets in the lane. Although Chandler was hot, Guangsha couldn’t get any stops on the defensive end, and still found themselves down 95-105 with 6 minutes remaining.

Chandler would not be denied and after a thunderous block of Will McDonald’s lay-up attempt, scored six points in the final 3 minutes and was responsible for the game tying assist with 39 seconds left. Will McDonald missed an open 3 and Guangsha’s Zhang Wei passed up an open jumper only to have the shot clock expire with only a second remaining.

With both teams struggling in the first overtime, Guangsha received a gift from Fujiang Coach Joseph Stiebing, whose frustrations with the spotty officiating boiled over and was given a technical foul. Up with a minute remaining, Guangsha squandered their late lead and allowed Fujian to force a second overtime.

Fujian controlled the second overtime from the get-go, scoring the first 7 points of the frame. During a timeout, Guangsha already looked defeated, if not exhausted. Wilson Chandler hit two late threes to cut into the lead, but Fujian always had an answer and earned an impressive 132-125 victory.

There’s no doubt the player of the game was Zaid Abbas, who accumulated a whopping 25 points, 25 rebounds, 8 steals, 4 assists and 2 blocked shots. He was everywhere.

Jim Cleamons offered Abbas praise, “He’s a very athletic player. I think his athleticism and length bothered Chandler on his shot.”

Chandler, who has been mired in an offensive slump, broke out with 36 points and 21 rebounds on 11 of 28 shooting. He did a great job of getting to the line, but only made 10 of his 16 attempts. As a team, Guangsha missed 9 of 31 free throw attempts and was beat on the boards, 63-51.

“We knock down our free throws, we do a better job of rebounding and we might have a different outcome,” said Cleamons.

Guangsha will hit the road and play Xinjiang and Shanxi this weekend before returning home for three of their final four games. Now in sole possession of 5th place, Fujian will look to finish off the season strong and secure a playoff bid.

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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: Guangsha/Shanghai In Trouble, Play Off Speculation And The Mad, Bad World Of J.R. Smith

January 17, 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.

With the Chinese New Year about to start, its time to talk losing streaks, play off places, JR Smith and hometown bad ass players in another installment of the CBA Water Cooler, where you can have your water hot or cold. Edward Bothfeld and Andrew Crawford break it down.

Andrew Crawford: Well it looks like both our teams are in spectacular funks right now. Shanghai are on a three game losing streak whilst the Lions are in the same situation but with four games down the toilet, right?

Edward Bothfeld: There’s lot’s of struggles all around. I’m starting to worry about Guangsha’s funk. I sit in the first row behind the bench at their home games and they are having trouble playing as a team. I think Wilson [Chandler] and PJ [Ramos] are frustrated that they are relied upon so heavily and I also have a feeling that Wilson is battling some nagging injuries and wants to stay healthy for the NBA season, because let’s face it, he has millions of reasons to be cautious.

AC: For sure. Is the crowd starting to turn on their team or is everyone still singing from the same hymn sheet?

EB: Their last home game was a week ago so we’ll see when they get back. The GM, Ye Xiangyu, who is the very feisty looking woman who sits on their bench, is also very frustrated.

AC: What can Coach Cleamons do to change things; by the sound of things, its down to the players now?

EB: The Chinese players need to play with more confidence instead of when they get behind in a game, praying that Wilson and PJ can bring them back. Jin Lipeng has been out and Lin Chih-chieh hasn’t been able to hit the broad side of a barn recently.

AC: Shanghai are in a similar bad situation, although two of those losses were on the road and the other was against Guangdong. You’ve seen the Sharks move up from the bottom end of the table- do you think this is it for them now or can they still make the play offs?

EB: I think they will make it. I’m sure Marcus Landry is still jet lagged and he and his new team still need to learn to play together. Also, is Mike Harris is injured?

AC: There was a death in his family. It happened before the Jilin game and he didn’t tell anyone and played on. He went home before the Guangdong game.

EB: Any word when he is coming back?

AC: I got the impression he will be back for Dongguan but whenever he does, the crowd will be vocal. They love him in the Yuanshen and something like a death in the family puts everything in perspective. They’ll probably cheer him everytime he touches the ball.

This probably has relevancy to the NBA in its reduced formwat this season too, but previously high-flying teams like Beijing are still in erratic form and now Guangsha and Shanghai are in real lulls- what do you think spark these runs or is every case unique?

EB: Teams become complacent, and their opponents have a chance to do a lot of scouting and watch a lot of tape. Then there are injuries. Its the ups and downs of a basketball season, which is why it’s so exciting.

AC: Well, not if you a Guanghsa, Beijing or Shanghai fan. These next few games are going to be painful. Looking at the play-off run in, who do you think we should look out for besides the obvious names to make the play offs?

EB: Firstly, wouldn’t it be wild if after all the pre-season and early season talk, Xinjiang missed out?

AC: For sure. I don’t think they can ride that home record to a top eight finish place. They might not make it unless they become a bit more ruthless on the road.

EB: I also think Qingdao will make it behind Lester Hudson, but that’s a hunch. I think they’ll overhaul Fujian and contend for one of the top spots.

AC: That’s a interesting call. I don’t want to sound like a bandwagon jumper but Hudson and Osama Daghlas look excellent when they get going. For what its worth, I think Shanxi look legit as well. I think they’ll be trouble for anyone if they get in. I know they’ve got a crazy owner and a slight reliance on their two Americans but they are seriously slick.

EB: Shanxi will make it, but Marcus Williams deserves a lot of the credit this season. He has been unbelievably efficient this season. I have to look twice at his gamelog because I’m curious if it’s even real, but he’s shooting over 80% from three and and 67% on all other FGs according to eurobasket.

AC: Yeah, I had a look myself recently. Its NBA Jam-esqe stuff. Do you think Zhejiang Bulls are going to get a spot?

EB: I think they will but Smith, like Chandler, is another player I would watch as the end of the CBA season approaches and they return to the NBA- he needs to stay healthy to get that next contract. He probably won’t be doing anything too wild now, especially with his sister getting into an altercation recently.

AC: Yeah, i saw it. I think it was interesting that JR Smith has got himself all this attention. It hasn’t felt like K-Mart and Chandler have all this exposure. There does seem to be a bit of a circus going on whenever JR is involved.

EB: Kinda represents his style of play and his erratic way of doing things. He’s just a crazy dude.

AC: When Smith leaves, I think his departure will put a dozen writers out of work. There seems to be a cottage industry based around churning out stories about ‘ JR Smith doing [x]‘. Could the club have protected him more or is this just ”JR being JR’, so to speak?

EB: They probably should have had some preventative measures in place. If they did their homework on him, they would know that he attracts a lot of attention

AC: Alright, last question. Last night, James Singleton decided he was going to bait a capacity Yuanshen crowd in the final quarter of the game and seemed to be revelling in the boos like a heel in a WWE event. For your money, who is the best or most notable villain in the CBA?

EB: I can’t remember who it was, but one of Shanghai’s Chinese players was doing the cocking motion (as if he had a gun) after making a shot, and then putting his hand to his ear because he wanted to hear the crowd.

AC: I’m still really curious to work out who that Shanghai player was. They all seem like such nice young boys who’d help old ladies across the road and always open doors for people. It wasn’t a small guard with light hair and a hefty fringe was it? [I'm thinking of Meng Lingyuan because this sounds exactly like the sort of thing he'd could do when he gets his obligatory fourth quarter adrenaline rush- AC]

EB: I don’t think so. The crowd absolutely hated your short bald guy, although I might be totally wrong and it could have been in the previous game.

AC: I think so – all of our guys are impressively hirsute; they’ve all got the regulation floppy cut. It’s like a K-Pop band strolled out onto the court at times [It is probably Shandong Lions, who were the previous visitors to Hangzhou before Shanghai came to town. The player in question is Sun Jie, who is unquestionably a pest of a player- AC].

EB: On the flipside, PJ is fantastic at getting the crowd going. He will flex and shout after a dunk, and wave his hands in the air to get the crowd on its feet.

AC: I think its written into Harris’ contract that he has to do the same in Shanghai. Tseng Wen-ting is also a kind of a cult hero here. He’s a towering bear of a man with a huge ponytail, massive beard and a nice line in dropping big threes. Its a shame he’s such a nice guy because when you look like Genghis Khan, which he absolutely does, I’d like to see him indulge in some merciless posterising of unsuspecting opposition players and other general bad ass’ery. That said, I also absolutely think its Ramos’ destiny to stay in the CBA and blossom into this force of nature who doesn’t care about what you think. It would be fantastic; baiting crowds, shouting the odds, dunking on people because he can- marvelous.

EB: I don’t think he has any intentions of trying to make it in the NBA, and I’ve been told he could definitely make a team but that he likes it here [in Hangzhou].

AC: Lets hope Ramos is still flexing the guns and terrifying away fans for years to come. Anyway, last week it was cheerleaders, this week its James Singleton and PJ Ramos. Times changes real quick. Have a good holiday, sir.

EB: Thanks. You too.

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Bothfeld: Jin Lipeng more than just a spark off the bench

January 12, 2012

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Video courtesy of NBA247365.com

There is no doubt that Guangsha’s Round 23 bye came at an ideal time. Currently in third place, the Lions have lost three of their last four, and like most professional basketball teams, their players are nursing various injuries and ailments. For Jin Lipeng, the five-day break between games is incredibly important. Now 33 years old, the 6’3 guard is the oldest player on the team and is playing in his 14th CBA season. In the basketball world, he is a senior citizen.

That said, Jin is a major piece to the Guangsha puzzle and has a defined role: to score. Fortunately, this is a role Jin excels in at this stage in his career. He enters most games at the beginning of the second quarter, when star forward Wilson Chandler is on the bench. With Chandler out, Guangsha relies on Jin and center P.J. Ramos to carry the offense, which they do, often immediately looking for their shots.

Coach Jim Cleamons recognizes Jin’s value, “He’s been a real spark off the bench and provided some much needed offense and much needed leadership with the second unit.”

Cleamons is also cognizant of Jin’s age and picks his spots to play him in the second half. Unlike his other players, who he will simply tell they are going in, he asks Jin if he has the energy to play more. “Do you have any bullets left?” Cleamons will ask him.

“I try not to over-coach him. He has tremendous faith in his shot. I try to put him into situations that allows him to do what he does best.” said Cleamons, after Jin hit a game-winning buzzer beater on January 4th against Shandong.

Jin is currently Guangsha’s fourth leading scorer, averaging 11 points per game. After him, there is a sharp drop to Zhang Wei, who scores 6.8 points per contest. What’s striking is that Jin does all of his work in only 17.9 minutes per game, which ranks 8th on the team in playing time.

Looking at his game-log, these 17.9 minutes are critical to Guangsha’s success:

Minutes Points >11 points <11 points
Wins 19.8 12.9 6 8
Losses 13.8 7.1 5 2

As you can see, Guangsha fairs much better when Jin is in the game and producing. Ultimately, Guangsha’s success for the rest of the season and playoffs rests upon the shoulders of Wilson Chandler and P.J. Ramos. But if they have any hopes of making a serious run at the championship, Jin Lipeng will have to have some bullets cocked and ready to fire.

Follow Edward Bothfeld on Twitter @bothfeef

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Guan Weijia: Chandler says Marbury is still NBA material

December 31, 2011

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This article was originally posted on Sheridan Hoops.

BEIJING  - That is the video from the Beijing Ducks’ third consecutive loss after their 13-0 start to the season, a game in which Wilson Chandler scored 44 points and grabbed 18 rebounds.

At one point in the game, Stephon Marbury told his coach he would defend Chandler.

Marbury, 34, is 10 years older, 6 inches shorter, and 15 pounds lighter. “Nobody asked me, but I have to do that. Because at the time my teammates were all out of gas. As the leader of the team, I have to stand out, to do whatever the team needed.”

His defense was good enough that Chandler uttered something that few in America would believe: “Stephon is still in great shape, I don’t think he has lost a step.

“If he wanted, he still can play in the NBA.”

Chandler’s coach, Jim Cleamons, agrees.

“Of course he still has the ability,” Cleamons said. “He lost speed, but he plays smart. He knows how to play. I just wonder if he wants to go back, because he is very happy playing in China.”

It’s true. Marbury is enjoying his time in China.

Chinese fans love him. Although the Ducks lost to Zhejiang Guangsha 118-112, Beijing is still the head horse of the league.

Marbury, who averages 23.3 ppg and 5.6 assists, is recognized the leading MVP candidate after half of the regular season.

“I love China, love people here, I had a hard life in my final years in NBA, but I got a new life in China. I feel reborn here. I think I’m blessed,” Marbury said.

* * *

Here is my midseason All-CBA team (foreign players only)

PG: Stephon Marbury, Beijing Ducks. 23.3 ppg, 5.6 assists, 2.3 steals. Team record: 13-3 (1st place)

SG: J.R. Smith, Zhejiang Guangsha Lions. 35.0 ppg, 5.9 rebs, 3.8 assists, 2.9 steals. Team record: 9-6 (4th place)

SF: Wilson Chander, Zhejiang Guangsha. 28.8 ppg, 12.5 rebs, 2.4 assists. Team record: 12-4 (3rd place)

PF: Charles Gaines, Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons. 28 ppg, 12.7 rebs, 1.2 assists. Team record: 7-8 (10th place)

C: P.J. Ramos, Zhejiang Guangsha Lions. 24.5 ppg, 14.5 rebs, 1.2 blocks. Team record: 12/4 Standing: 3rd

For those unfamiliar with Gaines, he played at Southern Mississippi and caused a furor during the 2010 CBA finals for this one-punch knockout:

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