Tag Archives: Lester Hudson

2012-13 NiuBBall Awards

April 12, 2013

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Way to ruin the suspense, guys.

Why would we write a 2012-13 CBA Awards piece when we already wrote another one elsewhere on the internet?

Because one, there isn’t a word count around these parts. And secondly, it ain’t really a CBA Awards piece unless it’s a NiuBBall Awards piece.

Which are exactly the reasons why we’re busting out another set for the third straight year, written exclusively for you and the rest of our loyal band of supporters.

So enjoy and of course, if you have anything to say, get to posting in the comments section.

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Eyenga replaces Williams in Shanxi; McCants on the way out in Foshan?

January 9, 2013

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After playing the last five games without Marcus Williams — the previous three of which have been losses — the Shanxi Brave Dragons have officially signed a long-term replacement.

Christian Eyenga, who was drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009, has formally been announced as Shanxi’s newest foreign player and has already linked up with the team in Taiyuan. According to Chinese media, the league has received Eyenga’s letter of clearance and he will thus be available to play in tonight’s nationally televised game against Fujian SBS.

Before signing in China, Eyenga was playing in the D-League with the Texas Legends. Eyenga played two seasons in the NBA with the Cavaliers and with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 6.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in 51 total appearances.

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The definitive NiuBBall.com CBA preview

November 22, 2012

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

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

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

Bad thing for NiuBBall’s annual predictions, however.

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

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

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Brian Goorjian Interview (Part 1)

September 24, 2012

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With a clearly evident passion for the game of basketball, DongGuan New Century head coach, Brian Goorjian, has ushered in a new and exciting era in Southern China. (Photo: Osports)

Dwelling on what’s wrong with Chinese basketball is a pastime enjoyed by many, both within China’s borders and outside – one that’s accumulated more participants since the National Team’s summer 0-5 debacle at the 2012 London Olympics. It’s a problem with education system… It’s too political… Chinese bodies aren’t suited for a power sport like basketball… If you’ve got some time to burn, ask somebody what’s wrong with basketball in China and listen.

But what’s right with Chinese hoops? That’s a conversation rarely had, at least in the circles that NiuBBall runs with in Beijing. Which is really too bad. Because constantly dwelling on the wrong  – something we have been guilty of ourselves — is pretty unfair when there’s so much right going on with Brian Goorjian down in DongGuan, Guangdong province.

Stressing comprehensive, long-term Chinese player development, Goorjian and the DongGuan New Century Leopard youth movement have become arguably the best story in Chinese basketball over the last three years; a story that can be better appreciated when you understand some of its background.

Starting with their inception in 2003 and entrance into the Chinese Basketball Association in 2005, the Leopards were mostly known throughout the 2000s as the middling neighbor that happened to share the same town as Chinese Basketball Association powerhouse, the Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers. By no means a bad team, the Leopards went through an average first five years in the league, finishing with back-to-back fourth place finishes in 2007-08 and 2008-09 sandwiched in between three seasons of no playoffs.

Like most CBA teams, DongGuan’s wins and losses generally correlated in part to the success in the selection of their foreign players; hit your mark, like they did with Mike Harris in 07-08 and 08-09, and its a winning season. Miss, and you’re out of the playoffs.

Apparently fed up of that model, DongGuan ownership made a change in philosophy when they hired Goorjian as a consultant in 2009. Known as the most successful coach in Australian professional basketball history (six NBL championships, over 400 wins and .700+ winning percentage), Goorjian has built himself an unquestioned reputation in winning and developing players, the latter of which appealed greatly to a forward-thinking club that is focused on structuring a team that will rely not on its foreigners, but rather on its Chinese players.

Goorjian, who also served as the Australian Men’s National Team head coach from 2001-08, a time in which he oversaw two trips to the Olympics and one to the FIBA World Championship, has not disappointed in spearheading that change. Coming in first as a consultant in 2009 while he was serving as an assistant on the China National Team bench under then-head coach, Guo Shiqiang, the Pepperdine alumni ended up leading DongGuan’s youth team to a championship at the end of the summer. Impressed with the work he was doing with their young players, management elected to hire him as head coach of the senior team in 2010-11. In his debut year, the Leopards — relying on heavy contributions from a mix of veteran and young Chinese players in addition to solid play from their two foreign players – finished in third place at 25-7 before going down to Guangdong in the CBA semi-finals. Using the same formula this past year, they  went 19-13, eventually losing to Xinjiang in the first round of the playoffs.

But heading into his third season at the reigns, Goorjian and his Leopards are looking to make a big leap due largely in part because his vision of building a Chinese-centric roster is coming to fruition. Backed by an owner who is committed to the concept of player development, investing large amounts of money in coaching, youth teams and infrastructure — including a state-of-the-art training facility that is partnered with the NBA, the only one of its kind in the world — the 59 year-old has been able to carry his success from Down Under to southern China, getting wins, improving players and building a club capable of sustaining long-term success. And with an average team age of around 24 years-old, the sky seems to be the limit — so much so that Goorjian has on record as saying the team’s goal is to win a championship in three years.

Which brings us back to that whole post-Olympics, how-to-fix-Chinese-basketball-debate. Sure, there’s no simple solution and opinions differ. But, one thing remains certain — if every team was being run the same as DongGuan, we likely wouldn’t be having that conversation as much, or at all.

Thankfully, Goorjian agreed to have a conversation with NiuBBall.com late last week, one that was so thorough and detailed that we had to split it up into two parts. With palpable excitement, the DongGuan head man talked about his thoughts on the upcoming season while also shedding light on his own philosophy on player development, the latter of which will come in Part 2 on Tuesday.

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Urumqi reunion: James Singleton to return to Xinjiang (and other updates on CBA imports)

September 20, 2012

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After spending last season in Guangdong, James Singleton is thumbs-upping a return back to Xinjiang.

Some say time is the best healer. Apparently, “some” include the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers and James Singleton, who after splitting up on bad terms a year ago are now ready to get back together.

On Tuesday, Xinjiang general manager, He Changjiang, confirmed what most people around Chinese basketball had known since the beginning of September: That Singleton and Xinjiang have come to an agreement over a contract for this upcoming season. The deal is believed to be two years, though He publicly denied that there is a set arrangement for 2013-14.

Singleton spent his first season in China with Xinjiang in 2010-11 and along with Quincy Douby, brought the franchise to within two games of their first ever CBA title before losing to the Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers in the Finals.

But instead of bringing the 2010-11 NiuBBall.com First-Teamer back for another crack last season, Xinjiang instead opted to let the bruising and versatile 6-7 forward walk out the door, choosing a locked out Kenyon Martin to act as his replacement.

The decision was made mostly in part to a deteriorated relationship between Singleton and Chinese head coach, Jiang Xingquan. Jiang, who is known in China as the strictest and most uncompromising coaches in professional basketball, and his American forward never really saw eye-to-eye on much, and the dynamic between the two ultimately came to a breaking point late in the year. After the season, Singleton went on to call Jiang “military” on a radio interview.

With Jiang back in the fold last season, first as a consultant then later as head coach, both sides felt it was time to move on. Singleton stayed in China, joining Guangdong Hongyuan, the team that beat Xinjiang the year before. Paired up with Aaron Brooks, Singleton went back to the Finals, only this time losing to Beijing Shougang in five games.

Now, Singleton will be back in Urumqi wearing Flying Tigers colors once again. So why the change in heart?

With the well known history between Jiang and Singleton, its likely safe to assume that the 72 year-old former China National Team head coach is not going to be involved with the team this year. If that is indeed the case, Xinjiang will have quite a new look in 2012-13 — both on the bench and in the front office. Longtime team president, Hou Wei, resigned earlier in the off-season shortly after Xinjiang announced the hiring of new head coach, Cui Wanjun.

As in 2010, when he first arrived in China, Singleton rejected the veteran’s minimum from the Washington Wizards this summer, opting instead to come back to China where the money is better and the playing time more plentiful. Singleton returned to Washington after the Chinese season was over in April, appearing in 12 games and averaging 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game.

Although it’ll be a fresh start for Singleton this year, the championship expectations will still be the same. Singleton will join up with Von Wafer, who signed with the Flying Tigers earlier in the summer after Douby left the team to sign with the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls. With yet another expensive duo of foreigners and a good Chinese roster that will be further bolstered by the re-addition of longtime Liaoning shooting guard, Zhang Qingpeng, who spent 2010-11 with Xinjiang, winning the club’s first title will be the only thing on anybody’s mind in northwest China this year.

Last year with Guangdong, Singleton averaged 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds.

And in other news on CBA imports…

Lester Hudson goes back to southern China, this time with DongGuan

The two-year CBA vet, who spent last year with the Qingdao Double Star Eagles and the year before that with Guangdong Hongyuan, was officially announced as the DongGuan New Century Leopards’ second import on Tuesday. Hudson will find his surroundings very familiar: Not only will he be playing in the same city from two years ago, he’ll also be playing with the same foreign teammate, Marcus Haislip, who combined with Hudson in 2010-11 to win a championship with Guangdong Hongyuan.

The signing of Hudson caps off a busy off-season for the Leopards, who in addition to bringing in two new imports, have also brought in Jilin point guard, Yu Shulong, and Taiwanese guard/forward, James Wang.

Shanghai signs Elijah Millsap; second import to join team in Australia?

Per Shanghai’s official website, the Sharks will be starting the season off with the 6-6 guard/forward on the wing. Millsap, who is the younger brother of Utah Jazz power forward, Paul Millsap, spent the last two seasons in the NBA D-League with the Tulsa 66ers and the Los Angeles D-Fenders. He attended the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 2009-10, playing there for one season after transferring from Louisiana-Lafayette in 2008.

As for their other foreign player, Titan Sports Weekly is reporting that the yet-to-be-named player will join Shanghai during their exhibition tour in Australia. Chinese media is reporting that at present, Mike Harris, who has spent the last two years with the club, is the odds-on-favorite to team up with Millsap.

Foshan brings back Michael Madanly as Asian import, inks Jerome Randle and Eric Dawson to round out foreign lineup

The Dralions, who once again spent last season in the CBA cellar floor, have opted to bring back Asian import, Michael Madanly. The Syrian swingman, who was forced to play point with injuries and a general lack of Chinese talent at the position, averaged 22 points. 6.6 rebounds and 6.5 assists in 37 minutes per game in his first season in China.

To attempt and tackle that exact problem, Foshan is bringing in former Cal-Berkeley standout and 2010 Pac-10 Player of the Year, Jerome Randle. The speedy 5-10 point guard played in Ukraine and the D-League last season after spending 2010-11 in Turkey with Allaga Petkim and Turk Telecom.

To round out their trio of foreigners, Foshan is also bringing in power forward Eric Dawson. A 6-9 power forward, Dawson spent either part or all of the last five seasons in the D-League with the Austin Toros, with trips to the Dominican Republic, Japan and Korea mixed in. Last season, Dawson was signed to consecutive 10-day contracts by the San Antonio Spurs, appearing in four games and averaging 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 9.8 minutes. He also won D-League Impact Player of the Year, averaging 17.2 points and 10.8 rebounds on 56% shooting.

Zhejiang Chouzhou chooses Denzel Bowles to play alongside Quincy Douby

Bowles, who went undrafted out of James Madison University in 2011, spent last season in the Philippines with B-MEG. In 24 games, Bowles went for averages of 38.1 minutes, 26.3 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. In the deciding Game 7 of the PBA Finals, the 6-10 forward/center went off for 39 points and 21 boards, including 11 of his team’s 14 points in overtime, to lead B-MEG to a championship. In all, Bowles won Best Import Award and finished as the league’s top scorer and rebounder.

With Douby returning from a wrist injury that kept him out the entire season last year, and the addition of Gong Songlin, the Golden Bulls could very well indeed be a top four team if Bowles can carry his impressive PBA performance into the CBA.

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Tuesday Night Chuanr

April 10, 2012

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Nighttime links served up proper with a hearty helping of lamb on a stick.  The beer is on you, though.
  • Josh Akognon is with the D-League’s Canton Charge with an eye on becoming the 11th CBA import this season to sign with an NBA team.
  • James Singleton, who is now on a 10-day getting good minutes in the NBA with the Wizards, thinks that the CBA’s decision to delay Game 5 of Beijing and Shanxi’s semi-finals series was set-up to give Stephon Marbury some time to rest and recover. From the Washington Post: “They wanted to give him a chance to rest. I don’t care what nobody say.”
  • Meanwhile, the Wizards’ other China guy on a 10-day, Cartier Martin, is the subject of a lengthy, must-read piece in the Post about his quest to secure a permanent deal in the NBA and a suicide and Ponzi scheme that’s making it a whole lot tougher.
  • Hopefully China won’t have to see this dude the next time they play Lebanon in FIBA Asia competition.
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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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Extended season – CBAers in the NBA

April 7, 2012

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Lester Hudson is one of a growing number of players who have signed in the NBA after playing this season in China. (Photo: AP)

With a 2012 CBA season that was filled with rabid fanaticism, deception, fighting girlfriends, redemption, and even a playoff upset officially in the books, most foreign imports have returned to their native lands. But just because the CBA season is over doesn’t mean that it’s time for a vacation – there is still a month left in the NBA. Teams are either making their playoff push or preparing for next season by offering 10-day contracts auditions.

A handful of this season’s CBA players are now playing in the NBA. Let’s see how they’re fairing:

Kenyon Martin (Xinjiang)– Along with Coach Bob Donewald, Martin was Xinjiang’s prize free agent acquisition last summer. With the NBA lockout in full force, Martin, who has missed considerable time with injuries the last few seasons, was merely looking for some run until the NBA season started. But, Martin impacted the season far more after he left China: First, Xinjiang bought out his contract shortly before Christmas, which gave him a stress-free return back to the United States. On top of that, he was able to get his FIBA release thanks to the CBA’s 10-day annual Spring Festival break, despite the league’s strict no-opt out policy that forbade players from returning to the NBA mid-season.

Past his early and mid-2000s prime, Martin is now better served playing off the bench. The L.A. Clippers started the season with rookie Trey Thompkins and Brian Cook backing up Blake Griffin. Ouch. With a gaping hole behind Griffin, the Clippers inked Martin to a one-year, $2.5 million deal. He is now the first big man off the bench and plays 20 minutes a game averaging 5 points and 4 rebounds.

NYTimes.com – Kenyon Martin beats the China trap with the old Lunar New Year play

Wilson Chandler (Guangsha) – After watching his former teammate Kenyon Martin bolt for the NBA, both Wilson Chandler’s effort level and the Guangsha Lions’ record took a nosedive starting in January. Ultimately, he left the CBA just before the beginning of the playoffs in search of a large, multi-year contract.

After a month of posturing, he scored a five-year, $37 million deal with the Denver Nuggets (I’m sure his Guangsha teammates understand).  In his seven games with the Nuggets, he is averaging 11 points, six rebounds, a block and a steal per game. He is currently nursing a groin injury but should be back on the court soon.

HoopsWorld – Wilson Chandler Struggles to to Re-Adjust to NBA
ESPN TrueHoop - Wilson Chandler, Back at Last 

J.R. Smith (Zhejiang) – With his roller-coaster season in China complete, Smith returned to the States and fielded multiple offers. He spurned the Lob City Clippers to get in on the Linsanity with the New York Knicks.

With the Knicks, Smith is doing what he does best: shoot threes. While he still hasn’t found his stroke (37% FG) or put up one of his patented 40-point explosions, Smith is averaging 10 points off the bench. He’s also carried a lot of the controversy that followed him in Zhejiang to New York, where he’s been fined for posting “inappropriate pictures” on his Twitter account, ejected from a game for a flagrant-2 foul (which has since been downgraded to flagrant-1) and criticized by head coach, Mike Woodson, for sagging his shorts.

With Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire likely out for the season, there won’t be any shortage of shots for Smith in the near future; nor does it seem there will be any shortage of Smith headlines.

NYPost.com – Knicks coach tells Smith he wants ‘his shorts pulled up’
Posting and Toasting – J.R. Smith got fined 25,000 for his photography
NiuBBall.com – J.R. Smith fined a million dollars for missing practices?

Aaron Brooks (Guangdong) – As a restricted free agent, Brooks is in the same boat that Wilson Chandler was in when he returned from China. Brooks’ rights are owned by the Suns, who are the only team he can negotiate with until this summer’s free agency period starts. That being said, he might decide to sit out the remainder of the season until he can field contract offers from other teams, which would give him negotiating leverage. The Suns aren’t going anywhere this season and prefer allowing Steve Nash to ride into the sunset, John Wayne style, rather than signing Brooks.

But after giving up a first round pick and Goran Dragic for Brooks, the Suns would look awfully foolish if they are unable to come to terms on a contract this summer.

Arizona Republic – Suns face some tough decision on Aaron Brooks
Suns.com – Lance Blanks checking in from China
NBA.com – Suns GM Headed to China to Visit Aaron Brooks

Ivan Johnson (Qingdao) – Johnson had a cup of tea in Qingdao this year before he was replaced by Olumideye Oyedeji, despite putting up some really good numbers. After he went back to the States, he was quickly snapped up by the Atlanta Hawks, who needed some size in the interior due to an injury to Al Horford. To a lot of people’s surprise, Johnson, playing his first year of NBA ball at age 27, has stuck and played some key minutes off the bench.

In 46 games, he’s averaging 15 minutes, 5.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Associated Press: Hawks’ Ivan Johnson making good as rookie at 27
Atlanta Journal Constitution – Hawks’ other Johnson making a name for himself

Cartier Martin (Jilin) – Martin has dabbled in the NBA for a few seasons now and was most recently signed to a 10-day contract with the Washington Wizards. After trading one of the NBA’s most notorious chuckers, Nick Young, the Wizards suddenly needed a SG to backup Jordan Crawford.

Martin has answered the call. In only his second game with the team, the former Jilin star scored 20 points on 12 shots while helping the Wizards snap a 5-game losing streak. In his six games with the team, he is averaging eight points and four rebounds. With the Wizards out of the playoff hunt, look for Martin to get some serious run down the stretch if he’s signed to another contract. If he continues his early success, Martin might be lucky enough to find himself on the Wizards opening night roster next fall.

Wizards Insider – Cartier Martin ‘excited’ to be back with Wizards
Truth About It – Cartier Martin. Back. (And why Martin is immediately the Wizards’ best 3-point shooter) 

Lester Hudson (Qingdao) – Qingdao’s mighty mouse, Lester Hudson was narrowly beat out by J.R. Smith for the CBA’s scoring crown.  The little man can fill it up, although he is the definition of a volume shooter.

Nonetheless, his successful CBA season got the attention of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who in turn signed him to a 10-day contract. The Cavaliers lost backup PG Daniel Gibson for the season and now their pending rookie of the year Kyrie Irving could be out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. What does that mean?  Hudson and little-known Donald Sloan will be the only ones competing for minutes in the Cavs’ backcourt. If Hudson can make a good impression on the rest of the league this season, he could find his niche as a Nate Robinson-type energy man and land a longer contract.

Akron-Beacon Journal: Lester Hudson escapes past, takes long road to NBA
The News-Herald: Lester Hudson picking up offense as quickly as he can

Gerald Green (Foshan) – Of all CBA imports, Gerald Green’s NBA success is the most impressive. Drafted out of high school by the Boston Celtics in the 2005 NBA draft, an immature Green entered the league knowing how to do two things: jump and shoot. Unfortunately, the jumping only won him a slam dunk contest and his poor shooting found him jobless.

He’s been a basketball vagabond the past few seasons and was on Foshan’s roster opening night. Green only lasted 4 games before being released, but averaged a robust 26.5 points.

After his departure from China, Green signed a 10-day contract with the Lakers, who were looking for some athleticism on the wing. Things didn’t pan out in Hollywood and Green was once again on the move, this time to New Jersey. The Nets signed him to two consecutive 10-day contracts before signing him for the rest of the season. In New Jersey, Green has found his role as a scorer off the bench. For the season, he is averaging 12 points on 49% shooting in nearly 24 minutes. He has scored 20 or more points 5 times this season.

If this impressive extended audition continues, Green will probably find himself a multiyear deal this summer with an NBA team.

SI.com – Green Energy: After humbling fall, ex-dunk champ rises again in NBA
NY Daily News – Gerald Green’s 3-month roller coaster
New Jersey Examiner - Gerald Green continues to defy the odds

James Singleton (Guangdong) – It was a short turnaround for Singleton, who just a week ago was bounced from the CBA finals by the Beijing Ducks. Fortunately, he doesn’t have much time to dwell on Guangdong’s finals disappointment, as he was awarded with a 10-day contract with the Washington Wizards. It’s not his first stint in Washington. Singleton was sent over to D.C. as part of the trade that sent Caron Butler to the Mavericks in 2010. He impressed enough in 32 games to get a one-year deal, but elected to sign a more lucrative contract in China the next season.

With Trevor Booker and Nene Hilario battling injuries – and who knows if they will return this season with the Wizards already eliminated from the playoffs – Singleton played 14 minutes in his first game with the Wiz. The results? Not like his CBA numbers — he had zero points, two rebounds and a whopping five personal fouls. Anyone who’s made the China-to-America trip knows a thing or two about jet lag, however and with another day and some more hours of sleep under his belt, he rebounded tonight with a 13 points and nine rebounds.

Bullets Forever – James Singleton Is Returning To The Washington Wizards

Patty Mills (Xinjiang) — The Australian point guard was embroiled in a controversial break-up with Xinjiang this season after the team accused him of faking a hamstring injury, a claim with Mills vehemently denied. Like Martin, Mills left China mid-season; unlike Martin, however, he was unable to get his FIBA release and was forced to sit in the U.S. while the Flying Tigers finished out their season.

But once Xinjiang was swept out of the semi-finals by Guangdong, Mills faced another obstacle towards getting back onto an NBA court — the Portland Trail Blazers, who still held his rights. With a full roster, a new coach and a front office in transition, it was unclear what Portland was going to do with Mills. In March, they ultimately decided to renounce Mills and after weighing offers from a couple of teams, he signed a two-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs. After working out his work visa papers, he suited up for his first game on March 27th at Phoenix.

Mills, who will represent the Boomers this summer in London, is in an excellent situation in San Antonio. Not only is he getting some much needed game reps before the Olympics, he’s also playing under Australian National Team head coach, Brett Brown, who works as an assistant on the Spurs staff. It may have been a long road back to the League, but it looks like Mills has landed in a good spot.

NBA.com – A Bright Light from Down Under

Alan Anderson (Shandong) – Anderson signed a 10-day with the Toronto Raptors on March 26th and was good enough to earn another one. It’s his second stint in the League — he spent two years with the Bobcats in 05-06 and 06-07. He has appeared in six games for the Raps, averaging 5.8 points and two rebounds in 16 minutes.

Raptors HQ – Raptors Re-Sign Uzoh and Anderson, Ink D-League PG Dentmon
National Post – Raptors’ Alan Anderson finds another soft landing in Toronto

Follow Edward Bothfeld on Twitter @bothfeef

 

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The 2011-12 CBA season in numbers

April 3, 2012

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Qingdao’s Lester Hudson shot the ball way more than anybody else in China this year. (Photo: Osports)

The 2011-12 CBA season is officially in the books. And so are the different numbers and statistics that were accumulated over the years. Now, they’re on a computer screen in English for your enjoyment. If there were any numbers that stood out to you this season, feel free to write them in the comments.

More good post-season CBA wrap stuff to come…

59: Combined amount of field goals (38) and free-throws (21) attempted by J.R. Smith against Shanxi on January 8th. He finished the game with 58 points. Zhejiang lost the game at home 128 – 110.

60: Points scored by J.R. Smith against Qingdao on February 1st, the most scored in a single game this season and third all-time. Andre Emmett holds the league’s single-game record with 71, achieved in March 2010. In the game, J.R. hit 14 threes which is the second most ever made in a single game behind the 15 Leon Rogers made in 2008-09.

2: Number of altercations with opposing team fans J.R. Smith’s sister, Stephanie, got into this season. She was eventually banned by the team towards the end of the season in early February from attending home and away games.

24: Threes shot by Lester Hudson against Shanxi on January 18th. He made 10 of them and finished the game with 45 points. Qingdao lost at home 110-106.

481: Amount of three-point shots taken by Lester Hudson over 32 games, most in the league. Second was DongGuan’s Josh Akognon with 368.

851: Total number of field goal attempts taken by Lester Hudson, most in the league.

15-17 and 12-12: Shots made and attempted by Liaoning’s Han Dejun, the first of which came on December 23rd against Shanxi; the second against Foshan on January 11th. Han finished the year with a 57% field-goal percentage.

41: Points scored by Qingdao’s Li Gen against Beijing on February 11th, a season high for Chinese scorers. It was also a career high for Li. He finished the year as the league’s top Chinese scorer with a 17.5 point per game average.

1952: Career assists by Shanxi’s Lu Xiaoming, most all-time in CBA history. Lu passed Jiangsu’s Hu Xuefeng on February 15th against Guangdong.

8392: Career points scored by Bayi’s Wang Zhizhi, second most all-time in CBA history. Wang passed Liu Yudong, who finished his career with 8387 points, on February 12th against Liaoning.

8711: Career points scored by Zhu Fangyu, most all-time in CBA history. Zhu passed Liu Yudong on January 1st against Jiangsu.

9 and 10: The total number of wins for Jiangsu and Bayi this season respectively, both of which are franchise worsts.

18,000: Number of fans who attended Games 1, 4 and 5 of the CBA Finals, a CBA record for attendance.

59%: Marcus Williams’ three-point shooting percentage according to Sina.

62%: Marcus Williams’ three-point shooting percentage according to Asia-Basket.

49%: Marcus Williams’ three-point shooting percentage according to NetEase.

4.4: Points averaged in the Finals this year against Beijing by Wang Shipeng. Last season against Xinjiang, he averaged 22.7 en route to a Finals MVP.

32%: Stephon Marbury’s three-point percentage during the regular season, a three-year CBA career low.

44:% Stephon Marbury’s three-point percentage during the Finals.

4: The number of teams who have won a CBA championship — Beijing, Guangdong, Shanghai and Bayi.

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2011-12 NiuBBall Awards

March 7, 2012

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Stephon Marbury is understandably fired up upon being awarded as the 2011-12 NiuBBall CBA Most Valuable Player. (Photo: Osports)

It’s a most wonderful time to be a basketball fan in China: While the NBA season continues post-All Star break and the NCAA’s big boys are starting up their conference tournaments, we China folk are three weeks into our own Chinese Basketball Association’s post-season. With two excellent semi-finals match-ups getting ready for Game 2 tonight, we here have plenty to look forward to in the immediate while also knowing that our TVs will be flickering with March Madness (if you don’t mind staying out or getting up at insane hours) and the NBA Playoffs very shortly.

Call it an embarrassment of riches if you want — with Slingbox DVR coming soon to the NiuBBall residence, we’re just going to call it Niu Bi.

Since we’re always in the giving mood, we’re going to share the Niu Bi feeling with the release of our second annual NiuBBall CBA Awards. Please, do comment. But know that all selections were based solely on the regular season; whatever’s already happened in the post-season had nothing to do with anything written below.

Enjoy.

Most Valuable Player: Stephon Marbury, Beijing Shougang

It was close. As in really, really close. So close in fact, that we even debated calling it a tie.

There are, of course, no ties when declaring the highly prestigious NiuBBall Most Valuable Player award, so that inner-debate didn’t last too long.  But that we even considered calling it a split speaks to how painfully difficult the decision ultimately came.

More importantly, it speaks to the consistent excellence that Marcus Williams and Stephon Marbury displayed over the course of this season.

For a while, it was easy to put the two already been-there-done-that established Chinese Basketball Association stars out of mind — after all, the entire world’s eyes were completely fixed on the league’s shiny new box of locked-out NBA players who opted to seek refuge in cash-rich China. And though you won’t get us to deny that the NBA-to-CBA exodus was the hands-down story of the year, you will hear us say this:In the year that saw Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Aaron Brooks, Josh Powell, Rodney Carney, Dan Gadzuric, Cartier Martin and Mardy Collins all start the season in the Middle Kingdom, perhaps the just as big story that emerged was that Marbury and Williams have more than enough talent to follow them back to the League.

Yes, they’re that good.

Virtually everyone already knew that about Marbury, who after all spent 13 seasons in the NBA before making his trans-continental journey to China in 2010. (Likewise, virtually everyone knows that he has no desire to return.) Yet, there is something to be said about the now 35 year-old guard who just completed Beijing’s transformation from a fringe playoff squad into the second best team in the league.

Though he came up just short in his bid for NiuBBall MVP, Marcus Williams had a dominant season in Shanxi. (Photo: Osports)

At that age, most players would be allowed to take a more secondary role and allow their younger teammates to do most of the heavy-lifting. Not in China though, where foreigners, both young and old, are depended to put up big numbers with a win every game. He’s done just that, averaging 24.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists. The well-rounded numbers and the 21 wins add up to his finest season in China.

After spending his debut half-season in Shanxi followed by a full one in talent-bereft Foshan without any taste of the post-season, Steph came to the capital city this season with the all-around expectations that the Ducks were going to be a top-tier team. And as we all know, he didn’t disappoint in delivering. Finding the perfect balance between calling his teammates’ number and calling his own, Marbury has reinvigorated a perennially mediocre franchise while simultaneously embedding himself and every Beijing game into the city’s culture. Already a favorite for his well-documented affinity for China and its people, he’s endeared himself even more to fans by playing with pedal-to-the-medal maximum effort in every game — which in this league, isn’t always a given when it comes to foreigners.

His adeptness at balancing the two responsibilities have had positive effects on more than just his own personal popularity, however. Steph gets love from just about everyone in Beijing, but the two guys who should be showing the most are Zhu Yanxi and Zhai Xiaochuan, who before teaming up with their Coney Island point guard were two relatively unknown and unproven first year CBA players. Now, after a season running the floor and spotting up for open shots alongside him, both are very likely to be invited to National Team camp this spring.

Couple that with Ma Bu Li’s counseling of J.R. Smith, keeping up with a weekly China Daily column, running a shoe business and coping with injuries to key players Lee Hsueh-lin and Chen Lei, and you can really understand that he pretty much did it all and then some the Ducks this season.

To Williams’ credit, he’s done more than his fair share in Taiyuan as well. In his junior season in China, the silky point-forward had an even better campaign in Shanxi than he did with Zhejiang Chouzhou last year when he was throwing up triple-doubles on the regular. Showing almost no weaknesses in his offensive game, Williams put up 32-5-4 while shooting a staggering 60% from inside the three-point line and somewhere between 40-100% from outside it. Previously famous for their eccentric owner and object-throwing fans, the 6-7 former Arizona product now has people talking about the Brave Dragons’ first ever post-season berth. After scoring 40 points to pace Shanxi’s Game One semi-finals win over Marbury and the Ducks, he has them only two games away from an even bigger first — a trip to the Finals.

In the end, it’s Marbury with the slight edge. Even if the Ducks’ 13 game win streak to start the season — the best start in franchise history, we add — was somewhat soured by their late season swoon, we’ll push it aside for all of the things Marbury has sweetened in Beijing this season.

Defensive Player of the Year: Zaid Abbas, Fujian SBS

On Sina and hoopCHINA, Zaid Abbas is the league’s leading rebounder. On NetEase and Sohu, he’s second behind Donnell Harvey. The lesson: No matter how mundane the question, there is hardly an easy answer in China.

The CBA’s best defensive player, though? An exception to the rule.

You can say xie xie to Abbas for that, who either averaged 14.5 or 14.9 rebounds per game this season in Fujian, the highest of his three year career. Relentless, tireless and tough on the defensive end of the floor, Abbas is a perpetually in-motion nightmare that opponents have to live with for close to 41 minutes per game. His teammates and coaches on the other hand can’t live without him — he does the defensive dirty work (actually guarding opposing imports, sprinting back on D, diving for loose balls) that nobody else wants to get close to.

Sure, maybe he gambles a bit too much for some people’s tastes. For us though, even if he misses a wild steal or falls for a pump fake, his always running motor means he’s getting right back into the play. And in a league where good defense is still pretty hard to find, that’s more than good enough for us.

Coach of the Year: Dan Panaggio, Shanghai Dongfang

No matter who thought what about the triangle offense coming to Shanghai this season (or Guangsha and Fujian for that matter), one thing was always going to be certain: Dan Pannagio was going to teach it and he was going to stick with it, no matter how bumpy the initial process was going to be.

And oh, were there bumps. Seven of them in the Sharks’ first nine games, to be exact. Not deterred by a slow start, however, Panaggio remained patient and maintained his faith in his players and his three-sided offense. The long-term approach paid off. By season’s end, Shanghai had an 18-14 record and was in the playoffs as a No. 6 seed after missing out the year prior.

Despite a number of obstacles, Dan Panaggio successfully installed the triangle in Shanghai. (Photo: Osports)

Though people point to their big away win at Bayi as the turning point in the season, the improvement within the team didn’t happen overnight. Pannagio’s hard work in establishing an offense that demands high-IQ spacing and reads started well before the season in the long months of September and October, when he went to work teaching the basic principles of the offense. To assist in the process, he brought in Phil Jackson disciple, Kurt Rambis, in pre-season to help lay the groundwork. As the record indicated, it wasn’t pretty in the beginning, but as anyone who watched Shanghai-Shanxi last week can attest to, the Sharks can and do run the triangle effectively as their primary offense.

Getting his players comfortable and successful enough in the offense was just one part of the challenge this season, however. Arguably just as tough was convincing his very much set-in-his-ways team captain/National Team starting point guard, Liu Wei, to buy into an equal opportunity offense that basically takes the ball out of his hands for most of the shot clock. On top of that, a season ending injury to Ryan Forehan-Kelly in January, whose leadership, knowledge of the triangle and fourth quarter clutchness were all major factors in Shanghai’s progression, had the potential to totally ruin the Sharks’ year.

Though some adjusting on both parts, Liu Wei was eventually brought around. Due to some solid homework on RFK’s replacement, Marcus Landry, Shanghai never missed a beat after the injury. And thanks to Panaggio’s other main point, Shanghai’s lead leading defense, the team was able to build an identity that they’ll continue to develop next season when he comes back to take the reigns for a second year. With the already noticeable improvement in Shanghai’s Chinese players from Year One, it’s tough not to feel good abou what may come in Year Two.

Panaggio’s not the only coach with a long-term vision on our mind, though. Brian Goorjian deserves serious props for the job he did this in DonGuan. Picked by some idiot to finish out of the playoffs before the season started, Goorjian righted a potentially disastrous 0-4 start to the season to steer the Leopards to a 19-13 record. A coach who is completely committed to developing Chinese players, he’s doing wonders down in Guangdong province with an improving young core that will likely comprise a good chunk of the Senior National Team later this decade.

For a country that likes to talk about developing its own players, but still hasn’t found a way to successfully find a way to do it yet, the Shanghai-Panaggio and DongGuan-Goorjian combos are two examples that the CBA should look to if they are indeed truly serious about improving Chinese basketball.

Most Improved Player: Zhang Zhaoxu, Shanghai Dongfang

This award didn’t exist last year, simply because in our first season of really following the league, we didn’t really know the players well enough to confidently declare someone “most improved.” Upon completing our second season, however, our feeling on that matter has changed quite drastically. As has our opinion of the guy who’s taking away this award, Zhang Zhaoxu.

Known to many by his English name “Max,” the 7-3 center’s biggest claim to fame where the three years he spent in the Bay Area playing for Cal. Last season, with his eye on a National Team spot for the 2012 London Olympics, he decided to forego his senior season and sign in the CBA with the Sharks, who at the time were coached up by Team China’s head coach, Bob Donewald. Expected to come in and be a presence in the paint, Max was slow to adjust from college to the pros.

Based on what we saw from last season and this summer, it was tough to really be excited about him this year.In his second season though, Max has improved in every facet of the game to become one of the best domestic big men in the PRC. Defensively, he was good at protecting the basket and discouraging easy looks around the basket — one of the reasons behind Shanghai’s league leading defense. Now a nightly double-double threat, he’s improved his numbers almost across the board, including his free throw percentage which jumped up from 60% to 72%. And though his hands are still a major work in progress in addition to his offense which remains a bit rough around the edges, he’s developing a solid jump hook to go along with a useful turnaround jumper that is practically unblockable.

And if he can continue his development this summer, his dream of playing in London will become a reality.

Rookie of the Year: Zhu Yanxi, Beijing Shougang

It was a long, strange road to the CBA for Zhu Yanxi, but his rookie season for the Ducks was well worth the wait. (Photo: Osports)

If you like Jeremy Lin’s overnight sensation story in New York, then we’ve got a feeling you’re going to like Zhu Yanxi’s very similar tale here in Beijing.

Originally a soccer player as a youngster growing up in Chongqing, Zhu Yanxi was pushed towards basketball by his mother at the age of seven after she realized he was growing faster than his classmates. After showing a lot of promise at youth summer and winter camps, Zhu pulled out of school at 13 to board a train to Beijing with the intention of signing professionally. His first tryout was with Bayi, but due to the team’s already fulfilled quota for youth players, they declined to put him on their youth team and told him to come back next year. Already in Beijing, Zhu went to go see the Ducks who quickly snapped him up after seeing him and his sharp shooting from the perimeter.

By the time he was eligible for Beijing’s senior team, though, management felt that he was too raw and sent him down to China’s second-tier professional league, the NBL, to hone his skills. Known and liked by Jiangsu Tongxi head coach, Cui Wanjun, who had coached him during a national training camp earlier that year, Cui rented him out for the season as his ideal stretch big man. Cui’s scouting was on point — playing for Tongxi last season, Zhu lead the team to a championship and also earned himself an NBL All-Star selection.

Satisfied with his performance with Jiangsu, the 6-10 power forward got the call up this year and simply exploded onto the CBA scene, putting up 23 points, three rebounds and four assists on 4-5 from three in his debut game against Jilin. He’d go on to score double-figures in Beijing’s next seven, including 18 against Guangdong and 15 against Xinjiang, both wins.

Zhu ended the regular season with averages of 13.1 points and 5.8 rebounds on 36% from three, all of which were good enough to earn him another All-Star selection, this one being the CBA variety. And here’s another honor for his troubles: NiuBBall Rookie of the Year.

All-CBA First Team:

Guard: Stephon Marbury, Beijing Shougang
Guard: Aaron Brooks, Guangdong Hongyuan
Forward: Marcus Williams, Shanxi Zhongyu
Forward: Charles Gaines, Shanxi Zhongyu
Center: Will McDonald, Fujian SBS

All-CBA Second Team:

Guard: Lester Hudson, Qingdao Double Star
Guard: J.R. Smith, Zhejiang Chouzhou
Forward: Mike Harris, Shanghai Dongfang
Forward: Zaid Abbas, Fujian SBS
Center: P.J. Ramos, Zhejiang Guangsha

If Steph and Marcus’ MVP race was a struggle, the First Team selection was a cool breeze. Like almost every high scoring guard that comes into Guangdong, Brooks initially had trouble meshing with his high scoring Chinese teammates before figuring it out by January. By far the most talented player they’ve ever had, this year’s Guangdong team is hands down the best Guangdong team ever and will win yet another title at the end of this month. Williams’ foreign teammate in Shanxi, Gaines, was just as dominant statistically — no surprise to anyone who’s kept up with the league over the past three seasons. McDonald, in his first year in China, took his highly skilled, highly versatile inside-outside game from Spain and pretty much abused everyone who was thrown his way. If he opts to come back next year, he’ll be in high demand.

From start to finish, Aaron Brooks was the best NBA-to-CBA import in 2011-12. (Photo: Osports)

On the Second Team, Smith and Hudson, the league’s number one and two leading scorers, round out the backcourt while Abbas and Harris comprise the two forward spots. Initially on the bubble, Harris nudged out a couple of competitors he after tore it up with some huge performances during Shanghai’s regular season stretch run. One of those guys who was bumped out, Donnell Harvey, another player who runs through brick walls every game, deserves special mention for the 24-14 he threw down in Tianjin.

The most noticeable name left off these two teams is Wilson Chandler, who couldn’t get his name up above despite averaging 26.6 points and 11.5 rebounds. Why, you ask? Once the NBA resumed and it became clear that he potentially had a potential $30-40 million contract waiting for him when he got back, Chandler pretty much shut it down in order to prevent an injury. Once in second place at 13-4, Guangsha went 2-9 over their next 11 before squeaking into the playoffs as a No. 7 seed at 18-14. His overall unwillingness to get into the paint during that stretch wasn’t the only reason why the Lions slipped down the standings, but it certainly played a role. And to be honest, we don’t really blame him. If we had that much loot back in the States, we’d probably have done the same.

NiuBBall adheres to the laws of Sir Issac Newton, however: Actions have reactions. So while his conservative on-court approach may have guaranteed him a big payday, it did cost him a NiuBBall All-CBA selection.

All-CBA Chinese Team:

Guard: Lu Xiaoming, Shanxi Zhongyu
Guard: Wang Shipeng, Guangdong Hongyuan
Forward: Zhu Fangyu, Guangdong Hongyuan
Forward: Li Gen, Qingdao Double Star
Center: Wang Zhizhi, Bayi Fubang

Williams and Gaines have had a lot to do with Shanxi’s great season, but Lu Xiaoming’s steadiness at a position that has plagued the team in years past has been another key element to their historic season. Thought to be too old after a few lackluster seasons in Fujian, Lu was released by the team he spent the last five years with in the off-season. At the invitation of Shanxi’s infamous owner, Boss Wang, he ended up in Taiyuan as the squad’s starting point guard. Responsible for pushing the ball out after both makes and misses, the 33 year-old Lu had a resurrection this season averaging 8.4 points, 5.9 assists and only 1.9 turnovers. Without his frenetic pace, Shanxi wouldn’t have averaged a league leading 110.3 points per game, nor would they have won 20 games.

Li Gen, who lead all Chinese players with 17.5 ppg, gets on here too, as do Wang Zhizhi, Wang Shipeng and Zhu Fangyu who despite their advancing years are still among the CBA’s best domestic players. We’ll see how long that lasts, especially for Da Zhi, who has Liaoning’s Han Dejun breathing down his neck for best center in the country.

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CBA Round 34 Recap

February 16, 2012

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Beijing – 94 @ Guangsha – 114

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

Box Score

Qingdao – 101 @ Foshan – 107

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

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

DongGuan – 114 @ Shanxi – 124

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

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Fujian – 79 Xinjiang – 104 

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

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Shanghai – 89 @ Tianjin – 85 

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

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

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

Andrew Crawford

Box Score

Bayi – 91 @ Guangdong – 92

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

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Liaoning – 103 @ Zhejiang – 90

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

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Jilin – 127 @ Jiangsu – 142

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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CBA Round 30 Recap

February 8, 2012

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DongGuan – 97 @ Guangdong – 111

Aaron Brooks put in 24 points, James Singleton went off for 20 points and 19 rebounds, and Zhu Fangyu scored 23 as the Southern Tigers took care of business in the second leg of their annual DongGuan derby match against the Leopards. It’s the Southern Tigers’ 11th straight win.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Shanghai – 89 @ Bayi – 77

The Shanghai Sharks came roaring back from their two recent losses on the road with a commanding victory over the Bayi Rockets. The once all-conquering powerhouse of Chinese basketball looked a frail version of their former selves and a young, confident Sharks side dismantled their guests with ease. With other results going their way, the Sharks now move up to seventh place in the CBA table as the season continues to go down to the wire.

Marcus Landry was putting on a show towards the end of the game and threw down a couple of thunderous dunks, Meng Lingyuan popped up with a nice lay-up and Liu drilled home a couple of jump shots to keep the tempo going but as a competition the game looked wrapped up by the start of the fourth quarter. There was still time for Xu Zhonghao to confirm that his IQ is lower than his jersey number when he needlessly blindsided the considerably smaller Meng with seven seconds left on the clock. As the guard lay prone on the floor, Mike Harris looked like he wished he could do more than point to the scoreboard and look pissed, but the game was done. Meng eventually got to his feet, the buzzer rang and the Sharks were 89-77 victors.

Landry scored a game-high 22 points whilst Harris (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Zhang Zhaoxu (11 points, 15 rebounds) both picked up double-doubles in a result that Coach Panaggio called ‘a very good game against a very good and well coached team’. For Bayi, Wang Zhizhi scored 20 points.Taking the time to praise his team, Panaggio also praised the defensive work of Liu Ziqiu for keeping Bayi at bay. When asked about Wednesday’s critical match, the Sharks’ coach was brief and direct; ‘We’ve got a very big game against [Zhejiang Bulls]‘; ‘they are in a battle for a playoff spot as are we. There are no room for slip ups’.

Andrew Crawford

Box Score

Foshan – 111 @ Zhejiang – 107

The Golden Bulls are hanging onto their playoff lives after becoming only the fifth team to lose at Foshan this season. J.R. Smith once again put up a huge scoring output with 41 points, but as has been the pattern recently, huge individual tallies haven’t been adding up in the win column. Michael Maadanly 34 points and five rebounds and Marcus Haislip had 31 and 10 to lead the Dralions to their seventh win of the season.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Liaoning – 95 @ Fujian – 120

Will McDonald continued his case for NiuBBall All-CBA First Team with a dominant 36 point, 17 rebound performance against Liaoning. Losers of their last three, Liaoning are now out of the playoffs, while Fujian sits in sole control of fifth. Liaoning’s Han Dejun had 20 points and 14 boards for the losers, who were unable to get past Rodney Carney’s 3-14 performance from three.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangsha – 100 @ Shanxi – 107

Guangsha is now unbelievably out of the playoffs. Like they have all year, Shanxi relied on its foreign duo of Charles Gaines (28 points, 14 rebounds) and Marcus Williams (27 points, four rebounds, six assists) to beat a desperate Guangsha team who is still searching for answers to what is now a 2-9 streak. Wilson Chandler had 22 points and seven boards, but was once again not aggressive getting into the lane as he finished with only one free-throw attempt. P.J. Ramos played well with 32 and 17.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Beijing – 102 @ Qingdao – 114

Qingdao’s Li Gen scored a career high 41 points and Lester Hudson stuffed the stat sheet with 39-7-10 as Qingdao took down the Ducks at home. The result won’t really affect anything — Beijing pretty much has the No. 2 spot locked up, while Qingdao would need to win their last three and get some help in the standings to make the playoffs.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Xinjiang – 99 @ Jilin – 97

Xinjiang picked up a crucial win that improved their chances of making the post-season after getting third road win of the season against Jilin. The visitors overcame a tough shooting night by Tim Pickett through balanced scoring, as five different players scored in double-figures. Gani Lawal had 21 points and nine rebounds and Tang Zhengdong had 17 and seven, including a crucial tip in down the stretch to secure the win.

Cartier Martin went off for 30 second half points after only hitting for four in the first half.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Jiangsu – 99 @ Shandong – 102

Box Score

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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: Play-Offs, CBA All-Stars And The Magic Of Marbury

January 26, 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 regular web-chatter, Ned Bothfeld out of the country, the man behind NiuBBall, Jon Pastuszek, makes his long awaited debut at the water cooler to talk CBA playoffs, potential All-Star snubs and Stephon Marbury. As always, our Chinese water dispensers are equipped with hot and cold water. 

Andrew Crawford: We should probably start by talking about the previous round of games and there were obviously more than a few crackers. The most eye catching one for me was Beijing’s win over Zhejiang- a 45 pt/10 ast/ 12 rbd triple double from Marbury and JR Smith’s 39 pts. What did you make of that game?

Jon Pastuszek: It was one of the most anticipated games of the season — Marbury is beloved by almost every Chinese hoops fan from Beijing to Urumqi, and J.R. has gained a sizeable following himself due to his on-court offensive explosions and off-court drama. Not surprisingly, they’re number one and two respectively in All-Star voting but Marbury showed why he’s clearly the better player in this league. For me, his triple-double solidified himself as the top choice for league MVP this year. He’s been able to balance his role as both a distributor and scorer almost perfectly this year, sharing the ball early in the ball game and taking games over himself when he needs to down the stretch. He’s changed the entire Duck culture this season, taking what was barely a playoff team with a lackluster fan base and turning it into one of the hottest tickets in town this year.

AC: That’s very true. In our first webchat, me and Ned talked about the star power of Marbury and how he has endeared himself to the different Chinese fanbases. On the other hand, it has felt like a circus at times with Smith, do you think how he has settled in China, in spite of his huge numbers, has affected his game; could he be even better with a different set-up?

JP: I’ve always felt that it’s not so much a player’s individual talent that determines success in the CBA, but rather a player’s individual make-up. For many reasons — the coaching, the travel, the food, the officiating, the media, the living conditions, the quality of one’s teammates — a lot of players fail to adapt to the differences between the CBA, the NBA and even Europe. As we’ve learned from the countless numbers of foreign players who have left China prematurely in years past, it’s not easy to play here. Individual and team success is by no means guaranteed, no matter how good the player. Taking on an NBA player who’s played in the league for several years, like J.R., is a challenge for CBA teams. China is not the United States, and Yiwu is certainly not Denver — I think the Bulls management has tried to make J.R. comfortable, allowing his sister to live with him and bringing in an American assistant to ease the on-court transition, but at the end of the day you’re never going to replicate the NBA lifestyle while playing in China.

AC: All very true. I’ve think that’s part of the fascinating thing about international players and the mindset they need to have to succeed in some of the more unorthodox basketball leagues. Ned was saying last time around that PJ Ramos loves it in China and wouldn’t want to go back to the NBA. Equally, Mike Harris in Shanghai, clearly adores being in Shanghai. Still, regardless of the JR drama, I’ll be looking forward to the Bulls’ visit next month so I can see the man in person.

Moving on, Guangdong has handled their business by beating Wilson Chandler, Ramos et al. in Hangzhou. After a shaky start, is there a better team in the CBA right now?

JP: No. Guangdong is the hands-down favorite to win the title this year, and I see no team that is even close to giving them a problem come March.

AC: Their form is so good that I can see them resting Aaron Brooks, Zhu Fangyu, James Singleton, etc with a couple of games to spare. That eighth play-off place is a real poisoned chalice now because you’ll probably be facing a box-fresh Guangdong side after you’ve just spent the last few weeks battling your way to the post season.

JP: I could definitely see that too. In fact, they’ve already been resting their guys during the season, playing sometimes up to 11 guys in a game in order to keep their stars fresh for the post-season. Last year, when they went through a solid chunk of the season without a full import roster, proved that Guangdong doesn’t really need to tear through the regular season and play their best players for long periods of time. For them, it’s all about staying healthy for a Finals run and since nobody has been able match-up with all of their Chinese talent in a five or seven games series over the last eight years, its hard to argue with that strategy.

AC: Indeed. Guangdong’s opponents in the final last year, Xinjiang, had another set back with a loss with Shandong. They’ve got a tricky last few games coming up. What do you think the mood is like there in Urumqi and can they save their season?

JP: Xinjiang has been without a doubt the most disappointing team of the year. This is a team that went 31-1 last season and yet still didn’t win a championship. After spending close to US $10 million this summer on the 2000 NBA Draft number one overall pick and 11 year NBA-pro Kenyon Martin, Chinese Men’s National Team head coach Bob Donewald Jr. and three-time CBA MVP Tang Zhengdong among others, the expectation was that they’d storm their way past Guangdong to a title. But Donewald was fired 11 games into the year, K-Mart followed him out the door quickly and Tang hasn’t been able to find his dominating form. Simply, at 12-12, the season has been a disaster. Once the favorites for a championship, the Flying Tigers are now fighting for a playoff spot. Six of their last eight are at home, so their destiny is in their own hands, but the mood is obviously not a very optimistic one in Urumqi.

AC: We’ve touched on the play-offs so we might as well wade right into the matter itself. Looking at the table right now, Guangdong look like they’ve got their place in the bag and Beijing should be okay with their run of games at home but after that, it’s a scramble for six places between eight, possibly ten teams. Who do you think are the strongest teams coming into this final push?

JP: It’s certainly going to be a crazy end to the season, isn’t it? It’s going to come down to whoever takes care of business at home. It’s always been tough to win on the road in the CBA but this year the discrepancy between home and away records have been even more profound. Only two teams, Beijing and Guangdong, have winning road records this season. As I mentioned before, Xinjiang has six of their last eight at home, and that will be big as they’ve only lost once all year in Urumqi. Guangsha also has a bunch of home games coming up. If they can sort out their problems during Spring Festival, they should be in good position to get a top four seed.

AC: Shanghai are in the same situation with regards to having the majority of their games at home. We have Fujian and Zhejiang in the Yuanshen, and these are going to be HUGE games and ones the Sharks certainly can’t afford to lose. Home advantage is certainly key here as we’ve also got Xinjiang, Shanxi and Beijing on the road, which is going to be tough for us. It’s too close to call here in Shanghai and there’s going to be a lot riding on Harris and Marcus Landry going down the stretch. Indeed, who do you think isn’t going to make it in the end?

JP: Well unfortunately for you, I think it’s going to be tough for the Sharks to hang onto their playoff spot. The loss of Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who was on my shortlist for MVP before getting hurt, is tough because he’s the one who kept their triangle offense nice and congruent. Marcus Landry has been decent in replacement, but he’s not a player built for the triangle. They’ve got those tough games against Zhejiang, Xinjiang, Beijing and Shanxi — maybe they’ll prove me wrong, but I don’t see them winning a lot of games post-Chinese New Year. Fujian may be another squad that falls short, they have five of their last seven on the road, including a three-game finale that takes them to Guangdong, DongGuan and Xinjiang.It’s going to be a wild finish, every game will count, which is why taking care of business at home will be so important.

AC: For sure. The RFK point is a massive one. He did everything like you said and the little things like setting the pace of the game and being a calming influence in a young team; those are all tough things to replace. I think the consensus is that Fujian won’t make it- that run of games in the last week is an absolute killer. I can also see Zhejiang crumbling under the pressure, but that’s just a feeling.

Anyway, All-Star week coming up. Marbury and Smith are the top choices as we speak but is there anyone who isn’t getting the recognition they deserve? Osama Dahglas is probably pissed at being in the same division as Marbury because I thought the Jilin PG has been pretty good this season but its highly unlikely he’ll be in the team.

JP: With the CBA only limiting two foreign players to each All-Star team, there’s always going to be snubs. Dahglas is certainly a guy who could be put in that category. Another could be either Marcus Williams or Lester Hudson, each whom have had very nice seasons for their teams. J.R. and Marbury are the obvious shoe-ins, Wilson Chandler will probably get in as a reserve, so that leaves just one player left. Somebody will definitely get left out.

AC: For sure; Harris, Singleton, Brooks, Zaid Abbas and Shavlik Randolph to name but a few. I guess that brings me onto my next point. If I’m Chandler or Smith, do I risk playing even one more game than I need to if I’m looking for an NBA contract when the CBA ends in March? I guess this would be extra pertinent if their team didn’t make the play-offs?

JP: Certainly, both of those guys are looking at the big picture. At the end of the CBA season, they’ll head back to the NBA where they will be prize commodities to teams looking to add a piece for a playoff run. They both stand to make a lot of money on long-term deals, if not this season then definitely next year. Since neither player have gotten their so-called “big payday” yet, I’m sure they’re anticipating going back to the States and cashing in. Both have substantial money at stake, so the last thing either them wants is to get hurt. So I think you have to take that into consideration when you’re looking at their late season performances.

AC: Could you see a situation where eithier man tried to pull out of the game if they were voted?

JP: Absolutely not! The All-Star game amounts to a very low intensity pick-up run. Plus, I’m sure they’d like to get out of their respective cities and head down to Guangzhou for a relaxing weekend.

AC: Wouldn’t we all, sir. Alright, final question; as the Middle Kingdom stops for Chinese New Year, we have some time to think back to the games that have already been played. What’s been your favourite game so far in this season?

JP: I thought Xinjiang at Beijing in Round 6 was for me, the most exciting game of the year. At the time, you had Kenyon Martin and the new look Flying Tigers coming into a supercharged Shougang Arena that was just as fired up to see last year’s runners-up as they were to see their new look Ducks with Stephon Marbury. The game was completely sold out and for the first time in Beijing history, the media had to be seated on the upper level because there was so much hype surrounding the game. The game didn’t disappoint — after going down by almost 20 in the fourth quarter, Patrick Mills and the Flying Tigers roared back to take a one-point lead with just under a minute left. But Beijing held on to hit two critical free-throws after a loose ball foul, and Xu Guozhong and Mills both rattled out three-pointers that would have likely given the Flying Tigers the win. It was one of the rare games that actually lived up to all the hype.

There’s been some great games in Shanghai this year, what’s been your favorite?

AC: Probably Beijing’s visit to Shanghai on Xmas Day. Obviously, you had the Shanghai-Beijing factor but with Marbury, a packed house in the Yuanshen and a comeback of sorts in the fourth quarter from the Sharks, it had everything you could want from a grudge match. When Shanghai retook the lead with a minute or so left, the noise around the place was crazy- even the press box was high-fiving each-another; the whole place was going nuts. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of an atmosphere like that.

JP: There’s something about that guy that makes this league more exciting. I think having Marbury around is great for the CBA – he’s brought in a lot of casual fans that likely would have continued to turn away from the league if he wasn’t here, and I think that’s a real positive thing for Chinese basketball.

AC: Amen. Hopefully he’s got another couple of seasons in him because he’s compelling viewing. Anyway, we should probably call this a day. Jon, your web chat debut has been a pleasure.

JP: Thanks for having me, glad I could finally make it out for one. Let’s do this again, maybe a three-man weave with Bothfeld?

AC: That would be a joy to behold. Let’s keep our fingers crossed when and see what happens. Thanks to you as well from coming on.

JP: No problem. Happy Chinese New Year to you.

AC: And to you, sir.

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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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CBA Round 25 Recap

January 17, 2012

3 Comments

DongGuan – 101 @ Foshan – 99

The Leopards stayed in second place thanks to 40 points from Josh Akognon, 23 from Shavlik Randolph… and a translating error from Foshan.

With the shot clock off in the fourth quarter, the Dralions saw themselves down two with the ball. Foshan head coach, Jay Humphries Shi Liping, called a time-out to draw up a a last second play. The Dralions came out of the huddle and went pick-and-roll for Michael Maadanly, a play which resulted in a miss and ultimately the loss. But after the game, Humphries Shi told reporters that his team wasn’t supposed to run pick-and-roll — instead, Maadanly was supposed to pass to Marcus Haislip for the game winning shot — and blamed the miscommunication on the team’s translator.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangsha – 92 @ Liaoning – 106

How do you follow up a season low 12 point performance on Friday night? If you’re Wilson Chandler, you kick up a notch with an eight point Sunday night on 3-12 shooting. The loss is Guangsha’s fourth in a row, a particularly head scratching development after the team had beaten every contending team but Guangdong over the first half of the season.

Rodney Carney had 29 for the winners, who were also helped by 18 points from han Dejun, 15 from Zhang Qingpeng, and 11 each from Liu Shunan, Yang Ming and Li Xiaoxu. Liaoning are now streaking to the tune of three games in a row. Liaoning’s 12-2 home record means that if they can get into the top four, they’ll have a very sizable advantage over their first round opponent.

Jon Pastuszek

Bayi – 98 @ Beijing – 112

Calling a win against Bayi a “bounce back win” is pretty redundant when almost every team in the league has bounced them around this year, but Beijing did get a much needed victory to keep the pressure on DongGuan in second place.

Randolph Morris lead all Duck scorers with 27, rookie Zhu Yanxi hit for 25, and Stephon Marbury ran wild with 24 points and 10 assists on only one turnover. Perhaps in a move aimed to save their best guns for another day, Bayi head coach Adijiang rotated 11 players, choosing to rest key starters Zhang Bo and Han Shuo for their upcoming game on Wednesday against 16th place Tianjin. In 26 minutes, Wang Zhizhi scored 27 and grabbed nine boards.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangdong – 101 @ Shanghai – 85

Despite the noise from packed Yuanshen Gymnasium and a frisky first-half performance, the Shanghai Sharks couldn’t pull off an upset victory against the Guangdong Tigers. With Mike Harris out of the line up due to family reasons, the Sharks needed maximum focus from their remaining squad but after a solid start, but Shanghai condemned themselves to another defeat after a poor third quarter allowed the Tigers take control before going on to win by the resounding margin of 101-85.

By the start of the fourth quarter, the one-two punch of Zhu Fangyu and James Singleton had opened up a twenty point lead. The Sharks were fighting to keep their heads above the water and Guangdong’s 80-60 lead underlined the Tigers’ dominance. A furious Shanghai rally at the start of the quarter, led by Liu Wei’s 10 point flurry only served to enrage the champions further, and Singleton went on a mini-scoring spree of his own to punish the Sharks for their obstinacy. The former Clippers/Mavericks/Wizards forward had no qualms with baiting the crowd and at one point gestured to the Yuanshen to keep on booing him after perfectly sinking a brace of free-throws, neatly reflecting both the ruthlessness and swagger of the champions’ performance.

The final buzzer rang shortly afterwards and sparred the Sharks any further embarrassment considering that the scoreboard was already at 101-85 to Guangdong. For the Tigers, Singleton earned himself a double-double (27 points, 10 rebounds), as did Zhou Peng (16 points, 10 rebounds) whilst Zhu (21) and Aaron Brooks (17) made it into double figures from the floor. Marcus Landry made 23, Liu got 19 and Tseng Wen-ting picked up 15 but once again, Shanghai were kicking themselves after another bad third quarter and the Sharks’ losing streak now stands at three-in-a-row.

–Andrew Crawford

Xinjiang – 97 @ Qingdao – 115

Xinjiang’s miserable season continued with a miserable loss on the road to Qingdao, pushing their miserable road record to 3-10. Lester Hudson contributed the most to the Flying Tigers’ sorry performance on both ends of the court by baptizing their entire backcourt with nine splashes from downtown en route to 41 points overall. Playing against his former team, Xue Yuyang also got into the act by netting 20 points, 12 of which came from behind the arc.

The Flying Tigers have been simply atrocious on defense recently, giving up 100 or more points in four of their last five games. Forget championship, now officially out of a playoff position at 11-11, they’ll need to fix things up on that side of the ball if they even want to make the playoffs in March.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Tianjin – 102 @ Shanxi – 119

Box Score

Shandong – 95 @ Fujian – 116

Box Score

Jiangsu – 93 @ Zhejiang – 116

Box Score

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