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CBA playoffs set to start on February 27; Beijing to start title defense against Guangsha

February 18, 2013

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After 34 rounds, the Chinese Basketball Association has its eight playoff teams.

Defending champion, Beijing, who finished the season as the league’s third seed, will play sixth seeded Guangsha. Guangsha, who was locked in a late-season battle with DongGuan, Zhejiang and Shanxi for a post-season berth, jumped over everybody after beating Jiangsu at home last night 116-100.

At the top of the standings, Guangdong, who guaranteed themselves as the league’s top seed weeks ago, will play against Zhejiang. Despite losing on the road last night against Shanxi, who also finished the season with the same 16-16 record, Zhejiang clinched their spot after winning out on head-to-head point differential tiebreaker.

In other match-ups, second seed Shandong will play against DongGuan and fourth seed Xinjiang will play Liaoning.

The best-of-five first round, which implements 1-2-1-1 format with the lower seeded team hosting Game 1, will start on February 27. All games will start at 7:35pm.

The full first round schedule is as follows:

2/27 – Wednesday
Guangdong at Zhejiang
Shandong at DongGuan
Xinjiang at Liaoning
Beijing at Guangsha

3/1 – Friday
Zhejiang at Guangdong
DongGuan at Shandong
Liaoning at Xinjiang
Guangsha at Beijing

3/3 – Sunday
Zhejiang at Guangdong
DongGuan at Shandong
Liaoning at Xinjiang
Guangsha at Beijing

3/6 – Wednesday (if necessary)
Guangdong at Zhejiang
Shandong at DongGuan
Xinjiang at Liaoning
Beijing at Guangsha

3/8 – Friday (if necessary)
Zhejiang at Guangdong
DongGuan at Shandong
Liaoning at Xinjiang
Guangsha at Beijing

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Plenty on the line in CBA’s final weekend

February 15, 2013

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

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

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

November 25, 2012

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

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

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

Oh, and that turnover.

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

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

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

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The definitive NiuBBall.com CBA preview

November 22, 2012

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

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

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

Bad thing for NiuBBall’s annual predictions, however.

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

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

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Liaoning to let Guo Ailun play next season in Greece?

August 22, 2012

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Team China point guard, Guo Ailun, is seriously engaged in discussions to join Greek outfit, Panathinaikos. But will his team in China agree to the move?

The list of Chinese players potentially playing in Europe next season just doubled.

Guo Ailun, who played for the Chinese national team at the London Olympics this summer, has received serious interest from Greek basketball superpower, Panathinaikos, according to several reports in Europe and in China. He joins Yi Jianlian on the European basketball negotiation table, who has been in talks with Real Madrid recently. Spanish basketball site, Encestando, first reported Guo to Greece last Saturday and several Chinese sites have followed up confirming the story.

During the Olympics, the 18 year-old Guo appeared in four games, including one start against Brazil. Last year for Liaoning, he averaged 8.1 points and 3.2 assits in 21 minutes over 29 games.

The stakes are high, both for Guo and for Chinese basketball. If the 6’4 point guard was granted permission to play in Greece, he’d be the first Chinese to ever play professionally in Europe and potentially the pioneer who opened the European door for other Chinese players.

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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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Shanxi: A four-year history of throwing things

March 15, 2012

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Shanxi has been fined nine times in the last four years for incidents similar to the one that went down on Sunday. (Photo: Osports)

Yesterday, to provide some context for Sunday night’s craziness, we wrote a post listing all of the times fans league-wide have thrown stuff onto the court this season. Which then got us to wondering: Exactly how many times has Shanxi chucked stuff onto the court over the last few seasons?

Today, thanks to a NetEase report published late Tuesday night, we now know that answer. Since 2008-09, Shanxi has been fined nine separate times for their fans’ behavior, eight of which are listed below.

December 3, 2008 - Round 8 vs. Beijing: Fans throw lighters onto the court in two separate incidents, causing the game to stopped. The league gives the club a strong warning, fines them 100,000 RMB.

February 11, 2009 – Round 34 vs. Guangsha: With 3:41 to go in the game, fans pelt the court with lighters and other objects and shout obscenities at the referees. Afterwards, the league publicly criticizes the team, fines the club 10,000 RMB and fines the arena 50,000 RMB.

March 15, 2009 – vs. Round 48 vs. Shandong: With 27.3 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, fans throw bottes, lighters, fruit and other objects which causes the game to be interrupted for five minutes. During that interruption, Shanxi’s owner “Boss Wang” Wang Xingjiang, gets into the referees’ face and violently kicks a courtside advertisement. The team is given a strong warning, a public criticism and is fined 100,000 RMB. The arena is fined 50,000 RMB for their failure to control the crowd.

February 5, 2010 – Round 20 vs. Guangdong: Fans throw objects onto the court during the game. The club is strongly warned and is fined 80,000 RMB, the arena is fined 30,000 RMB. On February 2nd, Shanxi was fined for a similar offense, making this the second time in the last three days that Shanxi has been penalized by the CBA.

December 22, 2010: Round 5 vs. Guangsha

Shanxi’s Shang Ping hammers Guangsha’s Javaris Crittenton and and gives out an additional elbow after the while. Guangsha’s P.J. Ramos, who is trailing the play, runs over and pushes Shang Ping down to the ground. Fans lob anything they can get their hands on, causing the game to be stopped for several minutes. Shang Ping and Ramos are suspended a game each. Both teams receive a public criticism. Shanxi is fined 10,000 RMB and Guangsha is fined 20,000 RMB.

December 23, 2011 – Round 15 vs. Liaoning: A water bottle is thrown at Liaoning’s players from behind their bench and lands on the nearside foul-line. The CBA dishes out a strong warning to both the team and the arena, and fines the team 10,000 RMB.

February 12, 2012 – Round 33 vs. Guangdong – 2012

Shanxi’s Zhang Xuewen is called for a foul on Guangdong’s Wang Zheng. Not happy with the call, Zhang punches the basket support and is called for a technical. Seconds later, fans begin to throw lighters onto the court. As Guangdong normally does in these situations, the coaching staff orders the team into the locker room. Despite orders from the game’s technical director to come back, Guangdong insists that they will do no such thin until order has been restored. Shanxi an the arena are both levied a strong warning and the team is fined 20,000 RMB.

March 13, 2012 – Semi-Finals Game 4 vs. Beijing: Fans throw water bottles and lighters towards the end of the fourth quarter after a no-call on Marcus Williams’ drive to the basket. After the game, fans block the Beijing bus while throwing things at it, and prevent it from leaving for one hour and 20 minutes. Shanxi and the arena are fined 30,000 RMB each.

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CBA off-season carousel in full swing

March 14, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Liaoning get rejected by Jiang Xingquan, hire Wu Qinglong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wang Min the latest head to roll at Jiangsu

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

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

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CBA fans: A history of throwing stuff

March 14, 2012

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(Thanks to Beijing Cream for the video)

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

Hen zheng chang.

This is normal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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CBA Round 29 Recap

February 5, 2012

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Guangsha – 69 @  Xinjiang – 99

Once towards the top of the standings, is Guangsha even going to make the playoffs? That’s the question after the Lions were blown out in Urumqi on Friday. After rebounding with a strong game in Round 28, Wilson Chandler reverted back to passively shooting jump shots, finishing 4-16 for 10 points.

The game was never close. Xinjiang’s Tim Pickett got off to a hot start and continued to stay aggressive on offense, scoring 35 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Gani Lawal contributed with 15 points and eight boards and Mengke Bateer put in 15. The win is Xinjiang’s fourth straight and puts them in seventh place, while Guangsha drops to sixth.

Guangsha feeds of Chandler, who when he wants to be is the toughest individual matchup in the league. However, a long-term NBA deal likely on the table whenever he returns to the NBA, Chandler’s priority appears to lie within maintaining his health in preparation for his big payday.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Shanghai – 108 @ Shanxi – 119

The Shanghai Sharks came, they saw, they got lit up. Shanxi’s high scoring duo of Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines did exactly what their guests were hoping they wouldn’t and blew Shanghai away with some red-hot shooting. After a plucky first half from the Sharks, the Shanxi Brave Dragons’ demolition men coolly stepped up a gear and promptly ripped the Sharks asunder with a devastating final twenty minutes of huge threes, marauding drives to the basket and some deft low post action. It was not pleasant viewing for a Shanghai fan.

Although the Sharks limped their way over the hundred-point mark themselves, the margin of defeat was telling and the visitors now make their way back to Shanghai after eventually losing 119-108 to a rampant Shanxi team that is almost certainly bound for the playoffs. Williams finished on 44 points, Gaines got 37 of his own whilst Ren Junhui’s 11 points meant he also got in on the double-digit party for Shanxi.

Meanwhile Mike Harris picked up a double-double of 37 points and 12 rebounds for Shanghai, Marcus Landry got 23 points and Liu Ziqiu continued his quiet resurgence with a gutsy 14 points but the Sharks now have to win four from their final five games to have any chance of making it to the postseason. Tough times just become a lot tougher.

Andrew Crawford

Box Score

Liaoning – 94 @ DongGuan – 107

DongGuan got 35 points and 16 boards from Shavlik Randolph and Josh Akognon had 27 as they beat visiting Liaoning by 13 at home. Thanks to Randolph’s activity in the frontcourt, DongGuan went +7 on the offensive glass and forced the visiting squad into 10-27 from the three-point line. The Jaguars, who have won just two road games the whole year, got nothing out of Josh Powell, who played only 16 minutes, picking up four points and three rebounds. At 14-13, they have put themselves out of the playoff picture and could slip further if they lose tonight at Fujian.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Shandong – 115 @ Zhejiang – 121 (OT)

Alan Anderson shot an amazing 42 shots to tally 54 points, but his individual shootaround wasn’t enough for Shandong to come up with the win. J.R. Smith shot 29 shots to get 41, but Zhejiang’s balanced support in Josh Boone (19 points), Ding Jinhui (15) and Chang Chunjun (13).

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Jilin – 96 @ Fujian – 109 

Box Score

Tianjin – 112 @ Beijing – 122

Box Score

Qingdao – 97 @ Jiangsu – 92

Box Score

Bayi – 116 @ Foshan – 106

Box Score

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CBA Round 28 Reacp

February 3, 2012

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Qingdao – 110 @ Zhejiang – 122

 

J.R. Smith scored 60 points and broke a CBA single-game record with 14 threes. I’ll let the video to the rest of the talking.

Jon Pastuszek

Fujian – 132 @ Guangsha – 125 (2 OT)

Wilson Chandler’s 36-21 wasn’t enough to keep visiting Fujian from getting a much needed split on their Shanghai-Guangsha road trip to keep their playoff hopes very much alive. Zaid Abbas, Will McDonald, Anthony Roberson and Gong Songlin combined for an insane 121 points as only Zhou Qixin and Yang Genglin were the only other two players to score.

11-loss Guangsha now faces a critical road test at Xinjiang on Friday. A win will put them squarely in mess that is the CBA playoff race, a win will give them some breathing space.

Jon Pastuszek

Shanghai – 84 @ Xinjiang – 89

A Shanghai Sharks team got close but couldn’t win against a Xinjiang Flying Tigers side that showed flashes of real talent and menace but also looked brittle at times. Having stayed with the Flying Tigers throughout the game, a crucial ninety seconds decided everything. Firstly, Shanghai’s Mike Harris fouled out and Mengke Bateer converted his second free-throw from the foul to make the scores 82-82. A clutch three from Xirelijiang and then a lay-up form Shanghai’s Zhang Zhaoxu made it 85-84. With 17 seconds on the clock, the Sharks then managed to turn the ball over not once but twice and the Tigers confirmed victory in farcical fashion and that frankly was a little harsh on a visiting side that played with 100% effort.

Lawal scored 19 points and picked up 15 rebounds whilst Picket also got a 15 point, 12 rebound double-double. For Shanghai, Landry got a game high 20 points, Harris made 15 and Zhang got 10.

A tough loss for the Sharks mean that they fall out of the post-season places with another tricky away game (Shanxi Dragons) waiting for them on Friday. (What’s worse is that they’ve lost the tiebreaker to Xinjiang — their head-to-head record is even, but their head-to-head point differential, Xinjiang +1, gives them the edge in the event that they finish with the same record. You can thank that last steal by Pickett on Liu Ziqiu for that one. — Jon) Shanghai will need to regroup and play with the same zest against the Dragons that they showed in Urumqi if they are to have a shot at keeping their playoff dreams alive.

Andrew Crawford

Liaoning – 108 @ Guangdong – 122

34 points from Aaron Brooks and 28 from James Singleton gave the Southern Tigers a rare game of total import dominance, as the only Chinese players to check in with double figures were Zhou Peng and Zhu Fangyu. It’s Guangdong’s 10th straight win.

Jon Pastuszek

Jilin – 98 @ DongGuan – 120

Jilin makes it 0-2 on what will soon be an 0-3 Guangdong-DongGuan-Fujain road trip as they start to plan their spring off-season. And hey, maybe Jilin knows that more than we do — Cartier Martin only played 14 minutes and Osama Dahglas played 10. Wait, did I say off-season? I mean months and months of burning out their bodies with mindless practices. For the Chinese players.

DongGuan’s Josh Akognon continues his hot post-Spring Festival break with 31 points. If he stays hot, DongGuan will be a tougher team to beat come playoff time.

Jon Pastuszek

Shandong – 87 @ Bayi – 107

Foshan – 115 @ Shanxi – 129

Jiangsu – 99 @ Tianjin – 105

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Players in China may have to wait until March to sign with an NBA team

January 31, 2012

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With seven more games to go in the Chinese Basketball Association regular season, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, Patty Mills and Aaron Brooks’ NBA return from a one-year stint in China is approaching its end. But, with all of their teams in good position for the CBA playoffs, that end may not come until after February.

The anticipation behind each of their individual returns is pretty obvious — the five players, all of whom signed in China during the NBA lockout, will be highly coveted free-agents whenever they are eligible to sign with NBA teams. The question isn’t whether or not they’ll sign back in the NBA — all wil receive high levels of interest from a number of different teams — but rather when they will legally be able to put pen to paper on a contract. And depending on the success of each player’s individual team in China, the answer will likely be sometime in March.

The reality comes as the result of the decisions of both the league and the American players made prior to the start of the CBA regular season. In an effort to avoid the instability of a mass NBA exodus to China, CBA officials passed two rules back in August to limit the effect of the NBA lockout on the Chinese league: The first barred teams outright from signing players under NBA contract, the second restricted players from including back-to-the-NBA out-clauses that would have granted a free release from their Chinese team whenever the work stoppage ended.

Though the first rule was very black and white, many basketball insiders doubted the CBA’s ability to enforce their edict on no opt-out clauses. True to their word, however, the league has kept it’s promise. Two players who have been released mid-season, Martin and Mills, both of whom played for the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers, have not received their FIBA letters of clearance. Per their agreement with their team and the CBA, both must wait at home until Xinjiang’s season is completed. Martin severed ties with the team and was bought out of his contract in late December, while Mills was released after a controversial dispute regarding a hamstring injury.

So when will the season actually be over and when will NBA players in China be allowed to play in the States? The answer will be dependent not on when the league’s season ends, but rather on when each team plays its last game of the year.

The official end of the CBA regular season is February 15th. But contrary to what some may believe, that’s not the set date for players to be eligible to sign back in the NBA. The rule on back-to-the-NBA releases has always been specific to each individual team’s season, not the league calendar. That is, players can return to the NBA only when their team plays its final game of the year — regular season or playoffs — which means different players will get their letter of clearances at different times.

For better or for worse, most, if not all, of the teams featuring the players mentioned above will all be participating in post-season play, and thus will be playing CBA basketball into the month of March.

The eight team playoffs start on February 22nd. After the best-of-five first round series are completed, the semi-finals, also best-of-five, will start on March 4th. The best-of-seven finals will start on March 16th. If necessary, game seven will be played on March 30th.

To give an idea of when each player will be allowed to sign an NBA contract, here’s an update on how everybody’s team is currently fairing:

Chandler’s Zhejiang Guangsha are currently in fourth place and are considered as a team primed for a deep run in the playoffs. In 25 games, Chandler is averaging 26.3 points, which ranks as 11th in the league, and 11.2 rebounds.

Zhejiang Chouzhou, Smith’s team, was once positioned towards the top of the league, but have since slipped out of the playoff picture after losing six of their last eight. But, only one game out with a very easy remaining schedule, the Golden Bulls could very easily put themselves back in with a few wins. Smith leads the league in scoring with 34.2 points per game.

Martin and Mills’ team, Xinjiang Guanghui, like Zhejiang Chouzhou, is also one game out of a post-season position. With five of their last seven games at home, a place where they’ve lost once all year, Xinjiang could also be in the playoffs as well.

Two players who have not been mentioned thus far, Rodney Carney and Josh Powell, both of whom play for Liaoning Hengye, who are currently in fifth place at 14-11, would be playing playoff hoops if the season ended today. But their 2-9 road record will be under the microscope when they travel to play five of their last seven away from home, four of which are against teams with winning records.

Finally, at 22-4, Brooks’ squad, Guangdong Hongyuan, became the first team to clinch a playoff birth almost two weeks ago and barring any major catastrophe will lock up the top seed for the playoffs. Guangdong are the reigning four-time CBA champions and are heavily favored to take down their fifth straight, which means that Brooks will very likely be the last player to be allowed to sign back in America. Brooks is currently averaging 20.4 points per game.

Of course, if any team does not finish in the top eight, then all of their NBA free-agents will be allowed to sign with an NBA team starting on February 16th. Otherwise, they’ll have to wait until their team is either eliminated from the playoffs or goes all the way to win a championship.

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Breaking down the CBA playoff picture

January 28, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 23-9, No. 2 seed

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

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

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

Prediction: 20-12, No. 4 seed

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 20-12, No. 3 seed

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 18-14, No. 5 seed

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 16-16, out of the playoffs

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

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

Prediction: 18-14, No. 6 seed

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

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

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

Prediction: 18-14, No. 8 seed

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

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

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

Prediction: 17-15, out of the playoffs

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

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

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

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

Prediction:  18-14, No. 7 seed

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

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

Prediction: 12-18, out of the playoffs

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