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Tag Archives: Marcus Williams

Marcus Williams banned from CBA after testing positive for marijuana

January 3, 2013

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Shanxi Zhongyu’s Marcus Williams has been banned for six months from the Chinese Basketball Association after testing positive for marijuana.

He is the first player in the league’s 18-year history to test positive for drugs.

On his Sina Weibo account, Williams expressed regret for the incident and vowed to come back better from it: “To all the CBA fans, Shanxi fans, sponsors, as well as my coaches and players I sincerely apologize. I have let a lot of people down and I regret it more then anything. I understand everyone’s disappointment and I will do everything to improve and grow from this.

Williams, who had been the league’s leading scorer, was averaging 30.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists for the third-placed Brave Dragons.

The story, however, is not as simple as it seems. Though marijuana use is both illegal in China and in the CBA, both the language inside of Chinese media being used to describe the incident as well as the overall timing come as a bit odd. Media reports have used the word “stimulant” or “performance enhancing drug” (兴奋剂) when detailing Williams’ case, despite the fact that marijuana is not recognized anywhere on the planet as such. And that’s not the only thing that sticks out as strange, as Anthony Tao writes over at Beijing Cream:

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here: pot. It’s not a performance enhancement drug, and it’s barely illegal in many parts of North America. But one case of it in the CBA and suddenly everyone’s all, We should conduct MORE tests, improve regulations. Why is this a bigger issue than, say, point-shaving, and shitty refereeing?

China Anti-doping Agency agreed that more tests needed in the basketball professional league.

“The truth is there were not many tests done in the basketball league,” said Zhao Jian, vice director of CHINADA, adding that a total of 12 tests were conducted by far this season.

Twelve tests. Total. And the league’s leading scorer on one of the most controversial teams in the league — Shanxi’s owner, “Boss Wang,” is the type to not care about upsetting others — just happens to get caught? Something seems a bit fishy.

This year marked his fourth season in China for the 26 year-old Williams, who has grown into one of the best and most respected players in the league. Revered around the league for being both a good player and a good teammate, he will be missed by both the team and fans of the league.

It was announced today that Williams will be replaced my former UCONN recruit, Nate Miles.

More on this from us later.

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Yang Xuezeng resigns from Shanxi, possibly headed to Zhejiang

May 10, 2012

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For Yang Xuezeng, one season in Shanxi was enough. (Photo: Osports)

After leading the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons to their most successful season ever, Yang Xuezeng is calling it quits.

Yang, who steered the Brave Dragons to a third-place regular season before getting the team through to the semi-finals, has officially resigned as head coach and will not be back with the team next season. Team president and owner, Wang Xingjiang, confirmed the news yesterday to the Shanxi Evening Post.

The subject of Yang’s future with the team was brought up by reporters last night during an exhibition game in Taiyuan between the Brave Dragons and the traveling NBA Legends Team, who have been touring the country since April 27. Yang was not on the bench and when a reporter asked Wang, he said Yang had decided to part ways with the team despite several attempts from Wang to convince him to stay.

Yang has not yet publicly commented as to the reasons behind his decision.

Although Yang is unemployed at present, it doesn’t look like he will remain so for long. An anonymous source speaking to Sina is saying that Yang will likely be heading to the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls, who is in the market for a new head coach after releasing Ding Wei in April. A Zhejiang spokesperson confirmed today that there is interest in bringing Yang to Yiwu, but stressed that there has been no official contact made between the two sides as of yet.

Zhejiang, who had J.R. Smith, went at 15-17 last season to finish in 11th place.

Before taking over at Shanxi last season, Yang had coached for six seasons with DongGuan New Century Leopards from 2004-10, the last four of which were spent as head coach. In those for years, DongGuan finished 14th, 12th, 4th and 5th.

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

May 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

  • I’ve been to many CBA games over the last two years in many different cities, including the Finals last year in DongGuan between Xinjiang and Guangdong. I have never seen more security, maybe anywhere, than I saw last night. There were at least two policeman sitting in every section and one or two standing to the side of each section with 10 to 15 more standing in each corner. 15 minutes before tip, fans were lined up all the way out to the street waiting in line to go through security. At least four paddywagons were parked outside the north gate. A riot squad was outside the south gate.
  • All of that — and the fact that nobody was allowed to bring in anything throw-able — stopped anyone from having ideas of chucking stuff onto the court. It did not, however, deter anyone from yelling sha bi (stupid cunt) at the top of their lungs at: Marcus Williams, Makan, Zhang Xuewen, the referees and anything Shanxi in general. Several times, the entire stadium could be heard chanting it in unison. Even when standing policeman went over to some of the loudest sections to tell everyone to sit down and calm down, people were still standing, throwing up middle fingers and yelling obscenities.
  • And speaking of Makan, the kid did pretty well for himself considering every breath he took was met with a sha bi from nearby fans. Shanxi went away from Zhang Xuewen and used the rangy guard/forward almost exclusively to guard Marbury. He scored a career high 18 points and never once looked afraid, even when an enraged Charles Gaines was pushing him away after he rushed over to break-up an intense encounter between a referee and his American teammate during the second quarter. On a season-long loan from Xinjiang, he emerged as a key player for Shanxi during the playoffs and is reportedly working to make his move to Taiyuan permanent.
  • Chinese basketball has come a long way. Even in the three years I’ve been closely following it, the overall level of play and the individual play have all improved dramatically. But one thing that still needs work: Finishing lay-ups at the rim. Other than Chen Lei’s ridiculous one-in-a-million backwards flip lay-up, nobody Chinese could consistently make anything close to the rim in traffic. Beijing’s Ji Zhe even missed a wide-open dunk. Why that is, we still haven’t totally figured out. Now of course, all Chinese players don’t suck at finishing under pressure. Zhai Xiaochuan is actually pretty good, as are Liaoning’s Guo Ailun, Xinjiang’s Meng Duo and Jiangsu’s Yi Li. But it is a widespread problem.
  • Despite Stephon Marbury’s request, hardly anyone wore white. Tao, you know Chinese wardrobe too well.
  • Beijing’s offensive spacing is just so much better than Shanxi’s. While Marbury was finding open driving lanes and open passing lanes, Marcus Williams was finding his life to be much more congested in the three-second lane. Granted the Brave Dragons don’t have the shooters to space the floor like their opponents can, but if Boss Wang wants to find something to obsess over this summer, he should start with his team’s half-court offense.
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CBA Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals Game 5

March 19, 2012

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Shanxi – 98 @ Beijing – 110

Beijing, welcome to your first ever CBA Finals.

In the CBA’s first ever decisive semi-finals Game 5, Stephon Marbury was flawless in his 30 point, nine rebound, eight assist performance to lead the Ducks to a relatively comfortable victory. Randolph Morris had 27 and 10 boards to go along with his four assists, and Chen Lei and Zhu Yanxi chipped in with 16 and 13 each.

The Ducks came out in the first quarter and set the tone right from its outset. Playing suffocating, collapsing defense on Marcus Williams and attacking the offensive glass with reckless abandon, the Ducks were able to jump out to a 29-13 lead by the period’s final buzzer and would have been up more if they were able to finish consistently at the rim.

The intensity was there though for Beijing — and for Charles Gaines, who picked up a technical — and in the second quarter, they continued to play well enough with Morris on the floor to maintain a 17 point lead heading into half-time.

In the third quarter, Marbury returned to make all the right moves on offense, hitting open teammates off drives in between several tough finishes at the rim. Shanxi tried their best to mount a comeback in the fourth, but Beijing and Marbury always managed to keep the lead at nine points or above. Williams finished with 25 points, Gaines had 30 and 14 and Makan had 18.

Game 1 of the CBA Finals against Guangdong will be played on Wednesday night at Beijing’s Mastercard Center (Wukesong Arena). Plenty more to come later today…

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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Out-the-door final Game 5 tidbits

March 18, 2012

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I’m out the door to make the long, arduos journey from northeast fourth ring road to Shougang Gymnasium for tonight’s historic Game 5 between Beijing and Shanxi. Here’s some quick final bullets to get you ready for tonight’s do-or-die showdown:

  • Things to keep in mind tonight: Both Beijing and Shanxi are playing for their first ever trip to the CBA Finals. And both will be playing for that honor in the CBA’s first ever Game 5 semi-finals. Hey, at least we were right about something this year.
  • I went on CCTV English’s “Sports Scene” yesterday afternoon to discuss Marbury and Beijing-Shanxi, which you can check out online here (skip to the 17:30 mark if you want to go straight to it).
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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 Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals – Game 4

March 12, 2012

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Beijing – 100 @ Shanxi – 102

An intense and hard fought Game 4 was won in Taiyuan by Shanxi, setting up a do-or-die Game 5 on Wednesday night in Beijing — the first time in CBA history that a semi-finals series has ever gone the distance.

However, Shanxi’s big win and the exciting development that it set up was marred by the behavior of their fans, both during and after the game. In the fourth quarter, Stephon Marbury drove hard to hoop against Shanxi’s guard/forward, Makan. On Marbury’s extension and follow through on the layup, his elbow hit his defender’s face, opening up a cut over his eyebrow. Makan, however, was called for the foul. Angered, Makan and his teammates started to yell at the referee, who promptly whistled a technical foul. With Makan bleeding, both the Brave Dragons and their fans went into a frenzy as Marbury stepped up and hit three of four free-throws.

With tensions running high and the game close late in the fourth, Marcus Williams drove hard left to the hole with 43 seconds left with the score 100-97 in favor of Beijing. Marbury swiped and missed at the ball before Randolph Morris came over for both the block and — William’s head — after the big center crashed over Williams under the basket. There was no foul called, and to show their thoughts on the matter, spectators starting throwing lighters, water bottles and other objects onto the court. Both benches cleared with several scuffles ensuing. By the time the dust had settled and the court cleaned up, no technicals had been called and the game resumed.

When it did, Charles Gaines stepped up with a huge and-one lay-up. After converting the free-throw to tie the game at 100, Marbury came down and missed a three with 26 seconds. Williams milked the clock and drove hard to the basket, where he was fouled. He converted the free-throws to make it 102-100. Beijing called time-out and Lee Hsueh-lin got a look at three, which came up short.

But apparently not satisfied by their bottle-tossing, Shanxi fans blocked Beijing’s bus from leaving the arena while hurling yet more objects at the vehicle. Beijing was eventually able to leave, but not without Brave Dragon fans leaving a black mark on their already notorious reputation within the CBA.

For Shanxi, Gaines lead the way with 39 points and 16 rebounds, Williams finished with 34 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and Lu Xiaoming had seven points and nine assists. Morris was huge in the second half, particularly the fourth quarter when Beijing practically went in to him on every possession to finish with 36 points and 13 rebounds. Marbury had 25.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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Marcus Williams Interview

March 10, 2012

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Thanks to slicing drives like this, Marcus Williams has been putting lots of numbers and wins in his first season for Shanxi. (Photo: Osports)

Sometimes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

After learning that lesson midway through last season, the Zhejiang Golden Bulls are having to re-learn it from the comfort of their home living rooms as they watch their former star, Marcus Williams, carry one of their rivals deep into the post-season. For Williams though, who is starring for the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons this season, the success in his new digs is just the continuation of the pattern he’s set for himself over the last three years: winning games, putting up huge numbers and establishing himself as one of the CBA’s best import players.

At 25 years of age, Williams has had a unique road to CBA stardom. A high school star in Seattle, Williams chose to attend the University of Arizona, where he spent two years before being drafted in the second round by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. After spending most of 2007-08 season in the D-League with the the Spurs’ affiliate, the Austin Toros, Williams was signed by the Los Angeles Clippers for the rest of the season in March 2008. Unable to secure a deal in the NBA, he spent the next season back with the Toros and earned himself All-NBDL First Team honors and an NBDL All-Star selection.

But feeling the need for a change, Williams went in a totally different direction with his career — he went across the Pacific Ocean to China where signed a contract with Zhejiang in the fall of 2010. Younger and less experienced than most of the league’s older import players, the then 23 year-old Williams bucked the trend and averaged 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists while nearly pushing the Golden Bulls into the playoffs.

That apparently wasn’t good enough in the eyes of Zhejiang management, however, and the team opted to bring in longtime NBA veteran Mike James to replace Williams. Like many NBA-to-CBAers last season, James didn’t last long and Williams was brought back a mere nine games into the season. With Williams in the lineup, Zhejiang erased their 2-7 start to finish the year 17-6. By year’s end, the Golden Bulls were back in the playoffs and Williams had amassed averages 29.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

After the mess that Williams cleaned up, you’d think the team would have learned their lesson by signing him in the off-season. They didn’t.

Despite two great seasons, Zhejiang felt once again that the grass was greener over by the NBA fence and elected to sign a locked-out J.R. Smith over Williams. No longer wanted in Yiwu, he skipped to Taiyuan to sign with the Brave Dragons. By the time the smoke cleared on the 2011-12 season, J.R. and the Golden Bulls went 15-17 and missed the post-season. Williams and the Brave Dragons went 20-12, made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and are now playing for a trip to the CBA Finals.

Not surprisingly, Williams has been a huge part of Shanxi’s historical season. Improving on what was already an extremely refined and versatile offensive game, Williams has become even more dominant than before to become arguably the best player in the entire league. A 6-7 walking triple-double, he averaged a CBA career high 31.9 points per game this season in addition to 4.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.5 steals. What he shoots from the field is somewhat of a mystery as different websites have listed his three point percentage anywhere from 50 to 90 percent. So while we don’t know the exact number, we do know this: Boasting excellent balance and shot selection, he doesn’t miss too much and his field goal percentage is definitely over 50 percent.

And in the post-season, he’s been missing even less. In Shanxi’s seven playoff games, he’s hit for 35 points in four of them. In the semi-finals alone, he’s averaging 38 points on over 60 percent from the field and 95 percent from the free-throw line. Down 2-1 against Beijing, Shanxi will need a win and some more of the same from Williams on Sunday night to force a deciding Wednesday Game 5 in Beijing.

Yet, his biggest bucket came off the court when the two-time NiuBBall All-CBA First Teamer sat down with NiuBBall to discuss the playoffs, his development as a player in the CBA, life in Taiyuan and more.

NiuBBall: Let’s talk first about your series with Beijing. In some leagues, the pace of the game really slows down in the playoffs in comparison to the regular season. But with you and Beijing, especially the last two games, it seems like the pace has actually gotten faster. What are some of the differences you’re noticing in this series versus the regular season or even your first round series against Shanghai?

Marcus Williams: Our first playoff series was against Shanghai, and they totally slowed the pace down. Once we were able to advance and get to Beijing, we were so anxious to speed the game up and play at a fast pace. I think everyone is being really aggressive, we’re shooting more free-throws. I just think that’s our style of play. But at the end of the day, we need to get stops, especially at the end of games, and I think that’s what hurt us in Game 2 and Game 3. We just weren’t able to focus on the defensive end and they had two big nights.

NiuBBall: You mentioned the defense already, what were some other differences between Game 1 and the last two games in Beijing?

MW: Well, in Game 2 Stephon [Marbury] got going really early and I think that gave the rest of their team a lot of confidence. He got into the paint, he was able to kick to shooters and those guys were making shots. It makes it a lot harder because now instead of worrying about one player, you’re worrying about three or four players. Number #20 [Zhai Xiaochuan] had a good game. Stephon obviously had 25 in the first quarter and I think in our first game it was something like 12. So, that’s something that hurt us. He’s the leader of their team and when he goes, they go.

Game 3 was a tough game we fought back from down 15 points in the second quarter and it was a close game all the way until the fourth. I think we ran out of gas a little bit. Having to come back from 15 took a lot out of us. There is definitely some things we can improve for next game. We need to rotate on matter to their shooters and do a better job keep Stephon out of the paint. But, Game 4 is in Taiyuan and obviously it’s a win or go home for us, so I think we can bring it next game and send it back to Beijing. And in Game 5 anything can happen.

NiuBBall: Obviously he’s put two huge nights back-to-back on you guys. When you’re game planning for him, are you trying to limit him or limit his teammates? Or is it a combination of the two?

MW: It’s going to be more of keeping him out of the paint so that he has to do it more himself. He wants to get in there, draw the help and kick out. That’s what he prefers. I think he’d rather be a facilitator than go out and score 40 a night, so we definitely want to close out on their shooters. But if he’s being aggressive, then you have to focus on him because he can have big nights.

NiuBBall: A lot of your team’s offense is geared towards getting you and Charles [Gaines] the ball. It’s certainly worked, you guys scored the most points in the league this year, but do you ever see it as a challenge to get your teammates involved on that end of the floor?

MW: With me and Chuck playing together for a while, obviously we played all of this year and then we played some D-League together [in Austin], I’m real familiar with him. But, no I don’t really see it as hard to get our teammates involved. We have Lu Xiaoming at the point, he can run the show. I think it was hard at the beginning of the season. I think they hadn’t really gotten used to having us both there. But, as the season progressed and once the second-half of the season began, they got a lot more comfortable and started to trust us and I think that really helped our team, it allowed us finish up the regular season really strong.

NiuBBall: You first played with Chuck in the D-League with the Austin Toros, now you’re teammates again in Shanxi. What’s it been like reuniting with  him in China this year?

MW: It’s been great. Me and him both live in Houston back in the States, and I was talking with him this summer to figure out what he was going to do this season. It’s a big key to have an American on your team who’s game you’re at least a little bit familiar with. And he’s a good friend of mine, so it’s made it really easy just coming to Shanxi and having the quick transition, to be able to build a relationship with him and build an on-court chemistry with him. I know he’s the type of player who goes after it every night, so that makes my job a lot easier. If I have an off night, he can fill in for me and vice versa.

NiuBBall: Playing in China, how important do you feel that foreigner-foreigner relationship is?

MW: I think it’s really important, at least on the court. Obviously, you can’t control the other things, but on the court you have to have a foreigner who you can feed off of or at least you can play decently with because it’s just you two out there. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with him, he’s probably the only other guys on the team who can speak English, so you just need kind of a comfort level. Then, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on both of you to perform, so to be able to help each other is key.

NiuBBall: The last two years, you were with Zhejiang, now you’re almost done with your first year in Shanxi. Talk about both teams and how they differ from one another.

MW: In Zhejiang, we definitely played a slower game. As far as the basketball, it was all good. Obviously my first year, we weren’t able to get into the playoffs, but my second year we got better and advanced to the playoffs and we played really well. Shanxi is really fast paced. Both teams are really young, both had good players. In Zhejiang we had Ding [Jinhui] and Cao Fei, in Shanxi we have Lu Xiaoming, Duan [Jiangpeng], Zhang Xuewen and the kid from Guangdong [Ren Junhui]. So both teams are kind of similar as far as their makeup. That’s why I think it was a pretty easy adjustment.

NiuBBall: Shanxi is a little unique in the fact that the team hired a Chinese head coach at the beginning of the year and then brought in an American assistant, Beau Archibald. How has that dynamic worked and what’s it been like to have Coach Archibald around?

MW: It’s been great, Beau has really helped on the defense as far as picking up on the schemes and adjusting to what teams are doing. Also, it’s been good to talk to a coach who has his eyes out there on the floor, who can see something and come directly to talk to you and say “Hey, this is what I’m seeing out there.” And he’s familiar with the U.S. style of basketball, so the things I’m comfortable with he can help to put into the offense. It’s just been really good.

NiuBBall: You came to the CBA when you were pretty young. For various reasons, I think it’s tough for younger players to adjust to this league. How were you able to come in as 23 year-old and not only adjust, but play at a high level?

MW: I’m not going to lie, my first time here was hard. That first year I think is the one that’s going to tell you if you can make it here or not. My first year, I got really sick out here, I got some kind of virus. I think I missed two or three games. Then there’s the food. I just tried to tough it out because I think the basketball was good for me. I was able to come out and get a lot of minutes. Coming from the NBA and the D-League, in the D-League I was able to get a lot of minutes, but the money’s not there. In the NBA, I wasn’t really playing a lot. But to come here, you’re able to play your game freely and you can take that leadership role. For me, as long as the basketball is good, I’m good. That’s how I roll.

NiuBBall: This year, obviously the big story was all of the NBA guys coming to China during the lockout. What kind of impact do you think it had on the CBA this year, and how do you see it affecting the league’s development in the long-term?

MW: I think it was great. I think a lot of attention was brought to the CBA. Having guys like Aaron Brooks, Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith, these aren’t small-time NBA players, these are legitimate NBA guys who have logged years and have had success. The talent level really went up this year. And I think it just brought a lot of eyes from really everywhere. I think some big time players in Europe might start coming over, like [Will] McDonald. I think a lot of players are really going to start wanting to come out here and play. There’s a lot of freedom out here. The CBA tries to mimic the NBA a little bit, so the basketball is not bad. So I think for guys who are similar to me, as long as the basketball is good they’ll be good. In Europe, it’s a slower game, you don’t get as many minutes and you don’t really get to shoot the ball as much. So, I think the CBA is only going to keep going up.

NiuBBall: You just mentioned the freedom and the minutes as some of the positives about playing in the CBA — your numbers have gotten better every year, do you think this league is a good place to come and improve? Do you feel like you’ve improved over the last three years?

MW: I do. I think the only way you get better is by playing. If you’re sitting on the bench and you’re not getting a lot of playing time, sure you can work on your game away from the court, but eventually it’s going to have to translate to game situations. Obviously, the competition level in the CBA is lower than the NBA, but if you’re a guy that wasn’t getting a lot of playing time, I think you can come here and play and you go on and play somewhere else, like the NBA, I think you’ll be more confident in your game and I guess just more tricks up your sleeve just because you’re able to show all of that in this league.

NiuBBall: One thing that you’ve improved on, at least on paper, is your three-point shooting. Every website has a different percentage, on the CBA official stat tracker you were shooting a perfect 100% for a while. So let me ask: Do you know what you’re shooting from the three point line this year?

MW: [Laughing] No, I really don’t. I know the last two years I was between 45 and 50 percent, so I would guess around there. I remember when they had me shooting 90 percent [earlier in the year] and people were calling me saying they couldn’t believe it. I missed two threes in 10 games. It was too unrealistic, but it gave us some good laughs though.

NiuBBall: Mike Harris said in a recent interview that he felt you are the best import in the league and that you have NBA talent. I know in talking with other players and coaches around the league, he’s not the only person who feels that way. Is the NBA on your radar at all, getting back a goal for you?

MW: I don’t really think about the NBA too much. I had times where I was in the NBA and tried it. But, I love playing basketball. I like to be out there and play, that’s what I’ve loved to do ever since I was a kid. I would obviously love, best case scenario, to be in the NBA playing minutes. But if that doesn’t happen I’d rather be playing somewhere else and getting minutes. That’s just who I am. Now if an opportunity came along, if I couldn’t pass it up, I have a son and a family and I’d love to be home, I’d take it. But until that happens, I’m happy in the CBA.

NiuBBall: You’re a China vet, what’s your favorite city in China?

MW: I like Hangzhou. While I’m in China, I definitely want to feel like I’m in China. In Shanghai or Beijing, you kind of get lost in the ambiance, it’s still kind of like the States. But Hangzhou, they have some pretty nice restaurants, the lake is real nice… It’s kind of between Beijing and a more traditional Chinese city.

NiuBBall: So you like to go out and go see the different cities.

MW: Yeah, I like to go out and see a city and explore a little bit. I don’t really go out, but while I’m out here I might as well.

NiuBBall: What do you do in Taiyuan?

MW: Well, we’ve been really busy during the season, but there’s a couple of restaurants I go to. Pizza Lovers and 1950 are two good restaurants. But as far as sight-seeing in Taiyuan, I haven’t really had the chance to go out and do that. I’ve heard of a couple of places, I think they have a real famous temple out there about an hour away, but we’ve been really busy once the season kicked off so I haven’t really had the time.

NiuBBall: Marcus, thanks for the chat and good luck with the rest of the playoffs.

MW: Thanks.

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals – Game 3

March 10, 2012

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Xinjiang – 102 @ Guangdong – 120

Four the fourth straight season, Guangdong has eliminated Xinjiang from the post-season.

Looking like they had already given up from the start, Xinjiang went down 11 in the first quarter before entering the locker room at half down 18. Five players for Guangdong finished in double figures: James Singleton (21 points and 16 rebounds), Zhu Fangyu (20 points), Zhou Peng (20), Aaron Brooks (16 and seven assists) and Wang Zheng (11). Guangdong is a perfect 6-0 this post-season and now enters the Finals for the eleventh time in their franchise’s history.

For Xinjiang, Xu Guochong finished with 23 points, while Ike Diogu and Meng Duo each scored 22.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Shanxi – 115 @ Beijing – 128

Two nights after scoring 52, Stephon Marbury scored 53 points as Beijing took pivotal Game 3 in front of their home crowd to take a 2-1 series lead.

Reverting to the strategy they used for part of the regular season, Shanxi opted to sit both Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines during the first quarter so that they could play the rest of the game together. Rudderless on offense and totally lost on defense, Shanxi gave up 35 points in the quarter and entered the games’s second frame down 15.

With Gaines and Williams on the court together in the second though, Shanxi made up some ground despite Randolph Morris’ solid offensive effort to cut the score at halftime to 61-55. In the third, Shanxi’s good run continued behind their foreigners and the scoring of Lu Xiaoming, taking the lead for a moment until Beijing grabbed it back to head into fourth quarter with Shanxi down two.

With Morris on the bench in foul trouble to start the quarter, it looked like Shanxi had the game for the taking. Then, Starbury hit. For Beijing’s first 13 points of the quarter. Hitting contested threes in between his forays into the paint, Marbury’s personal 13-2 run broke all of Shanxi’s momentum and turned the game permanently in the Ducks’ favor. He finished the game 7-8 from three and 14-15 from the free-throw line while also dishing out four assists. Morris finished with 31 points and seven rebounds, Zhai Xiaochuan had 11, and Lee Hsueh-lin and Zhu Yanxi each finished with 10.

For Shanxi, Charles Gaines finished with 34 points and 21 rebounds, Williams had 32 and nine boards and Lu Xiaoming had 17. Game 4 is in Taiyuan on Sunday.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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Boss Wang: I’m an assistant coach

March 10, 2012

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Basketball with Chinese characteristics is the motto of this website, and quite possibly there is no better example of someone who upholds those four words better than “Boss Wang,” the owner of the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons.

Luckily for you, Jim Yardley’s new book, Brave Dragons: A Chinese Basketball Team, an American Coach, and Two Cultures Clashing, covers Boss Wang and his basketball team in the fullest (and most entertaining) manner possible, so if you haven’t already go out and cop that. The gist is this: Super rich and super in love with basketball, Boss Wang wants nothing more than to put an NBA-modeled winning team out on the floor. He wants the best players, the best coaches and of course, the best results so that his dream of owning a championship squad can someday be realized.

Up until this year, however, he and his Brave Dragons have failed to even put together a .500 team.

There are a few reasons, but none perhaps are bigger than Boss Wang himself, who often decides to show his enthusiasm for the game by directly involving himself with the team’s day-to-day operations, acting in such positions as head coach, assistant coach, general manager, scout, strength and conditioning coach, doctor, sports psychologist and more.

This year, things have changed in Taiyuan. First, the team decided to erase one of their biggest problems over the years — the constant in-and-out of foreign players — by signing two talented CBA veterans, Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines. Together, they’ve combined to average more than 60 points a game. More importantly though, they’ve stayed with the team the whole season, building a level of chemistry and continuity with their Chinese players that had never existed before.

Then, for the first time in team history, the team brought back their head coach from the year before. Yang Xuezeng, who took over midway through last season, was re-signed in the off-season and has stayed on the bench the entire year — another first. Assisting him has been American Beau Archibald, a former assistant at the University of Connecticut who has also stayed on the entire year. Reportedly giving Yang and Archibald some freedom to coach, Boss Wang supposedly backed off from his usual meddling ways and allowed people to do their job. The result: A 20-12 regular season record, a first round series victory over Shanghai, and a semi-finals matchup against Beijing — all firsts in team history. And though he is still definitely involved with the team (he can be seen sitting on the bench during games), he’s not as involved.

Or so you thought, until you read this amazing interview he held with Titan Sports Weekly (via QQ.com), published on February 27:

“This season, I’ve kind of been like an assistant coach,” said Boss Wang to a reporter midway through Shanxi’s first round series with Shanghai. “The team has been playing well, I feel like I’ve made a bit of contribution.”

Of course technically, or at least officially, he’s not. In China, where stamped certificates that can (usually) only be obtained by completing some kind of training or course work, some kind of zigezheng are required in many different professions, basketball coaching very much included. According to the article, Boss Wang wanted one of those certificates so that he could officially place himself on the Brave Dragon’s staff as an assistant coach. But the process was too mafan or too much trouble, so he did the next best thing: Ignore all the official stuff and just declare himself assistant coach anyways.

“So what if I don’t have a coaching certificate? That means I can’t be a coach?”

According to Wang, this season’s unprecedented success is “…because I’m the one coming up with the ideas, Coach Yang lays everything out and the team goes out and implements everything.” He proves that point by bringing up a game against Bayi in where the team was down by double-digits.

“One time we were down 15, the team was following Coach Yang’s gameplan. We were running a lot of off-ball screens and getting a lot of shots from long range, but nothing was going in. I remember that at one point we had missed seven shots in a row. Once I looked at it, I knew right away we needed a change. So I told Coach Yang to call a time-out. I went into the huddle and drew some stuff up myself.”

According to the report, he told the team to abandon shooting from the outside and instead to focus on giving point guard Lu Xiaoming some freedom so that he could drive to the rim.

“Five minutes later, the game is tied up. We ended up winning that game. We were down and Lu Xiaoming was passing the ball. Lu Xiaoming is better than them. Our other domestic players aren’t as good as Bayi’s, so our offense was weak. Letting Lu Xiaoming have some offensive freedom really kick started our offense and we were better than them on that end.”

“[I told] Big Yang, you need to watch more NBA. All of the good teams rely on their point guard to ignite their offense.”

Boss Wang knows that his heavy involvement with his team has drawn a lot of opinion. All that talk, however, doesn’t concern him in the least. Because as owner, he can do whatever he wants. And he wants nothing more than to win and coach the game he loves.

“I know over the last few years I’ve been criticized by a lot of people, but I don’t care. When you have an owner and his team is winning, then his reputation is good. Wait until we’re making the Final Four every year. Even if I’m wearing rags, who will look down upon me?”

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals – Game 2

March 8, 2012

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Shanxi – 123 @ Beijing – 132

After delaying his own scoring until the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s Game 1 loss at Shanxi, Stephon Marbury made his point early and often in Game 2 to lead Beijing to a decisive victory that was much more dominant than the final score indicated. Aggressive from the start, Marbury scored 25 points in the first quarter as the Ducks scored 40 by the frame’s final buzzer. With Marbury on the bench for most of the second, the Ducks built off the momentum to build a 64-49 at half.

Playing at a frenetic pace on both ends, Beijing went out and pushed the lead out to almost 30 points behind a number of steals which lead to easy transition baskets. Mabury finished with 52 points, just short of his CBA career high, as well as 10 assists and seven steals. Randolph Morris had a double-double with 27 points and 10 boards, Zhai Xiaochuan was a perfect 8-8 from the field to hit for 20 and Ji Zhe had 17.

Though Charles Gaines finished with 27 and 15 rebounds, most of it came too late as the Ducks made an concerned effort to cut off his spin moves and force him into turnovers. Marcus Williams had 42 points and six rebounds, but didn’t get any help from his Chinese teammates — 10 points from Makan and 11 from Xing Zhiqiang.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Xinjiang – 92 @ Guangdong – 97

Zhu Fangyu scored a game high 25 points, Aaron Brooks added 21 points and Guangdong came away with a big Game 2 victory to put them one win away from punching their fifth straight ticket to the CBA Finals. Ike Diogu had 18 points and 9 rebounds and Tim Pickett scored 17. Xirelijiang, who re-injured his sprained ankle in Game 1, did not play.

Up 78-77 in the fourth quarter, Xinjiang let the game slip away after Guangdong grabbed multiple offensive rebounds on not one, but two possessions in the last three minutes. Wang Shipeng was the first to make them pay for their ineptitude on the defensive glass, cashing a three 93-88 with 2:48 left in the game. With 1:29 left and up two, Su Wei was the next to step in and extend Guangdong’s possession, pulling down the board and drawing the foul. He made one of two, Xinjiang couldn’t convert on the other end and for the second time in as many games, the defending champs beat their longtime rivals.

Game 3 is on Friday in DongGuan and a sweep is looking very likely.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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