Tag Archives: Michael Maadanly

Soon to be extinct (maybe): The Asian Import

February 29, 2012

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Bad for fans of Chinese basketball, good for opposing players: Zaid Abbas may have played his last season in the CBA (Photo: Osports via Sina)

The Asian import rule: Instituted in 2008-09, the Chinese Basketball Association powers that be saw it within the benefit of Chinese basketball to allow the worst teams in the league to carry one Asian import player in addition to the two other normal import players. Attracting some of Asia’s best players would put the CBA on the map as the continent’s premier professional basketball league, which would improve the competition and make their Chinese players better. It’d also level out the playing field a bit and give the league more parity.

It’s been hit-and-miss over the years, but out of everything, three good players have come out of it all: ”Sam” Osama Dahglas (who played for Jilin this year, Shanxi last year), Zaid Abbas (Fujian this year, Beijing and Shanghai before that) and Michael Maadanly (Foshan). In a league that lacks watchable players, the three — all of whom are definitely watchable — are a welcome sight for China-based hoops fans.

So it’s bad news to hear the latest news out of Chinese media, which is that the league is considering abolishing the Asian import rule next season.

Optimists will bring up the same getting-rid-of-the-Asian-import-talk that dominated last year’s off-season rumor mill, and the off-season the year before as well, talk that ultimately ended with no changes to the rule.

This year, however, there has been more support than ever to do away with the rule. DongGuan’s Brian Goorjian is in favor of getting rid of Asian imports because he feels it takes playing time time away from young players, an opinion that Tianjin’s general manager shares.

And none other than Yao Ming has gone on record as saying he’s in favor of abolishing the Asian import next season, cruel words from the guy who gave Abbas his start in China two seasons ago in Shanghai. They’re even crueler when you consider he was one of the main reasons why Shanghai was able to turn itself around in 2009-10 from a nearly bankrupt six-win team into a playoff contender that nearly knocked off Guangdong in the semi-finals.

But in Yao’s case — and in a lot of other team’s cases — offing Abbas and other Asian imports from the CBA isn’t personal, it’s strictly business.

The rules on Asian imports are as follows: The four teams with the league’s worst record from the previous season are allowed to sign an Asian import in addition to the two other imports they can put on their roster. Unlike the other two imports, who are restricted to playing six combined quarters, Asian imports have no limits on their playing time, which means that technically they can play the entire game.

It’s an especially great rule for Abbas because he never gets tired, despite going dumb hard for the entire game. More minutes equals more stats, more stats equals more seasons, more seasons equals more money. All that, plus playing in Asia’s top professional league and it’s easy to understand why he’d like to continue playing in China. And it’s equally great for the team that signs him, since every team that Abbas has played for over his three-year CBA career (Shanghai, Beijing and Fujian) have all made the post-season.

But that’s where the problem is: No matter how much they sucked the year before, once a team signs Zaid Abbas, they make the playoffs. Which means a team who was in the playoffs the year before is going to be pushed out.

And now you can understand why Yao wants Abbas out: The Yao-owned Sharks, a low-budget team that doesn’t spend big on imports, feel threatened. Without Abbas last season, Shanghai missed the playoffs; this season they got in as a No. 6 seed. Likely fighting for a playoff seed again next season, Shanghai could once again be one of those teams who is pushed out of the post-season by whatever team Abbas signs for this off-season. Any team other than Guangdong, Xinjiang and Beijing probably feel threatened as well.

That’s only one layer of the issue, though. The other one is the decline of the Bayi Rockets from a once-proud dynasty into a nice fluffy doormat. Tied to the slow, gradual erosion of their star player, Wang Zhizhi, Bayi slipped off the face of the standings this year finishing the season in 14th place at 10-22. The 22 losses were the most ever in Bayi history, just one of many records for futility the team set this year. Things got so bad in fact that during the team’s nine-game losing streak, fans gave the old xia ke chant (yelled when fans want their coach to be fired) to their legendary head coach, Adijiang.

As one of the bottom four teams, Bayi normally would be eligible to sign an Asian player. Of course, as we all know, Bayi isn’t normal. They represent the People’s Liberation Army and thus aren’t allowed to sign any foreign players to their team.

In the scope of basketball, Bayi is a relic. With both the quality of Chinese and foreign players improving every year, Bayi stands no chance of ever getting back to the top of the CBA. An unavoidable sign of the times perhaps, but as Bayi still remains a national interest, going 10-22 is simply unacceptable for both team, league and maybe even country. So no — getting rid of the Asian import won’t put the Rockets back on the same level as Guangdong, but it would pull some of their competition back down to earth. And if they could find another player or two, maybe they’d get back into the playoffs.

Which brings up the age-old question of whether Abbas is good enough to be a regular non-Asian import, something that Shanghai asked in the summer of 2009 before ultimately deciding that he wasn’t.

A case could be made though for the 2011-12 NiuBBall Defensive Player of the Year (what, like there was any doubt?). Despite his offensive shortcomings, dude does play his freaking butt off during every second of every game, is capable of guarding up to three positions and rebounds the heck out of the ball. Abbas was selected for the CBA All-Star Game for the first time this year, and rightfully so if I may add. Maybe he wouldn’t put up the 25 points per game that most teams are looking to get out of their imports, but would anyone be surprised by nightly tallies of 18 points and 15 boards?

Abbas isn’t happy with what he’s been hearing and sounds like a guy who’s resigned to his fate — all the more reason to believe that this is going to happen.

Unfortunately, at least the way I see it, no team in China would be willing to sign him as a regular import player. There’s always a guy out there, with out without experience in China, who teams feel can put up huge scoring numbers. And at the end of the day, that’s what teams want — guys who can put up huge scoring numbers. Which means, sadly, we may have seen the last of Abbas, Dahglas and Maadanly in the CBA.

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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

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CBA Round 25 Recap

January 17, 2012

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DongGuan – 101 @ Foshan – 99

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

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

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangsha – 92 @ Liaoning – 106

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

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

Jon Pastuszek

Bayi – 98 @ Beijing – 112

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

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

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangdong – 101 @ Shanghai – 85

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

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

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

–Andrew Crawford

Xinjiang – 97 @ Qingdao – 115

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

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

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Tianjin – 102 @ Shanxi – 119

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Shandong – 95 @ Fujian – 116

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Jiangsu – 93 @ Zhejiang – 116

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CBA Round 24 Recap

January 15, 2012

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Beijing – 111 @ Shanxi – 114

Stephon Marbury’s return to his Chinese “hometown” of Taiyuan was spoiled by an unusually balanced effort from the Brave Dragons, who had five players score in double figures. Charles Gaines paced the home squad with 28 points and 14 rebounds, while Marcus Williams and Lu Xiaoming each pitched in with 19 points and five assists.

Marbury, who played his first season with Shanxi two seasons ago, scored 22 points and handed out six assists. But a slow start that saw the Ducks down 14 at the half ultimately doomed them as they failed to come back despite a strong third quarter. Randolph Morris lead the way for Beijing, scoring 32, most of which came at the free-throw line, and grabbing 11 rebounds. Chen Lei, who is nursing an injury from earlier this month, only played four minutes.

The loss is Beijing’s eighth in the last 10 games.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangdong – 133 @ Foshan – 124

While Guangsha and Beijing slip down the standings after strong starts to the season, Guangdong continues to play itself into form after winning its fourth straight game at the hands of inter-province rival, Foshan. The visiting Souther Tigers shot a blistering 46-80 from the field as six players scored 10 or more points. Aaron Brooks had a team high 31 points.

Foshan’s Michael Maddanly put in a CBA career high 42 and Marcus Douthit scored 30. With the win, Guangdong goes to 19-4 on the year and now holds a comfortable four game lead over second place DongGuan.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

 

Shanghai – 84 @ Liaoning – 93

The Shanghai Sharks gave up their first sweep of the season. Having lost at home to the Liaoning Jaguars in December, they got the same treatment when they played the reverse tie in Benxi. Like the last time the Sharks encountered their hosts, the Jaguars were slick, ruthless and more than willing to pass the ball around as Shanghai tried but failed to keep up with the home side’s offence. The 93-84 loss means that the Sharks road record now stands at 3-9.

The Sharks went in at half-time in the lead thanks to a strong showing by Marcus Landry in the first quarter but after that, the deafening Tiexi crowd helped pull the Jaguars out of their funk and when Josh Powell appeared from the bench, things started to click for the home side in the third quarter. Shanghai stuck with it and kept on fighting until the final buzzer but the Liaoning offence simply too much to contain for the visiting Sharks team.

Zhang Qingpeng scored 20 points while Powell grabbed a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds. For the Sharks, Mike Harris made 30 points, Landry picked up 21 and Zhang Zhaoxu scrapped his way to 11.

Andrew Crawford

Box Score

Tianjin – 112 @ Xinjiang – 134

Tim Pickett exploded for 36 points in the first half to finish with 55 points and 12 rebounds in an entertaining affair in Urumqi that ended with a much needed win for the Flying Tigers. Picket’s double-nickel is the second highest single-game tally of the season, two points behind J.R. Smith’s 57. The home win ended a three game losing streak for Xinjiang and puts them at 11-10 on the year.

With Tianjin’s Lebanese point guard, Rony Fahed, out for the year with a broken hand, it was up to Tianjin’s domestic players to guard Pickett. They failed miserably as Pickett came in midway through the first quarter with an aggressive mindset that saw him on constant attack. He missed only two shots the entire first half and through Pickett, Xinjiang built up a big halftime lead. It’s Xinjiang’s biggest win of the season and by far the most points they’ve put up all year. Gani Lawal played well with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Xirelijiang, who celebrated his birthday with the win, contributed with 16 points on 4-8 from three.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangsha – 74 @ Jilin – 93

Wilson Chandler scored a CBA career low 12 points and Guangsha was held to under 100 points for the fifth straight game in a surprising road loss to sub-.500 Jilin. The loss is the Lions’ third in their last four and puts them back into the multi-team crowd that is clogging up the playoff picture. At present, they are tied in the loss column at eight with Beijing and DongGuan.

Osama Dahglas went for 25 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, Lu Wei scored 20, Jameel Watkins saw double with 19 and 15 boards and Cartier Martin put in 18 points.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Shandong – 89 @ DongGuan – 95

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Bayi – 94 @ Jiangsu – 112

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Qingdao – 110 @ Fujian – 104

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2011-2012 CBA Preview

November 20, 2011

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J.R. Smith is just one of many reasons why people are more excited than ever to watch the CBA this season.

Technically, the 2011-12 regular season started tonight. Paced by Othello Hunter’s 11 points and 21 rebounds The visiting Shandong Golden Bulls took out the Foshan Dralions in front of a national audience, 93-79.

Normally, that’d take some of the shine off of fresh off the press 2011-12 CBA preview. Thing is though, this preview is anything but normal.

For your viewing pleasure, we’re not only previewing every single team for the new season, we’re putting in a power rankings, too. Yeah — there’s almost 6,000 English words on Chinese basketball in this beast. We don’t want to toot our own horns or anything, but we think that’s got to be a record.

Read it all at once right now, print it out and take it on the go, or break it all up into easy to manage blocks. And as always, if you have any questions, hit up the comments.

Throughout the season, we’ll be updating the power rankings, probably every Monday.

Note: *Indicates an import who is playing his first season in the CBA.

1. Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers
2010-11 record: 25-7 (2nd place, won CBA Championship)
Head Coach: Li Chunjiang (5th year)
Imports: James Singleton, Aaron Brooks*

Rule number one of NiuBBall Chinese Basketball Association power rankings: The champs are put at the top at the beginning of the year — no matter what other teams with Tigers for mascots have done in the off-season.

So like they would have been for the past four years, Guangdong starts the season in pole position. And that decision isn’t solely based on the fact that their reigning champs. As it stands right now, they’re also a lot more talented than they were last year, primarily thanks to an ongoing labor dispute in America.

No team has benefited more from the NBA lockout than Guangdong, who have bolstered their already championship-caliber roster with not one but two players who played in the League last season.

Both will be very familiar to China. After spending five years in the States, Yi Jianlian, has returned to his hometown squad that raised him from youth. Having clearly emerged as the leader of the post-Yao Team China setup at the FIBA Asia Championship this summer in Wuhan, Yi returns to China playing perhaps the best ball of his career. Unlike other NBA-to-CBA hoopers, Ah Lian has a special out-clause that will allow him a free passage back to America if/when the lockout ends.

Joining him will be another lockout casualty, Aaron Brooks, who according to Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reportedly committed to joining Guangdong cause.

But, wait! There’s more recognizable faces heading to southern China — after helping Guangdong overcome Xinjiang in six games in the Finals, the team says goodbye to both Lester Hudson and Marcus Haislip, and hello to the guy they were game-planning against, James Singleton. A rugged player whose willing to sacrifice his own numbers for wins, Singleton will be a good fit next to Guangdong’s prolific roster. Besides making for good basketball, his move down south also adds an extra element to the Xinjiang-Guangdong rivalry, which in our eyes is the best in CBA history.

You should know the rest of the roster by now: Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Zhou Peng and Su Wei comprise the team’s core of National Teamers that give them the match-up edge against virtually every team in the league.

If there’s any bones to pick against Guangdong this year, its that there may be too much talent. How a low-percentage chucker like Brooks will mesh with China’s laoda, Yi, and the team’s other Chinese players is a question that is on our minds heading into the season. Brooks will have his 40 point games, but as Guangdong has built its championship formula around its Chinese players, is he really what the team needs?

In any case, just mark Guangdong as a lock to be back in the Finals this year. As to who they’ll face, well that’s pretty much a lock, too…

Jon Pastuszek

2. Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers
2010-11 record: 31-1 (1st place, lost in Finals to Guangdong)
Head Coach: Bob Donewald Jr. (3rd year)
Imports: Kenyon Martin*, Quincy Douby**

What do you do if you’re a basketball-infatuated billionaire owner who’s team has lost in the Finals the last three years in a row? You spend close to USD $10 million in the summer to make sure that losing streak doesn’t become four in a row.

How do you spend 10 mil in the Chinese Basketball Association, you ask? You start by bringing in the head coach of the Chinese National Team and noted CBA miracle worker, Bob Donewald Jr.

What could have been: Douby and K-Mart chat during practice pre-Douby wrist-break.

Donewald, who rose to the top of Team China after leading the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks from the depths of bankruptcy to a magical semi-finals run in 2009, will now be aiming to rise to the top of the CBA in Urumqi, where expectations reside somewhere between championship and championship. If you don’t believe that, think about the guy who he replaces, Jiang Xingquan; he only went 31-1 last regular season. Having spent all this money, there is no room for failure now.

If there’s anyone who’s up for the task though, its Donewald, who had to deal with the “win, or else” pressure that was placed upon him this summer in Wuhan, and media firestorm that came with it. The regular season is just a prelude to a Finals match-up against Guangdong, and the team’s result in that series will determine the success of the season.

Coaches need players to coach, though. And good thing for Donewald, Xinjiang added some good ones. Former NBA number one overall pick, Kenyon Martin, was signed in September to the richest contract in franchise history. He may not score 30 a night, but he won’t need to either — unleashing K-Mart inside an arena near you will be more than enough to deter opponents from even venturing into the lane. Simply China has never seen that type of defensive intensity. While J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler will be making headlines for their offensive outbursts, expect Martin to make his mark on the winning end of the court, the defensive side.

Xinjiang also added three domestic players who will play a large role in determining the result of this season. Former three-time MVP, Tang Zhengdong, who’s been wanting to get out Jiangsu since forever, finally got his wish. Though not what he once was when he was with Jiangsu back in the mid-2000s, he’ll be a load for opposing second units to handle when he subs in for current three-time reigning MVP, Mengke Bateer.

Chao Yonggang, a sharp shooting small forward who played with Foshan last year, was also signed for a large transfer fee. The team has big expectations for him: He’s been playing as a starter during pre-season games. China U-23 Olympic Team member, Meng Duo, who has been with DongGuan New Century since his teenage years, has been brought over on a two-year loan. A six-foot guard, Meng is an athletic and capable player who will be relied upon to provide scoring off the bench.

Keep in mind, though: This is a team that lost one game last regular season. There’s still a lot of veteran talent on this team. Bateer is the best Chinese big man in the league and will continue to be a rock inside for the Flying Tigers. Local product, 20 year-old Xirelijiang, spent the entire summer under Donewald with the National Team and looks primed to improve on last year’s promising campaign. The Mai Brothers combo will be short one after Maiwulan went to Foshan via the short-term transfer draft, but Maierdan will be back to smash heads/get called for moving screens under the basket.

There is bad news, though. Xinjiang’s title hopes took a hit when arguably the best import in league history, Quincy Douby, suffered a broken left wrist during a pre-season match last Sunday. Douby has already returned to the States and undergone surgery and it appears that the team is looking at other options to replace him.

Whether they choose to wait it out until he’s healthy or they go with a replacement player right away, Xinjiang will have a healthy and supremely talented import guard at the end of the year to play alongside K-Mart, Bateer and sons. So start getting ready now for Guangdong – Xinjiang, part III.

Jon Pastuszek

3. Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls

2010-11 record: 18-14 (6th place, lost to DongGuan in first round)
Head Coach: Ding Wei (2nd year)
Imports: J.R. Smith*, Josh Boone

Based in the sock capital of the world, Yiwu, the Golden Bulls enjoyed moderate success last season with Marcus Williams and Josh Boone as the focal points of the team. They got off to a slow 2-7 start with Mike James, but finished the year 17-6 once Marcus Williams came over as a replacement. Williams’ dominance ended in the playoffs though, and with it so did Chouzhou’s run as they suffered a disappointing first round playoff sweep at the hands of Jiangsu.

During the off-season, Chouzhou let go of Marcus Williams and made what might be the biggest acquisition in the CBA by signing former Denver Nuggets guard J.R. Smith. If Marcus Williams could average nearly 30 points a game for Chouzhou, the sky is the limit for Smith, who is one of the best pure scorers in the world. He possesses unbelievable range on his beautiful jump shot and has incredible athleticism that allows him to finish above the rim. With the Nuggets, he was relegated to the sixth man role due to the presence of Carmelo Anthony and his head-scratching shot selection. This won’t be the case with Chouzhou, where he will have the green light as the first, second, and third option.

Alongside Smith will be veteran big man Josh Boone, who is be entering his second season with the Cyclones. Boone is an athletic shot blocker who lacks a refined offensive game. He scores most of his points off of put-backs and broken plays. With J.R. Smith commanding so much defensive attention, Boone should enjoy a productive season on the offensive end. Ding Jinhui has been a National Team regular since Donewald took the reigns for his non-stop motor, and he’s one of the better Chinese forwards in the league.  The Golden Bulls’ success rests on the shoulders of Smith and Boone; if they can get their role players involved, the victories should add up.

Edward Bothfeld

4. Jiangsu Nangang Dragons

2010-11 record: 19-12 (4th place, lost to Xinjiang in semi-finals)
Head Coach: Xu Qiang (13th year)
Imports: Dan Gadzuric*, Luther Head*

The Jiangsu Nangang Dragons are coming off another successful season in which they finished with the fourth best regular season record and an appearance in the semi-finals. With three returning starters and two new imports, the Dragons have a good chance of replicating last year’s success.

Jiangsu's Yi Li took a big step forward this summer with his strong performance for the National Team at the FIBA Asia Championship.

Although he may still be fighting jetlag during the home opener, Luther Head is a capable combo guard who might excel in the CBA’s style of play. He is mostly known for his shooting abilities, but if Head can find some success driving to the hoop and keep defenders honest, he could be in for a big season. While Head makes plays on the perimeter, nine-year NBA veteran Dan Gadzuric will be doing dirty work in the paint. Known for his defensive presence and ability to run the floor, Gadzuric is limited on offense, where he has difficulty creating for himself.

Even with the loss of their force in the middle, three-time CBA MVP, Tang Zhengdong, who was sold to Xinjiang, Jiangsu still has the solid core of Chinese players that have made Jiangsu a perennial threat. The spindly Yi Li, who had a strong showing for the National Team as their sixth man at the Asia Championship this summer, will be asked to play a more prominent role now that Tang is gone. Fan favorite Hu Xuefeng will continue to be ageless at the point guard position and Meng Da, though also getting up there in age, should average double figures in scoring once again.

The culture of winning cannot be understated, and NiuBBall believes Jiangsu will be heading back to playoffs for a ninth straight year.

Edward Bothfeld and Jon Pastuszek

5. Zhejiang Guangsha Lions
2010-11 record: 18-14 (6th place, lost to DongGuan in first round)
Head Coach: Jim Cleamons (1st year)
Imports: Wilson Chandler*, Dwyane Jones 

Hangzhou is home to the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions, a usually mediocre team that annually flirts with being among the CBA’s elite. For the past three seasons, the team has revolved around big man P.J. Ramos, otherwise known as “The Puerto Rican King” (at least that’s what the large tattoo on his wrist says). Ramos enjoyed some success with Guangsha, but after finishing last year with an 18-14 record and a first round playoff exit, the club’s management decided to make drastic changes, and during the off-season they overhauled their roster and coaching staff in an attempt to permanently join the upper-echelon of teams.

In comes Coach Jim Cleamons, who is by far the most experienced and heralded NBA coach in the CBA. He has spent the majority of his coaching career as an assistant in the league under Phil Jackson. He has over a decade of experience teaching some of the most talented players of all time – Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal. In his basketball career, he has won a staggering ten championships – ten as a coach and one as a player. Guangsha is hoping Cleamons’ leadership and addiction to winning will transform the Lions into a championship contender.

However, a coach cannot win games by himself. Fortunately for Cleamons, Guangsha was also able to sign Wilson Chandler. Standing at a broad 6-8 (208 cm), Chandler has spent his NBA career with the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets. He possesses a unique skill-set with his ability to shoot from long range and use his size to score inside, thus making him difficult to defend. Look for Cleamons to make Chandler the focal point of the team, and for him to average around thirty points a game.

During training camp, the Lions suffered a significant setback. To complement Chandler, they had recruited fellow NBA star, Earl Clark. After arriving in Hangzhou, Clark received the wonderful news that his girlfriend was pregnant and understandably returned home. With Clark gone, Guangsha turned to former NBA player, Dwayne Jones. While he is not nearly as talented as Clark, he is tall (211 cm), has already spent a year playing professionally in China for Foshan, and is a capable post defender and rebounder.

Expectations are high, but with Chandler filling up the box score, Jones doing the dirty work, a talented supporting cast led by Taiwanese National Lin Chih-Chieh, and Jim Cleamons roaming the sidelines, the Lions should be in for a successful and winning season.

Edward Bothfeld

6. Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons

2010-11 record: 15-17 (9th place)
Head Coach: Yang Xuezeng (2nd year)
Imports: Marcus Williams, Charles Gaines

As Jim Yardley’s new book on Shanxi will tell us when it his stores in February next year, it’s probably pretty stupid to bet on a team that is owned by a raging lunatic. Still, there’s enough talent here — both American and Chinese — to convince us that this team can overcome that to make the playoffs.

Let’s start with the U.S. guys. After trying to sign Kobe Bryant to a one-month deal before the CBA squashed that idea, Shanxi made two sound decisions in the import market by signing China old-hands Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines. Williams made everyone look really stupid for passing him up at the beginning of the year when he came over to Zhejiang Chouzhou mid-season as a replacement for Mike James. His one man band show that culminated with four straight triple-doubles to end the regular season, parading the Golden Bulls to a playoff birth, and an appearance on the NiuBBall.com All-CBA First Team. Boasting the best all-around game in China, there’s no reason for us to believe he shouldn’t be there again this year.

Gaines is no slouch either. Two years ago for Xinjiang, he averaged over 30 points a game, and last year he led the league with 33.7 per contest on top of 13.5 rebounds. Yet, he remains most famous for slapping the eff out of Du Feng in the 2010 CBA Finals. And probably rightfully so. But Gaines, who was also a NiuBBall.com First Teamer last year, in combination with Williams will probably be famous this season because he’ll be part of one of the most potent import duos in the league this year.

On the Chinese side, swingman Duan Jiangpeng is coming off a strong summer that saw him suit up for the China Under-23 Olympic Team before earning a brief call-up to the Senior National Team. His Brave Dragon teammate, Zhang Xuewen, also averaged double-figures for the Brave Dragons last year and is another young piece expected to help the playoff cause.

If there is one weakness with this team — besides their bumbling mad owner — it’s that this team lacks a point-guard. Williams, who excels when the ball is in his hands, may be enough to compensate for that though. This is a team with a ton of talent and they should make the playoffs, despite an owner that made the late George Steinbrenner seem like Abe Polin.

Jon Pastuszek

7. Liaoning Jiebao Innovators

2010-11 record: 14-18 (10th place)
Head coach: Guo Shiqiang (6th year)
Imports: Rodney Carney, Josh Powell

The normally relevant Liaoning PanPan Dinosaurs were anything but last season, finishing with an unimpressive 14-18 record. Their struggles could be mainly attributed to the poor play from any of the four imports they put on the court during the year, Donta Smith, Anthony Myles, Myles McKay and Chris Richard.

This season, however, could be different. In fact, it’s already different — at least in name. Provincially-owned Liaoning dropped their longtime shareholder sponsor, PanPan Doors, turned around and bought the club themselves. Once dubbed the PanPan Dinosaurs, Liaoning is now the Jiebao (a car company)… Innovators? The name of the team in Chinese is 前瞻, which according to nciku.com means “to look ahead; to forecast.” I don’t think the Liaoning Weathermen sounds very good, so I went with “innovators.” That is very likely 100% wrong. If you know their name in English — if they have one — holler at us in the comments.

It also could be different, because Liaoning looks pretty darn good on paper. Overpowering every other storyline is the return of guard Zhang Qingpeng, who is back after a one-year loan to Xinjiang. A common sight on Team China a few years ago, Zhang has fallen out of favor with Donewald’s National Team. But he’s on the short list of top Chinese guards in the league, and his accuracy from the outside will be a big boost for the team this year.

Former L.A. Laker and two-time NBA champion, Josh Powell, and NBA journeyman Rodney Carney have joined the Hunters. Together, they are hoping to kick start a Liaoning revival (they were finalists in 2008). With poor ball-handling skills, Carney is reliant on his leaping ability and athleticism on the offensive end. The game needs to be played at a frenetic pace for him to be effective. While Powell has size – 6’9 and 240 lbs — he isn’t a banger and gets most of his buckets on midrange jumpers.

Up front, Liaoning can play with anyone. 6-9 power forward Li Xiaoxu played at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. 7-1 Han Dejun, participated in all-you-can-eat pork dumplings competition in Liaoning last year. OK that’s a joke, but the 300+ pound puffer can play a little bit, even if his body weight only allows him to play in short bursts.

If the Innovators can get consistent play from youngster Guo Ailun, one of China’s best prospects at the point-guard position, they’re headed back to the post-season.

Edward Bothfeld and Jon Pastuszek

8. Beijing Shougang Ducks

2010-11 record: 16-16 (8th place)
Head Coach: Min Lulei (14th year)
Imports: Stephon Marbury, Randolph Morris

Like NiuBBall, Starbury is way down with Beijing and Niu Bi.

Stephon Marbury says he’s been happy in China since signing with Shanxi in 2010. That’s impressive given who he’s played for and the cities he’s called home the last two seasons, Taiyuan, Shanxi and Foshan, Guangdong.

Now in Beijing for his third season, Marbury, who had his own feature in China Daily two days ago, is even happier.

Ducks fans should be happier, too. China likes themeslves some Marbury, but it seems that Beijing, who has taken to the Coney Islander with even more reverence, likes him the most. And that was before he officially signed for them in the off-season.

Partered up with Randolph Morris, who put up huge numbers for the Ducks last year, fans are going to like what they see at Shougang Arena this season. Neither have ever played in China with a better import, and seeing how both of them were pretty good on their own last year, logic would suggest that they’ll be pretty good together.

The one concern for Beijing this year is the loss of their Asian import, Zaid Abbas. The tireless forward ran circles around opponents last year rebounding, defending and picking up garbage points. Because there are no rules that restrict Asian import players’ playing time, Abbas is one of the most valuable players in the league and Beijing will definitely miss him.

But, is the loss of Abbas really going to affect the Ducks that much? After all, Beijing snuck into the eight spot last season, despite playing a good portion of the year with only one American. (Steve Francis, that was totally on you, man.) Pint-sized Taiwanese point-guard, Lee Hsueh-lin, likes to push the pace and find open teammates, and him and Marbury will be sharing the same backcourt most of the time. Forward Chen Lei is a good all-around player, and “The Journalist,” Ji Zhe, is a big man who can stretch defenses out with his outside shooting.

I think Abbas’ departure is a big blow, but with two Americans playing alongside what basically amounts to the same roster as last season, the Ducks will be in the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Jon Pastuszek

9. Jilin GBT Northeast Tigers

2010-11 record: 12-20 (13th place)
Head coach: Wang Han
Imports: Cartier Martin*, Jameel Watkins, Osama Dahglas (Asian import)

Unlike our good friend Guan Weijia over at Sheridan Hoops, I’m not hopping on the Jilin post-season express right now. But, get back to me in a few weeks and see what I say then, because Jilin definitely has a ton of potential.

Why? The Northeast Tigers are simply loaded in the backcourt with Dahglas, Martin and Yu Shulong, who has spent considerable time with the National Team over the last two summers. Dahglas, who starts at point for the Jordanian National Team, played well for Shanxi last year. With Daghlas, you know what you’re getting — a good playmaker at the point-guard position who is looking to get in the lane and dish to teammates. But he’s not much of a scorer and that’s where Martin will come in. He didn’t get too much run for them, but some people liked him when he was with the Wizards and he should have a big year scoring the ball in this league.

Up front, Jameel Watkins comes back for his second season with Jilin and his fourth overall in the CBA. The 34 year-old isn’t going to put the ball in the hoop too much, but he protects the paint well and rebounds the ball. With Martin doing most of the scoring, they won’t need him to do much else. Zhong Cheng played with the Chinese U-23 Team this summer.

Since the Asian import rule was implemented in 2009, one team has gone from bottom four to the playoffs each season. Of all the teams who qualify for an extra foreigner, Jilin has the best chance to be the third.

Jon Pastuszek

10. Bayi Fubang Rockets

2010-11 record: 17-15 (7th place)
Head Coach: Adijiang (10th year)
Imports: None

You probably know them as the guys who went WWF on the Georgetown Hoyas last August in Beijing. But, in China, they’re mainly known as the team that always wins. If the NiuBBall prophecy is indeed true, however, and the Bayi Rockets do miss the playoffs this year, it will end a 50+ year reign of dominance over Chinese basketball.

Like many people, including a growing number of Chinese, we won’t be needing any tissues when it happens.

Protectors of the old guard, Bayi is primed to miss the playoffs for the first time since the CBA was founded in 1996. Like always, the team that represents the People’s Liberation Army is devoid of any foreigners and will go into battle with a roster comprised entirely of Chinese players. Most famous, of course, is Wang Zhizhi, who will creak into his 15th professional basketball season, his 12th in CBA. The spindly left-hander is running on his last legs — the 2012 London Olympics will be his last international competition for China — and though he’s still capable of throwing up 20-30 points in a game, his best days are way behind him.

That’s not a good thing for the Rockets, who have rode Wang to eight championships since he made his debut in 1995-96. While all solid in their own right, Mo Ke, Zhang Bo and Wang Lei aren’t centerpieces, which means once again the burden will be placed on an aging center who’s played year-round for 15 straight years.

With their superior height advantages all over the court, Bayi will present match-up problems against smaller teams. And like every year, they’ll still get great whistles at home, even when they’re playing bad. Bayi could sneak into the playoffs — especially if the CBA decides that the league still needs soldiers playing under the bright lights — but, I think this is the end of the road for the Rockets as we know them.

Jon Pastuszek

11. DongGuan New Century Leopards
2010-11 record: 25-7 (3rd place)
Head coach: Brian Goorjian (2nd year)
Imports: Josh Akognon, Shavlik Randolph*

The CBA is rarely surprising, which is why DongGuan was such a refreshing team to watch last season. Put under the control of longtime Australian National Team head coach, Brian Goorjian, DongGuan exceeded all pre-season expectations to go 25-7 in the regular season. Goorjian arrived in the spring right after the 2009-10 season and went straight to work on improving the team’s defense. Centering both the offense and defense around Jackson Vroman, whose mobility, passing and versatility made him a organizer and facilitator on both ends, and leaning on Nigerian-American, Josh Akognon, to light the scoreboard from three point-line, the Leopards were able to overcome a young and inexperienced roster to go all the way to the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual champion, Guangdong.

Thing is though, maybe they could have done better. Jackson went down with a fractured hand just before the playoffs and with it, so did DongGuan’s fairy tale season. Was it always unlikely that they were going to beat their DongGuan neighbors? Yes, but it would have been a much more competitive series.

This year, Goorjian is back, but Jackson has left for the Korean Basketball League. Akognon, who took more threes than anyone last year, is also back for another season. He’ll be joined by Shavlik Randolph, has been in-and-out of the NBA the last five years since leaving early from Duke in 2005.

With Goorjian, one of the best coaches in Asia, DongGuan will always be well prepared and will thus win games against teams with more talent. Last year, veterans Zhang Kai and Qiu Biao played arguably the best basketball of their career under him. But, what was already a young team got even younger with the departure of Meng Duo, who went to Xinjiang. Goorjian himself has said that this season is more about the development of DongGuan’s set of promising youngsters Li Muhao, Gu Quan and Sun Tonglin, and not so much about wins.

They’ll take a step backward with the loss of Vroman. But, with Goorjian still at the helm, DongGuan will never be an easy game for opponents and they may even sneak into the playoffs, despite their step back in talent from last year.

Jon Pastuszek

12. Fujian SBS Sturgeons
2010-11 record: 8-24 (16th place)
Head Coach: Joseph Stiebing (1st year)
Imports: Will McDonald, Anthony Roberson*, Zaid Abbas (Asian import)

Zaid Abbas has turned around both Shanghai and Beijing in the two years he's played in the CBA.

The Sturgeons will be happy with any improvements after a pathetic 8-24 record during the 2011 season. As a cellar dweller (bottom four teams), they were eligible to find a third Asian foreign import. Jordan National Zaid Abbas, who is no stranger to turning teams around, will serve as their third import alongside Anthony Roberson and Will McDonald. This will be Abbas’ third stint as the third import for struggling teams, but his previous two teams, Shanghai and Beijing, both improved dramatically with his addition. He doesn’t have a single skill that stands out, but his scrappy play and hustle are infectious.

If Fujian has any hope for a winning season, Abbas will need some help from Anthony Roberson and Will McDonald, who are probably among the least known imports in the CBA. Roberson is a streaky, shoot-first point guard who has occasional lapses on the defensive end. The 32 year-old McDonald has spent the majority of his career playing in Europe and will struggle against the likes of Josh Boone, Randolph Morris, and Kenyon Martin.

Edward Bothfeld 

13. Shandong Kingston Golden Lions
2010-11 record: 14-18 (11th place)
Head Coach: Gong Xiaobin (8th year)
Imports: Alan Anderson*, Othello Hunter*

Last year, Shandong replaced their longtime head coach, Gong Xiaobin, with Bob Weiss, who had coached Shanxi the year before and the Seattle Supersonics before that. Keeping it going with American CBA veterans, Shandong then went with two imports with China experience, Myron Allen and Rodney White.

The end result was not what they were hoping for: 14-18, 11th place.

This season, Shandong is going back with Gong on the bench, but they’re treading in uncharted import territory. Michigan State product, guard Alan Anderson, will mark the beginning of his Chinese career this year, as will power forward, Othello Hunter. Anderson has an impressive resume that includes stints the Charlotte Bobcats, FC Barcelona and Macabbi Tel Aviv. Hunter spent two years with the Atlanta Hawks from 2008-10. Last year he played for Dinamo Basket Sassari in Italy.

The rest we know: Sun Jie is thwacking threes and losing his hair, Sui Ran is flopping all over the place and pissing people off in between the occasional nice drive to the rack, and Ding Yanyuhang is a promising player with a really long name.

Behind Anderson, who I think will do well here, Shandong could be a dangerous match-up against the CBA’s middling teams. But, a lack of dependable Chinese to flank him will once again hold the Golden Lions back from a playoff spot.

Jon Pastuszek

14. Qingdao Double Star Eagles
2010-11 record: 10-22 (15th place)
Head Coach: Zhang Zhengxiu (2nd year)
Imports: Lester Hudson, Peter John Ramos, Sakakini Sani* (Asian import)

Qingdao recovered from their silly initial decision to sign Jarron Collins by first cutting him, and then signing combo guard Lester Hudson. Ike Diogu was on the radar at one point, but the team ultimately settled on 7-3 monster Peter John Ramos, who has spent the last three years with Zhejiang Guangsha.

If the Eagles can get a good big who can score to place alongisde Hudson, then I kind of like this team. Especially when the team’s Asian import, Jordanian forward Sakakini Sani, who played well in China’s second-tier professional league, the National Basketball League, this summer. Though not incredibly skilled, the 6-8 Sani has a big frame which he frequently uses to move bodies under the basket. He’s not on the level of Abbas, but he should have a solid year here playing as many minutes as his coach wants him to.

One cool thing about this team is that their head coach is Korean and the only non-American foreign coach in the league.

Part of me wants to put this team up further because of their nice trio of foreigners, but this squad’s Chinese roster is just too poor. Swingman Li Gen, who averaged a touch over 10 points a game last  year, is the only one I’d tell my friends about. Wang Gang moves to the coast from Shandong, and he’ll step into the point-guard slot. I guess I’ll have to go against impulse and instead settle with merely labeling the Eagles as a potential sleeper.

15. Shanghai Dongfang Sharks
2010-11 record: 12-20 (12th place)
Head Coach: Daniel Panaggio (1st year)
Imports: Mike Harris, Ryan Forehan-Kelly

After a failed attempt to sign with Shanghai last year, Taiwanese national Tseng Wen-ting is finally all set to go in China.

It is now ten years since the Sharks last finished as CBA champions and it remains to be seen if the notoriously fickle Shanghanese will pay much attention to the Sharks now that the days of Yao Ming averaging thirty-points a game seem so far away. These days, the shadow of Yao quite literally hovers over the Sharks team as the now-retired, newly-repatriated Chinese icon watches over the team he famously rescued from bankruptcy in 2009.

The 2011 side is very much one in transition as the Sharks adjust to life without the influential John Lucas III and the popular coach, Bob Donewald. The new man at the helm, former D-League coach, Daniel Panaggio, has arrived with intentions of utilizing the triangle offense, something that has taken a bit of getting used to. Panaggio’s hiring also coincides with the arrivals of Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who previously played for the Jiangsu Dragons in 2007-08, and Taiwanese forward, Tseng Wen-ting, both of whom featured prominently in the Sharks’ final pre-season games in Zhejiang province. Tseng’s addition will be particularly welcome — he was supposed to come over last year, but the deal fell apart after the transfer deadline passed.

Predicting how the Sharks’ will do this season very much depends on how full or empty your glass generally tends to be. Cynics will point to the departure of Donewald and lack of big name signings as symptomatic of the club’s lack of ambition. Those of a more positive persuasion can get excited about a new coach bringing fresh ideas to a side that already boasts experienced veterans like Liu Wei and Mike Harris as well as up-and-coming Chinese internationals, “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu, Peng Fei and Zhou Zhang. A mid table finish is the most likely outcome, anything higher would be a decidedly unexpected bonus.

Andrew Crawford 

16. Guangdong Foshan Dralions
2010-11 record: 11-21 (14th place)
Head coach: Jay Humphries (2nd year)
Imports: Marcus Douthit*, Gerald Green*, Michael Maadanly (Asian import)

Gerald Green will be bummed to know that the Chinese don’t typically do cupcakes.

–Jon Pastuszek

17. Tianjin Ronggang Gold Lions
2010-11 record: 5-27 (17th place)
Head Coach: Zhang Jian (11th year)
Imports: David Harrison, Donnell Harvey, Rony Fahed (Asian import)

After finishing at the bottom of the league last year, Tianjin opted not to retain American head coach, Bob MacKinnon Jr., instead going with the guy who coached them in 2009-10, Zhang Jian. They also decided against bringing back NiuBBall.com CBA Defensive Player of the Year, American guard Vernon Hamilton, despite his string of strong performances to end the year.

Instead they went with a familiar strategy — going with two big men as their Americans. Last year it was Lee Benson and Herve Lamizana, this year its David Harrison and Donnell Harvey. They used their Asian import spot on Lebanese point guard, Rony Fahed. If they’re lucky, they may get 40 points a night out of the three. Harrison is not even one year removed from a broken fibula and hasn’t looked good in pre-season games. Harvey, who enjoyed two great seasons for Jiangsu in 2008-09 and 2009-10, will do what he does best, attacking the offensive glass, but isn’t someone who they’ll be able to throw the ball into on the low block.

With their poor choices in the foreign market and their deplorable Chinese roster, look for Tianjin to once again finish at the bottom of the league.

–Jon Pastuszek

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