Tag Archives: Min Lulei

Earthquake: Beijing Olympians owner, Milton Lee, dies unexpectedly; Sun Yue signs with Beijing Ducks

October 2, 2013

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Winston Lee, owner of the Beijing Olympians, the team who developed Sun Yue, died suddenly of a heart attack on September 18th.

From the onset of the Beijing Olympians establishment, the team and its eccentric owner, Winston Lee, always set out to do things differently.

Now, after Lee’s sudden passing and the departure of star player Sun Yue, the Olympians might not be able to do anything at all.

On September 26th, Chinese media reported that Lee, the longtime owner of the Olympians, had died of a sudden heart attack in Beijing. It was later discovered that Lee had actually passed on the 18th, but the news had been withheld from the public for a week. Lee was 55 years-old.

Lee’s unfortunate and sad death coincides with another ground-shaking piece of news out of the Olympians camp: National Team guard/forward, Sun Yue, is signing with the Beijing Ducks. According to Chinese media, the deal is worth CNY 4 million per year over two years. In addition, three other Olympian players, Zhang Songtao, Li Wei and Huang Haibei, will join the Ducks for the upcoming season as well.

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Stephon Marbury to act as Beijing assistant coach for National Games

March 18, 2013

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Stephon Marbury’s Beijing Ducks may have been sent home packing earlier than expected, but Marbury will be sticking around in Beijing to start another China career: coaching.

In an interview on BTV, the 36 year-old guard announced that he will serve as an assistant coach for Beijing as they prepare to participate in the 2013 China National Games. He will work under his CBA head coach Min Lulei, who serves the same position for the Beijing Ducks.

The National Games, which happen once every four years, are completely separate from the Chinese Basketball Association season. As a sort of intra-China Olympics, the National Games pit the country’s different provinces against each other in various athletic events, including basketball.

The two-week competition will start in late August in host-province Liaoning. However, there will be a qualifying tournament in late April for basketball. Guangdong won the basketball tournament in 2009, which was held in various cities in Shandong.

Marbury’s addition to the coaching staff comes on the heels of other big news this week. The Beijing team got a boost when it was announced that Sun Yue, who plays for Beijing Aoshen — a team that is not part of the Chinese Basketball Association — will be representing Beijing at the Games, in addition to several other Aoshen players. A longtime key contributor for the National Team, Sun will be one of the best players in the tournament.

The National Games, though technically centered around athletic competition  are the epitome of not only basketball, but sports with Chinese characteristics. With the eyes of provincial governments focused directly on their teams, the Games’ main purpose serves government officials, who can be gain status and be promoted to bigger and better positions if their teams achieve good results. Though the Olympics trump all in terms of importance, the National Games is a major event and one that places great pressure on athletes to perform for the glory of their province.

In general, athletes represent the provinces in where they were registered as a professional athlete. For example, although Wang Shipeng hails from Liaoning, he was registered in Guangdong as part of the Southern Tigers and will thus represent them this summer. However, as provincial officials are always looking towards the next National Games, under the table agreements can be made between different provinces are not uncommon. Mengke Bateer, who is from Inner Mongolia and got his start in the CBA with Beijing, will be playing for neither team this summer; instead, he’ll be suiting up for Liaoning. Though not reported, it is speculated that his player registration forms were transferred over to Liaoning as part of the deal that sent Zhang Qingpeng over to Xinjiang three years ago. These deals are not illegal, but they part culture that make Chinese sports unlike anything in the United States or other Western countries.

The Beijing team will be comprised of a combination of Beijing Aoshen and Beijing Ducks players. Final rosters have not yet been announced and likely will not be made public until sometime in April.

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Beijing’s Min Lulei instructs players to attack the basket because, “We’ve got a good whistle”

January 22, 2013

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In the Chinese Basketball Association, referees are an ongoing issue. And that’s putting it nicely. Accusations and rumors of point shaving, bribes and various related corruption have all been thrown around, by fans, media and most recently, Tracy McGrady, who was ultimately fined and suspended for publicly criticizing referees.

The most recent case: Sunday’s abomination of a basketball game between Qingdao (again) and Tianjin, which ended in double overtime after 119 total fouls foul shots and six players fouled out. If you’re a CBA vet, you should know how it turned out: Qingdao, playing at home, won on a terrible end-of-game foul off the ball that sent Chris Daniels to the stripe for the two game-clinching free throws. If anyone is interested in either reliving the nightmare or experiencing it for the first time, Anthony Tao over at Beijing Cream has provided the world with video and words that vividly detail the game and the officiating.

The entire game was pathetic no doubt, but as the lessons learned long ago in CBA Officiating 101 continue to remind me: This is how it goes down here. Teams typically get a good whistle when at home, and a bad one when on the road. The degree can vary from a few calls here and there, to some key calls in crunch time all the way to the Wow, I didn’t know it was even possible to get screwed like that-type of officiating. (Of course, that rule is thrown out the window when you play Bayi, in which case you’re getting an extra bad whistle with a bad scorer’s table and an incompetent towel boy on top.)

And though that fact is known, recognized and acknowledged throughout the league in private, publicly nobody offers up even a peep for fear of punishment from the league… Unless a television camera sneaks into your huddle during a timeout and records everything your head coach is saying, which is what happened last Sunday night during Beijing’s nationally televised game against Xinjiang.

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Monday Night Chuanr

June 12, 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.

 

  • The Shanghai Sharks’ planned trip to the Philippines later this month for a few exhibition games has been posponed indefinitely.  The Sharks say their players’ passports aren’t ready, but the Philippines Sports Commission is suspecting that the decision to stay in China is a result of a standoff in the South China Sea that has caused a decline in relations between the two countries.
  • Min Lulei, head coach of reigning CBA champ Beijing Shougang, in an interview during his visit to Europe this month: ”I want to learn about European basketball systems. It is very difficult for Chinese players, who play a one-on-one game. We want to learn how to play the European systems, play as a team, as a group, so that we can have more success.”
  • Friend of NiuBBall, Chris Denker of NetScouts Basketball, just lead a team of recent American women’s college graduates to first place at a 14-day event in China. You can go to NetScoutsBasketball.com to check out the full recap.
  • Sneakerheads will enjoy this little backstory about the just released “Year of the Dragon” editions of Chris Paul’s Jordan CP3 V.
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Beijing – Guangdong Game 4: Ducks move one win away from CBA title

March 29, 2012

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Randolph Morris’ excellent performance on offense, which included three big dunks, was key in Beijing’s Game 4 victory. (Photo: cfp.cn)

Guangdong – 98 @ Beijing – 107

The Beijing Ducks are one win away from their first ever CBA championship and the biggest upset in CBA history.

Stephon Marbury scored 28 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds, Randolph Morris hit for a double-double with 32 points and 12 boards, and Zhai Xiaochuan came up big with 17 points as the Ducks pasted the Southern Tigers inside to pick up a huge Game 4 win.

After struggling to cope with their opponents’ Game 3 adjustment, the Ducks answered to their opponent’s small ball lineup last night by pounding the ball inside to Morris, who responded with arguably his best game of the series. All too aware that Guangdong was switching on all of his screen-and-rolls, Marbury called Morris over almost exclusively to run the two-man game in the second half with excellent results. When Marbury’s man, Zhou Peng, switched on to the much bigger Morris, Marbury gave up the ball let the center go to work on his physically overmatched opponent. Isolated with little help behind him, Zhou hardly stood a chance as Morris either drove by him or shot over him with equal ease.

And when Marbury wasn’t dishing off, he was scoring it himself, often it key moments. In the fourth quarter with Beijing down one, Marbury hit a deep three and a tough lay-up in quick succession to put the score at 87-81. Later, with Beijing up four in the closing minutes, Marbury hit another big three to put the game at 99-92 and effectively out of reach for Guangdong.

Committed to going small from the beginning, starting Dong Hanlin over Su Wei, Guangdong elected to focus their offense on the perimeter. And while Zhu Fangyu got many open looks, neither he nor anyone else was really able to get it going from the outside. Guangdong as a team shot 8-34 from three, including 1-6 from Zhu, 1-7 from James Singleton, 3-12 from Aaron Brooks and 1-4 from Wang Shipeng. Wang, who has been awful this series, reached a new low in Game 4. He went 1-5 from the field, with his lone make coming on a meaningless three-pointer in the game’s final minute. Unlike in last year’s Finals against Xinjiang, he has been unable to get his own shot  off or create for teammates and is in a total funk.

Singleton finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds and Brooks has 28 points and six assists.

Game 5 is on Friday night.

Box Score

Other notes:

  • Before the game and at half-time, Beijing played a video featuring Chen Lei, Min Lulei, Marbury, Morris and members of the front office urging fans to keep their language under control and behave properly. On Tuesday, the CBA threatened to move Game 5 to another stadium or city if fans continued to act “uncivilized.” Minutes before tip-off, Chen Lei grabbed a microphone to personally ask fans to keep themselves in check. Unlike Game 1, there were no incidents and fans refrained from cursing and throwing things onto the court.
  • Zhu Yanxi went down hard midway through the second quarter after a big collision with Chen Jianghua at mid-court. Zhu stayed down for several minutes before laboring to the sidelines with an apparent injury to his midsection, where he remained on the floor for quite some time. He did not re-enter the game and was later driven to the hospital after the game. Doctors declared the injury as not serious. He was back at practice today and is expected to play tomorrow.
  • Su Wei, who has become public enemy number one in Beijing after his much publicized on-court spat with Marbury in Game 1, played only four minutes and was serenaded by mocking chants of huan Sui Wei – sub Su Wei — the entire night. Fans also chanted shang tui in reference to Li Chunjiang’s order to ”sweep the leg,” also from Game 1.

 

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“Mr. 48 Minutes” Lee Hsueh-lin may finally get some rest

March 26, 2012

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With nobody else able to help Stephon Marbury run the show, Beijing’s Lee Hsueh-lin has played 238 out of a possible 240 minutes the last five games. (Photo: Osports)

Quick, other than Stephon Marbury and Randolph Morris, who has been Beijing’s most valuable player this season?

If you took a poll, either of the Ducks’ rookie soon-to-be National Team training camp combo, Zhai Xiaochuan and Zhu Yanxi, would likely receive some votes. And maybe out of respect to longtime team captain and CBA laotou, Chen Lei would get some too. And that’d all be fine.

As long as they were all second-place votes.

You can try to make the case all you want, but if you’ve come up with someone other than Lee Hsueh-lin, then you’re just plain wrong.

(My) case in point: So important is Lee to the Ducks cause against Guangdong, that coach Min Lulei has called on the Taiwanese point-guard to play 142 out of a 144 possible minutes over the Finals’ first three games. And so important was he against Shanxi in the semi-finals, that Min played him every minute of Games 4 and 5.

Let that register for a second. Five games, two whole minutes of rest.

“Mr. 48 Minutes,” as he’s recently been called by Chinese media after playing every minute for four games in a row (he was on the court or all 48 in Games 1 and 2 of the Finals), has simply been an iron man and an indispensable player for the Ducks during their playoff run.

A former star in Taiwan for the SBL’s Yulon Dinos, where he won three SBL championships in a row from 2004-2006, Lee made the jump to the CBA in September 2010 when he signed a for the Ducks, and immediately jumped into the starting lineup at point guard. Considered as one of the best guards in Taiwan when he was in high school, the 27 year-old has been a part of the Taiwanese National Team setup for the last ten years, most recently at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship last summer in Wuhan.

After a solid debut season last year in where the Ducks made the playoffs, Lee came back even better and saw increases in steals and assists though his first eight games — all wins — while also keeping his turnovers at his usual low rate. But during that eighth game, he suffered a serious back injury that would keep him out for a little over two months. Beijing would go onto win their next five without him, but as Beijing’s thin group of guards tired as the season progressed, the team struggled to win games. After going 13-0, Beijing went just 7-10 over their next 17 games.

Lee came back for the team’s last two regular season games of the season against Shanghai and Guangsha, and his minutes had been steadily increasing throughout the first-round and semis until his recent string of 48 minute games. If you watch games, it’s hard not to see why Min feels he needs to be on the court at all times: Other than Marbury, Beijing has nobody who can handle the ball and organize the offense. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he can pressure opposing guards full-court (just ask Aaron Brooks) and he nails open threes pretty regularly. Once dubbed “the Allen Iverson of Taiwan,” Lee should really be called “the Earl Watson of Taiwan.” He may not be flashy, but he’s a solid starting point guard who generally knows what to do.

And luckily for the long-term future of Lee and of the Ducks, it looks as if Coach Min has seen why playing a dude with a bad back 48 minutes a night is probably a bad idea. Lee’s been receiving treatment immediately after every game, and with his back not completely healed and maybe getting worse, the coach has vowed that he’ll get some in-game rest from now on.

How much rest exactly, is in serious question because unless Xie Libin magically wakes up and is able to throw the ball to his teammates without an opponent getting a hand on it, Beijing still doesn’t have any other options. When at their best, Beijing goes seven deep. Guangdong of course, goes much deeper, meaning if Lee is in fact exhausted, this series is far from over; no matter where the next two games are being played.

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CBA fans: A history of throwing stuff

March 14, 2012

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(Thanks to Beijing Cream for the video)

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

Hen zheng chang.

This is normal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals – Game 1

March 6, 2012

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Guangdong – 95 @ Xinjiang – 92

Different year, same Guangdong match-up… and unfortunately for Xinjiang, the same result.

The Flying Tigers failed to grab a key defensive rebound that would have given them the chance to take the lead with under a minute left, but their inablity to box out James Singleton, who grabbed two straight offensive rebounds in the game’s most important possession, cost them the win and likely the series.

Up 91-80 with about three minutes left in the game, Guangdong seemed to have a comfortable win in the books until Xinjiang roared back with a 12-2 run to cut the lead to one with 1:20 remaining. A Guangdong miss was Xinjiang’s for the taking, but Singleton tracked down the loose ball to give his team another shot. Another miss gave way to another opportunity for Xinjiang to come down with a defensive rebound, but Singleton again got his hands on the ball to give Guangdong yet another chance. Xinjiang intentionally fouled Zhu Fangyu, who calmly sank both shots to push the lead up to three. When Tim Pickett’s three-pointer came up empty, Guandong ran off the court knowing that two straight wins at home will punch their ticket for the CBA Finals.

Singleton, who frustrated his old team the whole night with his signature combination of athleticism and activity, finished the game with 12 points and 16 rebounds while holding Ike Diogu to a ho-hum 17 points and five rebounds. Wang Shipeng finished with a team high 23 points, Aaron Brooks had 21 and Zhu pitched in 14.

For Xinjiang, Pickett scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 45 minutes. Mengke Bateer ended up with 17 and 10, and Sun Weibo had 15.

With the loss on their home floor, Xinjiang now has to win a game in Guangdong to force the series back to Urumqi for a Game 4. That’s tough enough as is, but it looks like it’ll be even tougher after Xirelijiang re-injured the ankle that he sprained in Game 5 of Round One against DongGuan. If he the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship gold medalist can’t go, expect Sun Weibo to get the majority of his minutes off the bench.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Beijing – 119 @ Shanxi – 122

Marcus Williams was dominant in his first ever CBA semi-finals appearance, finishing with 40 points, seven rebounds and four assists, as Shanxi defended their home court to came away with a close three point victory against Beijing.

But for Shanxi, the game was probably closer than it had to be. With the Brave Dragons up five with less than half a minute left, the win looked all but locked up until Zhang Xuewen was called for a flagrant foul after he followed through with both arms to thwart Stephon Marbury’s breakaway layup attempt with 17 seconds left. The call was questionable, but Marbury hit both freebies to cut the lead to three and head coach Min Lulei called time-out to draw up the last play. Like in Game 1 against Guangsha in Round One, the ball was swung to an open Lee Hsueh-lin with the game on the line. But this time, Lee’s three-point attempt came up short and by the time the ball was done bouncing around the floor, Shanxi had escaped with the win.

Marbury finished with a playoff career high 42 points, most of which game in the fourth quarter when his scoring was needed most. Randolph Morris, had trouble keeping Charles Gaines off of the foul line, as did Ji Zhe and as a result, both fouled out midway through the final frame. Gaines finished with 25 points on 9-10 from the free-throw line and 18 rebounds, eight of which came on the offensive end. Ren Junwei had a very active 14 points and 11 rebounds and was a key reason why Shanxi managed to outrebound their opponents by 21.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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Breaking down the CBA playoff picture

January 28, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 23-9, No. 2 seed

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

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

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

Prediction: 20-12, No. 4 seed

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 20-12, No. 3 seed

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 18-14, No. 5 seed

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 16-16, out of the playoffs

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

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

Prediction: 18-14, No. 6 seed

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

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

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

Prediction: 18-14, No. 8 seed

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

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

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

Prediction: 17-15, out of the playoffs

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

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

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

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

Prediction:  18-14, No. 7 seed

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

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

Prediction: 12-18, out of the playoffs

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Guan Weijia: Marbury (10-0 with Beijing Ducks) a hero to many — especially a sick young girl

December 17, 2011

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Let’s face it: There’s just not a whole lot of good, accurate and insightful English language resources for people who have an interest for Chinese basketball. Which is precisely why we like reading Guan Weijia’s weekly columns on SheridanHoops.com — they’re good, they’re insightful, they’re accurate and of course, they’re all in English.

So you can imagine why we’re so excited by this latest development over here at NiuBBall.com. Starting right now, Sheridan Hoops and NiuBBall are coming together to make the world of Chinese hoops more accessible to Western audiences. Every Friday, we’ll take Guan’s original column from Sheridan Hoops and post it up on NiuBBall, while Sheridan Hoops will post up something from NiuBBall over on their site. Like we say at NiuBBall, we aim to please.

We’re looking forward to working with Sheridan Hoops’ founder, former Associated Press and ESPN writer, Chris Sheridan, and Guan throughout this season and beyond. Hopefully, you’re looking forward to reading it all.

BEIJING — Who is the best foreign player in the CBA? Before the season started, we talked about this topic. At least for now, we’ve got the answer: Stephon Marbury, whether on or off the court.

His stats are not as dazzling as those of J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler, but the Beijing Ducks, Marbury’s team, are still unbeaten after their first 10 games.

Opening 10-0 is a record for this club.

Without any doubt, Marbury is the best player and the leader of this team. Chen Lei, the captain of Ducks, said: “I have never played with such a great player as Marbury. He is a great player and a great teammate. He always likes to create shots for us, but when we can’t score, he’ll stand out. Every game, every time.”

The Ducks’ coach, Min Lulei, said he was at a loss for words on Marbury. “I can’t convey my feelings in words. I just want to say, coaching Marbury brings me luckiness and happiness.”

But what I want you to know today is not how brave he is on court, but what a warm story Marbury has been off the basketball court.

Yuanyuan, an 11-year old fan of Marbury, is not able to watch her hero play because she has had hemophagocytic syndrome. After a medullary transplant operation, the adorable girl is still suffering from the rejection.

She still has a tube in her arms, but there is no expression of pain on her face. She is waiting for Marbury, her favorite basketball star.

She has been waiting for so long for this day. Since her request to see her idol, her father had done everything he could. He asked Marbury on Weibo (Chinese Twitter), but there was no response that day, for Marbury was on a road trip with the Ducks. The next day, more people saw the calling from the father and forwarded it. Then a few journalists directly told Marbury, who was preparing for the game against J.R. Smith’s team at that time. He asked his friends to give Yuanyuan a phone call, let her know that he would visit her as soon as he returned to Beijing.

After a three-game road trip, it had been five days. During those five days, Yuanyuan got a haircut — her first one in recent years, and got dressed up in her best clothes.

Marbury went to the hospital after the morning training ended. He held the child in his arms tightly when he saw the girl, for a long time. He explained the long-lasting hug: “I told myself not to cry before coming here. But I can’t help it when I see her skinny body. So I just hold her in my arms, because I don’t want her to see my tears.”

Yuanyuan is more chirpy and strong than Marbury thought. Touching his muscle, she said:” Wow, it’s much harder than my dad’s.” Marbury replied:” I have hard muscle because I play basketball. But your dad has a strong heart. He loves you more than any people in the world.”

He could not be in her company for the whole day, since he had to get back to his team. He promised another get-together before he left, and he remembered her birthday: “November 13th, I will always remember it. As long as I continue living in China, and there is no game and training that day, I will be with you on your next birthday.”

The girl was so happy and asked him to hook fingers to confirm the promise.

Marbury felt a kind of power which is so strong from the girl who is so weak. The girl, who is not able to eat because of the pain it causes, welcomed him with warm and shinning smile. He said he hopes she can get back to school, to a normal life which an 11-year-old girl should have as soon as possible.

Later that day, Yuanyuan ate the most amount of food she had consumed in a long time.

This story was originally posted on SheridanHoops.com.

Guan Weijia is a columnist for Titan Sports, The Beijing News and qq.com. His columns for SheridanHoops.com will appear on NiuBBall.com every Friday.

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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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On eve of playoffs, Beijing and DongGuan making big changes

March 16, 2011

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One’s out of necessity; the other out of choice.  Yet a little more than one week before the opening game of the 2010-11 CBA playoffs, both DongGuan and Beijing are set to make major changes to their import lineup.

NetEase first reported that DongGuan, who sat firmly in second place almost the entire year before dipping into third on the last game of the year after losing to Guangdong, was releasing center Jackson Vroman because of a fractured finger that refused to heal well enough in time for the playoffs. According to the report, Vroman headed back to the States late last week to undergo surgery.

Shortly after Vroman’s release, DongGuan management indicated that they were searching for another center and according to an Asia-Basket report posted last night, that center is going to be Courtney Sims.  Ridiculous Upside, citing multiple sources within the D-League, is also reporting that Sims is headed to play for the New Century Leopards.

In 42 games for the D-League’s Iowa Energy this season, the 6-11 Sims averaged 16.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots on 56% from the field.  He also took took home MVP honors at the 2010-11 NBA D-League All-Star Game last February in Los Angeles.

Replacing Vroman will be a tough task.  Though Sims probably would have been called up to the League in any other season (NBA lockout, anyone?) it’s questionable as to how he’ll fit into DongGuan’s highly structured motion offense. The Lebanese-American Vroman found himself as the focal point for DongGuan, not only as a scorer but also as a high IQ distributor and was a key reason why the Leopards, who finished above all pre-season expectations at 25-7, had been the most pleasant surprise of the CBA regular season.

In 27 games, Vroman averaged 22.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.6 steals over 27 games.

Sims’ success at integrating himself into a team with real finals aspirations will largely depend on how he plays alongside volume scoring combo-guard, Josh Akognon.  Playing mainly off the ball early and mid shot clock, Akognon benefited greatly from DongGuan head coach Brian Goorjian’s offense, getting most of his shots off of off-ball screens and hand-offs. Though comfortable facing up from the high post, Sims hasn’t been known up to this point for his passing and being that he will come in on extremely short notice, DongGuan’s hopes of meeting Xinjiang in the finals don’t appear to be as bright as they were two weeks ago.

Eighth seed Beijing, however, is hoping their pre-playoff import swap is going to at least make them competitive in the first round against that very same Xinjiang team.

Asia-Basket and Ridiculous Upside are both reporting that the Ducks have officially bought out Orien Greene from his contract with the Utah Flash and will sign him in time for their series opening game next week at Xinjiang.  He will be replacing Joe Crawford, who was let go by the team over the weekend.

One of just 12 Gatorade Call-Ups this year, Greene Greene averaged 17.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.0 steals in 34 games this season for the Flash.

The reason for Crawford’s departure from Beijing remains somewhat of a mystery.  Though Beijing had been largely dissatisfied with his play over the last month, it appears that an incident last Wednesday was Crawford’s ultimate undoing in the capital city.

According to a report on Sina, Crawford had sustained an ankle injury during practice in the days leading up to Beijing’s regular season finale at home against Jilin.  The game was a big one: A win would have virtually clinched seventh place, which would have guaranteed avoiding heavy favorite Xinjiang in the first round, whereas a loss would have dropped them into eighth.  But, when the ankle was still not recovered on gameday, Crawford went to coach Min to tell him that he couldn’t go for the must-win match.

This is where the story gets tricky.  Midway through the game, despite knowing about the injury, Min called Crawford’s number on the bench anyway.  Crawford entered the game, but after trying to play called himself back onto the bench just 59 seconds later and refused to re-enter the game.

After the game, a disgusted Min told reporters that Crawford was faking it.

“He came to me at about 5:30pm, two hours before the start of the game, and he told me that he sprained his ankle,” said Min. “But the past few days during practice, to me it didn’t look like he was having any problems with the ankle.”

Shortly after Beijing lost 122-121 in overtime, sealing their first-round fate against Xinjiang, Min along with Beijing general manager, Yuan Chao, and other team officials, met to discuss the incident and promptly decided to cut Crawford and search for another import.

Sources with direct knowledge of the situation, however, have informed NiuBBall that Crawford remains adamant that he was hurt and is angry over the nature of his release.  During the game, teammate Randolph Morris told Min that Crawford’s ankle was in fact sprained and he shouldn’t be forced to play.  This isn’t the first time issues over player substitutions have come up — unexpected even to him, Steve Francis was inserted to the game wearing an ice pack on his ankle despite being told by Min prior the game that he wouldn’t play due to a lack of conditioning and severe jet lag.

In 16 games, Crawford averaged 24.1 minutes, 14.2 points, 1 assist and 2.5 rebounds on 40% shooting.

Known for his on ball defense, Greene will be depended upon mainly to contain arguably the best import in the league, Xinjiang’s Quincy Douby.  But, there’s a catch: Greene, who will arrive in Beijing this Friday, will not be able to practice with his team for more than a few days due to All-Star Weekend this Saturday and Sunday in Beijing.  Coach Min, Morris, Taiwainese point guard, Li Xuelin, and Chinese local, Chen Lei, will all participate in the All-Star Game; Min as an assistant and the players as reserves.

Beijing plays game one of their opening round series at home against Xinjiang next Wednesday, while DongGuan visit Guangsha on the same day.  The first-round playoff format is a best-of-five 1-2-1-1 format, with the lower seed hosting games one and four.

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Wednesday Afternoon Tanghulu

January 13, 2011

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Sweetening up your afternoon with a stick of Beijing’s timeless sugar coated snack and some links…

  • On Monday, NetEase Sports and Asia Basket reported that the Jilin Northeast Tigers had signed former Florida State star, Tim Pickett, to replace David Young.  But three days later, Young is still playing in a Jilin jersey and the team appears to have gone back on their initial decision with Pickett: “We’re actually in contact with a few players that could replace Young.  But unless something crazy happens, Young will play these next three away games for us.” In 12 games, Young is averaging 21.3 points and 4.6 rebounds for the 3-10 Northeast Tigers, who have lost their last four games. (H/T hoopCHINA)
  • Two-time NCAA champion, three-time WNBA champion and 2010 FIBA World Championship gold medalist, Swin Cash, checks in from her professional team in China, DongGuan, on SLAMonline.  We’re laughing at the word “Foolishgate,” but we’re also respecting her interest in learning the basketball culture in China.  Well worth the read and we’re looking forward to more updates.
  • NiuBBall.com has learned from an anonymous source that Shanxi Zhongyu is on the verge of swapping imports — again — this time signing A.D. Vassallo in place of Leon Rogers.  Vasallo played four years at Virginia Tech and currently plays for the Puerto Rican national team.  Last year, he played professionally in France for Paris-Levallois.
  • Since coming down with a fever and a stomach ailment that kept him out of the lineup in a loss at Shanghai on December 29th, Randolph Morris has seen a pretty steep dip in offensive production.  After leading the league in scoring for a good chunk at the beginning of the year,  Morris is averaging 24 points on 40.6% shooting over his last six games.  Speaking to a reporter following Beijing’s fourth loss in their last five, this one coming on the road against Zhejiang Guangsha, head coach Min Lulei had some choice words for his center, who shot 6-20 and struggled defensively: “We had planned on leaning on Morris in this game, but tonight everyone saw that he just wasn’t there both mentally and physically.  He didn’t follow our game plan and he didn’t get back on defense.  There’s no way you can win like that.”  Making matters worse, Zaid Abbas hurt his back in the second half and its unclear how long he’ll be out of the lineup.
  • Antoine Wright has been sentenced to 15 days in jail for a drunken driving arrest last November near Sacramento.
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Sina Sports reports that Steve Francis and Beijing split ways

December 27, 2010

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Steve Francis, revered in China since his days in Houston with Yao Ming, arrived in Beijing early in the morning on December 14th to a hero’s welcome; a homecoming of sorts for one of China’s favorite players of all time.

13 days later, Fu Laoda’s happy homecoming has turned into a messy divorce.

According to Sina Sports, the Beijing Shougang Ducks have decided to cut Francis from their roster, just six games after the three-time NBA All-Star joined up with the franchise.  Although the team has yet to formally announce the news, Francis’ agent has confirmed to the Chinese news outlet that the nine-year NBA veteran will be released by the organization shortly and will return to the United States within the next couple of days.

Since arriving with the team less than two weeks ago, Francis has played a total of 14 minutes over four games, averaging 0.5 points 0.7 rebounds.

Though Sina is reporting that the team is cutting Francis, a source speaking to NiuBBall.com indicated that the break-up was mutual and that both sides were equally ready to move on.  Francis, who was brought in on a large contract after Beijing head coach, Min Lulei, flew out to the U.S. to watch him work out in November, became quickly frustrated with Min over his lack of minutes and felt as if the team was merely using him to sell tickets and merchandise.  Francis had not played more than five minutes in a single game, and had received his second straight DNP-CD tonight against Jiangsu after not getting any action on Friday against Bayi.

“He didn’t fly all the way out to China to just sit on the bench,” the source said.

Since he’s been in uniform, attendance figures for both Beijing home and away games have risen dramatically, as fans have been eager to catch a glimpse of one of their all-time favorite NBA stars.

The Ducks, however, have also experienced their share of perceived frustrations over the last two weeks, most of which have revolved around Francis’ poor conditioning and behavior towards his coaches.

When Francis first arrived, Min indicated that the player would not be seeing major minutes during games before his conditioning improved to an acceptable level after almost three years away from the game.  Though Min came away impressed enough to sign him to a contract after he flew out to the States to see Francis practice, team management had major concerns about his ability to handle a full season of games even after the workout and up until he came to China.  After Francis joined with the team in Beijing and began practicing, it became apparent to team management that Francis’ body was too out of shape and his skills too eroded, and that it was unrealistic for them to heavily invest in a player that could not be counted on serious on-court contributions this season.

In addition to Francis’ unacceptable physical condition, Beijing also grew weary of his attitude towards practicing. The final straw appears to have been drawn yesterday on Christmas when Francis, against the wishes of coaches, skipped a morning practice to spend the holiday with his family. The vast majority of Chinese do not celebrate Christmas, and since the Chinese government does not legally recognize the day as a holiday, workers and students are not given a day off.

“Yesterday, the whole team practiced, but only [Francis] went to go spend Christmas with his family,” Coach Min said to reporters after tonight’s 104-89 win against Jiangsu, visibly angry. “This afternoon I was still speaking with him, I wanted to find him a conditioning coach to work him out for a bit.  But he said to me that he needs to play in games, not practice…”

After not playing on Friday in Beijing’s win against Bayi, Francis received his second straight DNP-CD tonight. Apparently at his wits end over not playing, Francis left the bench and halftime and did not return for the second half.

“I don’t know if other coaches would give him the minutes he wants, but the whole team has been working hard in practice. Actually, I had planned to let him play today but the first quarter we got down by too much.”

When asked by a reporter if Francis and the team were close to going their separate ways, Min nodded his head sligthly and answered, “I waited another day or two to talk to you guys [the media] again.  Right now I don’t know how Francis sees it all… Today we got a big win, but I’m in a very bad mood.”

No time was given by the Sina report as to when the team will officially break the news.

Francis’ short stay in the country’s capital can be best described as adventurous.  His debut came unexpectedly when Min substituted a clearly unprepared Francis onto the court for the final 17 seconds of Beijing’s home victory against Qingdao on December 15th after the coach publicly stated on multiple occasions that he would wait to put Francis into the lineup until he had practiced a few times with the team and acclimated himself to the 13 hour New York-Beijing time difference.  With his shoes unlaced and an ice-pack taped over his socks, Francis dribbled out the clock to deafening cheers by the supportive Beijing home crowd.

In the team’s next game against Shandong on the 17th, Francis played his first meaningful period of basketball, tallying a total of four minutes, all of which came during the second quarter.  In a chaotic sequence of events, Francis lost his balance on several occasions, slipping and falling on the floor as he ran for loose balls on his way to one rebound, two turnovers and two fouls.

In his third game on the 19th against Guangdong, Francis scored his first and only basket of his China career in a little over five minutes, but his play on the court was overshadowed by a late game incident that happened off the court. Coming down to the wire in a close game away against three-time defending champs, Guangdong, Beijing’s star import, Randolph Morris, fouled out on a questionable loose ball foul battling for a rebound under the boards. Morris, displeased with the call, walked back to the bench incredulously as the game’s television camera focused in on him. Unknowingly on camera, Francis, in the background and on the bench, extended a middle finger over his head to the ref protesting the call.  Though he went unpunished by in-game officials, he received a warning by the league for his “uncivilized behavior”, and the team was ordered to privately “criticize and educate” the player to prevent any similar acts from occurring in the future, which is a common and accepted form of punishment within the country.

Originally signed on for a one-year deal with an option for a second, Francis and Beijing have already negotiated a release sum, according to the source.

With the win over Jiangsu, Beijing has now won its last six games and stands in third place at 6-1.  At present, it is unclear who the Ducks will target to replace Francis on their import roster.

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Surprise! Francis plays 17 seconds in Beijing debut

December 16, 2010

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Judging by the ice pack, not even Steve Francis himself knew he’d be playing tonight

Next time Min Lulei wants to make Steve Francis the center of a big surprise, he might want to give him a couple minutes warning.

Having said before tonight’s game against Qingdao on numerous occasions that Francis would not make his Beijing debut until at least Friday, coach Min unexpectedly substituted Francis into the game for the final 17 seconds of the Ducks’ 116-107 home opener victory over Qingdao Double Star.

Even  just hours before the game, Coach Min indicated to reporters that Francis would not play tonight, as both the player and organization wanted to allow more time for him to improve his conditioning and adapt to the 13 hour time Beijing-New York time difference.  But, as game became more and more out of reach in the fourth quarter, large numbers of fans started chanting obscenities towards Min in an effort to get him to change his mind.

With Francis icing his ankle on the bench clearly not expecting to be subbed in, Min inserted him into the game anyway after Beijing’s Jordanian forward, Zaid Abbas, converted on an and-one lay-up on the offensive end.  Completely unprepared to enter the game, Francis didn’t even have time to tie his shoes as he quickly shed his warm-up suit and tucked in his jersey before entering the court.  With his shoelaces loose and the ice pack around his ankle, Fu Laoda – loosely translated into English as Big Boss Francis – received a loud standing ovation and the obligatory “Fu Laoda, jiayou!” chant from the home crowd as he ran back on defense after the free throw. (In Chinese, jiayou literally means “add oil,” but translated into common English, it would mean “let’s go!” “here we go!” and/or “come on!”)  After a Charles Gaines putback for Qingdao, Francis received the inbounds pass and dribbled out the clock, despite cheers from the crowd egging him to shoot one at the buzzer.

He did not record any statistics.

Asked why he decided to against his original plan after the game, Min smiled wryly and answered, “You didn’t see all the fans yelling and swearing at me?”

Beijing center, Randolph Morris, led all scorers with 40 points on 16-23 shooting, while also finishing with 11 rebounds and 2 blocks.

The Ducks are now 1-1 on the season, and will play Shandong at home on Friday, where it is expected that Francis will play significant minutes coming off the bench.  The team has consistently stated that they will bring the nine year NBA pro along slowly as he works his way back into shape and acclimates himself to a cross-continental time zone. Though after tonight, its not a stretch to believe that a few well aimed spitballs from a fan could change Min’s thinking on that.

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