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Tag Archives: NBA China

Working Weekend Links

September 21, 2013



We feel the same way about working on a Sunday, sister.

Only in China is a vacation not really a vacation. Case in point: The preposterous and unholy government-mandated holiday schedule for Mid-Autumn Festival, which officially started on Thursday. After getting two days off from work, the vast majority of China’s workforce will go into their job tomorrow on Sunday, work until Friday, rest on Saturday, work again on Sunday and go into work on the following Monday before getting seven straight days off from October 1st to the 8th. But even then, working weekends doesn’t end as everyone has to go back to work on Saturday 12th.

At NiuBBall, we are vehemently against mandatory working weekend, because weekends are for weekends; not for working. But to stand in solidarity with our working brothers and sisters, we’re dedicating this weeks’ batch of links to everyone whose goint into the office tomorrow… and the following Sunday… and the Saturday two weeks after.

(And if you want to throw eggs at the people who are responsible for making this mess of a holiday schedule, please look up the address this guys‘ house… you know, if you’re into throwing eggs at people’s houses.)


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Monday Morning Jianbing

March 28, 2011

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Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links…

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Are young referees to blame for CBA’s dip in officiating?

March 18, 2011


Go to a game in China and almost upon arrival you’ll  hear the words hei shao — “black whistle,” meaning the refs are in somebody’s pocket — being yelled by loud mouthed, outspoken (and usually tipsy/drunk) fans who have a particular disdain for the way the referees are calling the match. As the game goes on and the home crowd becomes more disgusted with the calls (or the scoreboard), the noise crescendos with more oraganized, in unison chants of huan caipan, “change the referee.” And when that request is ultimately refused by the men in stripes, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, and China’s favorite in-arena projectile, lighters, are hurled at the court in a final dramatic display of discontent.

Though never formally proven, bribery, corruption and game-fixing have all suspected for years, and it’s considered common knowledge by many — lighter-throwing fans obviously included — that referees engage in dishonest, under the table behavior.

In soccer, however, widespread corruption has left a permanent black eye on both the domestic leagues and the national team.  The Chinese Super League, China’s professional domestic soccer league, has repeatedly been plagued by match-fixing and corruption scandals over the last several years, with both players and officials accepting bribes at various times from gambling syndicates and influential bookies.  Match-fixing so serious in fact, that it goes all the way back to a referee who took the field at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

This year in the CBA, while all of those issues haven’t exactly gone away, they’ve taken shotgun to another problem that’s steered this season onto a rocky road: Quality.

Ongoing frustration with the way games are being called, especially late in tight games, have led some to believe that the root of these problems stem from poorly trained or poorly developed refs who are simply in over their heads.  And instead of trudging down the same tired, endless road of zebra corruption, an article posted on NetEase’s CBA site is blaming the league’s new crop of young refs for that drop in officiating quality this year.

According to the article, there are 342 referees registered with the CBA this season, 35 of which are international level. However, the CBA demands that 42 international level refs are needed in order to guarantee every match over the course of the year  is officiated at the highest level.  That means seven so-called “young referees,” referees who are inexperienced and presumably unqualified for the job, have been running up and down the courts with whistles in their mouths making, as an an anonymous senior official put it to the author, “more calls than the other [veteran] referees,” disrupting the flow of the game, and ruining the quality of in-game officiating.  And even among those who are on an international level, there is a huge gap in the level and quality in which games are officiated.

But, most of the article’s wrath is directed towards these so-called nianqing caipan, “young referees,” who are ruining the game with their brash overconfidence and unwillingness to improve:

…Some young referees can be cocky, they don’t pay attention to their [on-court] positioning or try to correct their attitude.  They feel they’ve already made it and they feel extremely good about themselves… To add, some referees only strive to improve elements that exist only on the surface, things just for show. They want to become these big-name high-profile names, but they lack the essential basic skills.

“We point out these shortcomings and insufficiencies with the hope that they can improve as quickly as possible.  That way they can quickly develop,” said an anonymous CBA figure.

The article also mentions a change this year in preparatory pre-game official meetings.  Before, “the lead official used to do most of the talking,” but now when officials meet before games to discuss things “like the two teams’ position in the standings, prior history, players and coaches’ tendencies, it’s the deputy official who’s speaking the most.”  What’s more, officials constantly disagree with each other during these meetings and generally don’t pay attention, which also affects their work on the court.

Finally, the author points out that refs are “soft,” especially the younger ones who are more likely to be swayed by an expressive and argumentative head coach on the sideline.  He points to a specific situation in Shanghai’s home match against Liaoning in Round 23 where the league had to do an internal investigation on that team of referees after they failed to control a sideline altercation between Liaoning head coach, Guo Shiqiang, and Shanghai head coach, Bob Donewald.

Donewald, an American who also acts as head coach of the Chinese National Team, has been the league’s most outspoken critic of Chinese refs.  He apparently set a record for most technicals in a season, seven, and only missed out on an opportunity to make more history because he was suspended for a match late in the season after he repeatedly berated officials during the Sharks’ Round 29 loss against Fujian SBS.  His chief issue, which he has brought up several times during the year, is the Chinese refs’ inability or unwillingness to protect their own players from overly aggressive and dangerous play.  Team China’s brawl with a Brazilian club team in October went down largely in part because the ref didn’t blow the whistle on an obvious intentional foul, and Donewald’s suspension for Round 30 was a result of a ref not calling a foul on a hard collision that left Team China’s captian, Liu Wei, writhing on the ground with a severely bruised chest.

If the CBA is to ever reach credible status in the minds of its fans, getting control over how games are reffed should be its priority.  Problem is, however, in this still largely bureaucratic league, change comes from the top and it often comes slow.  And seeing that officiating is getting worse instead of better, the CBA — as the NBA has found out in the last few years — still has quite a ways to go if they’re ever going to be a sustainable and respectable league in China.

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Monday Morning Jianbing

March 7, 2011


Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links…

  • Chinese college students studying in the States have trouble making American friends.  After living on the same floor as a group of Chinese male students while in college, and after teaching a few college prep courses to prospective study abroad students in Beijing and Nanjing, I know that to be generally true.  But, the ones at the University of San Francisco who had some success breaking into American groups of friends?  They were the ones who went down to Koret to run pick-up at 5pm.
  • After sweeping both games against the Toronto Raptors in London, including a triple-overtime thriller on Saturday, the New Jersey Nets have played games in China, Russia, England, Canada and the United States this season. And that is definitely not by accident.
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Monday Morning Jianbing

December 28, 2010


Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links…

  • You can say that Steve Francis’ short-lived stay in Beijing was a disaster, and you’d probably be right.  But, try telling that to his wallet.  According to Beijing News Online, the Ducks have agreed to pay Francis one-third of his “guaranteed” one-year deal, which amounts to roughly $300,000.  As in, 300 large for 14 minutes of on-court action. If you don’t have a calculator handy, Francis pocketed $21,428.57 per minute.  So say all you want about the man, but I don’t think Franchise is sweating it too hard.
  • In addition for being the talk of the league for the Fu Laoda circus, Beijing is also turning heads because of their surprise 6-1 record, an early season accomplishment that is even more impressive when you consider that they’ve been winning without another American import.  So who do the Ducks go with to replace Francis? 163 Sports is speculating that they might be interested in bringing CBA veteran, Smush Parker, back to the league. Parker, who left to play in Russia after winning two championships with Guangdong in 2008-09 and 2009-10, is reportedly unhappy in his new digs and wants back to China.
  • Whoa!  The Rockets are fielding offers for Yao Ming and his mammoth expiring contract.  If Morey is bent on acquiring more assets to make a run some day for a franchise player, this would make sense, but count me as one of many who would feel completely weird with the whole idea of Yao on another NBA team, even if he’s just on the books.
  • “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu skipped his junior and senior year at Cal Berkeley to play professionally under Chinese national team head coach, Bob Donewald Jr., for the Shanghai Sharks in an attempt to get on the 2012 London Olympics roster.  So far, he hasn’t really been able to get into the team’s rotation as their main center: In seven games, he’s averaged a disappointing 17 minutes, 5 points, 4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for the equally disappointing Sharks, who lost for the third time already this year last night away at Liaoning.  Said assistant coach Wang Qun after the loss, “He needs to solidify his fundamentals.”
  • The Chinese government is cracking down on English word and acronyms that have “diluted Chinese in recent years,” which includes the NBA. From NBC’s China blog, Behind the Wall: “While decrees like this one alarm few – such government notices are rarely followed – they do elicit bouts of pungent sarcasm. In April, TV channels were told to ban English acronyms like NBA, which translated into Chinese in as long as 10 characters: ‘Mei Guo Nan Zi Zhi Ye Lan Qiu Lian Sai.'” To reiterate, as someone who lives full time in Beijing, nobody on TV or in print follows this rule because a: its ridiculous and b: its pretty much unenforceable.  Crackdowns like these happen periodically, mostly as a result of politicians jockeying for power, and hardly anybody takes them seriously. (H/T PBT)
  • Wanna know what Chinese think about Jews?  Sure you do.  Despite having some history on the mainland, the vast majority of Chinese have never met a Jew or learned about their history in school.  Check this great piece (in Yiddish!) over at Shanghaiist and listen to what take a peep at the start of the credits for a bunch of dudes in blue jeans and crazy hair cuts balling out the only way the Chinese know how, half-court 4v4 style.
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Tim Chen stepping down as NBA China CEO

September 22, 2010


Tim Chen, who has served as NBA China’s CEO since the enterprise was established in 2007, has announced that he will be leaving the position effective October 1st.  Chen will still be involved with NBA China as head of Board of Directors.

NBA China CFO, Steve Richard, has been named as the brand’s interim CEO.

NBA China was established by David Stern three years ago to act as a separate, self-supervising division responsible for the League’s operation in Greater China.  The decision to consolidate China’s operations into one entity was a major one, as China’s operations were previously run from the NBA’s New York offices.

Under Chen’s guidance, who spear-headed Microsoft China’s revival before linking up with Stern, NBA China has made excellent progress expanding its brand in the mainland through successful marketing and partnerships with Chinese and multinational companies.  I’m reminded of this every time I drink a Qingdao beer.  Or when I drink milk.  Or the two times a year I can watch live NBA basketball at 7pm from my Beijing apartment.

However, most sectors of commercialism in China, the NBA’s presence here is still quite young and has a lot of room for growth, as we’ve been seeing with all of these NBA player shoe deals. The League has only scratched the surface.

For more on what NBA China’s been up to since it’s inception three years ago, check this out.

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Why China?

September 21, 2010


Why China?

It’s a question I’m asked all the time when I go back to the States and explain to people that I live in Beijing.

And it’s a question that I suspect a few of you are asking right now as you’re reading this.

Why China?

Notice, you didn’t ask why basketball?  You like basketball, you’re familiar with it — you know it matters. It’s accepted and therefore accessible; you watch it on TV, you play it with your friends, you read it in a book, in a newspaper or on the internet. You get the facts, you formulate opinions and you come to an understanding of what the game is and what it should be.

I know that basketball matters, too. I got the Basketball Jones when I hit my first lay-up on a ten-foot hoop as a kindergartner after school one day. Almost twenty years later, the game is still with me. While picking colleges, high quality indoor courts and good competition were a must, which as crazy as it sounds is part of the reason why I chose to attend the University of San Francisco, where my daily routine consisted of sneaking off into Koret in between classes to work on lefty hook-shots and playing hours of full-court run after class, before coming home to plop myself in front of League Pass for the rest of the night. Different people get off on different stuff, but for me, basketball is a high untouched by anything else.

Well, almost anything else.

Like putting the ball through the hoop for the first time, my first trip to China in 2002 was a surreal, life-altering experience and ignited a deep interest for the country within me, an interest that has yet to dissipate. Sure, rafting past Guilin’s straight out of Middle Earth karst mountains, hiking up Moon Hill and looking up at the Himalayan mountains as I walked through the streets of Dali all made a lasting impression, as they do on most people who journey through China’s southern region.

But, nothing can compare to my stay in Kunming, Yunnan Province, where my program placed me with a Chinese family for part of the summer. Coming as their guest, I was treated like a long-lost cousin and their genuine charm and warmth put me quickly at ease. Like hitting a cutting teammate for a back-door lay-up, the feeling cannot be had by reading a book, taking a class, or walking the Great Wall with a tour group – China is best experienced by feeling it, by living it. It’s why after I studied four semesters of Mandarin, I went back to study abroad for a year in Beijing. And it’s also why on my way back to my apartment from USF during my senior year – or on my way back from playing pick-up, I should say – I’d go six blocks out of my way to Shanghai Dumpling King for quick sip of tea with the owner, and the conversation that would go with it.

I don’t pretend to be a “China expert” or a “China hand,” or whatever else people like to call foreigners who have studied and/or lived in the country. Frankly, I don’t think such a thing exists. Sure, there are some incredibly smart people out there who have made this country their life, and there’s something truly scary when I meet a fellow native English speaker who speaks Mandarin better than I speak my mother tongue. But these monikers unfairly portray a country that is far too big, old and complex as something whose “mastery” is reached by simply meeting pre-set requirements and checking them off grocery list style. Safe to say it doesn’t work like that, and anybody who tells you they’re a Zhongguotong because they’ve done this, that and the other is most assuredly not.

But, I have paid attention. I’ve engaged society. And though I don’t claim to know it all, I definitely don’t know nothing, either. In all I’ve been here for more than two years, most of which have been spent in Beijing, the place where I’m currently based out of.  And naturally, as basketball is also permanently ingrained into my basic fibers, I’ve spent a lot of time around basketball during my time here. I’m not completely fluent, but I know Mandarin well enough to read Koulan Magazine and Basketball Pioneers. I can defend Troy Bell’s NBA career to the two Chinese I’ve ever met who know who Troy Bell is. I can understand Zhang Weiping’s blatant pro-China homerism on CCTV-5; stuff that makes Tommy Heinsohn sound like Jay Bilas in comparison. I can talk trash during pick-up games, argue with biased Chinese refs and direct traffic at the point to Chinese teammates.

With her 1.2 billion people, and an estimated 400 million basketball fans, trust me – there’s plenty of opportunity to call somebody over for a side pick-and-roll. Basketball is the city game, and being that China has the most cities in the world, basketball is clearly the Chinese game as well. From early morning, starting with the rhythmic patter of old Chinese women shooting two-handed set shots from 15 feet, to late at night when the lucky ones who live near the lighted courts scattered around Beijing wait twenty minutes to get on for one game of four-on-four half-court, basketball is always going on here.

As I see Ron Artest yelling “I can play!” at my face while an advertisement for the Chinese shoe company, Peak, playing in between quarters of a Celtics – Magic game, I recognize that other people realize this, too. David Stern opened up a separate NBA China division in Beijing to solely focus on expanding the League here in the PRC, and emphasizes expansion into the mainland at every opportunity. Seemingly every category of NBA player, from rookie lottery picks and bench players to recent All-Stars and past-their-prime stars, all wear Chinese brands on their feet, eager to cash in on this basketball crazed country. Some players have even taken it a step further, playing for the Chinese Basketball Association as an opportunity to prolong their playing career and sell their own shoes to the largest growing market in world history.

Why China?

Because even without basketball, China would still matter to the world.  But, being that both matter – to me, to the Chinese who live here, and ultimately to you and the rest of the world – it needs to be understood, it needs to be discussed and it needs to be shared.

I take pride that I’m able to lend you some insight on two things that really interest me, China and basketball. Hopefully, after reading my humble words, you’ll start to take pride in learning from me as I continue on my journey down this complicated Chinese path.

Welcome to China. Welcome to NiuBBall.com.

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