Tag Archives: Patty Mills

Xinjiang team president, Hou Wei, steps down

April 19, 2012

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After hiring a new head coach, Xinjiang is now shaking things up in its front office.

According to NetEase, longtime team president, Hou Wei, has resigned. He will be replaced by Guo Jian, who served last season as the team’s general manager.

Hou had been with the team for the last 13 years, acting as team president since the Flying Tigers’ inception in 1998.

According to Chinese reports, Hou’s resignation is due to two reasons: First, Guanghui management, the company who owns the team, felt that the team needed to change its direction after a disappointing season that saw the Flying Tigers fail to make the CBA Finals for the first time in four years. Second, Hou is dealing with some health issues.

Though Hou was credited for overseeing the most successful run in franchise history, a three-year period that saw Xinjiang to the Finals in all three seasons, he was largely responsible for the debacle in Urumqi this season. After signing Chinese National Team head coach, Bob Donewald Jr., to the richest contract in CBA history in the off-season, Xinjiang pulled the plug on Donewald just 11 games into the season when the team sat at a 7-4 record. The team also accused Patty Mills, who came mid-season in replacement of Quincy Douby, of conspiring with Donewald in faking a hamstring injury to get revenge against the team, a charge that was denied  publicly by Mills.

Despite the accusations, no evidence was ever brought forward against either Mills or Donewald, and Donewald remains as head coach of the Chinese National Team.

Expected to finally win their first CBA championship this year, Xinjiang ended the regular season finishing 19-13 before getting swept in the semi-finals by Guangdong.

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Extended season – CBAers in the NBA

April 7, 2012

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Lester Hudson is one of a growing number of players who have signed in the NBA after playing this season in China. (Photo: AP)

With a 2012 CBA season that was filled with rabid fanaticism, deception, fighting girlfriends, redemption, and even a playoff upset officially in the books, most foreign imports have returned to their native lands. But just because the CBA season is over doesn’t mean that it’s time for a vacation – there is still a month left in the NBA. Teams are either making their playoff push or preparing for next season by offering 10-day contracts auditions.

A handful of this season’s CBA players are now playing in the NBA. Let’s see how they’re fairing:

Kenyon Martin (Xinjiang)– Along with Coach Bob Donewald, Martin was Xinjiang’s prize free agent acquisition last summer. With the NBA lockout in full force, Martin, who has missed considerable time with injuries the last few seasons, was merely looking for some run until the NBA season started. But, Martin impacted the season far more after he left China: First, Xinjiang bought out his contract shortly before Christmas, which gave him a stress-free return back to the United States. On top of that, he was able to get his FIBA release thanks to the CBA’s 10-day annual Spring Festival break, despite the league’s strict no-opt out policy that forbade players from returning to the NBA mid-season.

Past his early and mid-2000s prime, Martin is now better served playing off the bench. The L.A. Clippers started the season with rookie Trey Thompkins and Brian Cook backing up Blake Griffin. Ouch. With a gaping hole behind Griffin, the Clippers inked Martin to a one-year, $2.5 million deal. He is now the first big man off the bench and plays 20 minutes a game averaging 5 points and 4 rebounds.

NYTimes.com – Kenyon Martin beats the China trap with the old Lunar New Year play

Wilson Chandler (Guangsha) – After watching his former teammate Kenyon Martin bolt for the NBA, both Wilson Chandler’s effort level and the Guangsha Lions’ record took a nosedive starting in January. Ultimately, he left the CBA just before the beginning of the playoffs in search of a large, multi-year contract.

After a month of posturing, he scored a five-year, $37 million deal with the Denver Nuggets (I’m sure his Guangsha teammates understand).  In his seven games with the Nuggets, he is averaging 11 points, six rebounds, a block and a steal per game. He is currently nursing a groin injury but should be back on the court soon.

HoopsWorld – Wilson Chandler Struggles to to Re-Adjust to NBA
ESPN TrueHoop - Wilson Chandler, Back at Last 

J.R. Smith (Zhejiang) – With his roller-coaster season in China complete, Smith returned to the States and fielded multiple offers. He spurned the Lob City Clippers to get in on the Linsanity with the New York Knicks.

With the Knicks, Smith is doing what he does best: shoot threes. While he still hasn’t found his stroke (37% FG) or put up one of his patented 40-point explosions, Smith is averaging 10 points off the bench. He’s also carried a lot of the controversy that followed him in Zhejiang to New York, where he’s been fined for posting “inappropriate pictures” on his Twitter account, ejected from a game for a flagrant-2 foul (which has since been downgraded to flagrant-1) and criticized by head coach, Mike Woodson, for sagging his shorts.

With Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire likely out for the season, there won’t be any shortage of shots for Smith in the near future; nor does it seem there will be any shortage of Smith headlines.

NYPost.com – Knicks coach tells Smith he wants ‘his shorts pulled up’
Posting and Toasting – J.R. Smith got fined 25,000 for his photography
NiuBBall.com – J.R. Smith fined a million dollars for missing practices?

Aaron Brooks (Guangdong) – As a restricted free agent, Brooks is in the same boat that Wilson Chandler was in when he returned from China. Brooks’ rights are owned by the Suns, who are the only team he can negotiate with until this summer’s free agency period starts. That being said, he might decide to sit out the remainder of the season until he can field contract offers from other teams, which would give him negotiating leverage. The Suns aren’t going anywhere this season and prefer allowing Steve Nash to ride into the sunset, John Wayne style, rather than signing Brooks.

But after giving up a first round pick and Goran Dragic for Brooks, the Suns would look awfully foolish if they are unable to come to terms on a contract this summer.

Arizona Republic – Suns face some tough decision on Aaron Brooks
Suns.com – Lance Blanks checking in from China
NBA.com – Suns GM Headed to China to Visit Aaron Brooks

Ivan Johnson (Qingdao) – Johnson had a cup of tea in Qingdao this year before he was replaced by Olumideye Oyedeji, despite putting up some really good numbers. After he went back to the States, he was quickly snapped up by the Atlanta Hawks, who needed some size in the interior due to an injury to Al Horford. To a lot of people’s surprise, Johnson, playing his first year of NBA ball at age 27, has stuck and played some key minutes off the bench.

In 46 games, he’s averaging 15 minutes, 5.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Associated Press: Hawks’ Ivan Johnson making good as rookie at 27
Atlanta Journal Constitution – Hawks’ other Johnson making a name for himself

Cartier Martin (Jilin) – Martin has dabbled in the NBA for a few seasons now and was most recently signed to a 10-day contract with the Washington Wizards. After trading one of the NBA’s most notorious chuckers, Nick Young, the Wizards suddenly needed a SG to backup Jordan Crawford.

Martin has answered the call. In only his second game with the team, the former Jilin star scored 20 points on 12 shots while helping the Wizards snap a 5-game losing streak. In his six games with the team, he is averaging eight points and four rebounds. With the Wizards out of the playoff hunt, look for Martin to get some serious run down the stretch if he’s signed to another contract. If he continues his early success, Martin might be lucky enough to find himself on the Wizards opening night roster next fall.

Wizards Insider – Cartier Martin ‘excited’ to be back with Wizards
Truth About It – Cartier Martin. Back. (And why Martin is immediately the Wizards’ best 3-point shooter) 

Lester Hudson (Qingdao) – Qingdao’s mighty mouse, Lester Hudson was narrowly beat out by J.R. Smith for the CBA’s scoring crown.  The little man can fill it up, although he is the definition of a volume shooter.

Nonetheless, his successful CBA season got the attention of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who in turn signed him to a 10-day contract. The Cavaliers lost backup PG Daniel Gibson for the season and now their pending rookie of the year Kyrie Irving could be out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. What does that mean?  Hudson and little-known Donald Sloan will be the only ones competing for minutes in the Cavs’ backcourt. If Hudson can make a good impression on the rest of the league this season, he could find his niche as a Nate Robinson-type energy man and land a longer contract.

Akron-Beacon Journal: Lester Hudson escapes past, takes long road to NBA
The News-Herald: Lester Hudson picking up offense as quickly as he can

Gerald Green (Foshan) – Of all CBA imports, Gerald Green’s NBA success is the most impressive. Drafted out of high school by the Boston Celtics in the 2005 NBA draft, an immature Green entered the league knowing how to do two things: jump and shoot. Unfortunately, the jumping only won him a slam dunk contest and his poor shooting found him jobless.

He’s been a basketball vagabond the past few seasons and was on Foshan’s roster opening night. Green only lasted 4 games before being released, but averaged a robust 26.5 points.

After his departure from China, Green signed a 10-day contract with the Lakers, who were looking for some athleticism on the wing. Things didn’t pan out in Hollywood and Green was once again on the move, this time to New Jersey. The Nets signed him to two consecutive 10-day contracts before signing him for the rest of the season. In New Jersey, Green has found his role as a scorer off the bench. For the season, he is averaging 12 points on 49% shooting in nearly 24 minutes. He has scored 20 or more points 5 times this season.

If this impressive extended audition continues, Green will probably find himself a multiyear deal this summer with an NBA team.

SI.com – Green Energy: After humbling fall, ex-dunk champ rises again in NBA
NY Daily News – Gerald Green’s 3-month roller coaster
New Jersey Examiner - Gerald Green continues to defy the odds

James Singleton (Guangdong) – It was a short turnaround for Singleton, who just a week ago was bounced from the CBA finals by the Beijing Ducks. Fortunately, he doesn’t have much time to dwell on Guangdong’s finals disappointment, as he was awarded with a 10-day contract with the Washington Wizards. It’s not his first stint in Washington. Singleton was sent over to D.C. as part of the trade that sent Caron Butler to the Mavericks in 2010. He impressed enough in 32 games to get a one-year deal, but elected to sign a more lucrative contract in China the next season.

With Trevor Booker and Nene Hilario battling injuries – and who knows if they will return this season with the Wizards already eliminated from the playoffs – Singleton played 14 minutes in his first game with the Wiz. The results? Not like his CBA numbers — he had zero points, two rebounds and a whopping five personal fouls. Anyone who’s made the China-to-America trip knows a thing or two about jet lag, however and with another day and some more hours of sleep under his belt, he rebounded tonight with a 13 points and nine rebounds.

Bullets Forever – James Singleton Is Returning To The Washington Wizards

Patty Mills (Xinjiang) — The Australian point guard was embroiled in a controversial break-up with Xinjiang this season after the team accused him of faking a hamstring injury, a claim with Mills vehemently denied. Like Martin, Mills left China mid-season; unlike Martin, however, he was unable to get his FIBA release and was forced to sit in the U.S. while the Flying Tigers finished out their season.

But once Xinjiang was swept out of the semi-finals by Guangdong, Mills faced another obstacle towards getting back onto an NBA court — the Portland Trail Blazers, who still held his rights. With a full roster, a new coach and a front office in transition, it was unclear what Portland was going to do with Mills. In March, they ultimately decided to renounce Mills and after weighing offers from a couple of teams, he signed a two-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs. After working out his work visa papers, he suited up for his first game on March 27th at Phoenix.

Mills, who will represent the Boomers this summer in London, is in an excellent situation in San Antonio. Not only is he getting some much needed game reps before the Olympics, he’s also playing under Australian National Team head coach, Brett Brown, who works as an assistant on the Spurs staff. It may have been a long road back to the League, but it looks like Mills has landed in a good spot.

NBA.com – A Bright Light from Down Under

Alan Anderson (Shandong) – Anderson signed a 10-day with the Toronto Raptors on March 26th and was good enough to earn another one. It’s his second stint in the League — he spent two years with the Bobcats in 05-06 and 06-07. He has appeared in six games for the Raps, averaging 5.8 points and two rebounds in 16 minutes.

Raptors HQ – Raptors Re-Sign Uzoh and Anderson, Ink D-League PG Dentmon
National Post – Raptors’ Alan Anderson finds another soft landing in Toronto

Follow Edward Bothfeld on Twitter @bothfeef

 

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Monday Morning Jianbing

March 19, 2012

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Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links
  • Dan Harris at China Law Blog takes issue with people labeling the Chinese as violent based on incidents like Shanxi-Beijing Game 4: “When something particularly violent or horrible happens in China I sometimes get an email or a comment from a reader (which I do not post) ranting about how this is further proof of ‘what the Chinese are like.’  To me, the only thing that is proven is that out of 1.5 billion people you are bound to have violent sociopaths.  In any country.  In any culture. Sometimes we need to just step back and say that it’s just a bank or just a basketball game or just a violent sociopath. Not everything is an indictment of an entire nation. Do you agree?” Yes, we agree.
  • This is a gold mine for all you English speakers who want to get up to par on you Chinese basketball terms. Yet another reason why hoopCHINA is probably the world’s greatest basketball website.
  • Everyone knows Love is Love for Stephon Marbury… except for when it comes to the Knicks. Steph successfully called Mike D’Antoni’s exit in New York, and now he’s tweeting about it to remind everyone.
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It’s here! The official 2012 NiuBBall CBA Playoff Extravaganza!

February 22, 2012

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(Graphic via China Daily)

We have a saying over at NiuBBall: There is no parity in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Understand: Since the CBA went to a best-of-five format for the first round and semis in 2005, never has there been a do-or-die Game 5. Since the CBA went to a best-of-seven format for the finals a year later, only two teams – Bayi and Guangdong, both seeded 2nd, in 2007 and 2011 – have upset the regular season’s best team. Only one series has gone past Game 5 – last year, when Guangdong beat Xinjiang in six. In that same span, only three lower seeds have upset the higher seed.

The CBA is entertaining for many reasons, but the playoffs is definitely not one of them.

Its predictability has affected even the postseason schedule makers: best-of-five first round series take the 1-2-1-1 format in which the lower-seeded team hosts Game 1, based off the reasoning that attendance will be higher if a fan base’s optimism hasn’t been completely dashed by their team being in a 0-2 hole.

This year, though, we’re guaranteed at least this bit of variety: for the first time in three years, there will be at least one new team in the finals. That’s because Xinjiang and Guangdong are on the same side of the bracket, which means if everything goes to plan, they’ll play each other in the semis.

Expect it – and every other series – to go according to plan.

That doesn’t mean that we’re not rolling out the red carpet on this, though. Because in addition to reading a breakdown of every single first-round series here at NiuBBall, you can also check out Andrew Crawford’s roundtable approach to previewing things over at Shark Fin Hoops. Two English-language CBA Plaoff previews? Now that Niu Bi.

And while you’re at it, check out main man, Anthony Tao, and his new site Beijing Cream, which will cover everything and more about China’s capital city. Tao and NiuBBall are xiongdi – in 2010, he wrote great stuff about Stephon Marbury’s first season in China when he was with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons, a piece that not only stood (and still stands) as one of the best ever written about Chinese hoops, but also one that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. We’re honored to have this preview appear on his site, and we’re looking forward to pitching in more CBA coverage throughout the playoffs and beyond.

And now, without further ado…

(Note: all start times subject to change.)

#1 Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers (25-7) vs. #8 Fujian SBS Sturgeons (17-15)

Regular Season Series:
(12/21) Guangdong – 85 @ Fujian – 90
(2/8) Fujian – 116 @ Guangdong – 126

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 7:30 pm, @ Fujian
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ Fujian (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong (if necessary)

The question isn’t whether the Southern Tigers will win their fourth straight championship and eight of the last nine – feel free to pause to let that sink in – but how many games they’ll need to do it and who they’ll beat. So there’s absolutely no chance of a first-round upset…

Yet – a big yet, but yet – if there was a team with a fighting chance of achieving the most monumental upset in Chinese basketball history, Fujian would be the pick. Able to trot out three foreigners to Guangdong’s two because of its abysmal record last season (a quirk in the CBA rules), Fujian can compensate for its inferior Chinese roster better than any other team in the playoffs. And those foreigners are good. In his first season in China, Will McDonald has become the hands-down best center in the league, blending the inside-outside game he developed in Spain with solid work on the boards. The tireless Zaid Abbas, the team’s Asian import, led the league in rebounding (14.7 per game) and minutes (42.7). Anthony Roberson rounds out the foreign lineup doing what he’s always done: shooting the air out of the ball, which is good if he’s hot (bad if he’s not).

But the best thing about Fujian’s imports? They actually match up pretty well with their opponents. Guangdong’s center combo of Su Wei and Wang Zheng have no offensive skills to speak of and don’t move well on either end of the floor, which means they’ll likely struggle to guard McDonald, who can stretch the floor. The more athletic yet smaller Dong Hanlin might have to shoulder that burden. The ever-active Abbas will make James Singleton work very hard to get his. And Roberson, who can and sometimes does go completely off, will probably have to garner at least some defensive attention from Aaron Brooks, who will resume his NBA career as soon as the season ends.

As CBA watchers know though, talking about foreigner matchups is usually a moot point when it comes to Guangdong, a team that relies on its Chinese guys to get it done: Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Zhou Peng, Chen Jianghua, Dong Hanlin and, yes, even the aforementioned duo of Su Wei and Wang Zheng make up seven of the top eight Chinese players in the series. So long as Brooks doesn’t get caught up trying to match Roberson’s shot total and does what he does best in this league — work out of the pick and roll and get into the lane at will — Guangdong will be more than fine.

*Roberson, who has been battling an injury the last few games, missed practice today and his status is in doubt for tonight’s game.

Prediction: Guangdong in 4

#2 Beijing Shougang Ducks (21-11) vs. #7 Zhejiang Guangsha Lions (18-14)

Regular Season Series:
(12/28) Guangsha – 118 @ Beijing – 112
(2/15) Beijing – 94 @ Guangsha – 114

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 7:30 pm, @ Guangsha
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ Guangsha (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing (if necessary)

While Wilson Chandler is back in the U.S. getting a haircut for the first time since August and negotiating a $40 million-plus contract, the team he used to play for, the Guangsha Lions, is trying to figure out how in Mao’s name to replace the singularly most destructive foreigner in the CBA (when he wanted to be) not named Stephanie Smith.

They can contemplate all they want, but the reality is that they won’t find that replacement. Well, technically they have found a replacement, Hangzhou old-hand Rodney White. But let’s be clear: 2007 Rodney White ain’t walking through that door. And even if he was, it probably still wouldn’t be enough. So even though they swept the season series vs. Beijing, they’re about to get paid back in full. It’s a sad thought when you consider that the Lions were in third place in mid-December and looking like somewhat serious title contenders.

If you ignore, for a moment, the Chandler-exodus storyline, Guangsha’s season was interesting in its own rights – and also interesting because it mirrored Beijing’s. The Ducks sprinted out to a 13-0 start, then lost 11 out of the next 19. Yet because of the instability in the teams under them, Beijing was able to hang on to second place.

A lot of that incredible start was due to Stephon Marbury, who has played his butt off every night in a city he now considershome on a team with players far more talented than his teammates in Shanxi and Foshan. He was always meant for the big city, and in a place where he’s comfortable, his rededication to basketball is evident.

Two of his teammates, Zhu Yanxi and Zhai Xiaochuan, are in their first years in the CBA, and both have thrived playing with Marbury. Zhu, a rookie sensation who was picked up from China’s second-tier National Basketball League, is the most Euro China big man you’ll see in this country. That may be an insult in the NBA, but in China it’s a huge compliment. Big under the boards and accurate from deep, Zhu amounts to the Chinese poor man’s version of Ersan Ilyasova. Zhai has no far-fetched NBA comparison, but he is a young, long and bouncy effort guy who does nothing particularly bad.

The Ducks’ longer-term success, i.e. a trip to the finals, will be predicated on whether Chen Lei and Lee Hsueh-lin are healthy. The good news is that they’re both back in the lineup after missing extended time with injuries; the bad news is that they haven’t really gotten an in-game run in a while, especially Lee, who, before coming back in Round 33 against Shanghai – the penultimate round of regular season games – had not played since December 9.

It boils down to this, though: Guangsha is bummed about Chandler, and Beijing is amped on making a finals run. Quack, quack.

Prediction: Beijing in 4

#3 Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons (20-12) vs. #6 Shanghai Dongfang Sharks (18-14)

Regular Season Series:

(12/16) Shanxi – 90 @ Shanghai – 92
(2/3) Shanghai – 108 @ Shanxi – 119

Playoff Series Schedule:

Game 1: Tonight 8 pm, @ Shanghai
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Shanxi
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 7:30 pm, @ Shanxi
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ Shanghai (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Shanxi (if necessary)

As Jim Yardley just expertly shared with the rest of the world in his book, Brave Dragons, what the rest of the CBA has known for quite some time: the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons are a flipping mess of a team.

Run by an owner who can switch from head coach to assistant coach to video coordinator to sports psychologist on a whim – or just hold all those titles at once – the Brave Dragons have gone through coaches, general managers, translators and players of all nationalities at an alarming rate over the years as “Boss Wang” continues his search for people who will give him the instant results he craves. Not surprisingly, as success in basketball usually comes from a gradual building process that nurtures familiarity and chemistry, Shanxi had never made the playoffs since their inception in 2006.

Which is why this year is so special: The Brave Dragons are finally in. How’d they do it? Boss Wang reportedly stopped meddling (as much – he definitely still meddles), and he stopped trying to bring in big-name NBA players who may come with NBA talent but also bring their NBA requirements, which the coal city of Taiyuan is largely incapable of fulfilling.

Wang took the safe bet this summer by bringing in Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines, two players who have played inChina before and have had no problem adjusting to the culture while accumulating monster stats. The two have developed into the best and most dependable foreign duo in the league. Gaines, who’s been putting up huge numbers ever since he played for Xinjiang two years ago, enjoyed another fantastic season, averaging 29.2 points and 13.1 rebounds on 64.1% shooting. Williams, who turned around Zhejiang Chouzhou’s season last year after coming in midseason after the Mike James experiment blew up, hasn’t missed a beat in his second season, averaging 32 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.5 steals.

The problem for Shanxi, though: Nobody else can consistently score and nobody defends. Yeah, Lu Xiaoming can get out in transition and probe around for dump-offs and kick-outs, and Duan Jiangpeng has had some big nights on the offensive end, but this team starts and ends with their foreigners.

Shanxi’s obvious reliance on their foreign studs is in stark contrast to Shanghai. Allowing just 89.6 points per game, Shanghai boasts the stingiest defense in the league. First-year head-coach Dan Pannagio, following in the defensive footsteps of China national team coach Bob Donewald Jr. from two years prior, has stressed solid team D while also installing the equal-opportunity triangle offense. The jury’s still out on the effectiveness of the triangle — the Sharks score a league-low 91.1 points a game – partly because they’ve dealt with injuries. Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who played the triangle under Panaggio in the D-League, was enjoying a great season, possibly even a NiuBBall MVP-type season, in his familiar offensive surroundings before rupturing his Achilles in late December.

His replacement, Marcus Landry, and especially Mike Harris, who stepped up with some big games down the stretch, have both helped the team move forward. But several Chinese players do their part here. The Sharks go nine, occasionally 10 deep, led most notably by their two national team players, veteran point guard Liu Wei and the young, ever-improving 7-3 center “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu. Liu Ziqiu is one of the better Chinese perimeter defenders in the league and Meng Lingyuan provides a lefty herky-jerky change of pace off the bench.

Throw in the fact that Shanghai’s very-much-on-the-same-page American coaching staff will have the freedom to make whatever adjustments they deem necessary, while Shanxi’s half-American, half-Chinese staff may or may not depending on how Boss Wang is feeling, and you’ve got the makings of a very intriguing and competitive first-round series. But with two NiuBBall All-CBA first-teamers in Gaines and Williams and an important home-court advantage that will challenge the road-weary Sharks (4-12 on the road this year), we’re giving the nod to the Brave Dragons.

Prediction: Shanxi in 5

#4 Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers (19-13) vs. #5 DongGuan New Century Leopards (19-13)

Regular Season Series:
(12/25) Xinjiang – 90 @ DongGuan – 97
(2/12) DongGuan – 89 @ Xinjiang – 97

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 7:30 pm, @ DongGuan
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Xinjiang
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 8 pm, @ Xinjiang
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ DongGuan (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Xinjiang (if necessary)

No team has gone through more turmoil, more changes and more disappointment this season than the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. Once drooling over the prospect of having Kenyon Martin, Quincy Douby, Tang Zhengdong and Mengke Bateer all being coached up by the American head coach of the Chinese National Team, Bob Donewald Jr., the team is now devoid of all three of those Americans (Douby broke his wrist in pre-season, Donewald was fired 11 games into the season and Martin left shortly after with 12 games under his belt).

They’re also short the player they replaced Douby with, Australian national team point guard, Patty Mills, who was released controversially mid-season after tearing his hamstring against Guangdong on December 23rd. And now, they’re going to be short the player who they replaced Martin with, Gani Lawal, who is reportedly being replaced by Ike Diogu.

Not coming as a shock, the team is likewise devoid of any real shot at the championship that’s they’ve come up just short of achieving the past three seasons.

They will however, storm through DongGuan. Because even though this has been the most drama any team has ever had to endure in one season, Xinjiang is still a very good team, a much better one than their opponents. Though they haven’t been the force that some people thought they’d be, Bateer and Tang still get it done on the inside and DongGuan’s light frontline will be pushed around without too much effort. On the wings, Xu Guochong is as lights out as ever from three and Xirelijiang is as good a two-way guard this league has. And that’s just domestic players. Tim Pickett has done very well coming into the team on short notice and before being released, Lawal was serviceable as a rugged blue-collar rebounder.

The team’s make-up will change wit Diogu, but even if he starts a big sluggish, Xinjiang will still win this series. Though DongGuan head coach Brian Goorjian for the second year in a row has done a masterful job at the helm, leading his team to a No. 5 seed after starting the year 0-4, they don’t hold any discernable advantage in any key category. Xinjiang is bigger and better than DongGuan’s big man rotation of Shavlik Randolph, Zhang Kai and Sun Tonglin, and should dominate the offensive glass. On the perimeter, nobody American or Chinese can handle Pickett.

The one mystery, maybe the only one of this series, is how Diogu, who’s been sitting at home all winter while professional basketball has been going on all around the world, will play in the face of loads of playoff pressure. This being his first time in China, it’s quite a lot to ask of a player to come into a new country, play in a new league, and suit up for a team who is expecting you to carry them to playoff glory. Lucky for him, he’ll probably be able to gradually find his rhythm this series without it affecting the final result.

Prediction: Xinjiang in 3

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Curtis Donald Interview

February 22, 2012

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In his first season as the Xinjiang Flying Tiger’s strength and conditioning coach, Curtis Donald has had the opportunity to work with a variety of different athletes, including three-time CBA MVP and former NBA player, Mengke Bateer. (Photo via NetEase)

Since the Chinese Basketball Association held its first season in 1995-96, the league has seen a steady increase in foreign players, coaches and consultants. But in recent years, the league has also seen a foreign increase in another area, one that is arguably just as important: strength and conditioning coaches.

Once a luxury reserved for only the Chinese Senior National Team, foreign professional strength and conditioning coaches have slowly been hired to work with Youth National Teams all the way down to the senior club level. This season, more than half of the CBA’s 17 teams have at least one foreigner on their strength and conditioning staff, a number that should — and probably will — increase in the future as the league continues to open its doors to foreign influence.

Because in a country that is still learning how to take better care of their athletes, the benefits of bringing in Western strength training and development are obvious. With many athletes training 10-11 months out of the year, the need to take care and improve players physically should be at a high priority. And with China’s ambitions on the international stage growing higher and higher, Chinese players need to be strong, flexible and explosive in order to stand up to the rest of the world’s elite athletes.

There’s still some way to go, but the results have already been pretty impressive. Last summer when the Chinese Olympic U-23 team played against the Duke Blue Devils in Beijing, we were impressed, but not totally shocked, to see China’s players have little if any difference in muscle tone, agility and athleticism in comparison to their American opponents.

Accordingly, more CBA teams are taking notice. As part of their off-season push to get over the championship hump that they’ve come up short in climbing the last three seasons, the Xinjiang Flying Tigers brought in the first foreign strength and conditioning coach in the history of the franchise, Curtis Donald.

Donald, who got his first gig with a professional basketball team as intern with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2009, knows a thing or two about Chinese basketball players. He worked as Yi Jianlian’s private performance specialist from the summer of 2009 until the summer of 2011, when he was hired to come to Xinjiang. During those two seasons, Donald was with Yi year-round, both while he was playing in NBA with New Jersey and Washington, and also while he was with the Chinese National Team during the summers.

And it was during those summers where Yi and Donald’s work especially paid off — forced to step into the team’s lead scoring role after Yao Ming’s retirement, Yi played the best and most complete basketball of his career at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, where he was the only player in the entire tournament to average 20+ points and 10+ rebounds, and at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, where he lead China to a gold medal and an automatic berth in the 2012 London Olympics.

With his first season in the CBA almost over, Donald and NiuBBall hopped on Skype for a discussion about the year in Xinjiang, what it was like working with Yi, and the state of Chinese strength and conditioning as a whole.

NiuBBall: You’re heading into the Playoffs tonight, describe your first year working in China.

Curtis Donald: It’s been challenging, just dealing with all of the changes we’ve gone through this year. And especially the injury bug that we’ve been hit by. First with Quincy [Douby] going down early and then Patty [Mills]. We had [Maierdan] go down, too. And then the changes to the coaching staff as well. So it’s been kind of a learning experience dealing with all of the issues.

NiuBBall: What were your expectations coming into this year? When you were hired for this job, what were your understandings about the Flying Tigers and their expectations?

CD: I just knew that they had a great tradition and basketball culture. They were consistently at the top of the league the last few years, so I knew expectations were going to be high. They had been to the Finals the last three years, so I knew anything less than a championship was going to be unacceptable. It was good to have those expectations. This season is only successful if you win the championship. Period. If you go undefeated and you lose in the championship, then the season didn’t matter. It was interesting to come in for my first head job and be a part of an all-or-nothing situation. It’s just very unique.

NiuBBall: The reality of that championship goal has changed because of all of the changes that have gone on within the team this year. How has that affected your own expectations as the season has progressed?

CD: It’s going to be a lot more difficult to win a title. But, having come in here with that mindset, I’m trying to maintain my belief that anything less than a championship is a failure. No matter what’s happened, I still need to treat the players and help them to the best of my ability. I came here in October to help this team win a championship. It’s February now and that hasn’t changed for me. Like I said, it’s going to be much more difficult, but it hasn’t changed how I approach my day-to-day.

NiuBBall: Take us through your responsibilities to the team. What do you do both on a day-to-day basis and on a more long-term, full season basis?

CD: My responsibilities include strength and power development, injury prevention, and if necessary, nutritional guidance. The day-to-day is all about having seamless communication between the coaching staff, players, team physician, and myself on players progress and potential issues.

Over the long term, I try to see improvement in a series of performance tests that indicate progress in areas such as lateral quickness, vertical jump, and linear speed. Improvement of these results is mostly seen in the off-season, but in-season we attempt to maintain those results. Also, throughout the season I am constantly evaluating players for movement inefficiencies or improper biomechanics.  Its important to develop and maintain proper movement patterns to keep each athletes risk of injury to a minimum.

It’s really a unique job. You train guys differently based on who they are, how much experience they have and how many minutes they’re getting. But then you’re also going on guys’ individual experience as well. Guys like Kenyon Martin, Patty and Quincy don’t do the same things as the 12th man on the bench. So it’s unique. You have a high-level NBA player to work with on one end that needs more corrective and preventative work so that he can avoid injuries, and you also have Chinese guys who fit into that category as well with Tang [Zhengdong] and [Mengke] Bateer. But then you have the  Xirelijiang’s and Meng Duo’s that you still need to develop, but they’re getting high minutes, so they’re kind of in between. Although this is a professional basketball team, the job has a lot of “college” aspect to it because you do need to develop players. The younger guys who maybe aren’t playing as much, you’re always trying to develop them. My favorite part of the job, has been the diversity between the different players goals and training experience.

NiuBBall: All of the foreign players are obviously used to the Western training methods that you’re using, but what about the Chinese guys? How have they responded?

CD: The players love it. I feel that they’re really interested in how strength and conditioning can elevate and extend their careers. They come to me after practice wanting more work, they ask questions about why they’re doing certain things. They are engaged in the whole process. They’re used to doing a lot of back squatting for example. But, I take the bar off their back and we do a lot of single leg work with a weighted vest. They’re a little confused about it at first, but then when it’s explained to them, they really respond and they start to understand that this is how you get better, this is how you stay healthy. They then start to realize that their knees feel better, or their back isn’t hurting, or whatever the case may be. Then that draws guys even closer to the system and the American way of doing strength and conditioning. To me, that I can affect their training habits and gain their trust, that’s been very gratifying.

NiuBBall: You talked already about Tang and Bateer. Both of them are former CBA MVPs and have played big roles in the National Team set-up. Now they’re late in their careers, how have they reacted to having you around the team?

CD: Let’s talk about Tang first. Luckily with him, he’s dealt with foreign strength coaches before because he’s played for the National Team in recent years. So he understood right away and he bought in right when I got here. Tang’s main issue is that he has a weight issue. It’s hard for him to manage his weight and when he gets above a certain weight his knees start to bother him significantly. When I first got here, we had Tang doing three workouts a day. Bob [Donewald Jr.] and I decided that we wanted to get his weight down as quickly as possible before all the travel started, so we had him doing pool workouts at lunchtime. While his teammates were sleeping – you know how much the Chinese players love their post-lunch nap – he was at the pool doing plyometrics and intervals with me. And he loved it. He was exhausted, but he was seeing results. He had already bought into it, and then once he started to see improvement, he really started to trust me.

With Bateer, it’s a little different. I treat him like an NBA guy. I give him a lot more freedom. He has way more experience than I do. I didn’t come in and try to dictate his routines or change the way he trains, I just gave him some ideas and approached him more casually. Like you said, he’s won MVPs and he’s been in the NBA, so he knows what he’s doing. But, he’s also stayed healthy for the most part. So what’s there for me to do? We discussed some things that we wanted to add and I give him a little bit at a time, but I kind of let him go on his own. And when he needs me, he comes to me. And I think that’s a great approach. I’m not going to force myself on a guy who’s had success.

NiuBBall: There’s a common belief amongst Chinese, especially within Chinese basketball, that Chinese bodies are genetically inferior to their Western counterparts and that’s why the Chinese are unable to develop high-level players. With your experiences, first with Yi and now with Xinjiang, do you buy into that?

CD: I do believe that they’re just not as athletic overall, but I think it comes down to how this country’s younger players have been training, both inside each club’s youth team and inside the youth national teams. You can train to be more athletic. You may not ever be able to jump out of the gym like an elite NBA athlete, but you can still improve. I think it’s an excuse. Chinese players miss a window of opportunity right after puberty to really gain athleticism, strength and power because of out-dated training methods.

NiuBBall: I think the obvious example right now is Jeremy Lin. He’s Asian, but was born and raised in the States, and now he’s starring for the New York Knicks.

CD: I think he’s a great example. He’s Asian, but if he’s not built like a Westerner, or he’s physically at a disadvantage or whatever, then why is he having so much success? It’s because he was raised in a different basketball culture and he took advantage of his opportunity when it came. So that can’t be an excuse if guys like Jeremy Lin are having the success that the is having.

NiuBBall: So is bringing over those Western training styles and teaching the Chinese how to use those methods an important step in developing athletes here?

CD: Absolutely.  There have been a number of Western strength coaches that have done a great job over here. I believe the hiring of these coaches must continue. There needs to be continuous effort to educate the Chinese in the area of strength and conditioning. There needs to be opportunities for junior team head coaches to be educated or there needs to be budgets to get some developmental strength and conditioning programs inside of teams, maybe getting a Westerner in there to run a program and teach the Chinese coaches. I think if there was an improvement on the youth level, middle school or high school level, it’d make a world of difference. It would prepare them to compete at a higher level internationally in events like the World Championship and at the Olympics. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to scramble around for the next Yao or the next Yi. They’d have a crop of guys who are just ready to step in and they’d have a lot of guys to choose from because they’ve been training the right way from an early age.

NiuBBall: How much of the things that you’re bringing to this team are being picked up by players? Whenever you’re done in Xinjiang, do you see them being able to use these things by themselves long-term? Do you think the organization will employ Western training methods down through the club?

CD: I think it just depends on the player. Guys who realize that this is how you’re supposed to take care of your body are going to continue to do it. A lot of it has to do with the culture of China. They’re very respectful to authority. So if you get a new coach who doesn’t do it this way, then they’re going to listen to their coach, no matter how different his strength and conditioning methods are from mine. So it just depends on the guy.

I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to change the culture of the team and the way the front office views strength & conditioning. But there are a number of former and current national team players that have had positive experiences with strength and conditioning that might be able to influence the front offices decision to keep western training methods around the organization. As for these methods being used down on the junior team level, it’s very unlikely until there is an obvious long-term financial benefit in developing young players that can be seen by management.

NiuBBall: You’re American, you’ve worked in America with the Clippers, but over the last two years you’ve been working exclusively within Chinese basketball. Now that you’ve had experiences with both sides, what are the major differences you’ve noticed between the U.S. and China in terms of strength and conditioning?

CD: The culture here is much different. I can only speak for basketball, but I’m sure it extends over to other sports as well. And that’s the quantity of work, the quantity of practices and the length of practice time over the quality of those practices. For example, it’s not uncommon at the youth national team even at the senior national team level to have a two-to-three hour practice in the morning and then another two-to-three hour practice in the afternoon. And some guys are on club teams where they do the same thing. So some players are doing what essentially amounts to 12 straight months of two-a-days. That’s unreal. When is there time to recover? When is there time to really get quality work?

And that brings up other issues. When you know you’re going to go through the same practice routine every day of the week for months on end, it’s human nature to find a pace that gets you through it. It’s not a pace that gets them better, they’re not going at an intense game-speed that will get them better, it’s this pace that gets just get them through the day. It’s survival, it’s “How can I survive through this day?” They know that they have a two or three hour practice in the morning and another one in the afternoon. So it creates a pace, and really a mentality, that slows development. It doesn’t develop a great athlete. They can never reach that world-class intensity because they’re just pacing themselves to get through each day.

If there’s one change that the sport culture in China needs to go through, the one that will give this country’s athletes the most benefit, I think they need to learn quality over quantity. Teach these guys to reach high intensities over shorter periods of time and then rest and recover.

NiuBBall: The prime example is of course Yao, who had to retire because of all the injuries and wear and tear that piled up on his body after playing year-round for so many years. Yi is also playing all year, how has that affected his career?

CD: I think it’s had a huge effect on Yi’s career, especially in the NBA. You have to understand: He goes through an NBA season, maybe he gets a month off after and if he does that’s a huge amount of time for a Chinese player to be resting. Then he has to report to the national team and play there. Luckily. Bob [Donewald] has been managing his minutes through all of the exhibition games that they play over the course of a summer and that’s definitely helped. But still, with the way the Chinese Basketball Association schedules the summer, it’s not uncommon for Yi to be playing nine games in 10 days. How can you expect a guy to play an NBA season, play an entire summer’s worth of games, play in a major continental or international competition depending on the year, and then go back and play in the NBA again?

Yi’s reputation is that he’s a soft basketball player. I’ve seen him play at the top of his game at the World Championship and at the Asia Championship. He’s not a soft player. But if he doesn’t find that rest, he just doesn’t have a motor. He doesn’t have any gas in the tank. He’s exhausted. And until they make some changes, they’re never going to see an All-NBA caliber player like Yao ever again.

NiuBBall: Let’s talk more about Yi. What was it like to work with him for those two years?

CD: It was a tremendous opportunity to help his career, both internationally and in the NBA. He’s a great guy to work for, he’s a true professional.

NiuBBall: What was he like as a client? What was the relationship between you two like?

CD: He was great, he reacted very well to having me with him. Yao had a foreign strength and conditioning guy when he was with the National Team and at that time, Yi was pretty young. So I think he saw the success Yao was having and I’m pretty sure that Yi thought that was the best route for him to go. Just in terms of that he’s being taken care of on the performance end, both in the NBA and when he’s with Team China, to have a guy guiding him through all the things he needs to do to get better and remain healthy.

We had full trust in each other. He had already committed to taking the advice of the people around him. It was his idea to bring someone in for himself. He thought, “I’m investing in my career, so I’d better take full advantage and listen to everything that this guy is telling me.” So right from the start, he had 100% trust in me and the entire process as a whole.

And you know, his work ethic is world class. Rarely did Yi cancel a session, unless it was something personal that he had to attend to that day. In Washington, we’d sometimes work into the wee hours of the night. Sometimes we’d meet at midnight and we’d be in the gym by ourselves, lifting and doing core work. His work ethic and commitment level were world class.

He’s a total professional. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to work for him because he opened up a lot of doors for me. If it weren’t for him and his people, and the opportunity that they gave me, I wouldn’t have been around the National Team, I wouldn’t have gotten with Donewald and I wouldn’t be here in Xinjiang right now.

NiuBBall: Curtis, thanks for the time and good luck with the rest of the season.

CD: Thanks, Jon.

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CBA: Repeat of a Kenyon Martin situation “won’t happen again”

February 8, 2012

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No way out.

That was the way it was supposed to be when the Chinese Basketball Association passed a rule in August barring locked out NBA players from including back-to-the-NBA opt-out clauses into their Chinese contracts.  The move was made to prevent a potentially destabilizing mass China-to-U.S. exodus that would have sent teams scrambling for replacement players once the lockout ended, and in a year where the Chinese National Team is preparing for the 2012 Olympics, officials decided it would be in Chinese basketball’s best interest to avoid a mid-season upheaval of foreign talent. The rule’s language was clear: Any player who wanted to sign with any other professional team, NBA or not, had to wait until their Chinese team played its final game of the season. If you were going to sign in China, you were going to have to commit to a full season.

But to the shock of many, Kenyon Martin, one of the NBA players who signed in China this year, has found a way out.

Last Friday, Martin signed a one-year $2.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers despite the fact that the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers, the team who he signed with in September, still has three more games to go in the regular season.  Considering the CBA’s consistent hardline stance on the opt-out issue throughout the year, the one question that begs answering is: How could that have happened?

The Year of the Dragon, that’s how. According to Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports, Martin’s clearance was sent from FIBA to the CBA in late January. As Andrew Robotham, a spokesman at FIBA’s headquarters in Geneva who spoke with the New York Times’ Jim Yardley over the weekend, the process was handled just like the thousands of other requests they receive each year. Like every other FIBA application, the international organization formally notified the CBA of Martin’s request. Per FIBA rule, they had seven days to respond. If there was no answer within that period, then FIBA would grant his clearance.

But with the Chinese New Year falling on January 24th this year, nobody was in the office to receive that request. Like everybody else in China, the CBA completely shut down for a about a week to go home and celebrate the country’s most important holiday with their families. While officials were on vacation, Martin’s letter sat untouched, unread and unanswered and by the time they got back from their break, the seven day period had already passed, giving FIBA the right to open Martin’s road back to the NBA.

Not surprisingly, CBA officials are upset that the letter was sent in during New Year, a move that they are deeming unethical due to what they feel was a deliberate attempt to take advantage of the Chinese holiday. Using Martin’s signed letter of commitment that was turned into the CBA when he was bought out from Xinjiang in late December, the league originally considered appealing the decision. According to a top CBA official, Gong Luming, the letter stated that Martin promised not to play in any other professional competition until after Xinjiang’s season was over.

The February 7th appeal date has come and gone without an official appeal however, and the CBA, knowing full well that they had little if any chance of winning their case, have moved on to the more pressing matter at hand: making sure the league’s other NBA players stay in China.

Because the effects of Martin’s return to the NBA are not just limited to the CBA’s Beijing office. Besides CBA government officials, Martin’s unexpected return to an NBA roster has raised the alarms for both players and individual team general managers, both of whom are equally unhappy over the development. Upset that one NBA-to-China player has broken free of their CBA chains, several foreign players reportedly want out immediately, which in turn has lead to increased pressure on their GMs, who have themselves become angry over their suddenly sulking high-end investments.

“Who cares how [Martin's release] happened. Our team and the rest of the other teams [with NBA players] are now in a tough spot. Once this precedent is set, what can we do?” asked Ye Xiangyu, general manager of the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions, the team Wilson Chandler plays for. “There’s nothing we can do.”

“About this, I can only say we are very angry,” she added. “Before the season we made a lot of preparations. We talked for a long time about all the different steps we would need to take to make this work. Now this whole thing has been blown wide open. This year our team invested a lot of money. We had big plans for this season. We spent human and material resources to make it happen. But if this is how this situation is going to be handled, we’ve spent everything for nothing.”

After starting the season 13-4, Guangsha now finds itself out of the playoffs for the first time all season after losing at Shanxi on Sunday. The loss puts them at 2-9 over their last 11 games, 15-13 overall.

In an effort to maintain control over the exact explosive situation the league tried to avoid by making the no opt-out rule in the first place, the CBA on Saturday took the rare step of publicly admitting their own failure to properly handle the clearance procedure.

Said Gong, “…the event that occurred during the Chinese New Year vacation period was something we did not anticipate. The failure falls within ourselves.”

With speculation running wild in Chinese media the last wek, the CBA announced yesterday that they will not change their rule on opt-out clauses, which means players will still have to wait until their respective teams’ seasons are completed.

“We’ve already had discussions with both the NBA and FIBA, they’ve made it very clear that they respect our rules on this matter,” said Gong. “The foreign players who haven’t received their letter of clearances won’t have another opportunity to go play in any other professional league, including the NBA.”

“In regards rules on foreign players leaving the CBA, we won’t change anything due to [Kenyon] Martin’s release. After we explained our stance on the situation, the NBA and FIBA both understand and will respect CBA authority on all releases.”

As Gong went on to elaborate, that includes players who have already split ways with their Chinese team. Patty Mills, who played with Martin in Xinjiang, was released by the team in early January after their team president accused Mills of deliberately faking a hamstring injury, a charge which Mills resolutely denied. According to Gong, he and other players who are released before the end of the season will not be granted a release back to the NBA before the end of their team’s season.

“Even if they break off of their contract here in China, the CBA will follow the rules we set prior. We won’t be granting any letters of clearances before the end of the season. Another Martin scenario won’t happen again.”

The CBA regular season ends on February 15th. The first round of the playoffs start on February 22nd.

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

January 31, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CBA Round 17 Recap

December 29, 2011

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Guangsha – 118 @ Beijing – 112

After soaring to a 13-0 start, Beijing now looks like they’re coming back down to Earth. The Ducks lost their third straight game on Wednesday, this time to visiting Guangsha. It was their first home loss of the year. Wilson Chandler destroyed the Ducks for 44 points and 18 rebounds and P.J. Ramos played well in support with 26 and 14. Lin Chih-chieh chipped in with 15 points and 5 assists. Stephon Marbury did his best with 34 points.

The Ducks were dominated inside as Randolph Morris fouled out trying to contain the massive Ramos and the active Chandler. The two went to the line 11 times respectively. Also not helping matters was the Ducks’ 7-26 performance from three. Beijing is for real — no team starts a season 13-0 on a fluke — but, its unlikely they’ll be able to maintain their torrid start to the year during the season’s second half. For one, they’re not very deep and their players are already showing signs of fatigue. Two, they rely too heavily on three point shot. They’ll live on it more than they’ll die with it, but Beijing’s status as a championship contender may be slowly fading away.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangdong – 106 @ Bayi – 105

Normally it’s a Wang who saves the day for Guangdong when the game is on the line. But that Wang is usually Wang Shipeng, not Wang Zheng. On Wednesday, it was the lesser known of the two Wangs who hit a go-ahead hook shot in the lane with under five seconds as the Southern Tigers came away with a dramatic victory against Bayi. Aaron Brooks scored 20 points in 24 minutes, James Singleton threw up a double-double with 18 points and 13 boards, and Wang Shipeng scored 18 and snared 7 rebounds as Guangdong once again put up another balanced team effort on offense.

With the win, Guangdong now has the same 13-3 record as first place Beijing. But because the Ducks beat them earlier in the season, they still remain in second place.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Tianjin – 81 @ Shanghai – 93

In front of a sparse crowd, the Shanghai Sharks handled their business with a minimum of fuss. When the final buzzer arrived to spare Tianjin any more punishment, the scoreboard was stuck at 93-81. Despite winning their last three games, it was exactly what the Lions deserved after such a lifeless performance. Mike Harris picked up 27 points and 11 rebounds whilst Ryan Forehan-Kelly made 24 in a game that Dan Panaggio described as ‘a necessary win’.

Donnell Harvey made 27 points but other than Zhang Nan, had absolutely no-one to help him try and keep the game close. Coach Panaggio revealed in his press conference that several members of his team were struggling with the flu but insisted on playing, reflecting both the commitment to the cause in Shanghai’s ranks but also how bad the Lions were in losing by such a distance to their weakened hosts.

The Foshan Dralions, recently shorn of their talisman, Gerald Green, are the next team to visit the Yuanshen. The Sharks, now 6-1 at home, will be looking for revenge against their guests after an embarrassing away defeat back in October. Going 9-8 on Friday night would be a remarkable way to finish off 2011.

Box Score

Andrew Crawford

Xinjiang -92 @ Fujian – 115

Xinjiang’s second straight game with an all Chinese lineup (Patty Mills didn’t play because of a hamstring) lost on both style and the score sheet as they were blown out on the road against Fujian. Will McDonald dominated with 32 points and 14 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive end. Offensive boards were an ongoing theme during the match as Fujian took a 21-8 advantage in that department and went +20 total rebounds.

Worth mentioning here is Xu Guozhong’s stupid tally of 46 points, which is not only a career high, but a season high for Chinese players this season.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Zhejiang – 95 @ Liaoning – 117

Box Score

Shanxi – 91 @ DongGuan – 110

Box Score

 

Jiangsu – 105 @ Jilin – 111

Box Score

Foshan – 88 @ Qingdao – 100

Box Score

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CBA Round 16 Recap

December 28, 2011

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Beijing – 87 @ Shanghai – 96

The city of Shanghai got exactly what it wanted this Christmas as it’s basketball team defeated the Beijing Ducks in a gritty, compelling match that saw both sides have their chances to win the game. Beijing had the lead going into the fourth quarter but a comeback win was made possible when Ryan Forehan-Kelly helped eat up the seven-point deficit before Mike Harris almost tore the rim down with a go-ahead dunk, before the Sharks made the win safe with cooly taken chances on the fast break.

Three Shark players got themselves double-doubles; Forehan-Kelly (25 points; 13 rebounds), Harris (21 points; 13 rebounds) and Zhang (16 points; 13 rebounds), whilst for Beijing, Randolph Randolph scored a game high 26 points and Stephon Marbury got a double-double of his own, racking up 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Andrew Crawford, Shark Fin Hoops

Box Score

Shanxi – 106 @ Guangdong – 111

Guangdong survived a home scare against always dangerous Shanxi. Down 109-106 with 17 seconds left, Guangdong’s Chen Jianghua went to the line with a chance to put the game on ice. He missed both, but unfortunately for the visitors, Charles Gaines missed the rebound and turned the ball over right back to the home squad. Zhu Fangyu followed by hitting both of his free-throws to put the game out of reach to give Guangdong their 12th win of the year.

James Singleton put up 20 points and 17 rebounds, Aaron Brooks dropped 21 and Zhu Fangyu and Wang Shipeng each contributed 15. The super foreign combo of Gaines and Marcus Williams each scored 35 points, but the team got little from anyone else, including the game’s biggest offender, Duan Jiangpeng, who was bottled up for just four points in 40 minutes.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Xinjiang – 90 @ DongGuan – 97

Life after Bob Donewald and Kenyon Martin took on an added obstacle on Sunday night as Patty Mills, the team’s lone import at the moment, sat out with a hamstring injury. Playing with an all-Chinese lineup, the Flying Tigers put up a good fight in DongGuan and even took the lead in the second half. But ultimately, the lack of a true point guard came back to get them in the end as Xinjiang turned the ball over 21 times, including a few crucial ones down the stretch, resulting in their second straight loss in Guangdong province.

Josh Akognon scored a game high 24 points, Shavlik Randolph added 17 and Qiu Biao had 15 for the Leopards, who move into sixth place with an 8-7 record. Xinjiang’s consolation may have been Tang Zhengdong, who had his strongest game of the year with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Qingdao – 100 @ Shandong – 94

We’re not so much shocked by the fact that the Lester Hudsons Eagles won a game on the road, but rather that they won with three non-Hudsons (Olumide Oyedeji, Xue Yuyang and Li Gen) scoring more than 15 points.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Jiangsu – 99 @ Guangsha – 106

Box Score

Zhejiang – 90 @ Jilin – 100

Box Score

Bayi – 84 @ Liaoning – 103

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Tianjin – 108 @ Foshan – 93

Box Score

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Kenyon Martin leaves Xinjiang, to be replaced with Gani Lawal

December 27, 2011

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Kenyon Martin is officially out in Xinjiang. As Yahoo! Sports first reported, the Flying Tigers negotiated a buyout with the 11-year NBA vet that will allow him to go back to the United States. Per CBA rules, Martin will not receive a FIBA letter of clearance until Xinjiang plays their final game of the season, which means that he will not be able to sign with an NBA team until sometime in March.

Martin’s departure comes on the heels of Xinjiang’s decision to part ways with American head coach, Bob Donewald, just 11 games into the season after the team got off to a 7-4 start. Donewald, who also serves as the current Chinese National Team head coach, was hired away from the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks in the summer to help lead Xinjiang to their first ever title. The team has lost in the CBA Finals the last three seasons.

According to a report published by China Daily, Martin and Xinjiang came to a common ground on a buyout shortly after the coaching change was made.

In his 12 games for the Flying Tigers, Martin averaged 13.9 points and 9.7 rebounds.

Although the Flying Tigers are undoubtedly still licking their wounds from what has been a tumultuous December, the season and turnstile frequency of personnel moves continues, and they have agreed to sign big man Gani Lawal, who was cut by the San Antoino Spurs during training camp.

Lawal, who played collegiately at Georgia Tech before being drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 2010, is a low-post grinder who prefers to play with his back to the basket. He played in Poland for Zastal Zielona Góra during the lockout and averaged 16.5 points and 11.7 rebounds over 10 games.

Lawal will join an organization that is currently in severe disarray. After finishing 31-1 and playing in the Finals last year, Xinjiang entered this season with championship or bust expectations and attitude. Instead, their championship aspirations suffered a severe blow before the first game was even played when Quincy Douby, arguably the best offensive player in the CBA last season, was ruled out for the entire season after breaking his wrist during the preseason.

Xinjiang struggled to move on from Douby’s devastating  injury. They started the new season in uncharted territory after being blown out by Shanxi in Round 1 before losing to Beijing in Round 6 to start the season 3-2. While they have remained in the top half of the league standings, consecutive losses to Shanghai and Guangsha in Rounds 11 and 12 sent Xinjiang’s management into full panic mode. Donewald was let go after Round 13; Martin left soon after.

Lawal will team up with Douby’s replacement, Patty Mills, who leads the team in scoring with 26.5 points per game.

What’s next for Martin looks to be pretty simple. As ESPN.com’ Chris Broussard accurately writes, Martin — and any other NBA free-agent who has ideas of signing with an NBA team anytime soon — must honor the agreement he made when he signed in September and wait until his team plays its last game until he can sign with a team. As Broussard writes:

All the NBA players who signed to play in China during the lockout, including Martin, did so with the understanding and contractual obligation to stay throughout the entire CBA season. Of course, anyone can leave a team, but the Chinese teams will not clear such players to play elsewhere (NBA, Europe, etc.) until his particular Chinese team finishes its season, whether before, during or after the CBA playoffs.

There has been talk that NBA players can buy out of their contracts for $500,000, but even that sum isn’t going to move CBA officials to clear guys to play in the NBA.

“China will let these guys go home, but they’ll stop your money or even ask you for some of the money back, and you can’t play for another team around the world until your team in China’s season is over,” the source said.

The decision to grant out-clauses is not up to individual teams, but rather the Chinese Basketball Association. Unless something drastically changes, they’ll stay consistent with the rules they made this summer.

With the 2012 London Olympics quickly approaching this summer, the league is holding its number one priority – the success of the National Team – above all else, even high-profile NBA-to-CBA players. Given the chance to have locked-out superstars like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitkzi sign in China earlier this season, the CBA went the other way and banned all players under NBA contract from signing in China this season. On top of that, they also passed a rule that restricted players from signing back-to-the-NBA out clauses that would have allowed a free passage back to the States whenever the lockout ended.

The rules were passed to maintain stability and to ensure a smooth season in preparation for the Olympics. In the eyes of league officials, the chaos that would have ensued from players coming and leaving as they pleased would have resulted in unwanted unpredictability during a season where Chinese officials are gearing up for the world stage in London. A good showing in front of the whole world is more valuable long-term to the CBA than the short-term commercial windfall that would have come and gone with an NBA superstars one to two month NBA lockout China vacation.

China qualified for the Olympics by winning the FIBA Asia Championship last September.

So out goes Martin and in comes Lawal, who will join a Xinjiang team looking to prove that the season is not lost. While this season has been a nightmare in Northwest China, it’s hard to put the blame squarely on the players’ shoulders; the Flying Tigers’ management have simply set their expectations too high. After losing Douby, finding his replacement, hiring a new coach, and signing a supposed franchise cornerstone all within a few months, it was ludicrous to think that this team would have meshed quickly to begin the season with all pistons firing. It takes time for a coach to teach his system and get to know his players and vice versa. Guangsha hired a new coach, Jim Cleamons, and brought in a star player of their own, Wilson Chandler, and they are just now figuring out how to play with one another.

The personnel moves that Xinjiang has made in the last week are expectations induced panic moves.  But that’s the beauty of it — as CBA writers these types of moves have become our expectations. After all, this is basketball with Chinese characteristics.

Edward Bothfeld also contributed to this story. He can be followed on Twitter @bothfeef

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CBA Round 13 Recap

December 21, 2011

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Shanxi – 112 @ Guangsha – 126

For a full report, check out Edward Bothfeld’s recap from Hangzhou.

DongGuan – 104 @ Guangdong – 128

Aaron Brooks had 27 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists to check in his best all-around performance in China this season as the Southern Tigers cruised past the Leopards in their DongGuan derby match-up. James Singleton added a double-double of his own with 24 points and 10 rebounds. The Tigers raced out to a big lead early and never looked back, using 14 threes to bury their opponents. It’s their seventh straight win of the season.

Jon Pastuszek

Qingdao – 97 @ Beijing – 105

Beijing moved closer to an unblemished first half of the season record by beating Qingdao at home. Stephon Marbury and Randolph Morris combined for 58 points, Rookie of the Year candidate Zhu Yanxi had 13 and Zhai Xiaochuan chipped in with 10.  The Eagles went 8 of 35 from three, a performance which could mostly be attributed to Lester Hudson’s 5 of 18 bricklayer’s convention. With Xinjiang, Guangdong and Zhejiang Chouzhou all out of the way, Beijing stands an excellent chance of running the table for CBA’s first rotation through the schedule.

Jon Pastuszek

Jilin – 89 @ Xinjiang – 94

Xinjiang once again started out of the gates slow, and once again found themselves down in the fourth quarter. But, unlike games against Beijing, Shanghai and Guangsha, the Flying Tigers dug deep and came up with a victory down the stretch to avoid what would have been a three-game losing streak. Patty Mills came up with several huge shots in the fourth and finished with a team high 26 points. Mengke Bateer, limited by illness, only played 22 minutes and scored 6 points and 6 rebounds. But Tang Zhengdong, who has disappointed for most of the season, came up with 16 big points to fill in.

But, the win was just a minor story in Urumqi as the team announced that head coach, Bob Donewald Jr., had been replaced by the man he replaced in the offseason, Jiang Xingquan. Chants of “Denghuade, xia ke!” (Fire Donewald!) boomed through the arena for most of the game and grew the loudest in the second half when Xinjiang lost the lead. For a full write-up, read this.

On a side note: Osama Dahglas played all 48 minutes, which meant that once again, Yu Shulong sat on the bench for the entire game.

Jon Pastuszek

Shanghai -94 @ Bayi – 85

Shanghai’s American duo of Mike Harris and Ryan Forehan-Kelly lead their club to a form-defying win over Bayi, that was also their first away win of the season. The Sharks started brightly only to find themselves pushed and knocked around a Bayi side that didn’t care much for subtleties. Some in-your-face, physical basketball unsettled the Sharks, who threw away a halftime lead of 14 points in the third quarter before Harris and RFK came storming back to exploit some glaring holes in the Rockets backcourt and put the game to bed.

RFK’s 31 points demonstrated his importance to the side and why his loss would have been disastrous to the Sharks had he not been passed fit. Harris unleashed a maelstrom of swagger as he made 24 points, whilst young guards Feng Tian and Meng Lingyuan gave further notice of their potential with double digit scores of 13 and 11. Han Shuo, who made 21 points and centre Wang Zhizhi, who got 17, were among five Bayi players to make double figures.
Andrew Crawford

Fujian – 94 @ Liaoning – 108

Foshan – 96 @ Zhejiang – 103

Shandong – 99 @ Jiangsu – 91

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CBA Round 12 Recap

December 18, 2011

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Xinjiang – 92 @ Guangsha – 102

Xinjiang, coming fresh off a disappointing loss on the road against Shanghai in Round 11, failed to come up with a bounce back win in Hangzhou on Friday night, losing to Guangsha in a game that was never really in doubt. The loss brings Xinjiang down to a disappointing 6-4 start to the year, and it also marks the team’s first losing streak in five years.

Besides featuring a clash between two three loss teams, the match-up also pitted former Denver Nuggets teammates, Wilson Chandler and Kenyon Martin, against each other. In the fourth quarter the two guarded each other for most of the frame. K-Mart made nothing easy for Chandler, forcing him into to several tough shots, some of which the talented forward made and some of which he missed. Chandler finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds on 11-28 shooting. Six players for Guangsha finished in double figures, including P.J. Ramos who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

For Xinjiang, Patty Mills did all he could with a game-high 39 points and 6 steals, but he didn’t get much help elsewhere. Xu Guozhong had 17 points, most of which came via Mengke Bateer’s precise passing from the post (11 assists) and Xirelijiang had 10, but the Flying Tigers struggled to get double-digit production from elsewhere.

Jon Pastuszek

Shanxi – 90 @ Shanghai – 92

Shanghai continue to make the Yuanshen a difficult place to come to (they are now 4-1 in Shanghai) and tonight claimed another scalp in front of their home crowd. A fantastic spell of basketball over the course of two-and-a-half quarters was almost undone when the Sharks allowed the dangerous duo of Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines to get up a head of steam. Shanxi had their hosts against the ropes in the fourth quarter and clutch performances from Mike Harris and Meng Lingyuan were vital in keeping the Sharks ahead when the full-time buzzer blew.
Harris made 30 points and 11 rebounds, “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu also got himself a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) whilst Meng got 10 points and six rebounds. Worryingly, Ryan Forehan-Kelly left the game injured and could be out for a while. This means the Sharks could go into their next game Bayi without Liu Wei, Tseng Wen-ting and now Forehan-Kelly, who has argueably been their most consistant player so far this season. For Shanxi, Williams picked up a game-high 31 points, six rebounds and six assists whilst Gaines got himself a double-double (21 points, 13 rebounds).
Andrew Crawford

Beijing – 107 @ Tianjin – 101

Zhu Yanxi had a career day with 26 points and 11 rebounds, Stephon Marbury scored 35 points and Randolph Morris added 21 as Beijing went to 11-0 on the season. Tianjin got the game within five points at around the five minute mark, but some timely stops and good work on the defensive glass kept Beijing in front for good. Donnell Harvey lead Tianjin with 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Jon Pastuszek

DongGuan – 117 @ Liaoning – 95

DongGuan dealt Liaoning their second home loss of the year and catapulted themselves into a playoff spot. The Leopards are now 7-2 since opening up the season with three straight losses. Shavlik Randolph paced the winners with 32 points and 10 boards, Josh Akognon netted 26 points and Qiu Biao had 21.

Zhejiang Chouzhou – 94 @ Shandong – 107

Jon Pastuszek

Fujian – 82 @ Jilin – 90

Foshan – 96 @ Bayi – 101

Jiangsu – 86 @ Qingdao – 103

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CBA Power Rankings: Week 2 (11/30-12/6)

December 8, 2011

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*Note that the highly complicated methods that comprise these rankings do not factor in the results of Round 8, which was played on Tuesday and Wednesday night. These are as of Round 7, December 4th.

1. Beijing Shougang Ducks (7-0)

Last week — 1: Last week, perhaps the argument could have been made we were hopping on the Ducks bandwagon a little too soon. And we really stress the word “could,” since they won on the road at four-time defending champion Guangdong. After following that up with home win against three-time runner-up, Xinjiang, their spot at the top is now indisputable. But it’s not by any means permanent — Beijing’s next four games are on the road, including a Friday match-up against J.R. Smith and the 4-1 Golden Bulls.

2. Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers (5-2)

LW – 2: Guangdong, who like Xinjiang, hardly ever loses in the regular season, already has two more ticks in that column than most people thought they would this early in the year. And yet, we are still taking the champs’ word for it, despite issues surrounding Aaron Brooks so far unsuccessful integration into the lineup. Given the Southern Tigers’ winning ways over the years, we think he’ll come around eventually. Until he does though, and until the team stops losing games to Qingdao, Guangdong is riding shotgun to Beijing.

3. Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers (3-2)

LW – 3: The two losses don’t concern us as much as the lack of production Xinjiang has been getting from two of the three expensive Chinese players who transfered in this summer, Tang Zhengdong and Chao Yonggang. Tang, who’s knee is obviously not healthy, is now out with an ankle injury. Chao is averaging three points a game. K-Mart’s near 20-20s and Patty Mills’ offensive explosions are all fine and well, but if Xinjiang is to win a title this year, they need more from their local guys.

4. Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls (4-1)

LW – 9: Winners of four straight, the Golden Bulls find themselves back in the position we originally marked them down in before the season started. A lot of that has to do with J.R. Smith. 52 points (11-15 from three), 22 rebounds and 7 steals against Bayi and 32 the game before against Shanxi has his scoring average up to over 27 a game, good for fourth in the league. That number is bound to go up when J.R. figures out how to get some easier shots for himself (only 40% from two-point range).

5. Zhejiang Guangsha Lions  (4-2)

LW – 4: Peter John Ramos is back and up to his old tricks (20 points and 15.5 rebounds in two games), great news for Guangsha who were getting absolutely zilch from the guy he replaced, Dwyane Jones. A huge game on the road against Guangdong will tell us if Ramos’ return to his old home of Hangzhou makes the newly Wilson Chandler-lead Lions legitimate contenders this year.

6. Bayi Fubang Rockets (3-2)

LW – 10: In our eyes, there’s a big drop off after number five — not necessarily a bad thing when you consider that the CBA has enjoyed Grand Canyon-esque rifts between the have and have-nots since its inception in 1995. And speaking of have and have-nots, the Rockets have won every game at home (3-0). They have not won one game away (0-2). That trend won’t continue along that extreme line, but the Army’s home/away discrepancy, much like last year, will be something to keep an eye on.

7. Liaoning Hengye Jaguars (3-4)

LW – 11: Yeah, you’re in the playoffs, Liaoning, but it’s tough for us to excited about a team that can’t put together back-to-back wins. Since opening up his Sina Weibo account last week, Zhang Qingpeng is averaging 12 points a game. The lesson: opening up a Sina Weibo has only a minimal effect on struggling players. Bummer. The bigger bummer here though is Guo Ailun’s scanty 16 minutes per game average so far.

8. Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons (2-3)

LW – 6: Another team with loads of talent that hasn’t been able to win two games in a row. Despite having three studs, Marcus Williams, Charles Gaines and Duan Jiangpeng, the Brave Dragons are always going to be at somewhat of a loss because supporting players Zhang Xuewen, Shang Ping and Liu Shaoming are inconsistent. The roller coaster ride is going to continue, but we still think their Big Three is good enough to get into the post-season.

9. DongGuan New Century Leopards (3-4)

LW – 17: Shame on us for ever doubting Brian Goorjian. The Leopards’ three-game (and nearly four if they didn’t give one away to Beijing in Round 4) win streak is due in big part to Shavlik Randolph’s 25.5 points and 14.3 rebounds over that stretch, but who are we kidding. It’s obviously due to the fact that the entire team posted up last week’s power rankings, which had them last, on their locker-room bulletin board.

10. Fujian SBS Sturgeons (3-4)

LW – 13: Fujian’s on a two game win streak. They have five guys averaging double figures. Will McDonald is having the most underrated season of any foreigner out here (roughly 26 and 10 a night). They have Zaid Abbas. They have, what we think, is a playoff contending team. Trust us, they’ll be right there.


11. Jilin SBT Northeast Tigers (3-4)

LW – 7: Do Chinese coaches have it in for promising Chinese point-guards? Like his young 2010 FIBA World Championship teammate, Guo Ailun, Yu Shulong is collecting splinters. Since the DongBei Tigers have turned the ball over more than 20 times in their last two games, maybe more Yu would be a good thing.

12. Shanghai Dongfang Sharks (2-4)

LW – 15: Just when it looked like our man Andrew Crawford had an article about a three-game win streak in the books, the Sharks went out and got blown out by Liaoning on Sunday. Anyways, we think the Sharks are onto something. Either that our we’re just super biased. But it’s all starting on the defensive end. Mike Harris is leading the league in rebounds, and the team is holding opponents to a stingy 91 points per game so far.

13. Shandong Kingston Gold Lions (3-4)

LW – 5: In his last 79 minutes, Sun Jie has five points. Yeah, five. Definitely not the norm for a guy who is usually on fire from deep. Sun’s alarming recent lack of offense is directly related to the Gold Lions’ even more alarming 89.7 ppg, last in the league. In seven games, they have yet to crack the 100 point mark once, an unsettling statistic in a league that plays with a high pace.

14. Qingdao Double Star Eagles (2-5)

LW – 14: Congrats on beating Guangdong, but it still doesn’t mean Qingdao is a playoff team. It does mean, however, that Lester Hudson can go the heck off from at any given game. And for that reason alone, Qingdao will win some games. But their Chinese talent remains as one of the league’s worst and until they get their import big-man situation settled (Ivan Johnson was the second American sent home this year for the Eagles), they’re going to remain in tough shape.

15. Jiangsu Nangang Dragons (2-5)

LW – 11: By far the most disappointing team of the season, Jiangsu started at four pre-season, dropped to 11 at the first week and is now at lowly 15. As is always the case, the foreigner was blamed first after Dragons management finally got Mardy Collins on a plane back to the States. Jiangsu started slow last year with Ricky Davis before they brought in Antoine Wright as his replacement; is Marcus Williams (the UCONN one) this year’s savior?

 

16. Tianjin Ronggang Golden Lions (2-5)

LW – 8: Yeah, remember when we had them at number eight last week? Yeah, well we were really, really off on that.


17. Guangdong Foshan Dralions (2-5)

LW – 15: Gerald Green is out and Marcus Haislip is in. It’s not a bad idea at all — Haislip can definitely play — but we wonder if it’s going to be their last. Marcus Douthit has been putting up decent numbers, yet is he the right fit alongside Haislip? This team needs a guard and fast.

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CBA Round 7 Recap

December 6, 2011

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Shanxi – 97 @ Beijing – 121

Another round, another win for the Ducks, who are now 7-0 to start the year. Surprisingly though, it’s not Beijing’s best start in franchise history — they went 8-0 in the CBA’s innagural season, 1995-96.

As is becoming a common trend for them at home, the Ducks went to the free-throw line way more times than their opponent, shooting 42 to Shanxi’s 24, which is either a testament to their players’ aggressiveness or to the referees’ friendly home whistle. Randolph Morris finished as the team’s high scorer with 26 points and added 11 points as well. Six players for Beijing scored in double figures.

Shanxi’s Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines combined for 62 points, but their Chinese players only manage to combine for 35 points.

Box Score

Jon Pastuszek

Xinjiang 121 @ Tianjin 108

Xinjiang got back on a winning track two days after a tough loss against Beijing thanks to two scorching hot performances from Patty Mills and Xu Guozhong. Mills went 8-10 from three, only slightly better than Xu’s 8-11 splash-fest from deep. Even big man Mengke Bateer got into the act, burying 4-11 from long range. Bateer also added 9 assists, which gives him an amazing 25 for his last two games. The seven-footer leads the league in that category with 8 per game.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Liaoning – 118 @ Shanghai – 99

Shanghai Sharks fell to their fourth defeat in six games after a firestorm of offense from Liaoning Jaguars. Rodney Carney was lights-out throughout the game and the vocal group of away fans gave their man a standing ovation when he was withdrawn in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter following a big shift of dunks, huge threes and general mischief making. Josh Powell also got on on the high scoring fun whilst four other players on the Jaguars made double figures including the beefy Chinese centre, Han Dejun.
Shanghai fought hard and had five of their own in the double figures club (Liu Wei, Mike Harris, Ryan Forehan-Kelly, Peng Fei and Max Zhang) but simply couldn’t keep up with their guests’ furious pace. Coach Panaggio admitted his side were outplayed, calling Liaoning’s performance, ‘a clinic’ and will now have to rally his players for the upcoming game against defending champions, Guangdong on Wednesday in what is the first of another tricky three away fixtures.
Andrew Crawford

Box Score

Jilin 89 @ Guangsha – 109

For a full recap, check out Edward Bothfeld’s on-site report from Hangzhou.

Foshan – 92 @ Guangdong – 116

Guangdong – Foshan was the second victim of heavy fog this season after Guangdong couldn’t fly out of Jinan. Originally scheduled for Saturday night, the CBA moved the game until tonight. Aaron Brooks scored a team-high 22 points.

Foshan’s Marcus Haislip scored 22 points in his 2011-12 CBA debut, but the bigger story was that his debut was against the team he helped lift to a championship last season, Guangdong.

Other Scores:

Jiangsu – 97 @ Bayi – 99 (OT)

Box Score

DongGuan 100 @ Shandong 94

Box Score

Fujian – 120 @ Qingdao – 96

Box Score

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CBA Round 6 Recap

December 5, 2011

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Xinjiang – 97 @ Beijing – 99

Is Beijing for real? That was the question heading into the Ducks’ Friday night nationally televised home game against perennial title contender, Xinjiang.

The answer: A definitive yes.

Beijing’s 18-point halftime lead stood up to a furious fourth quarter rally, and now Beijing is standing alone in first place, two games up on both Xinjiang and Guangdong. Zhu Yanxi (13 points), Chen Lei (16), Stephon Marbury (18) and Randolph Morris (22) combined to once again create a balanced offensive attack that spread their opponents out and made them pay from the outside. Before the final buzzer, seven different Beijing players hit a three-pointer in a 13-24 team effort.

As is becoming the norm, Xinjiang got off to a slow start in the first quarter and were down three heading into the break. But instead of regrouping at the interval, they temporarily collapsed, scoring only 11 points in the second quarter while giving up 26 on offense.

But the Flying Tigers eventually found their championship form in the fourth quarter. Patty Mills, who finished with a game high 32 points, became more aggressive on offense and Kenyon Martin, 22 points and 11 rebounds, played like a maniac on the defensive end, and with under a minute Xinjiang went up by one point. Xu Guozhong had a wide open three that would have put Xinjiang up four with under thirty seconds left, but it rimmed out. Lee Hsueh-lin came down with the loose ball and was fouled in the chaos of the play. He hit both to put Beijing up one. Chen went one of two from the line after Mills missed another three. The third chance wasn’t the charm for Mills either, however, as he missed a tough running lay-up with under ten seconds left that was nearly tipped in by Martin.

Beijing has been on the right end of three down-to-the-wire games, which may indicate a degree of luck to some, but this team is for real. With bigs Ji Zhe and Zhu Yanxi able to stretch the floor with their shooting, Marbury has all the lanes he needs to get into the paint and make this happen, and Morris can have some room to operate in the high post. They’ve got a nice blend of local and foreign talent — Beijing is a definite top four team this year.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Bayi – 91 @ Zhejiang – 113

J.R. Smith put together one of the stupidest box scores ever seen… well, ever: 52 points, 22 rebounds, 7 steals, 4 assists. And he almost took off Xu Zhonghao’s head with a near Slam of the Year that caromed off the back of the rim. You can check it out in the clip above if you don’t believe me.

Zhejiang head coach, Ding Wei, took a page out of last year’s playbook and only put Josh Boone in the game for 15 minutes, which gave J.R. plenty of time — 44 minutes, to be exact — to put up his epic statistical masterpiece. Ding went with the same sit-Boone-for-the-first-half strategy last year when Marcus Williams was cooking up triple-doubles for breakfast, lunch and dinner to end the season. If J.R. gets hot in the first quarter, expect him to use it again in future games this year. Which of course means, you can probably expect more big games from J.R.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangdong – 98 @ Shandong – 93

Guangdong rebounded from the huge upset they suffered at the hands of Qingdao on Friday night by outscoring Shandong 32-13 in the second quarter to win their fourth game of the season. Zhu Fangyu had 27 points to lead the team. Shandong sort of had a chance to win in the fourth quarter, but missed a three that would have cut Guangdong’s lead down to two.

Shandong has now lost three straight after starting the year 3-0.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Jiangsu – 95 @ Shanxi – 112

Charles Gaines had 36-15, Xing Zhijiang scored a season-high 22 and Marcus Williams added 17 points and 8 assists as the Brave Dragons took care of business at home against a shorthanded Dragons squad that was down a foreigner. And that’s too bad, because we missed out on the first Marcus Williams vs. Marcus Williams matchup in CBA history that would have decided who the best Marcus Williams was.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Jilin – 67 @ Shanghai – 85

From the start, Shanghai seemed in control and via the quick hands of Peng Fei and Liu Wei, quickly opened up a lead that the Sharks never lost. Mike Harris came on for Ryan Forehan-Kelly (hereby known as RFK to prevent the constant abuse of my hyphen key) at the start of the second quarter and quickly made a small lead something far more substantial. The Sharks led 42-23 at the break.

To their credit, Jilin kept on fighting until the very end but it was effectively for pride alone. The game seemed decided well before the fourth quarter thanks to the earlier outbreak of blistering shooting, and the Sharks were content to slow the game down amidst the boisterous noise from the home fans.

When the final buzzer came, Shanghai could celebrate another victory, this time to the score of 85-67. Harris finished with 28 points and 22 rebounds, RFK made 16 points with seven rebounds whilst Liu (14), Peng and Zhang Zhaoxu (both 10 points) all scored in double figures.

Andrew Crawford

Box Score

Other Games:

DongGuan – 118 @ Qingdao – 109

Box Score

Liaoning – 108 @ Foshan – 111

Box Score

Tianjin – 101 @ Fujian – 108

Box Score

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