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Tag Archives: Peak

Monday Morning Jianbing

January 7, 2013

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

  • More from said Peak: As of December, the Chinese shoe company has partnered up with the Toronto Raptors. With the deal, “Peak will be exposed to Raptors fans who will see the company’s branding all over the Air Canada Centre where home games are held. Peak’s merchandise will also be available to Canadian consumers at the Raptors Team shop at the Air Canada Centre.” That should work out nicely for the Raps’ Kyle Lowry, who endorses Peak.
  • From Beijing Cream, the story of a one-legged basketball player who plays better than a lot of two-legged basketball players. Amazing within itself, but even more so when you consider that he’s catching, rebounding and handling the ball with one hand, too. Plus, if dude is a natural righty — and he very might well be judging from the fact that he makes exactly zero shots from outside three feet during the course of the video — that means he’s doing all that with his off-hand. Very impressive.
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Xi Jinping attends Lakers game, watches NBA when he has the time

February 20, 2012

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Other than that he is going to be the next No. 1 in the Chinese Communist Party next year, not much is known about current China vice-president, Xi Jinping. A princeling born into Communist Party affluence before he was sent away to live in a cave during the Cultural Revolution, Xi has risen up the ranks on his penchants for business and not pissing people off. His wife, Peng Liyuan, is a nationally known singer who is widely considered to be more famous than her husband. He likes American war movies and his daughter, Xi Mengxe, attends Harvard.

And that’s pretty much what we know about Xi. By design, his leadership traits and politics remain largely a mystery. They’ll remain that way until afte he officially replaces Hu Jintao in 2013.

But Xi’s recent official trip the U.S., which marked his debut as the soon-to-be Chinese president, shed some more light on the man, including the very important news that he, like a lot of people in China, likes basketball and watches the NBA in his spare time.

Before putting the final touches on his five-day stay in the U.S., Xi took in a Lakers game at the Staples Center on Friday. Like most Laker fans, Xi arrived at the end of halftime and watched the entire third quarter and some of the fourth from a suite as the Lake Show beat the visiting Phoenix Suns 111-99.

To welcome Xi, Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, presented him with a personalized Lakers jersey. Magic Johnson and David Beckham among others came up to personally greet the man. And Lakers guard Andrew Goudelock had someone write a welcome message in Chinese to the Chinese visitor on his Peak shoes, which happen to be Chinese.

Xi’s visit to Staples, like everything else on his trip, was meticulously planned. Not that it matters — anybody who likes hoops is OK with NiuBBall. And Xi does like hoops. On his arrival in Washington on Monday, Xi told the Washington Post that ”I do watch NBA games on television when I have time.”

But what makes Xi more than just OK around these parts? He originally wanted to see the Clippers, and not the Lakers, which makes this Boston born-and-bred scribe extremely pleased.

No word yet as to whether Xi actually plays. If he does, then he’ll be added alongside Wen Jiabao as part of a potentially deadly combo that could match-up nicely in a game of two-on-two against any other country’s top squad of high ranking politicians. Which means just to be safe, someone in Barack Obama’s cabinet needs to start getting some shots up.

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Happy Year of the Dragon from NiuBBall and almost every other foreign hooper in the US and China

January 27, 2012

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Contrary to common belief, Chinese New Year is not a one day holiday. Which means, we’re not late in offering our Happy Year of the Dragons. In fact, the Spring Festiva is 15 days long — good if you like eating dumplings, bad if you hate being kept up by late night firecrackers.

But Chun Jie is about more than eating food, giving and receiving hong baos (red envelopes filled with New Year cash) or watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. It’s about spending time with the family (or your adopted Chinese family, if you’re a foreigner), reflecting on the year past… and watching commercials featuring various CBA and NBA players butchering the Chinese language in a good-hearted attempt to wish China a happy and prosperous New Year.

It’s a yearly tradition in China, one that we here at NiuBBall try to honor by posting online videos of the many New Year promotional spots that play in between telecasts on CCTV-5 and other Chinese sports outlets.

First, the waiyuan of the Chinese Basketball Association:

Steph, going on his third year in China, fluently spits Wo shi Ma Bu Li (I’m Marbury) while Aaron Brooks does a surprisingly decent job saying Wo shi Bu Lu Ke Si (I’m Brooks), especially when you consider that he neither knew the city he was living in, nor its pronunciation.

Next, it’s Wilson Chandler, who goes with the trusty xin nian kuai le (happy New Year). J.R. Smith follows with gong xi fa cai (rich and prosperous New Year). Both do respectably.

Four for four so far with one more Mandarin utterance to go. And with Marbury, the longtime China vet stepping up, a correct pronunciation-to-attempt efficiency rate that would make John Hollinger blush looks all but wrapped up. But Steph does the unthinkable, badly mispronouncing bai nian, bai nian (happy New Year) to both end the five-for-five dream and the commercial.

It’s surprising because Marbury nailed the same exact phrase last year. Why the step back? Was it just an off day? Is Steph finding less time to brush up on his Chinese this year in comfortable Beijing? Or is it because he’s focusing all of his efforts towards locking up the No. 2 seed for the Ducks this season, and a possible NiuBBall MVP award? Whatever the case, fans, teammates and coaches won’t mind because the latter looks like a very real possibility at the moment.

Foreign CBAers aren’t the only ones to speak Mandarin this time of year. Last season, the guys at PEAK, a Chinese shoe company, tried their best to give their season greetings to the Chinese masses. Their attempt to speak Mandarin at an even semi-comprehensible level failed miserably, as did their attempt to say their lines in unison. Their attempt to entertain, however unintentional though it may have been, definitely did not.

Not one to throw in the towel though, PEAK is back with a new spot for the Year of the Dragon, which casts a new lineup lineup featuring Kyle Lowry, JaVale McGee and Dorrell Wright. Too bad for us though, I can’t find video anywhere online. For now at least, this picture will have to do:

Lastly, it’s the NBA’s turn. Though David Stern has made the league’s development in China a huge priority over the last decade, this is the first season where the NBA held an official celebration of the Chinese New Year. The NBA and its Chinese broadcasting partners announced the first ever “Chinese New Year Celebration” shortly before the New Year. Over an eleven day span, a total of 21 games will be shown live in China with customized Year of the Dragon coverage.

To help ring in all of the hoops, almost every NBA superstar appeared in this spot that runs throughout the course of each game:

Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Ni hao. Boring. And disappointing. Because NBA players have a history of using the local language to wish their Chinese fans a happy New Year. In 2011, the league’s two biggest stars, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, let fly with some Mandarin and though it was positively terrible, the effort was appreciated in these parts.

So yea, we’re bummed at the NBA — not because their non-Yi Jianlian/Jeremy Lin players can’t speak Mandarin — but because they didn’t even give it a shot this year. At NiuBBall, as foreigners who have toiled in front of our teachers and textbooks for several years in an effort to speak Mandarin, we totally support our laowai brothers and sisters who have the willingness to give the language a whirl. No matter how poor the first try may be.

So from all of us at NiuBBall, Happy Year of the Dragon, and all the best in the new year!

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Tuesday Morning Jianbing

December 6, 2011

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

 

  • Good news: There’s more and more good sites with accurate information writing in English about Chinese hoops. In addition to our boy Andrew Crawford and his blog about the Shanghai Sharks, Shark Fin Hoops, NBA247365.com is also joining in on our small community by providing detailed recaps of every round as well as some assorted news/analysis when a big story comes round.
  • As we noted yesterday, the league’s leader in assists is seven-foot center, Mengke Bateer. Just making sure ya’ll know that.
  • After cracking down on player/coach behavior, the CBA is now setting stricter rules on the courtside “DJ’s” who are responsible for doing the PA announcing and the in-game music. Home court DJ’s are not allowed to “[verbally] attack the other team, comment on the referees or say anything during free throws and all selected music must be pre-approved by the CBA.” (h/t hoopCHINA)
  • We’re so, so late on this, but it still needs to be brought to your attention: Yao Ming is starting his own wine company. I’m sure Chinese are looking forward to mixing it with ice cubes and Sprite. On a related note, we’re calling the Huffington Post out for thinking Yao’s last name is Ming. A somewhat tolerable mistake in 2002 when he first came into the League, but definitely not in 2011 when it should be common knowledge that unlike in the West, Chinese last names precede their first names.
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Thursday Morning Jianbing

November 10, 2011

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

  • Want to hear first-hand about what’s going on in Urumqi with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers? Sure you do. Casey Owens, who is serving as an assistant under Bob Donewald this season with the aerial cats, went on Colorado Public Radio last week to talk about a variety of issues team and league related. Definitely worth the listen, first because there’s some cool stuff about Kenyon Martin, but also because the guy knows his stuff. 2011-12 will be Owens’ third season in China  – in 2009-10 he was an assistant under Donewald in Shanghai and last year he was hired as head coach of Fujian.
  • Want to hear even more about what’s going on with Xinjiang? The Bergen Record published an interview with K-Mart, who looks like he’s adjusting just fine to his new life in northwest China. Guan Weijia for Sheridan Hoops provides a similar picture.
  • Part of us is a little sad that the CBA All-Star Weekend is moving from our home base in Beijing to faraway Guangzhou this year. Key word: part.
  • Mark our words: J.R. Smith will score 70 points in a game… if he can stay out here long enough to do it.
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“Too many people” presents challenges for athletic apparel brands in China

October 14, 2011

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361 Degrees is just the latest Chinese sports apparel company to hop aboard the country’s domestic basketball market.

The bus. The 公交车. For some, it is a staple of everyday transportation that allows one to get from Point A to Point B with a balanced combination of efficiency and thrif. For others, throwing down one kuai (or 40 fen if you have a Beijing transportation card) to ride a bus is a nightmare straight from the depths of hell. Because in China, nowhere epitomizes the phenomenon of “ren tai duo” (there are too many people) better than the country’s huge network of public buses that are packed shoulder to shoulder and chest to chest with people of all ages, heights and smells.

In China, too many people equals about 1.3 billion; a number that is roughly four times the population of the United States. Quick to point out this unavoidable fact of life, ren tai duo is a common statement that often precedes and/or ends most conversations about various issues in Chinese society.

Why do Chinese students study six to eight hours a day for four years straight in high school? Ren tai duo, there’s too much competition to get into college. Why does it take an hour to get from northeast fourth ring road to Guo Mao at 4pm on a Tuesday? Ren tai duo, too many people, too many cars. Why is there a one-child policy? In the eyes of the government,  ren tai duo. (Interestingly, the problem afflicting the Chinese National Basketball Team is ren tai shao, not enough people.)

Ren tai duo has an obvious flipside though when you substitute ren (people) for xiaofeizhe (customers), which in turn is why almost every single industry in the world is trying to get a piece of the Chinese pie.

Sports apparel is one of those industries. Foreign companies like Nike and adidas have poured in heavy investments into the Middle Kingdom with the intention of putting their sneakers on the feet of China’s rapidly growing numbers of internationally aware, upper-class customers. Not content to let foreigners come into their country and corner their own market, Chinese companies like Li Ning, Anta, PEAK and more have emerged over the years in the hopes of selling their shoes at a lower cost to China’s many middle and lower tiered customers.

So far, the results have been mixed. For foreign companies, Nike chugs along virtually unimpeded as China’s top seller as  it continues to pump out impressive numbers. adidas, who experienced a post-Olympics slowdown, has rebounded somewhat in 2011. For a while, Li Ning had been on the up as well, at one point even passing adidas as China’s second largest seller in 2009. Feeding off of the already high demand from the scores of people who live in China’s second and third tier cities, Anta and PEAK were on similar trajectories  as well.

But over the last year, Chinese brands have experienced major declines as a result from increased competition and overexpansion. Li Ning’s downturn has been especially alarming, and experts think it could be a sign of things to come for Chinese brands in general.

Enter Nike. Perhaps spurred by the decline of Li Ning and other Chinese brands, the Portland-based giant is set on doubling its China sales by 2015“to reach a target of $4 billion annually,” according to Don Blair, chief financial officer and vice president, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal online.

As author Laurie Burkitt writes, that won’t be easy given that most Chinese are merely observers of sport and not participants. Creating a sports culture similar to ones in the West, where people play individual and team sports as part of their everyday routines, will be a challenge. But, Blair says that the brand will build off its already dominant hold Chinese basketball fans by pushing recreational sports like running and snowboarding to consumers.

Blair says Nike also plans to “take its gear into China’s smaller cities to sell sneakers and sweatbands to consumers who are just learning about the brand” as one way to boost sales.

Still, with the shadow of Nike hovering over dipping Chinese brands, Chinese shoe companies continue to try to get a piece of the action. Allured by the motto of ren tai duo, Fujian-based 361 Degrees is making a splash in the lucrative basketball sneaker market after having signed former PEAK endorser, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, to a shoe contract this summer. It’s the company’s first NBA endorser, joining the ranks of Li Ning, Anta, Lu You and the aforementioned PEAK as Chinese brands with NBA players on its roster.

361 Degrees delve into the world of basketball kicks serves as a reminder to the current realities of the Chinese market. The first of which is there’s still a ton of people in China who want to buy shoes. As Anil K. Gupta and Haiyan Wang write for Bloomsberg BusinessWeek, there’s still room for growth in China’s multi-segmented “large and very diverse customer base.” Even if companies like 361, Anta and PEAK are never able to appeal to China’s wealthiest customers, which only make up 2% of the population, there’s still a lot of potential with the other 98%.

However, that still doesn’t change the fact that there are a lot of companies trying to get into that 98%. The increased competition between domestic shoe brands has lead to confused customers who are finding it difficult to decipher each company’s target audience. The result is a consumer perceived blob of indistinguishable companies that are tough to separate from one another.

Our take: Nike’s success is going to depend largely on its success in changing the recreational sports culture of China. And seeing how one is almost non-existent in China right now (seriously, when have you ever seen a serious Chinese runner in Beijing or Shanghai), we think that’s going to be tough to do in four years. Still, Nike’s goal to double their sales is probably more bad than good for the Li Ning’s of the world. Up until now, Nike has been content to sell $200 shoes to China’s rich upper-class. If they can get affordable products into China’s smaller cities, consumers will be likely to choose the internationally known and highly reputable Nike over their generic Chinese counterparts.

In the meantime though, the bus that is sports apparel continues to get more and more crowded.

If you’re interested in seeing Love’s new kicks, 361 Degrees just released images of his new debut shoe, the Kevin Love 1. And if you’re interested in reading a review of that shoe, you’re going to want to click on over to Deadspin, who goes the extra one degree in delving into the brand’s overall slogan.

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Chinese shoe companies: A case of too much, too soon?

July 26, 2011

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“Over-expanding” in an effort to compete inside of a crowded Chinese shoe market has resulted in a sharp overall downturn for China’s athletic apparel industry.

The expansion of Chinese athletic apparel brands has been an easy trend to spot for basketball fans both in the United States and in China. Over the last few summers, there have been a number of high-profile NBA players who have signed lucrative endorsement deals with China-based companies in order to directly tap into the world’s second biggest basketball market. Li Ning has Evan Turner and Baron Davis; Anta has Kevin Garnett and Luis Scola; Peak features Jason Kidd, Shane Battier and JaVale McGee, all of whom have signature shoe lines and television spots.

Adding players, which in turn add credibility, is key for these ambitious brands: With 2.6 billion Chinese feet that can potentially be fitted for sneakers, and an economy that sees consumer spending power rise steadily each year, there’s a lot of money to potentially be made. Competition between Chinese shoe companies is thus quite fierce and to gain an edge, brands have expanded aggressively. In China, companies have been opening hosts of new retail locations and filling them to the brim with merchandise. In the United States, Li Ning opened its first store outside Asia in Portland, Oregon in 2010, and quickly tripled in size after an encouraging start. Peak has a U.S.-based headquarters in Los Angeles, and has an online shop for American customers to buy their products.

But, instead of one company separating itself from the rest, it appears as if the entire industry is headed for a bust due to over-spending and over-stretching its means. According to a report published yesterday by MarketWatch, experts are seeing a rocky future for Li Ning, Anta and Peak, as well as a host of other smaller companies, whose rapid expansion “is beginning to cause cannibalization of sales and [a] price war,” according to UOB KayHian analyst Ken Lee.

Lee goes on to explain what went wrong:

The problem, Lee said, can be traced back to the initial-public-offering boom in Hong Kong during recent years, when mainland Chinese consumer-related themes were able to raise funds easily to fuel ambitious growth plans.

For example, Peak Sport Products Co. HK:1968 +1.54%PSPRF +5.46% — which signed U.S. basketball star Jason Kidd and other top athletes to represent its line of apparel — was able to raise $224 million in a September 2009 listing, pledging to use the funds for product development and to expand its retail sales network in China.

Likewise, apparel group 361 Degrees International HK:1361 -1.84%TSIOF -1.85% was able to raise $231 million as part of its offer, which debuted in June 2009. Promoters said the company would benefit from sportswear spending, expected to rise at a 30% annualized rate for years.

But what followed, says Lee, was a retailing arms race that outpaced consumer spending power.

The news comes on the heels of Li Ning’s disappointing sales in the U.S. after two quarters. Adding to the grey weather, plans to hook up with Champs Sports, which would have given the company a long reach into the American market, have been squashed.

In our humble (and rather basic, we don’t pretend to be market experts) opinion though, there is still some optimism for Chinese sneakers. According to the report, Chinese spending power has increased 30% for the last several years. That’s an important aspect to keep in mind here: spending power will keep going up, which means the potential market is only going to get bigger and bigger. As a high up American shoe company executive once told me, the race for Chinese feet is being set-up to be won five years from now. This could be a permanent thing, but it could also just be capitalistic Darwinism – a survival of the fittest that is to be eventually won later this decade.

Though the news short-term may not be so rosy for companies, there is good news for consumers — huge, huge sales.

A recent visit to some of these stores revealed product markdowns of 50% to 90%, or even two-for-one promotions on summer wear.

“We have never seen such deep and prevalent discounting,” said Lee, whose retail survey in June took him to six cities around the Chinese mainland.

If it weren’t for our size 13 feet, we’d be all over it. Maybe in five years, one of these brands will get some bigger shoes in their Beijing stores.

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Rudy Gay Nike All-Asia Camp Interview

June 14, 2011

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Rudy Gay instructs a player at the 2011 Nike All-Asia Camp in DongGuan, Guangdong province, China. (Photo: Jon Pastuszek, NiuBBall.com)

 

What if.

It’s a question that, no matter how successful the Memphis Grizzlies’ Playoff run ultimately was, Grizzlies and NBA fans will be asking this summer and possibly beyond, if a lockout prevents the regular season from tipping off at its familiar late October start date.  Because even though the Grizz turned the Western Conference upside down by becoming the fourth eighth seed in League history to upset a one seed in the first round, they could have kicked the typically all-to-predictable NBA completely off its axis if arguably their best player hadn’t been injured for the team’s entire Playoff run.

Which makes any suggestion that the Grizzlies’ terrifying six game destruction of the San Antonio Spurs was the product of addition by subtraction sound positively ludicrous.  Even all the way in Beijing, we were never buying into any of that after watching the Grizzlies’ bench fail to come up with a consistent scoring punch throughout the against the Oklahoma City Thunder after O.J. Mayo was forced into the starting lineup as a replacement for Gay.  Nor was anyone else who watched the team struggle time and time again to create good shots without their most talented wing scorer in the many crunch times of Game Four’s three overtimes.

So for us, there’s no doubt: Had Gay, who before his injury was averaging 19.8 points per game alongside career highs in minutes, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in the first year of a five-year $82 million contract extension, been healthy, there’s no doubt those fatal issues would have been at least somewhat resolved.  Then, maybe it would have been the upstart Grizz taking the Thunder’s spot as the League’s most promising young team going forward.

Thus, the what if.

Down in DongGuan, Guangdong province, however, where Gay and DeMar DeRozan were getting to work inside the newly constructed DongGuan New Century Basketball Academy as player-coaches at the 2011 Nike All-Asia Camp, there weren’t any hypotheticals when it came to instructing some of the continent’s best high-school aged talent.  Out of his sling, but unable to lift his left arm above his shoulder, Gay never used the injury to duck out of his responsibility to the camp’s 60 players as he willingly and actively helped to instruct stations in the morning and afternoon stations.

He also didn’t duck out of an interview request, which he kindly accepted after NiuBBall approached him about hooking up with the number one English-language blog about China and basketball.  Sitting within the comforts of air conditioning one floor below the main courts, we caught up with the 24 year-old on Day Three of the Nike All-Asia Camp for a chat.

NiuBBall: How was the flight?

Rudy Gay: From what I remember of it, it was alright [laughing].

NiuBBall: Is it a longer flight from the U.S. to Beijing or from the U.S. to Istanbul, where you were for the World Championships last summer.

RG: Actually, we flew [to China] from Chicago.  When we went to Istanbul, we stopped for a couple of weeks in Greece and in Spain, so it was a little different.

NiuBBall: Before your injury, you were having a career year.  It’s a topic that’s been talked about a lot, but I wanted to get your comments on it.  What do you think is so special about the Team U.S.A. experience and why do players improve so much as a result?

RG: It was a great experience as far as just learning.  We had great coaches.  And just playing with great players, you can just take your level up to an all-time high.

NiuBBall: Aside from a few small moves in the off-season, the Grizzlies essentially brought back the same core from last year.  Why do you think the team was able to make such a big leap this year with essentially the same personnel?

RG: We had more of a seriousness about us.  We went out there and we played hard together.  We knew that when we were out there, we were out there for a reason and that was to win games.

NiuBBall: Was that a product of a collective mentality before the season?  Did you guys talk about that during the summer?  Was it spurred by coaching?

RG: When we came into camp it was just different.  It was a different atmosphere than before, we weren’t trying to play around.  We were basically just trying to become a better team.

NiuBBall: What was it like to watch your team’s playoff run from the sidelines?

RG: It was tough, it was tough.  It was one of the toughest times in my career, or really ever.

NiuBBall: How is the recovery coming along?

RG: It’s getting there.  I started a little rehab, but you know it’s just slow.  I’d like to go out there and do more, but it’s just slow.  It’s been a slow process.

NiuBBall: Is there a timetable for when you’re going to be back?

RG: No, I just take it a little bit by a little bit.  Every time I go back [to the doctor] to check it up, they tell me what more I can do.

NiuBBall: Is there less of a rush to come back with a lockout looming?  Would you be on a stricter timetable if there wasn’t the possibility of a shortened season?

RG: No, you know I don’t think it’s that kind of an injury.  You have to let it heal, or else it could affect the rest of your career.  I definitely want to be at my maximum potential, so I’m gonna wait it out and see what I have to do.

NiuBBall: As a result of the team’s success mixed with your injury, your name has popped up in a lot of trade rumors the last few weeks.  Your owner came out in the press a couple of weeks ago and basically squashed all those.  How have you reacted to your name being thrown around in trade scenarios?

RG: This is my fifth year in the league.  I’ve pretty much seen everything.  If it happens, then I’m prepared to to take whatever team that is to the next level.  But, you know our if owner said [a trade] was gonna happen soon, then I have to really think about my future with the Memphis Grizzlies.

NiuBall: Do you want to be with the Grizzlies going forward?

RG: Yeah.  Contractually I’m still a Memphis Grizzly.  If I’m there, I wanna win.  As long as I’m there, I’m going to try and do my best to make the team win.

NiuBBall: Where do you think this team is going in the future?

RG: We’re definitely moving in the right direction.  Every year we’ve made strides to get better as a team.  Last year I think we won 40 games, this year we won a little bit more than we won before.  But, we’re definitely getting on a level to where its somewhere we can be a contender.

NiuBBall: Zach Randolph turned into an absolute beast for you guys, particularly in the second half of the year and in the playoffs.  Did you notice any changes from him this season?

RG: To be honest, it’s nothing that we knew he couldn’t do.  He’s been doing it his whole career.  But, the only difference was we were winning [this year].  You know, it’s easy to be a 20 and 10 player when you’re losing.  This year, we were winning and he was obviously one of the reasons why we were where we were.  It shows his commitment to the game.

NiuBBall: I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about this trip to China.  This is your first time being here, what are your initial impressions of the country and what are your feelings towards the trip so far?

RG: Well, it’s different.  It’s not a bad different, it’s just different.  I’m a little out of my element, I don’t really know what to expect.  But, it’s been great just to soak up their culture and really getting a chance to understand different things. Those are the things I really like to do in my life.

NiuBBall: How busy has your schedule been since arriving here?

RG: Really busy.  Of course there’s jet lag and all that stuff.  But, I’m getting onto China time so I’ll have more time to enjoy the city and the country.

NiuBBall: What have you thought about the camp so far?

RG: There’s a lot of good players.

NiuBBall: What are some of the differences you’ve noticed already in the way the game is played here in China than in the States?

RG: Of course we have more people who can coach and more people who know the game in America.  There’s a lot more skilled players over there, but there’s a lot of raw talent over here.  The more people that go and play over in the League, you know the Yi’s and the Yao’s, then there’ll be more people to come back over here to teach [the Chinese] a little bit of what we [Americans] know.

NiuBBall: I think everybody in the NBA knows the potential of the Chinese market.  How much is that talked about amongst players either in the locker room or off the court?

RG: Yeah, we have certain guys who wear Chinese shoes, you know the Li Ning’s and the PEAK’s, so it’s talked about a little bit.  But, maybe not as much as some people think.  They’re just shoe companies, we talk about them as much as we do about Nike or adidas.

NiuBBall: You have a teammate, Shane Battier, who wears one of the Chinese shoes you just mentioned, PEAK.  He’s so famous in China that he can’t even walk out of his hotel because he gets mobbed the second somebody sees him.  Have you ever heard him talk about his profile in China?  Did he have any advice to you before you flew out here?

RG: Not really.  He just told me what China has to offer and that it’s a great country.  The people are really dedicated to the sport of basketball, more than what you may think.

NiuBBall: How do you see yourself in China in the future?  Do you have any ideas for trying to enter this market a little bit?

RG: No… you know, it’s just about basketball.  The better you play, the more people will notice, so it just motivates me to do even more out on the court.

NiuBBall: Is there anything specifically, either by Nike or by your agent, to help Rudy Gay do something here?

RG: Well, I mean, it’s my first time over here, so it’s something that could be done in the future.  My agency has an office out in Beijing, so I don’t think it would be as tough to do as people may think.

NiuBBall: Have you eaten any Chinese food yet?

RG:  [Asking his friend] Have we?  No?  Nothing authentic, I guess.

NiuBBall: Are you looking to eat anything local?

RG: [Laughing] I’ll try some things… as long as it doesn’t talk to me [laughing].

NiuBBall: Anything else on your mind that you want to say?

RG: To all the people in China, thank you for welcoming me to the country and hopefully I’ll be back here doing different things in the future.

NiuBBall: Rudy, thanks again for your time.

RG: No problem, man.

Follow Jon Pastuszek on Twitter @NiuBBall or on Weibo @NiuBBall

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Monday Night Chuanr

June 13, 2011

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Nighttime links served up proper with a hearty helping of lamb on a stick.  The beer is on you, though.

  • Remember when Bonzi Wells to China was all the rage?  Now, two years removed from lasting only 14 games with the Shanxi Zhongu Brave Dragons, Bonzi is eying a return to the NBA.  The New York Knicks are reportedly interested in adding the 35 year-old at a low cost and invited him to work out at a free-agent camp last week. In a recent profile in The Muncie Star Press, Wells talks about his troubled former career as an NBA player and about his failed experience in China, saying ”I didn’t know where to go.  I couldn’t read Chinese. It cost about $5 a minute to use a cell phone, and there were so many censors on the Internet, I couldn’t get on the Internet as much.” We still don’t understand: Teams pay all this money for their import players, yet they can’t protect their investments by simply telling them about something as simple as a VPN…
  • Speaking to reporters just a few weeks before Australia hosts Team China for a three-game exhibition series, Luc Longley, who started at center for the Chicago Bulls when they went through their second three-peat from 1996-1998, worries about Yao Ming.  Heck, even Yao Ming is worrying about Yao Ming.  The injured 7-6 center told China Daily his fractured ankle is only at 30%, adding “I do not dare say I am optimistic right now [about a comeback].”  We’re sure he’ll give it a go — he’s frickin’ Yao Ming, remember? — but as we’ve said time and time again, Yao wouldn’t be under so much pressure to return if China had another NBA-type player ready to replace him.
  • Traveling to China to play exhibition games against fourth rate Chinese university teams, besides allowing the Yale men’s basketball team temporary superstar status, also had another very positive result: An invite to Greg Mangano to try out for the Team U.S.A. World University Games roster, which will be held in Shenzhen, Guangdong province from August 13-23.  If he makes the team, we’ll bet the players will be attached to his hip when/if they go out for Chinese food.
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Tuesday Afternoon Tanghulu

April 26, 2011

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

  • The Super Basketball League crowned a familiar champion, the Taiwan Beer, after they overcame the Dacin Tigers 4-1 in their seven game series.  (I wonder what they drank after the game…)  But as Andrew Lowman over at Asia Basketball Update points out, there’s not too much to be celebrating here — the Beer’s best domestic players are likely to go play in China next year, where the money and exposure are all better, and obviously that’s not very good for the health of the league.
  • Stephon Marbury, who was courtside for both Games 4 and 5  of the CBA finals in Guangdong, thinks the American-Aregentinian-Chinese officiating crew is doing a good job.  And I agree.
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Monday Morning Jianbing

April 4, 2011

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

  • After losing last night against UCONN in the Final Four, Kentucky’s Jon Hood is keeping things in perspective because of a trip to China he took last year.
  • Living out in Urumqi might have been boring as hell, but for Xinjiang Flying Tigers’ star, Quincy Douby, it looks like it was very much worth it: According to an AFP story, several NBA teams are taking another look at the long armed 6-3 guard, who has been killing it all year this season in China.
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Monday Afternoon Tanghulu

March 21, 2011

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

  • A really nice consolation for John Lucas III, who is headed back to Chicago to play for the Bulls after missing out on the playoffs this year playing for Shanghai.
  • Is Orien Greene’s move to one of the biggest markets on the planet a smart long-term move?  It can’t hurt I suppose, but about “if he wins” thing… there’s simply no way that Beijing is beating Xinjiang in the first round because simply, there is no parity in CBA basketball.  Xinjiang went virtually unchallenged the whole year, going 31-1 in the regular season, and is 99.999% guaranteed to sweep Beijing.  If he puts up some big numbers and contains Quincy Douby, then he’ll possibly get some interest from CBA teams for next season, but being that he’s going to be back in the United States by April 1st, expecting any added off-court opportunities would be far-fetched.
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Monday Morning Jianbing

February 28, 2011

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

  • Shanghai’s post-season chances might have just gone from slim to none after the Sharks’ loss on the scoreline and their roster last night in Fujian.  During Shanghai’s win on Friday against Qingdao came with the news that star import John Lucas will probably be out up to two weeks with a pulled thigh muscle.  Without Lucas on Sunday, Shanghai went down to a 124-108  overtime defeat against Fujian SBS.   With only four games left, Lucas could be out for the rest of the season, and Shanghai could be essentially dunzo for the year.  And in case you’re thinking I made a typo about that score, Fujian dropped 22 points(!) in the extra period.
  • More All-Star China stuff: Li Ning set up a Chinese-American media pickup run in Santa Monica on Sunday before the big game.  That was bad news for the guy who had to write, and thus play, in the game after going hard in LA the night before.
  • Even more post All-Star China stuff: The Wall Street Journal on the PEAK endorsing JaVale McGee’s second place finish in the Dunk Contest.
  • Stephon Marbury’s birthday in China.  His three wishes: 希望一直能保持健康延续篮球寿命,希望世界能永远和平不要再有战火和饥荒,希望扩大我在中国的影响力 — a long, healthy career on the court, a peaceful world that’s forever without war and starvation, and a bigger profile in China.
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Monday Morning Jianbing

February 21, 2011

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

  • The most generic, bland article ever written about Yi Jianlian can be seen here.
  • Former Team China head coach, Del Harris, is being awarded with the Jerry Colangelo Award, which is given for “men who have exemplified integrity, leadership and character on and off the court while working under the NBA umbrella.”  Harris currently works as the GM for the D-League’s Texas Legends.
  • Due to David Stern’s success in marketing the NBA in China, the League and the U.S. Department of State are making their first ever trip to another country with a billion people, India.
  • How do you celebrate a 67-66 record setting win (for the wrong reasons) over Stephon Marbury and Foshan?  If you’re Liaoning’s Guo Ailun, you take your shirt off.  Guo tied his career high with 21 points, but Liaoning’s 67 points were the second lowest single game tally in team history, and the 133 combined points last night was the lowest of the season. In 48 minutes, Liaoning shot 28% from the field, which included 40 three-point attempts, a number slightly less than the 42 shots they took from inside the arc. Foshan faired a little better, 38% from the field, but shot nine less free-throws while also giving up 18 offensive rebounds. (H/T hoopCHINA)
  • PEAK is the latest Chinese athletic apparel company to announce its intention to enter the U.S. market.  The shoe makers held their officical product launch at their U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend on Friday, unveiling a signature shoe for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star, Kevin Love.  It’s been a good weekend so far for PEAK in LA — PEAK endorser Dorell Wright participated in the Three Point Shootout and JaVale McGee and his five different colorways has a great showing at the Slam Dunk Contest.  Love will play tonight in the All-Star game.
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Li Ning trying to “Make the Change” one step at a time

February 9, 2011

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Man man lai.  It’s a common saying among China’s practical and long-term thinking population says when talking about various processes, from practical stuff, like learning how to cook, to academics, like learning a language.  It’s used for more serious stuff too, like finding a husband/wife, and is even said when discussing the things that may matter the most to everyone: China becoming the world’s next potential superpower.

Apparently it’s used in athletic apparel company strategy, as well.

True to their slogan, “Make the Change,” the already domestically successful Chinese athletic apparel brand, Li Ning, is making slow, but steady moves in an effort to get more people educated about their brand, change general negative perceptions, and eventually challenge Nike and adidas for the crown of most popular shoes.  Not just in China.  In the world.

Though the last part of the previous sentence seems ridiculous — maybe rightly so — at the moment, dreams of Li Ning becoming a force in the American sneaker market is being treated as a realistic long-term goal for the company by executives: Besides taking small steps such as placing their products in Champs Sports stores and Eastbay.com, the company is investing a modest $10 million U.S. this year in order to expand their American based operations.  And when you read a quote by man who the company is named after, Li Ning, a Chinese gold medal winning gymnast in the 80s, comparing his company to Mitsubishi and Samsung, two Asian companies that eventually etched out large market shares in the States after they conquered their industries domestically, you begin to realize that these people aren’t joking around at all.  Nike and adidas are among those who have already realized Li Ning’s ambitions.

When it comes to basketball and shoes, Sonny Vaccaro doesn’t joke around either.  Which makes his apparent interest in turning Li Ning into a force in the lucrative and controversial amateur summertime basketball circuit as a seriously newsworthy item.   The so called “Godfather of Grassroots Basketball,” who has been employed by Nike, adidas and Reebok at various points over the last 20 years to run their summer-circuits in hope of signing the next Kobe Bryant to lucrative endorsement deals, has influenced the business of basketball arguably more than anyone ever has.  The guy who saw the potential of Michael Jordan as an individual brand before anyone else did was also the guy who put Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Tyler with professional teams Europe as a way to skip college and earn money while waiting to meet the age requirement for the NBA Draft.

It’s been his role in the summer amateur basketball circuit, however, that’s cemented his legacy as one of the most important and controversial figures to ever roam the boardroom.  Starting first when he signed individual coaches and then entire collegiate athletic programs to shoe deals before going down the roundball food chain to provide free travel, clothes, shoes and uniforms to high-school and AAU teams, summer basketball has developed into a unabashed meat market that is intent on getting as many promising youth ballplayers into highly organized and visible tournaments to increase the probability that a shoe company will uncover and get next to future NBA superstars.  The result has been twofold: More exposure for high-school players who dream of playing in the NBA, and more opportunities for shady enterprising youth coaches and team organizers to take advantage of the large amounts of money that pour in from the sneaker companies above.  Vaccaro has been called everything from a father-figure who cares solely about players’ interests to a crooked company man who has permanently torn down youth basketball into a no holds barred free-for-all for those looking to get quick, often illegal cash.

Vacarro has been out of summer basketball for the last three years, instead choosing to focus his efforts on bringing down the NCAA, who is one of those entities who view him as the latter.  But if Vacarro is to hook up with Li Ning, it would put the shoe company squarely on the summer circuit map, which means all of the things the company wants: more exposure, better consumer awareness and ultimately more potential for an exciting young player to sign a professional shoe contract with them.

The effect of all of these small steps, increased investment, more advertising and an entrance into the summer basketball scene, would likely result in Li Ning being relevant in the U.S., giving the brand another source of customers and revenues.  But a respectable presence abroad would also work to legitimize the company to its domestic Chinese consumers, who would view Li Ning’s ascension in America quite favorably.

The Chinese are notoriously self-deprecating when it comes to comparing Chinese brands, products, sports teams, athletes, companies or anything else to the so-called “best of the best.”  If something in China isn’t number one, then it’s not good enough.  It’s why Kobe Bryant and his five rings are more popular than LeBron James and his zero rings, why Nike is still the top selling athletic brand and why Michael Jordan at one point was known to more school children than anyone else in the world, other than Mao Zedong of course.

If Li Ning can develop and grow in the States, and Americans start to wear their shoes and more younger, more exciting, more marketable NBA players start endorsing their shoe, then they can expect a big boost in sales in China as a result.  Getting into America, no matter how subtle, is a similar strategy that Peak and other Chinese athletic apparel companies who buy courtside advertising at NBA games have used to reach people back in the PRC watching Chinese telecasts of games.  Simply, if you’re good enough to have an ad up at an NBA game, you’re more than good enough in the eyes of potential Chinese customers, who view America and the NBA in extremely high regards.

It should be noted, however, that not everyone shares Li Ning’s optimism for the future.  Scared off by a variety of factors, large numbers of investors pulled out in December and Li Ning’s share price dropped 15% amid decreased sales order and growth.  With increased competition from other companies like Peak and Anta and growing customer confusion about who Li Ning’s target audience is, going toe-to-toe with Nike and adidas is hardly going to be a two-handed slam dunk.

For now though, Li Ning seems content with settling for in control pull up 15-foot jumpers.  And that’s just fine for a company who knows it doesn’t have the requisite bulk to challenge the globe’s footwear giants — yet.

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