After spending the last two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, Ivan Johnson is returning to the CBA with the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls.
The Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls have signed power forward Ivan Johnson to one of their two foreign import spots for the upcoming 2013-14 Chinese Basketball Association season.
The 29-year-old makes his return to the Chinese league after a short stint with the Qingdao Doublestar Eagles in 2011. After playing six games for the Eagles, Johnson signed a contract with the National Basketball Association’s Atlanta Hawks. Afterwards, he spent two seasons with the Southeast Division side. The highlight of his time with the Hawks was being named as the NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for April, having averaged 10.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.45 steals.
The much-traveled Texas native has played in the NBA D-League, Puerto Rico and South Korea.
While Johnson is a highly-skilled player who will add much needed power to the Bulls front court this season, he is also prone to disciplinary problems that could hurt the team should they make a run in the playoffs.
Johnson received a lifetime ban and was fined close to $4,500 by the Korean Basketball League for raising his middle finger at a referee after his Jeonju KCC Egis team lost to Ulsan Mobis Phoebis in the final game of the championship series in April 2010. In April 2012, the Hawks was sent home and fined an unspecified amount of money for what the team called conduct detrimental to the team. A month later the NBA fined him $25,000 for giving the finger to a Boston Celtics fan after the Hawks’ elimination from the playoffs.
If Johnson can keep his attitude in check and provide the Bulls with good play on the offensive and defensive ends of the court, they could make a strong run in the playoffs.
The San Antonio Spurs are hurting as they prepare for the NBA Playoffs which start on April 20, so they’ve decided to sign a player whose hurt them in the past: Tracy McGrady.
As announced yesterday, the 15-year NBA veteran, who played this season in the Chinese Basketball Association with the Qingdao Eagles, has signed a deal for the rest of the season, including the soon-approaching post-season.
Though the move is surprising given its timing, it does have some logic. It is no surprise that coach Gregg Popovich often rest his top players from time to time and Monday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors was a given as he looks to give them much needed rest before starting what they hope to be a deep playoff run.
The regular season is over and for the eight teams who finished with a good enough record to participate, the month of March will one of hope and optimism… unless you’re playing Guangdong or Beijing in the first round. Then, maybe it’ll just be a month of collecting first-round playoff bonuses. But for those nine teams who are already relaxing at home, you’re not forgotten. Leon Zhang says goodbye to the worst team in the league, the Qingdao Eagles, in his first installment of CBA Farewell Letters.
Oh, Qingdao, how you tantalized all of us with one move, one player, one Tracy McGrady; and what a shock all of us experienced in the aftermath of such a seismic shift. We all knew it would be hard for you to have a decent record with such a bare roster, especially with Li Gen off to Beijing. But really, it’s been a dramatic disaster both on and off the court, and wherever you guys thought you were going when you protested a questionable call in Round 20 against Bayi. And that’s kind of the way it’s been this year, a team trying to find its identity amid turmoil and bursts of anger.
Well, that’s over: Tracy McGrady has officially played his final game in China as of last night after announcing on his Sina Weibo account that he will not be participating in the CBA All-Star Game this weekend. As written on a full page note to both his fans and teammates he will instead fly back to the United States to be with his ailing grandmother.
McGrady received the most fan votes in the league, becoming the first foreign player in history to achieve that distinction.
With little comment from McGrady about his status for the All-Star game, which will be this Sunday, there had been off-and-on speculation in Chinese media over his participation. Just a few days ago, Qingdao local media quoted an anonymous team insider and reported that he would in fact play.
But in the letter, which expressed gratitude to both fans and teammates, McGrady cited the need to be with his sick grandmother back home and hoped that people would “understand my predicament.”
In his final game, McGrady tallied 30 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the loss. His team, the Qingdao Eagles, finished in last place at 8-24.
The full letter can be seen below.
Tracy McGrady played the last home game of the season for the Qingdao Eagles on Wednesday. As has been par for the course, they lost, this time to Zhejiang. Whether it was the last home game of McGrady’s career is still up in the air.
Obviously, from a record standpoint, nobody in Qingdao thought it was going to go down like this at the beginning of the season.
But besides the wins (way too few) and the losses (way too many), there’s something else in Qingdao that hasn’t gone as well as initially anticipated: Ticket sales.
Expecting a huge swell in local demand from fans eager to see their longtime hero, the club acted quickly to move their home stadium, which was originally located on the campus of Qingdao University, to the much larger 12,000 seat capacity GuoXin Stadium. The logic isn’t difficult to follow — T-Mac is a walking god in China and conventional wisdom would suggest that many people would be willing to pay to see him in person.
Like we said, it’s not advanced trigonometry. But for those who either went to the stadium or watched on television this season, you probably noticed something kind of… empty. As in all of the empty seats. The many, many empty seats…
In the Chinese Basketball Association, referees are an ongoing issue. And that’s putting it nicely. Accusations and rumors of point shaving, bribes and various related corruption have all been thrown around, by fans, media and most recently, Tracy McGrady, who was ultimately fined and suspended for publicly criticizing referees.
The most recent case: Sunday’s abomination of a basketball game between Qingdao (again) and Tianjin, which ended in double overtime after 119 total
fouls foul shots and six players fouled out. If you’re a CBA vet, you should know how it turned out: Qingdao, playing at home, won on a terrible end-of-game foul off the ball that sent Chris Daniels to the stripe for the two game-clinching free throws. If anyone is interested in either reliving the nightmare or experiencing it for the first time, Anthony Tao over at Beijing Cream has provided the world with video and words that vividly detail the game and the officiating.
The entire game was pathetic no doubt, but as the lessons learned long ago in CBA Officiating 101 continue to remind me: This is how it goes down here. Teams typically get a good whistle when at home, and a bad one when on the road. The degree can vary from a few calls here and there, to some key calls in crunch time all the way to the Wow, I didn’t know it was even possible to get screwed like that-type of officiating. (Of course, that rule is thrown out the window when you play Bayi, in which case you’re getting an extra bad whistle with a bad scorer’s table and an incompetent towel boy on top.)
And though that fact is known, recognized and acknowledged throughout the league in private, publicly nobody offers up even a peep for fear of punishment from the league… Unless a television camera sneaks into your huddle during a timeout and records everything your head coach is saying, which is what happened last Sunday night during Beijing’s nationally televised game against Xinjiang.
Shanghai’s joy was Jiangsu’s pain, as Gilbert Arenas’ game winner with 4.6 seconds took away a win, and an iPhone 5, from the home team. (Photo: CFP.cn)
If this comes across as a stereotype and/or if you’re offended by said potential stereotype, sorry. But in our experience, it’s true:
The Chinese love iPhones.
Yeah, iMessage, the high res camera, general ease of use and all the apps are cool. But it’s more than just the practicality of the device that makes it such an important part in China’s modern consumerism culture. The phone (as well as the iPad and all of its other iProduct relatives), which starts at CNY 5,288, or US $680, serves as an indicator of wealth and status, both of which are important inside of a society where some people like compare themselves and their things against one another. Not having an iPhone (or a nice phone in general) results in peer pressure, a phenomenon of which I found to be ridiculous until I heard this a few weeks ago from the man who I occasionally buy fried chicken from: “If I don’t buy my son an iPhone, everyone at school will bully and tease him.”
The same apparently extends to the CBA as well. Take the Qingdao Eagles, for example.
After getting off to a rocky start in Qingdao (and a rocky middle for that matter), things are looking up for Tracy McGrady and his squad as the CBA hits its home stretch. After being suspended for a game by the league for his Sina Weibo referee rant (of which has since been deleted from his account), Mai Di and the Eagles won at Jilin last night to win their fourth straight game.
T-Mac finished the game with 38 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in what was arguably his best overall performance and the best performance of Sunday’s round of games. On top of that, he was serenaded by what was quite possibly the loudest chants of “MVP” from an opposing crowd thus far. (For those who haven’t been following, there’s been a lot of MVP cheers from away crowds this year.)
No doubt, after a huge game, a post-game interview would be in order. Or, considering that the iconic McGrady’s every move has been and will continue to be the lead story this season, perhaps a feature interview. Or a one-on-one TV spot.
And all of that can be in order… if you cough up some dough first.
The 2012-2013 Chinese Basketball Association season has not been a kind one to the Qingdao Double Star Eagles. After much hype and exceedingly high expectations after the signing of superstar Tracy McGrady, the last place Eagles are probably looking for this season to end as quickly as possible. With only two wins this season, the only thing the team is playing for now is pride.
Coming into last Wednesday night’s road encounter with seven-time champions, the Bayi Rockets, the Eagles were looking to snap a three-game losing streak to bring the team a much-needed confidence boost.
As in some of the Eagles games this season, they were behind but remained within a shot of pulling out a win. And late in the fourth quarter, down by three points, they had every chance of grinding out their third win of what has been a very long season for them.
However, it was not the players or their performances that the media focused on after the game. Instead, it was the officiating that was put in the spotlight.
The question of CBA referees making poor calls during close games is not a new subject as in previous seasons many have questioned their judgment. Most have even gone as far as to say that the calls are corrupt. However, there has never been any hard evidence to show that there are so-called “black whistles” within the league.
Gary Forbes, who is already in China, has officially replaced the injured Al Thornton in Guangsha.
The Chinese Basketball Association has hit the one-third mark, which means import players are being replaced at a higher rate. Let’s break down the moves that have gone down within the last week.
Tracy McGrady, who asked to be subbed out with pulled thigh late in the game on Tuesday against Jilin, is off to an 0-5 start in his China career. (Photo: cfp.cn)
With under a minute to go and a win out of reach, a defeated and frustrated Tracy McGrady pulled up with a muscle pull in his thigh, asked to be subbed out, and watched from the bench as his Qingdao Eagles lost 95-84 to the previously winless Jilin Northeast Tigers. As McGrady walked back to the locker room with his teammates, they did so as the only 0-5 team in the Chinese Basketball Association.
With McGrady in an Eagles uniform this season, it was expected to go down in a big way this year in coastal Shandong province.
But, it definitely wasn’t supposed to go down like this.
In a series of events that have pushed the Eagles and McGrady to new depths with every passing game, these past two weeks — which were supposed to be the beginning stages of of McGrady’s CBA takeover — have instead turned into the opening act of a Shakespearian tragedy.
Sweetening up your afternoon with a stick of Beijing’s timeless sugar coated snack and some links…
After starting off the season 0-2, the Qingdao Eagles have fired Kang Jung-soo.
Tracy McGrady was supposed to bring a boost in worldwide attention, national television ratings and local attendance to the Qingdao Eagles when he signed in September. But two games into the season, the Eagles have yet to seen an increase in the most important asset of them all: wins.
And because of that, head coach Kang Jung-soo is out of a job.
After going 0-2 to start the year, Eagles management announced today that Kang has been fired. Kang, the league’s only South Korean coach, had been with the Eagles organization for the last four years, spending the 2008-09 and part of the 2010-11 season as an assistant before being promoted to head coach in December 2010. Under Kang’s direction last year, the Eagles went 16-16, the best season in club history. He had also served as an assistant on the Korean National Team.
Kang will be replaced by Zhang Shizhang, who up to this point had been head coach of the Eagles’ junior team.
The Chinese Basketball Association has officially started after Round 1 of the 2012-13 season wrapped up tonight.
And save for Gilbert Arenas’ untimely hip flexor last night, we don’t think it could have started any better.
There’s an overtime game in Shanxi to get to as well as Xinjiang’s impressive home win over Guangdong, but no doubt the game everyone wil be talking about will be Fujian’s dramatic buzzer beater to spoil Tracy McGrady’s debut with Qingdao.
Oh, and that turnover.
The script was set up for a storybook start to the season. T-Mac, who was excellent overall amassing 34 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, set up in an isolation with the game tied at 92 and the shot clock off. “The whole world is expecting McGrady to get the ball here,” the announcer said. And probably everyone watching was expecting that once he got the ball, he was going to send the Eagles home with a win.
But what happened instead, nobody could have predicted. Being pressured by his defender, Fujian’s Zhou Qixin, McGrady exposed the ball and got stripped before he could even get in range for a shot.
After a timeout to set up the last play, Fujian gave the ball to their American, Sundiata Gaines, whose first CBA debut finished in very simliar fashion to his first NBA game: A buzzer-beating three pointer to win the game. Video below.
Stephon Marbury and the Beijing Ducks won the title last year… But will they have enough to repeat in 2012-13? (Photo: Osports)
Moreso than ever, the Chinese Basketball Association has become quite difficult to predict pre-season.
It’s hard to predict first of all because we generally stink at predictions, but more importantly that the league is as deep as its ever been top-to-bottom. There’s a more than a few reasons for that — more off-season player movement, more players going abroad to train in the summer, better coaching in-country, a commitment to strength and conditioning programs and better foreign players all round out the top of our list. But the end result of all that should be a very watchable and exciting league this season. Which is a good thing for us fans, of course.
Bad thing for NiuBBall’s annual predictions, however.
By our count, there’s 11 and possibly 12 teams (depending on how well you think Tracy McGrady is going to do in Qingdao) who have a shot at the playoffs. That’s well over half the league. If you think DongGuan is ready to make a jump (we do), then there are now four teams who could sport legitimate Finals cases. Building on Beijing’s buck-the-trend run to a championship last year, there appears to be a level of parody in the league. Pencilling in the top two, top four and top eight is no longer easy.
So as always, take what is about to come with a grain of salt and know that most likely this will all be very wrong.