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Tag Archives: Quincy Douby

2012-13 NiuBBall Awards

April 12, 2013

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Way to ruin the suspense, guys.

Why would we write a 2012-13 CBA Awards piece when we already wrote another one elsewhere on the internet?

Because one, there isn’t a word count around these parts. And secondly, it ain’t really a CBA Awards piece unless it’s a NiuBBall Awards piece.

Which are exactly the reasons why we’re busting out another set for the third straight year, written exclusively for you and the rest of our loyal band of supporters.

So enjoy and of course, if you have anything to say, get to posting in the comments section.

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2013 CBA All-Star Weekend Recap

February 25, 2013

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The 2013 Chinese Basketball Association All-Star Weekend pretty much went down like previous ones, failing for the most part to capture the overall atmosphere of the the NBA one it tries too hard to imitate. But that’s not to say there weren’t moments: As is becoming a yearly tradition, Guo Ailun went onto the court to give everyone a performance on Saturday night, Xirelijiang knocked down 10 threes in a row in the final round of the three-point competition to take home the trophy and and Yi Jianlian nabbed All-Star MVP honors with 34 points and eight rebounds as the South All-Stars defeated the North 120-117.

Here’s the rest of what went down last weekend in Guangzhou:

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Plenty on the line in CBA’s final weekend

February 15, 2013

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With both a playoff spot and the individual scoring title on the line, Zhejiang’s Quincy Douby has a lot on his plate this weekend.

It goes by quickly, doesn’t it? After a week-long Spring Festival break, the Chinese Basketball Association’s 34-round regular season will come to a close this Sunday. And while Guangdong, Shandong and Beijing have already locked up the top three spots, there’s still plenty of stuff going on below them. To help everyone out, let’s go over what everyone should be watching for over these last two games.

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2012-13 CBA All-Star Game starters revealed; McGrady remains undecided on participation

February 8, 2013

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The starters for the 2013 Chinese Basketball Association All-Star Game were announced last week on Friday, with the Qingdao Eagles’ Tracy McGrady collecting the most fan votes.

Guangdong’s Yi Jianlian finished second.

McGrady, however, is reportedly considering as to whether he will participate in the event. Like last year, All-Star Weekend will be held in Guangzhou from February 23-24 at the Guangzhou International Sports Performance Arts Center.

Bayi’s Wang Zhizhi once again finished high enough to earn a starting spot for the South All-Stars, bringing his total All-Star Game tally to 13 appearances. Xinjiang’s Mengke Bateer holds the all-time record with 15 appearances, although this is the first time in his career that he will not be a starter.

Liaoning’s 19 year-old point guard, Guo Ailun, also makes headlines for getting the first start of his career. Yao Ming, then playing for Shanghai, became a starter in 1998 as an 18 year-old.

Quincy Douby, who set the All-Star Game single game scoring record with 44 points in 2011 while playing for Xinjiang, makes his return to the contest as part of the South squad after missing all of last season with a wrist injury.

Each team will have seven reserve players, which will be announced before the end of the regular season.

The complete list of starters are below.

North All-Stars:

Guards: Stephon Marbury (Beijing), Guo Ailun (Liaoning)

Forwards: Tracy McGrady (Qingdao), Li Xiaoxu (Liaoning)

Center: Han Dejun (Liaoning)

South All-Stars:

Guards: Quincy Douby (Zhejiang), Liu Wei (Shanghai)

Forwards: Yi Li (Jiangsu), Yi Jianlian (Guangdong)

Center: Wang Zhizhi (Bayi)

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Quincy Douby’s 75 point game in its entirety

January 3, 2013

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On the bottom of the front page from today’s People’s Daily, a headline reads “Douby’s 75 points break single game scoring record” (H/T Hupu.com)

Quincy Douby. 75 points.

If you weren’t around to watch it live yesterday, don’t feel bad: The game wasn’t even televised nationally in China, which means that you were out of luck if you were outside Zhejiang or Shanxi.

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, however, Douby and his now day-old record can be seen in its entirety. And so can Charles Gaines’ 60 points and 29 rebounds, which will go down as nothing more than the most epic, yet most meaningless stat line in the history of basketball.

Enjoy.

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Quincy Douby scores 75 to set CBA all-time single game points record

January 3, 2013

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Zhejiang Chouzhou’s Quincy Douby scored 75 points to break the CBA’s all-time single game scoring record. (Photo: Osports)

The already considerable legend of Quincy Douby in China just grew even larger.

The Zhejiang Chouzhou star scored an incredible 75 points tonight in a 154-129 win over visiting Shanxi Zhongyu to become the Chinese Basketball Association’s record holder for most points in a single game.

The previous record was held by Andre Emmett, who scored 71 in March 2010 while playing for Shandong Kingston.

Douby’s latest brush with Chinese basketball history is only his latest, however. With the CBA all-time single game record in hand, Douby now owns scoring records for the regular season, the finals (53) and the All-Star Game (44).

Douby reached his record on 23-38 shooting, including 9-15 from three and 16-20 from the free-throw line. Entering the fourth quarter, the 6-3 guard had amassed 47 points before going off for 28 points in the game’s final frame, which is now the third highest mark in league all-time single quarter scoring.

Douby surpassed Emmett’s record after hitting a free-throw on the end of an and-one late in the quarter.

But what’s even more incredible is that he could have scored more. With both the game and the record in hand, he was subbed out with a little over three minutes in the contest after logging just under 36 minutes of on-court time.

And yet, there’s even more. Charles Gaines, who played as Shanxi’s lone import after his teammate, Marcus Williams, was suspended by the league for testing positive for marijuana, recorded his own ridiculous stat line of 60 points and 29 rebounds.

With the win, Zhejiang is now in 10th place at 8-8 while Shanxi slips to 11-5.

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The definitive NiuBBall.com CBA preview

November 22, 2012

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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.

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Urumqi reunion: James Singleton to return to Xinjiang (and other updates on CBA imports)

September 20, 2012

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After spending last season in Guangdong, James Singleton is thumbs-upping a return back to Xinjiang.

Some say time is the best healer. Apparently, “some” include the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers and James Singleton, who after splitting up on bad terms a year ago are now ready to get back together.

On Tuesday, Xinjiang general manager, He Changjiang, confirmed what most people around Chinese basketball had known since the beginning of September: That Singleton and Xinjiang have come to an agreement over a contract for this upcoming season. The deal is believed to be two years, though He publicly denied that there is a set arrangement for 2013-14.

Singleton spent his first season in China with Xinjiang in 2010-11 and along with Quincy Douby, brought the franchise to within two games of their first ever CBA title before losing to the Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers in the Finals.

But instead of bringing the 2010-11 NiuBBall.com First-Teamer back for another crack last season, Xinjiang instead opted to let the bruising and versatile 6-7 forward walk out the door, choosing a locked out Kenyon Martin to act as his replacement.

The decision was made mostly in part to a deteriorated relationship between Singleton and Chinese head coach, Jiang Xingquan. Jiang, who is known in China as the strictest and most uncompromising coaches in professional basketball, and his American forward never really saw eye-to-eye on much, and the dynamic between the two ultimately came to a breaking point late in the year. After the season, Singleton went on to call Jiang “military” on a radio interview.

With Jiang back in the fold last season, first as a consultant then later as head coach, both sides felt it was time to move on. Singleton stayed in China, joining Guangdong Hongyuan, the team that beat Xinjiang the year before. Paired up with Aaron Brooks, Singleton went back to the Finals, only this time losing to Beijing Shougang in five games.

Now, Singleton will be back in Urumqi wearing Flying Tigers colors once again. So why the change in heart?

With the well known history between Jiang and Singleton, its likely safe to assume that the 72 year-old former China National Team head coach is not going to be involved with the team this year. If that is indeed the case, Xinjiang will have quite a new look in 2012-13 — both on the bench and in the front office. Longtime team president, Hou Wei, resigned earlier in the off-season shortly after Xinjiang announced the hiring of new head coach, Cui Wanjun.

As in 2010, when he first arrived in China, Singleton rejected the veteran’s minimum from the Washington Wizards this summer, opting instead to come back to China where the money is better and the playing time more plentiful. Singleton returned to Washington after the Chinese season was over in April, appearing in 12 games and averaging 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game.

Although it’ll be a fresh start for Singleton this year, the championship expectations will still be the same. Singleton will join up with Von Wafer, who signed with the Flying Tigers earlier in the summer after Douby left the team to sign with the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls. With yet another expensive duo of foreigners and a good Chinese roster that will be further bolstered by the re-addition of longtime Liaoning shooting guard, Zhang Qingpeng, who spent 2010-11 with Xinjiang, winning the club’s first title will be the only thing on anybody’s mind in northwest China this year.

Last year with Guangdong, Singleton averaged 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds.

And in other news on CBA imports…

Lester Hudson goes back to southern China, this time with DongGuan

The two-year CBA vet, who spent last year with the Qingdao Double Star Eagles and the year before that with Guangdong Hongyuan, was officially announced as the DongGuan New Century Leopards’ second import on Tuesday. Hudson will find his surroundings very familiar: Not only will he be playing in the same city from two years ago, he’ll also be playing with the same foreign teammate, Marcus Haislip, who combined with Hudson in 2010-11 to win a championship with Guangdong Hongyuan.

The signing of Hudson caps off a busy off-season for the Leopards, who in addition to bringing in two new imports, have also brought in Jilin point guard, Yu Shulong, and Taiwanese guard/forward, James Wang.

Shanghai signs Elijah Millsap; second import to join team in Australia?

Per Shanghai’s official website, the Sharks will be starting the season off with the 6-6 guard/forward on the wing. Millsap, who is the younger brother of Utah Jazz power forward, Paul Millsap, spent the last two seasons in the NBA D-League with the Tulsa 66ers and the Los Angeles D-Fenders. He attended the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 2009-10, playing there for one season after transferring from Louisiana-Lafayette in 2008.

As for their other foreign player, Titan Sports Weekly is reporting that the yet-to-be-named player will join Shanghai during their exhibition tour in Australia. Chinese media is reporting that at present, Mike Harris, who has spent the last two years with the club, is the odds-on-favorite to team up with Millsap.

Foshan brings back Michael Madanly as Asian import, inks Jerome Randle and Eric Dawson to round out foreign lineup

The Dralions, who once again spent last season in the CBA cellar floor, have opted to bring back Asian import, Michael Madanly. The Syrian swingman, who was forced to play point with injuries and a general lack of Chinese talent at the position, averaged 22 points. 6.6 rebounds and 6.5 assists in 37 minutes per game in his first season in China.

To attempt and tackle that exact problem, Foshan is bringing in former Cal-Berkeley standout and 2010 Pac-10 Player of the Year, Jerome Randle. The speedy 5-10 point guard played in Ukraine and the D-League last season after spending 2010-11 in Turkey with Allaga Petkim and Turk Telecom.

To round out their trio of foreigners, Foshan is also bringing in power forward Eric Dawson. A 6-9 power forward, Dawson spent either part or all of the last five seasons in the D-League with the Austin Toros, with trips to the Dominican Republic, Japan and Korea mixed in. Last season, Dawson was signed to consecutive 10-day contracts by the San Antonio Spurs, appearing in four games and averaging 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 9.8 minutes. He also won D-League Impact Player of the Year, averaging 17.2 points and 10.8 rebounds on 56% shooting.

Zhejiang Chouzhou chooses Denzel Bowles to play alongside Quincy Douby

Bowles, who went undrafted out of James Madison University in 2011, spent last season in the Philippines with B-MEG. In 24 games, Bowles went for averages of 38.1 minutes, 26.3 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. In the deciding Game 7 of the PBA Finals, the 6-10 forward/center went off for 39 points and 21 boards, including 11 of his team’s 14 points in overtime, to lead B-MEG to a championship. In all, Bowles won Best Import Award and finished as the league’s top scorer and rebounder.

With Douby returning from a wrist injury that kept him out the entire season last year, and the addition of Gong Songlin, the Golden Bulls could very well indeed be a top four team if Bowles can carry his impressive PBA performance into the CBA.

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Xinjiang signs Von Wafer, attempts to reload for title run

August 20, 2012

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Von Wafter, who most Chinese will remember from his days with the Rockets, has signed with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers.

Xinjiang certainly recovered quickly after its failure to resign Quincy Douby.

With a contract reportedly worth US $2 million dollars, the Flying Tigers have officially signed six-year NBA pro, Von Wafer.

Chinese fans will recognize Wafer for his play on the Rockets while sharing the floor with Yao Ming in in 2008-09. Some may even remember that two years ago, he was linked to Xinjiang before they eventually signed Douby, so in a sense the team has come full circle. Wafer’s professional playing career started after his sophomore year at Florida State University when he declared for the 2005 NBA Draft. He was selected by the Lakers in the second round, but wasn’t able to stick and proceeded to bounce around the league. A solid season for Houston in 2008-09 wasn’t good enough to land him a long-term deal, however, and he ended up the next season in Greece playing for Olympiakos. After struggling in Europe, he was bought out of his deal in December and was quickly snapped back up by Houston.

But, Wafer never ended up playing for Houston after he failed his mandatory physical. Since then, he’s played in Italy and back in the NBA with Boston and Orlando. Now, “The Dutch Cookie” will be taking his NBA career highs of 39% 3 point shooting and 9.7 points per game, all set with the Rockets in 2009, along with his daring drives and uncanny touch, to the Xinjiang plateau.

With combo-guard, Meng Duo, back from overseas training and Tang Zhengdong returning from surgery in the United States, the Flying Tigers seem all set to go for another no costs spared, all out run at the championship. Wafer will suit up next to Meng, Xu Guochong, Xirelijiang and possibly Zhang Qingpeng, who is attempting to work himself out of Liaoning, to form an absolutely loaded backcourt.

But Xinjiang’s guard rotation is also one where many of the players have overlapping skill sets. The 27 year-old Wafer is not the most skilled at creating opportunities for his teammates. This may become a problem for Xinjiang, who are seeking to break out of their annual runner-up status to Guangdong, which it has held for three straight years. New head coach, Cui Wanjun,  has his work cut out for him, but his problems are the likely the envy of most other coaches — with a talented backcourt to go along with Tang and Mengke Bateer in the middle, Xinjiang still has the talent to contend for a title.

The pressure cooker that is Xinjiang will stop at nothing short of a championship, and as we’ve seen in the past, the team is not averse to cutting even its most well-known imports or coaches. Will Wafer rise up to the altitude of Xinjiang, or will he be another high-profile NBA player leaving in disappointment?

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Gong Songlin leaves Fujian, signs two-year deal with Zhejiang

July 25, 2012

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Longtime Fujian standout, Gong Songlin, is packing his bags for Yiwu.

“The King of Fujian Basketball,” Gong Songlin, will have to sit on his throne from Yiwu, Zhejiang province after the 6’5 guard/forward agreed to terms with the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls last week.

Gong, who has spent 13 years overall playing for his home-province Fujian, signed a two-year deal with the Golden Bulls that will start immediately this season. According to reports, the contract is a 1+1 with an option for the second year. NetEase reports that Gong’s salary will be somewhere in the range of CNY 2 million (roughly US $317,500).

The move away from Fujian comes after Gong’s contract expired in June. According to reports, though the two sides attempted to come to an agreement that would allow Gong to finish his career in Fujian, negotiations between team management and the player ultimately broke down due to differences over salary.

For Fujian, Song’s departure signals the end of an era. In 10 seasons — the first of which was played in Xinjiang on loan — Gong is Fujian’s all-time leading scorer with 5,148 points — good enough for 16th in the CBA all-time record books.

But with the highly anticipated arrival of 18 year-old center, Wang Zhelin, who will make his CBA debut for Fujian next season, the Sturgeons seem poised to turn the page and start a new chapter. In addition to Wang, Fujian also has another promising young player, shooting guard Zhao Tailong, who will likely see an increase in minutes and production next year as he fills in for Gong. Throw in the return of American center, Will McDonald, and Fujian should be able to cope just fine.

A more pressing issue on Gong though, was his decrease in production and efficiency over the last few seasons. In 2010-11, his points per game dipped to 12.9 on sub 40% shooting after averaging close to 20 points per game over his first eight seasons. And last year, Gong averaged a career low 11.1 points on 42.1% shooting.

However, one part of Gong’s game has held up through that downward period, his three point shooting, a skill that should mesh well with Zhejiang’s newly arrived foreign talent. Along with freshly signed import, Quincy Douby, Song should give the Golden Bulls a powerful one-two scoring punch in the backcourt and could benefit from Douby’s drive and kicks. With 858 career threes, Gong has a good chance to see his career total increase if he’s able to accept his role as a spot up shooter. And if everything falls into place, Zhejiang — with Douby, Gong, Cao Fei and Olympian Ding Jinhui — might just sneak into the top four next year.

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Quincy Douby returns to China, signs with Zhejiang

June 13, 2012

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Quincy Douby will once again play in China, but he won’t be playing in the same uniform. (Photo: Osports)

Quincy Douby is returning to play basketball in a country that will be quite familiar. To the surprise of many, however, the team he’ll be playing for will be quite different.

Douby will be back in the Chinese Basketball Association next season after having officially signed with the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls. The news was announced by Zhejiang’s official Weibo feed yesterday and was quickly followed up by several reports by major outlets in China.

Douby, who re-signed with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers last season after enjoying one of the most dominant single seasons in CBA history in 2010-11, missed the entire 2011-12 season due to a broken wrist suffered in a pre-season game in October. He recently played in Spain with UCAM Murcia, where he helped the team stave off relegation from the ACB’s top division.

Though Douby’s late season stint in Spain cast some doubt over his chances at returning in China, his decision to play again in the CBA generally considered a foregone conclusion. Considered as one of the top foreign players in league history after nearly leading the Flying Tigers to their first ever championship two years ago, Chinese demand for the former Rutgers standout was high throughout the league.

The move to Zhejiang, however, is surprising given Xinjiang’s public confidence that he would return to the team for a third time. Team management was quoted several times over the course of the last three months as saying talks between the two sides were going well and that they expected another reunion for a shot at a title. Similar to Stephon Marbury’s iconic status in China’s capital, Beijing, Douby is viewed as a local hero in Xinjiang’s provincial capital, Urumqi, and is viewed as one of the biggest reasons why Xinjiang was nearly able to get their first title in 2011. Prior to yesterday’s announcement, there had been no mention of interest from Zhejiang and it was considered almost a lock in China that he’d sign again in Urumqi.

But while Xinjiang is reeling from the news, Zhejiang is celebrating. The move is a major coup for the Golden Bulls and their newly installed head coach, Yang Xuezeng, all of whom are committed to leading the team back to post-season after going through a disappointing campaign last year. Coming off of a playoff appearance in 2010-11, the Golden Bulls took advantage of a work stoppage in the NBA by signing J.R. Smith to a record multi-million dollar contract. Though Smith finished the year as the league’s scoring champ, his play and behavior was erratic and the Golden Bulls ended up missing the post-season.

If their goal was to replace Smith’s offensive production while subtracting all of the behavioral issues, Douby is the ideal choice. Already familiar with China and all of its unique characteristics, is as safe of a signing as he is electric. In his first and only season in the CBA in 2010-11, Douby averaged 31.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.5 steals on 53.7% shooting over 45 total regular and post-season games. In Game 1 of the 2011 CBA Finals against the Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers, he set a Finals single-game scoring record, hitting for 53 points in a win. Weeks earlier, he also broke the CBA All-Star Game all-time single game scoring record, going for 45 points en route to winning the game’s most Most Valuable Player award.

Douby is just one of many new faces set to be in Yiwu this season. Yang, who resigned from Shanxi Zhongyu in early May, was hired on May 23rd after Zhejiang management elected not to bring back Ding Wei. In looking at Yang’s recent tendencies in the foreign player market, Zhejiang’s unanticipated swoop is less surprising: He relied upon two CBA foreign veterans last year, Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines, to achieve the team’s first ever post-season appearance. Judging by Douby, he is obviously taking the same strategy of going with more proven players over those who have higher profiles, but zero experience playing in China.

And as it stands, Yang will have a chance to replicate the success he had last year in Taiyuan this year in Yiwu. With a decent roster of Chinese, lead by Chinese National Team power forward, Ding Jinhui, the Golden Bulls will be in a solid position to make some noise in 2012-13.

Where Xinjiang goes next is unclear. One summer removed from spending nearly US $10 million in off-season signings to finally get over the championship hump, an unprecedented amount of money in the CBA, Xinjiang is still without its title and now are in a state of flux. The team fired Chinese National Team head coach, Bob Donewald Jr., a mere 11 games into a four-year contract after the team started the season 7-4. High profile NBA star, Kenyon Martin, left the team soon after and Patty Mills, Douby’s replacement, left under controversial circumstances after management accused him of faking an injury in order to be released back to the NBA. Mills vehemently denied those accusations.

The instability that plagued them during the season has followed them into the offseason. After failing to even get back to the CBA Finals, longtime team president, Hou Wei, resigned shortly after this season and Jiang Xingquan stepped down for the second season in a row to make way for a new coach.

But with their stop-at-nothing championship ambitions and their endless pockets, its safe to assume they’ll be looking to attract a talented and expensive guard to ease the pain of losing their provincial hero. Where they go at this point is anybody’s guess, but it will certainly be one of the main stories to follow this summer in the CBA rumor mill.

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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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Previewing the CBA Semi-Finals

March 4, 2012

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Both semi-finals match-ups are oozing with storylines, but none top Stephon Marbury’s Playoff return to the place where his China career got its start, Taiyuan, Shanxi. (Photo: cfp.cn)

Well, the age-old “There is no parity in the CBA” rule lived up to its rather boring reputation in the first round of the CBA playoffs… but, at least in our minds, that’s actually for the better it’s set up two very intriguing semi-finals that should be anything but yawn-inducing.

And really, “boring” isn’t exactly the right adjective to describe what we just saw in the first round. Sure, Guangdong and Beijing swept out their opponents with very little effort, but Shanxi-Shanghai went through four extremely entertaining games before the favorites eventually prevailed and Xinjiang-DongGuan went the entire five game distance to determine a winner. The latter is a rather impressive feat: Up until Friday’s do-or-die in Urumqi, there had only been three series in CBA history that went the full limit.

Hey, it might be slow progress towards some level of parity, but it’s progress nonetheless.

And to continue the slow, methodical movement forward in the league’s journey to build a competitive league, NiuBBall is coming out with our slow-to-come-out Final Four Preview with just minutes to spare before the two series kick off tonight. Let’s get to it.

#1 Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers vs. #4 Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers

Regular Season Series:
(12/25) Xinjiang – 92 @ Guangdong – 109
(2/10) Guangdong – 110 @ Xinjiang – 106 (OT)

How They Got Here:
#1 Guangdong over #8 Fujian, 3-0
#4 Xinjiang over #5 DongGuan, 3-2

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 7:30 pm, @ Xinjiang
Game 2: Wednesday (3/7), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 3: Friday (3/9), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 4: Sunday (3/11), 7:30 pm, @ Xinjiang (if necessary)
Game 5: Wednesday (3/14), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong (if necessary)

It’s not what we thought it was going to be, but we got it nonetheless: Yet another rematch between Guangdong and Xinjiang.

We all know how the story goes here — the Southern Tigers have beaten the Flying Tigers the last three years in the CBA Finals. Understandably frustrated, the Flying Tigers pulled out the big bucks this summer to upgrade their squad in almost every aspect. 11 games into the season, management decided that their main off-season acquisition, Chinese National Team head coach, Bob Donewald, wasn’t doing a good enough job and the team entered a period of upheaval that resulted in a string of losses before the team ultimately bounced back to clinch a #4 seed — their lowest playoff position in five years.

So although the teams are the same, the cast is quite different. Instead of James Singleton and Quincy Douby, Xinjiang’s rolling with a foreign combo of Kenyon Martin Gani Lawal Ike Diogu and Patty Mills Tim Pickett. Meng Duo and Tang Zhengdong are also new to the rivalry.

Yet despite all of the new faces, the result promises to be the same as its been in years past. Singleton, who left Urumqi for DongGuan during the off-season after the Xinjiang management deemed him spare parts, has blended perfectly with Guangdong’s National Teamers. And like every year, it’s those National Teamers that cause the biggest problems for their opponents. In addition to Wang Shipeng, who torched Xinjiang in the Finals last season, Guangdong also has a healthy Zhu Fangyu, who has enjoyed a bounce-back season after basically limping around the court in 2010-11. The two are essentially interchangeable depending on who’s hot on a given night and will be tough for the Xirelijiang-Xu Guochong-Meng Duo trio that Xinjiang will likely throw at them.

The biggest problem for Xinjiang though? Four years into this thing and they still just don’t match-up that well with their rival. Xinjiang’s size, their biggest advantage over all their other opponents, simply isn’t an advantage against Guangdong. Mengke Bateer struggled to push the immovable Su Wei around down low last year, and Tang Zhengdong didn’t fare much better in the two teams’ regular season match-ups this year. Guangdong also has another large man up their sleeve, Wang Zheng, who will throw himself around when Su Wei either gets tired or gets into foul trouble.

And then there’s Aaron Brooks — the only NBA-to-CBA player left in China currently — who is even more of a blur in this league than he is in the NBA. No matter who Xinjiang tries on him, Brooks will get into the lane and cause havoc.

If Guangdong wins tonight, and we think they will (which means they probably won’t), expect them to take care of business when they go back to Southern China to make this a quick, rather painless series.

Prediction: Guangdong in 3

#2 Beijing Shougang Ducks vs. #3 Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons

Regular Season Series:
(12/4) Shanxi – 97 @ Beijing – 121
(1/13) Beijing – 111 @ Shanxi – 114

How They Got Here:
#2 Beijing over #7 Guangsha, 3-0
#3 Shanxi over #6 Shanghai, 3-1

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 7:30 pm, @ Shanxi
Game 2: Wednesday (3/7), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing
Game 3: Friday (3/9), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing
Game 4: Sunday (3/11), 7:30 pm, @ Shanxi (if necessary)
Game 5: Wednesday (3/14), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing (if necessary)

If it’s pretty easy to pick a winner in Guangdong-Xinjiang, it’s almost impossible to feel really good about a prediction in this one.

We’ll get to that prediction, but first let’s just break down everything that’s in play in this one. The biggest story obviously is Stephon Marbury’s return to his laodongjia of Taiyuan, the city where he started his CBA career in 2010. But where most other players would be hissed at for not coming back, Marbury is still loved by his old Brave Dragon fans and his Shanxi tour will be greeted very warmly, at least until the ball goes up. And even after that he may be cheered. Simply, it doesn’t get any better: Marbury, who has transformed Beijing from a barely-Playoff team into a legit contender, coming back to the team who let him go precisely because they thought he wasn’t capable of leading a top-tier squad… with a trip to the Finals on the line.

In the background rests what we think is just as big of a story, though: The individual match-up between the league’s two best foreigners, Marbury and Marcus Williams. Both went neck-and-neck for the NiuBBall MVP award during the regular season, and though the honor — yet to be officially handed out, we might add — is amongst the highest in the basketball world, we’re confident that both would rather take the chance to win a CBA title. With weaker Chinese teammates, Williams will have to be more dominant scoring the ball, but Marbury as he’s done all year will have to run the entire Beijing show before taking over offensively in the fourth.

The former of Steph’s responsibility is made easier by Beijing’s ability to space the floor, with bigs Zhu Yanxi and Ji Zhe capable of stepping out and letting it rain from distance. As is Williams’, who has the just-as-dominant Charles Gaines to shoulder to the statistical load. Shanxi’s notoriously off-and-on Duan Jiangpeng has been very on from three the last two games, and if he can keep up his shooting stroke it’ll help out with the pressures that Williams and Gaines have to live with every game.

But, Beijing is hitting their stride at the right time. Chen Lei and Lee Hsueh-lin (who will be doing pint-sized point-guard battle with Shanxi’s Lu Xiaoming, yet another interesting sub-plot) are finally healthy enough to take the court, and with Zhu Yanxi, Ji Zhe and Zhai Xiaochuan up front, Beijing has arguably five of the top seven Chinese players in the series. Add that to Randolph Morris, who like Gaines will get his while not playing a lick of defense, and Beijing should have the edge. Whatever the result, expect a lot of great games in a series that should be the fifth in CBA history to go the distance.

Prediction: Beijing in 5

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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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