Tag Archives: Randolph Morris

Friday Night Chuanr

June 29, 2013

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chuanr

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

 

  • The FIBA World U-19 Championship is underway in Prague, Czech Republic. The Chinese, headlined by Zhou Qi and Gao Shang, two guys NiuBBall readers should be familiar with, are participating. Rafael Uehara has a fantastic preview over at The Basketball Post, for those interested.
  • According to Chinese reports, the Beijing Ducks have officially re-signed Randolph Morris for another season. If you haven’t already, check out my reaction on One World Sports.
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Shandong sweeps Beijing, will meet Guangdong in finals

March 18, 2013

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After captivating the basketball nation last season, a 2013 Finals rematch between  the Beijing Ducks and the Guangdong Southern Tigers was an eagerly anticipated and long-awaited event by both fans and, and possibly even the league itself.

Too bad for the Ducks, the Shandong Gold Lions never got the memo.

Marking yet another notch on their belt this season, the Gold Lions swept the Ducks out of the post-season on Friday night, defeating the defending champions 101-82 to punch their first ever ticket to the Chinese Basketball Association Finals. Zaid Abbas capped off a tremendous series with 33 points and 12 rebounds and Jackson Vroman continued his post-season offensive resurgence with 27 and 11, while Pooh Jeter chipped in with 16. Ding Yanyuhang finished as the team’s top Chinese scorer with 14.

They’ll play Guangdong, who also swept their opponent, the Xinjiang Flying Tigers.

[...]

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Beijing signs 2011-12 CBA Chinese scoring champ, Li Gen

August 19, 2012

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Beijing Ducks fans will be hoping Li Gen’s career season last year in Qingdao will carry over to the capital city in 2012-13. (Photo: CFP.cn)

Beijing’s boosted their chances for a successful title defense by officially signing one of the most explosive scorers in China, Li Gen. According to reports, the contract, originally said to be worth close to CNY 2 million per season, is over three years. Beijing general manger, Yuan Chao, denied that the deal was worth that much.

Last year for Qingdao, Li averaged 18 points a game to lead all Chinese players in scoring. He scored a career high 41 points in a win against Beijing on February 5th. He also won the CBA All-Star Game MVP, scoring 31 points to lead the North All-Stars over the South in Guangzhou.

The 24 year-old was a free-agent after spending the last two seasons on the coast of Shandong province. He made his senior level CBA in 2008-09, where he averaged 9.5 points over 23.5 minutes a game for last-placed Shanghai. The next season, however, he saw a sharp drop in playing time and production as then newly arrived head coach, Bob Donewald Jr. felt his defense needed vast improving. Li was ultimately shipped to Qingdao in 2010-11.

For Beijing, the signing speaks volumes about both their short and long-term ambitions. In the immediate future, the burly 6-5 guard/forward gives them an added scoring punch and a player who can create offense for himself. With Stephon Marbury getting up there in age, Li’s ability to get his own shot will take some of the pressure off of the American point guard to do pretty much everything on the perimeter. Li will also allow Chen Lei, who has also battled age and injuries in recent years, to take a step back in minutes.

Long-term, Beijing now has a very promising trio of young Chinese players to build around. 19 year-old Zhai Xiaochuan and 22 year-old Zhu Yanxi were both critical elements to Beijing’s title run last year as rookies, and both look to have long careers as top-level domestic players with the team. Teamed with Li, the three immediately become one of the best group of young, senior level teammates in the league.

It’s impossible to know where Guangdong fits into the CBA title picture as their import situation is still up in the air, but with Li coming on board to join Marbury and Randolph Morris, both of whom have re-signed for next year, as well as Zhai, Zhu, Chen and Lee Hsueh-lin, Beijing — at least for now — looks as the favorite to repeat as champions.

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Allen Iverson on playing in China next year: “Why not?”

April 27, 2012

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Allen Iverson is in China right now, but the question is: Will he be back here next season? (Photo: Osports)

Allen Iverson captured headlines in China yesterday after arriving in Shanghai has part of an exhibition tour that will travel around China for the next two weeks, but he has captured the imagination of media and fans after indicating he’s open to the idea of playing in the Chinese Basketball Association next season.

Iverson is currently in China for the next two weeks as part of an NBA Legends Tour that will play seven exhibition games in six cities across central and southern China. Shorty after getting on the ground from the U.S. yesterday morning, he fielded questions from Chinese reporters and when when asked if he’d consider playing in the CBA next season, he replied: “Why not?”

Iverson has been out of professional basketball since January 2011, when he left Turkish outfit Besiktas after he injured his right calf muscle.

This is not the first time Iverson has been linked with a move to the CBA: He flirted with the idea of playing in China in the summer/fall of 2010 and had several serious offers, including a reported $4 million contract from Foshan. Iverson ended up declining Foshan and all other teams, and signed a two-year deal with Bestikas shortly after in October.

At this point, there is no indication as to which teams Iverson would be open towards joining.

Though the 11-time NBA All-Star rejected Chinese overtures in 2010, things could be different this time around if he is indeed serious about playing basketball. After an inconsistent stint in Turkey, big money European offers are likely off the table which means the best spot for a large contract would be China, where he is beloved by fans and widely recognized as one of the most popular NBA players of all-time.

But maybe more importantly, Iverson has a valuable ally in his Chinese corner this time, Stephon Marbury.

Fresh off of leading the Beijing Shougang Ducks to their first ever CBA championship, Marbury has grown into a bonefied superstar in China and has been called a hero of Beijing by the city’s millions of inhabitants. Due to a CBA rule that limits both the regular season and Finals MVP award to Chinese players, popular Chinese basketball website, hoopCHINA, has lead a campaign to build Marbury a bronze statue that will commemorate his season in Beijing, a project that has garnered the support of more than 1 million people in China.

How that relates to Iverson’s potential career in China isn’t hard to guess. Marbury continues to sell his Starbury line of apparel to the Chinese market. With Iverson likely keen on the idea branding himself to China’s estimated 300+ million basketball fans, Marbury would be the ideal example for the 36 year-old to follow if he indeed ended up playing here next season.

Marbury, who will play against Iverson for the Legends Tour’s first thee games, returned to Beijing yesterday after a short trip to the United States and was immediately supportive of Iverson joining up with a Chinese team next season.

“I think [Iverson] will be rejuvenated if he played in China,” Marbury said on his Sina Weibo account (Chinese Twitter). “He would love the fans here if he played basketball here. I hope he can feel the love when he plays here in the coming games.”

Besides Iverson and Marbury, the tour includes Dennis Rodman, who also landed with Iverson in Shanghai yesterday, as well as Clyde Drexler and Shawn Kemp. The Legends team will play the first three games against Marbury and the Beijing Ducks, the first of which is tomorrow night in Cixi, Zhejiang province. They’ll then play their next three against the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons, who lost to Beijing in the semi-finals this season, before playing the Chinese U-23 Olympic National Team in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, for the finale.

The Ducks will be short of their other import player, Randolph Morris, who elected to remain in the U.S., Lee Hsueh-lin, who is back in his native Taiwan, as well as Zhai Xiaochuan and Zhu Yanxi, who are in Sanya training with the China Senior National Team.

In 14 seasons, Iverson averaged 26.7 points, 6.2 assists and 2.2 steals. His accolades include an NBA Rookie of the Year award, an NBA MVP, an NBA Finals appearance, four scoring titles and  seven All-NBA Team selections. He is currently the 17th all-time leading scorer in NBA history with 24,368 points.

The Legends Tour schedule is as follows:

April 28th: Cixi (vs. Beijing Shougang)

April 30th: Wuxi (vs. Beijing Shougang)

May 3rd: Shenhen (vs. Beijing Shougang)

May 5th: Linyi (vs. Shanxi Zhongyu)

May 7th: Dongying (vs. Shanxi Zhongyu)

May 9th: Taiyuan (vs. Shanxi Zhongyu)

May 11th: Taiyuan (vs. China Olympic National Team)

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Stephon Marbury Has Silenced His Critics This Year, Maybe For Good

April 3, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on Beijing Cream; big ups to Anthony Tao for his reads and edits.

It’s November 2010, and Stephon Marbury has locked himself inside a hotel room in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, sad, hurt and uncertain over his future in China.

Eight months earlier, after basically being told he wasn’t welcome anymore in the NBA, he had come to play for the Shanxi Brave Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association. American media cackled at this desperate move from a desperate man, and eagerly awaited what they felt sure would be a quick return Stateside.

In China, fans saved their laughter for the team Marbury was joining. Known equally for their dirty coal-crusted home city, an obsessive-compulsive owner, Wang Xingjiang, known as Boss Wang, and a huge pile of losses over the years, the Brave Dragons were their own punch line.

But it became clear from the beginning that Marbury didn’t consider any of this a joke. Arriving in January with a one-year contract and an ambitious business plan to sell his line of Starbury sneakers, Marbury quickly ingratiated himself to fans both on and off the court. He willingly engaged the media. He patiently signed autographs. He took pictures with locals. He learned a few basic Mandarin words. He tried Chinese food. He was, genuinely, it seemed, happy.

This was in stark contrast to Shanxi’s previous expensive import, Bonzi Wells, who hated it so much in China – the food, the long travel, the cold gyms, the endless practices, the crowds, everything – that he went back to the US during the CBA’s annual Spring Festival break and never came back. He lasted 14 games. After 15 games, Marbury’s CBA career seemed to be just taking off, culminating with the MVP award in the CBA All-Star Game. Shanxi was ready to sign Marbury to a multiyear extension. In a little under half a season, he had turned the Brave Dragons into the CBA’s hottest ticket while transforming himself into the foreign darling of China.

But maybe most important of all, he’d found peace. With the Chinese either not knowing or not caring about his past, here was a rare opportunity to reinvent himself, a clean slate. He used that opportunity to show love – “love is love,” as he was fond of tweeting.

Which is why, back in the hotel just two weeks before the start of the new season, it hurts so much to realize that Shanxi no longer has love for him: Boss Wang has just informed him he isn’t wanted.

~

It’s December 2011, and Stephon Marbury and the Beijing Ducks have just won their 13th straight game to open the season, the best start in team history.

“Our goal is to win a championship,” he says.

Over a year earlier, after his separation with Shanxi, he had come to Beijing to offer his services. Boss Wang and his newly appointed general manager, Zhang Aijun, became the latest to laugh at him, adding to his desire to prove his doubters wrong.

The reasons for Marbury’s separation from Shanxi are unclear. Shanxi claimed he showed up to camp out of shape and with too many demands; Marbury says he merely wanted health insurance for his family and that he was committed to leading the team toward the playoffs. Whatever the case, Wang and Zhang proposed that Marbury stay on as an assistant, with the possibility that he would play if the team made the playoffs. Though they never said it publicly, they likely felt that he wasn’t good enough to lead their team.

Feeling cheated, Marbury declined, and after holing himself up in his room to recover and plan his next move, he boarded a plane to China’s capital. For Marbury, the timing of Shanxi’s decision could not have been worse — with the season starting soon, most teams had signed their allotment of foreign players, making his options severely limited.

One team that still had a spot was the Beijing Ducks. Marbury literally showed up at their front door. If they wanted him, he was theirs.

It turned out, though, they already had a guy lined up, another former NBA All-Star, Steve Francis. And though the deal hadn’t been finalized and Francis wasn’t in China, they said they were going through with it.

Known as Fu Lao Da (roughly translated as Don Francis, in reference to the mafia) by every Chinese who watched the Houston Rockets during Yao Ming’s first two years there, Francis was at the time one of China’s favorite NBA players. Idolized for his high-flying dunks just as much for his generosity toward Yao during his rookie season, the announcement of Francis’ contract with the Ducks was met with pinch-me-is-this-really-happening frenzy.

But the truth was, as informed fans and journalists knew, Francis was coming off major knee surgery and hadn’t played professional basketball in almost two years. And while television reports were announcing his lucrative two-year deal with clips of the old Stevie Franchise throwing down sick dunks, an old, skinny and out-of-shape retired basketball player got on a flight from the States bound for Beijing.

What followed was the most disastrous stint for a foreigner in Chinese basketball history. His 13-day, four-game stay included a 17-second debut with an ice pack around his ankle, a middle-finger, an outright refusal to practice and a grand total of 14 minutes played.

Francis would serve as the most extreme case in a season that was dominated by similarly failed jumps to China by former NBA players. Undoubtedly influenced by Marbury’s success in Shanxi, Javaris Crittenton, Ricky Davis, Mike James and Rafer Alston all at one time or another came to China with a goal to cash in on China’s big basketball market, and all left within a month.

Marbury ended up on a newly established team in Foshan, Guangdong province. His team, the Dralions – a cross between a Dragon and a Lion – had just moved from Shaanxi (not to be confused with Shanxi), where the owner had essentially gone bankrupt. As is the case with most bankrupt teams forced to relocate, Foshan stunk. At the core of the problem, their Chinese players were all very young, and they weren’t very good.

Meanwhile, not an hour away from Foshan were the Guangdong Southern Tigers, winners of seven CBA championships, and the DongGuan Leopards, an up-and-coming team with several young players who will one day play for the Chinese national team. Once the most popular player in all of China, Marbury was now barely the most popular player in his province. No matter how charming and nice he remained, people were unable to get excited about watching a losing basketball team. No longer the newest sensation in China, some in the media wondered if Marbury Mania had run its course.

He paid no mind to it, though. While players were running to US-bound planes at full sprint, Marbury remained happy with his life in China and maintained that his future rested here. As the losses mounted, he tried to stay positive by saying his goal was to develop the team’s young players.

Foshan ended the season by winning four of its last five. Still, the Dralions were 11-21, the fourth-worst team in the league. And the critics were clapping: two years in China, no playoff appearances. Some things never change, they thought.

Which is why, back in the Beijing locker room as he changes to leave the arena after starting the year 13-0, Stephon Marbury is feeling so good.

~

It’s August 2011 and Marbury has just signed a contract with the Beijing Ducks, the same team that rejected him for Steve Francis a year ago.

Reports of a decrease in Starbury’s popularity were premature, at least from a front-office standpoint. Once it became obvious that Marbury wasn’t headed back to Foshan, several teams expressed interest, including the Guangdong Southern Tigers, fresh off yet another CBA title.

In the end, he chose Beijing. As one of China’s biggest markets, it meant it would be good for his shoes. It was also, as he finds out after attending a Beijing Guo’an soccer match at Workers Stadium in the summer, a city passionate about sports. The fact that it’s a bustling metropolis rife with foreign restaurants and supermarkets doesn’t hurt, either.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s my new life in China.”

~

It’s March 18, 2012, and Stephon Marbury is shredding the Shanxi Brave Dragons for 30 points and eight assists as the Beijing Ducks punch their first-ever ticket to the CBA Finals.

A week earlier, after torching his old squad for 53 points in Game 2 and 52 points in Game 3 to lead Beijing to a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-five series, Marbury was accused of striking a fan after a tense Game 4 in Taiyuan that Beijing lost. (In all likelihood, the fan made it up, as no witnesses corroborated the story and no video evidence was produced. Marbury received no punishment from the league.) Once again, American media laughed: it took more than two years, but the real Steph has come out for everyone to see. They laughed at Marbury, they laughed at his shoes, they laughed at his goal of winning a CBA championship.

But all they really did was give him more motivation.

Game 5 was delayed four days because CBA officials wanted tempers to simmer, but the game itself, in front of a packed Shougang Gymnasium on national TV, produced little by way of drama. The Ducks cruised to a 110-98 victory. Afterwards, Marbury ducked into a bathroom and sobbed with joy.

This moment, by all accounts, was portrayed as the denouement of the 2012 Stephon Marbury saga. Because the team that waited in the finals was the four-time defending champs, the Guangdong Southern Tigers, with their NBA-level imports in Aaron Brooks and James Singleton and a roster of full of National Team players. Surely the Ducks wouldn’t be able to write a happier ending than the one they just got.

Right?

It’s March 30, 2012, and Stephon Marbury is a champion. Nobody is laughing anymore.

In five games, Beijing upends Guangdong in the biggest upset in CBA history. And then, with his teammates and the coaching staff still in the locker room, Marbury emerges by himself and stands at midcourt while 18,000 – the largest crowd to ever attend a CBA game – chant his name.

Over the last season, Year Three, Marbury found his home as a Beijing ye menr – a true Beijinger, in the eyes of the people who live here. He’s not just a basketball player, he’s a fixture of the city, a daily participant in its day-to-day. He continues to go to Guo’an soccer games, he chats with fans on Sina Weibo (Chinese Twitter), he writes a weekly China Daily column and occasionally rides the subway to practice. People feel that it’s genuine.

In his own locker room, he’s Ma Dao, the undisputed leader of the team. He is lauded as an on-court coach by head coach Min Lulei. His Chinese teammates point to his positive attitude and work ethic as major reasons this year’s team came together so quickly, going from an eighth seed in last year’s playoffs to champions. Two rookies, Zhu Yanxi and Zhai Xiaochuan, both of whom played critical roles in Beijing’s success this year, were selected to the National Team training camp roster this summer; they credit Marbury with helping them achieve that.

In the CBA, he’s a spokesperson for the league and an advisor for newly arrived foreign players. He’s not just an advocate of basketball, he’s an advocate of Chinese basketball. He says he wants to help the sport, the league and its players grow. He says he wants to play in Beijing for four more years. He says he wants to stay in China until he’s old. He says he wants to coach the National Team one day.

That will come later, maybe. The only thing that matters now, though, are the fans showering him with love. He thumbs the front of his “Champions” t-shirt while fans chant, Zongguanjun – “We are champions!”

Shortly after lifting the trophy, he tweets, “I wanna thank all of the reporters who said I couldn’t play basketball anymore. I took your negative energy and turned it in positive energy.”

Love is Love. So is proving everybody wrong.

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Beijing – Guangdong Game 4: Ducks move one win away from CBA title

March 29, 2012

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Randolph Morris’ excellent performance on offense, which included three big dunks, was key in Beijing’s Game 4 victory. (Photo: cfp.cn)

Guangdong – 98 @ Beijing – 107

The Beijing Ducks are one win away from their first ever CBA championship and the biggest upset in CBA history.

Stephon Marbury scored 28 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds, Randolph Morris hit for a double-double with 32 points and 12 boards, and Zhai Xiaochuan came up big with 17 points as the Ducks pasted the Southern Tigers inside to pick up a huge Game 4 win.

After struggling to cope with their opponents’ Game 3 adjustment, the Ducks answered to their opponent’s small ball lineup last night by pounding the ball inside to Morris, who responded with arguably his best game of the series. All too aware that Guangdong was switching on all of his screen-and-rolls, Marbury called Morris over almost exclusively to run the two-man game in the second half with excellent results. When Marbury’s man, Zhou Peng, switched on to the much bigger Morris, Marbury gave up the ball let the center go to work on his physically overmatched opponent. Isolated with little help behind him, Zhou hardly stood a chance as Morris either drove by him or shot over him with equal ease.

And when Marbury wasn’t dishing off, he was scoring it himself, often it key moments. In the fourth quarter with Beijing down one, Marbury hit a deep three and a tough lay-up in quick succession to put the score at 87-81. Later, with Beijing up four in the closing minutes, Marbury hit another big three to put the game at 99-92 and effectively out of reach for Guangdong.

Committed to going small from the beginning, starting Dong Hanlin over Su Wei, Guangdong elected to focus their offense on the perimeter. And while Zhu Fangyu got many open looks, neither he nor anyone else was really able to get it going from the outside. Guangdong as a team shot 8-34 from three, including 1-6 from Zhu, 1-7 from James Singleton, 3-12 from Aaron Brooks and 1-4 from Wang Shipeng. Wang, who has been awful this series, reached a new low in Game 4. He went 1-5 from the field, with his lone make coming on a meaningless three-pointer in the game’s final minute. Unlike in last year’s Finals against Xinjiang, he has been unable to get his own shot  off or create for teammates and is in a total funk.

Singleton finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds and Brooks has 28 points and six assists.

Game 5 is on Friday night.

Box Score

Other notes:

  • Before the game and at half-time, Beijing played a video featuring Chen Lei, Min Lulei, Marbury, Morris and members of the front office urging fans to keep their language under control and behave properly. On Tuesday, the CBA threatened to move Game 5 to another stadium or city if fans continued to act “uncivilized.” Minutes before tip-off, Chen Lei grabbed a microphone to personally ask fans to keep themselves in check. Unlike Game 1, there were no incidents and fans refrained from cursing and throwing things onto the court.
  • Zhu Yanxi went down hard midway through the second quarter after a big collision with Chen Jianghua at mid-court. Zhu stayed down for several minutes before laboring to the sidelines with an apparent injury to his midsection, where he remained on the floor for quite some time. He did not re-enter the game and was later driven to the hospital after the game. Doctors declared the injury as not serious. He was back at practice today and is expected to play tomorrow.
  • Su Wei, who has become public enemy number one in Beijing after his much publicized on-court spat with Marbury in Game 1, played only four minutes and was serenaded by mocking chants of huan Sui Wei – sub Su Wei — the entire night. Fans also chanted shang tui in reference to Li Chunjiang’s order to ”sweep the leg,” also from Game 1.

 

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“Mr. 48 Minutes” Lee Hsueh-lin may finally get some rest

March 26, 2012

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With nobody else able to help Stephon Marbury run the show, Beijing’s Lee Hsueh-lin has played 238 out of a possible 240 minutes the last five games. (Photo: Osports)

Quick, other than Stephon Marbury and Randolph Morris, who has been Beijing’s most valuable player this season?

If you took a poll, either of the Ducks’ rookie soon-to-be National Team training camp combo, Zhai Xiaochuan and Zhu Yanxi, would likely receive some votes. And maybe out of respect to longtime team captain and CBA laotou, Chen Lei would get some too. And that’d all be fine.

As long as they were all second-place votes.

You can try to make the case all you want, but if you’ve come up with someone other than Lee Hsueh-lin, then you’re just plain wrong.

(My) case in point: So important is Lee to the Ducks cause against Guangdong, that coach Min Lulei has called on the Taiwanese point-guard to play 142 out of a 144 possible minutes over the Finals’ first three games. And so important was he against Shanxi in the semi-finals, that Min played him every minute of Games 4 and 5.

Let that register for a second. Five games, two whole minutes of rest.

“Mr. 48 Minutes,” as he’s recently been called by Chinese media after playing every minute for four games in a row (he was on the court or all 48 in Games 1 and 2 of the Finals), has simply been an iron man and an indispensable player for the Ducks during their playoff run.

A former star in Taiwan for the SBL’s Yulon Dinos, where he won three SBL championships in a row from 2004-2006, Lee made the jump to the CBA in September 2010 when he signed a for the Ducks, and immediately jumped into the starting lineup at point guard. Considered as one of the best guards in Taiwan when he was in high school, the 27 year-old has been a part of the Taiwanese National Team setup for the last ten years, most recently at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship last summer in Wuhan.

After a solid debut season last year in where the Ducks made the playoffs, Lee came back even better and saw increases in steals and assists though his first eight games — all wins — while also keeping his turnovers at his usual low rate. But during that eighth game, he suffered a serious back injury that would keep him out for a little over two months. Beijing would go onto win their next five without him, but as Beijing’s thin group of guards tired as the season progressed, the team struggled to win games. After going 13-0, Beijing went just 7-10 over their next 17 games.

Lee came back for the team’s last two regular season games of the season against Shanghai and Guangsha, and his minutes had been steadily increasing throughout the first-round and semis until his recent string of 48 minute games. If you watch games, it’s hard not to see why Min feels he needs to be on the court at all times: Other than Marbury, Beijing has nobody who can handle the ball and organize the offense. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he can pressure opposing guards full-court (just ask Aaron Brooks) and he nails open threes pretty regularly. Once dubbed “the Allen Iverson of Taiwan,” Lee should really be called “the Earl Watson of Taiwan.” He may not be flashy, but he’s a solid starting point guard who generally knows what to do.

And luckily for the long-term future of Lee and of the Ducks, it looks as if Coach Min has seen why playing a dude with a bad back 48 minutes a night is probably a bad idea. Lee’s been receiving treatment immediately after every game, and with his back not completely healed and maybe getting worse, the coach has vowed that he’ll get some in-game rest from now on.

How much rest exactly, is in serious question because unless Xie Libin magically wakes up and is able to throw the ball to his teammates without an opponent getting a hand on it, Beijing still doesn’t have any other options. When at their best, Beijing goes seven deep. Guangdong of course, goes much deeper, meaning if Lee is in fact exhausted, this series is far from over; no matter where the next two games are being played.

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Beijing – Guangdong Game 3: Guangdong goes small to win big

March 26, 2012

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Beijing – 93 @ Guangdong – 111

Using a variety of smaller lineups for most of the game, Guangdong was able to limit Stephon Marbury from getting into the paint while completely shutting down Beijing’s bigs from getting good looks on the perimeter. Putting James Singleton at the five and Li Yuanyu at the four for large parts of the second half, Guangdong switched many of the pick-and-rolls that have become the staple of Beijing’s Marbury-centric offense. And although Marbury hit 7-10 from the three-point line, the strategy worked at both keeping him away from the basket and from keeping his passes out of the hands of wide-open teammates.

For Guangdong, the return of Zhu Fangyu’s scoring touch helped things as well. So did Aaron Brooks’ decrease in turnovers. Zhu scored 26 on 8-13 shooting to record his best game of the Finals, while Brooks put in a team high 30 points on only three turnovers. Singleton also enjoyed his best game of the Finals, scoring 21 points, grabbing 19 rebounds and generally making life difficult for everyone he guarded.

The key in this game, however, was Guangdong’s adjustment to go smaller. Su Wei, who missed several easy looks at the basket to go 3-11 from the field en route to an all-around awful performance in Game 2, only played 12 minutes and Wang Zheng never got off the bench. Against more traditional back the basket bigs, like Xinjiang’s Mengke Bateer, Su Wei is at his best. But, against an agile Beijing Randolph Morris-Zhu Yanxi-Ji Zhe rotation of bigs who can all shoot the ball, the lumbering seven-footer is simply not the answer on defense, either in pick-and-roll defense, help-side rotations or in close out situations.

Li Yuanyu, however, looks to be better suited for all of that. He scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in nearly 24 minutes before fouling out in the fourth quarter, all of which are playoff highs. He hasn’t received much playing time this season — only 23 appearances at an average of seven minutes per game in the regular season — but, with him and Dong Hanlin as the only two mobile Chinese bigs on the squad, it’s quite likely that coach Li Chunjiang will be calling his name more often as this series progresses.

For Beijing, Marbury finished with 39 points and three assists, and Morris had 21 and 14 rebounds. Nobody else finished in double figures.

Once again though, this game was plagued by fouls. 65 of them were called all together with Ji Zhe, Zhu Yanxi, Li Yuanwei and Zhou Peng all finishing the game on the bench with six apiece. For such an exciting series on the final scoreboard, we have yet to really see good, flowing basketball from start to finish.

Box Score

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Beijing – Guangdong Game 2: Beijing takes 2-0 lead behind steady Morris, clutch Marbury

March 24, 2012

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Beijing – 109 @ Guangdong – 106

Winning on the road at Guangdong? Tough. Coming back from 10 points in the fourth quarter? Also tough. Taking a 2-0 lead against four-time defending CBA champs? Even tougher.

But, toughest of all? The Beijing Ducks, who managed to check off all three last night during Game 2.

Randolph Morris had a game-high 33 points to go along with 12 rebounds as the Ducks stole home court advantage away from the Southern Tigers last night in DongGuan. Stephon Marbury added 23 points — 21 of which came in the second half — and nine assists, while three other players Chen Lei had (15 points), Zhu Yanxi (14) and Lee Hsueh-lin (13) all chipped in with double figures. It’s only the second home loss of the season for Guangdong with both coming at the hands of the Ducks.

Heading into the fourth quarter down 10, things looked like they were getting back to to normal for Guangdong. But Marbury had other ideas, scoring two buckets in the paint before leading a three-on-one break that ended with a Morris dunk. He’d keep coming until Beijing took the lead 94-93 with just over seven minutes left: A three from the corner, a driving lay-up to the left, two free-throws and a driving lay-up to the right. Zhou Peng would give the lead right back for Guangdong, but that’d be the last time the champs would be ahead.

A steal by Marbury and a turnover on Aaron Brooks gave four easy points to the visitors, and with the score 100-98 with Beijing inbounding under Guangdong’s hoop, Chen Lei got free on the baseline for an and-one to make it 103-98. After a bunch of missed threes by Guangdong, Morris hit a shot from the elbow to push the lead up to seven. Marbury then got it to nine with under two minutes left on a pull-up jumper to seemingly put the game away.

But for the second game in a row, the Ducks were the ones who nearly gave the game away. Marbury handed three points to Brooks after he fouled him on a three-point shot. Two possessions later, Morris traveled and James Singleton answered with a three on the other end to cut the lead to three. On Beijing’s next trip, Morris was called for an offensive foul and Guangdong had a chance to tie the game. Zhou Peng’s three missed as did Zhu Fangyu’s, so Marbury went to the line with 14 seconds left to ice the game. He missed both, and Guangdong had a third chance to tie the game. Brooks’ pass to Zhou Peng bounced off his chest, however and Beijing came away with a 2-0 series advantage.

Once again, Guangdong will point to turnovers and volume three-point shooting. They coughed up the ball 20 times and shot 7-28 from downtown, which were enough to counter the 22-8 advantage on the offensive glass. Brooks scored 25 for Guangdong, but also had seven turnovers. Singleton had 18 and 10, and Zhu Fangyu had 15.

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals Game 5

March 19, 2012

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Shanxi – 98 @ Beijing – 110

Beijing, welcome to your first ever CBA Finals.

In the CBA’s first ever decisive semi-finals Game 5, Stephon Marbury was flawless in his 30 point, nine rebound, eight assist performance to lead the Ducks to a relatively comfortable victory. Randolph Morris had 27 and 10 boards to go along with his four assists, and Chen Lei and Zhu Yanxi chipped in with 16 and 13 each.

The Ducks came out in the first quarter and set the tone right from its outset. Playing suffocating, collapsing defense on Marcus Williams and attacking the offensive glass with reckless abandon, the Ducks were able to jump out to a 29-13 lead by the period’s final buzzer and would have been up more if they were able to finish consistently at the rim.

The intensity was there though for Beijing — and for Charles Gaines, who picked up a technical — and in the second quarter, they continued to play well enough with Morris on the floor to maintain a 17 point lead heading into half-time.

In the third quarter, Marbury returned to make all the right moves on offense, hitting open teammates off drives in between several tough finishes at the rim. Shanxi tried their best to mount a comeback in the fourth, but Beijing and Marbury always managed to keep the lead at nine points or above. Williams finished with 25 points, Gaines had 30 and 14 and Makan had 18.

Game 1 of the CBA Finals against Guangdong will be played on Wednesday night at Beijing’s Mastercard Center (Wukesong Arena). Plenty more to come later today…

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals – Game 4

March 12, 2012

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Beijing – 100 @ Shanxi – 102

An intense and hard fought Game 4 was won in Taiyuan by Shanxi, setting up a do-or-die Game 5 on Wednesday night in Beijing — the first time in CBA history that a semi-finals series has ever gone the distance.

However, Shanxi’s big win and the exciting development that it set up was marred by the behavior of their fans, both during and after the game. In the fourth quarter, Stephon Marbury drove hard to hoop against Shanxi’s guard/forward, Makan. On Marbury’s extension and follow through on the layup, his elbow hit his defender’s face, opening up a cut over his eyebrow. Makan, however, was called for the foul. Angered, Makan and his teammates started to yell at the referee, who promptly whistled a technical foul. With Makan bleeding, both the Brave Dragons and their fans went into a frenzy as Marbury stepped up and hit three of four free-throws.

With tensions running high and the game close late in the fourth, Marcus Williams drove hard left to the hole with 43 seconds left with the score 100-97 in favor of Beijing. Marbury swiped and missed at the ball before Randolph Morris came over for both the block and — William’s head — after the big center crashed over Williams under the basket. There was no foul called, and to show their thoughts on the matter, spectators starting throwing lighters, water bottles and other objects onto the court. Both benches cleared with several scuffles ensuing. By the time the dust had settled and the court cleaned up, no technicals had been called and the game resumed.

When it did, Charles Gaines stepped up with a huge and-one lay-up. After converting the free-throw to tie the game at 100, Marbury came down and missed a three with 26 seconds. Williams milked the clock and drove hard to the basket, where he was fouled. He converted the free-throws to make it 102-100. Beijing called time-out and Lee Hsueh-lin got a look at three, which came up short.

But apparently not satisfied by their bottle-tossing, Shanxi fans blocked Beijing’s bus from leaving the arena while hurling yet more objects at the vehicle. Beijing was eventually able to leave, but not without Brave Dragon fans leaving a black mark on their already notorious reputation within the CBA.

For Shanxi, Gaines lead the way with 39 points and 16 rebounds, Williams finished with 34 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and Lu Xiaoming had seven points and nine assists. Morris was huge in the second half, particularly the fourth quarter when Beijing practically went in to him on every possession to finish with 36 points and 13 rebounds. Marbury had 25.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals – Game 3

March 10, 2012

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Xinjiang – 102 @ Guangdong – 120

Four the fourth straight season, Guangdong has eliminated Xinjiang from the post-season.

Looking like they had already given up from the start, Xinjiang went down 11 in the first quarter before entering the locker room at half down 18. Five players for Guangdong finished in double figures: James Singleton (21 points and 16 rebounds), Zhu Fangyu (20 points), Zhou Peng (20), Aaron Brooks (16 and seven assists) and Wang Zheng (11). Guangdong is a perfect 6-0 this post-season and now enters the Finals for the eleventh time in their franchise’s history.

For Xinjiang, Xu Guochong finished with 23 points, while Ike Diogu and Meng Duo each scored 22.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Shanxi – 115 @ Beijing – 128

Two nights after scoring 52, Stephon Marbury scored 53 points as Beijing took pivotal Game 3 in front of their home crowd to take a 2-1 series lead.

Reverting to the strategy they used for part of the regular season, Shanxi opted to sit both Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines during the first quarter so that they could play the rest of the game together. Rudderless on offense and totally lost on defense, Shanxi gave up 35 points in the quarter and entered the games’s second frame down 15.

With Gaines and Williams on the court together in the second though, Shanxi made up some ground despite Randolph Morris’ solid offensive effort to cut the score at halftime to 61-55. In the third, Shanxi’s good run continued behind their foreigners and the scoring of Lu Xiaoming, taking the lead for a moment until Beijing grabbed it back to head into fourth quarter with Shanxi down two.

With Morris on the bench in foul trouble to start the quarter, it looked like Shanxi had the game for the taking. Then, Starbury hit. For Beijing’s first 13 points of the quarter. Hitting contested threes in between his forays into the paint, Marbury’s personal 13-2 run broke all of Shanxi’s momentum and turned the game permanently in the Ducks’ favor. He finished the game 7-8 from three and 14-15 from the free-throw line while also dishing out four assists. Morris finished with 31 points and seven rebounds, Zhai Xiaochuan had 11, and Lee Hsueh-lin and Zhu Yanxi each finished with 10.

For Shanxi, Charles Gaines finished with 34 points and 21 rebounds, Williams had 32 and nine boards and Lu Xiaoming had 17. Game 4 is in Taiyuan on Sunday.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals – Game 2

March 8, 2012

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Shanxi – 123 @ Beijing – 132

After delaying his own scoring until the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s Game 1 loss at Shanxi, Stephon Marbury made his point early and often in Game 2 to lead Beijing to a decisive victory that was much more dominant than the final score indicated. Aggressive from the start, Marbury scored 25 points in the first quarter as the Ducks scored 40 by the frame’s final buzzer. With Marbury on the bench for most of the second, the Ducks built off the momentum to build a 64-49 at half.

Playing at a frenetic pace on both ends, Beijing went out and pushed the lead out to almost 30 points behind a number of steals which lead to easy transition baskets. Mabury finished with 52 points, just short of his CBA career high, as well as 10 assists and seven steals. Randolph Morris had a double-double with 27 points and 10 boards, Zhai Xiaochuan was a perfect 8-8 from the field to hit for 20 and Ji Zhe had 17.

Though Charles Gaines finished with 27 and 15 rebounds, most of it came too late as the Ducks made an concerned effort to cut off his spin moves and force him into turnovers. Marcus Williams had 42 points and six rebounds, but didn’t get any help from his Chinese teammates — 10 points from Makan and 11 from Xing Zhiqiang.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Xinjiang – 92 @ Guangdong – 97

Zhu Fangyu scored a game high 25 points, Aaron Brooks added 21 points and Guangdong came away with a big Game 2 victory to put them one win away from punching their fifth straight ticket to the CBA Finals. Ike Diogu had 18 points and 9 rebounds and Tim Pickett scored 17. Xirelijiang, who re-injured his sprained ankle in Game 1, did not play.

Up 78-77 in the fourth quarter, Xinjiang let the game slip away after Guangdong grabbed multiple offensive rebounds on not one, but two possessions in the last three minutes. Wang Shipeng was the first to make them pay for their ineptitude on the defensive glass, cashing a three 93-88 with 2:48 left in the game. With 1:29 left and up two, Su Wei was the next to step in and extend Guangdong’s possession, pulling down the board and drawing the foul. He made one of two, Xinjiang couldn’t convert on the other end and for the second time in as many games, the defending champs beat their longtime rivals.

Game 3 is on Friday in DongGuan and a sweep is looking very likely.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals – Game 1

March 6, 2012

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Guangdong – 95 @ Xinjiang – 92

Different year, same Guangdong match-up… and unfortunately for Xinjiang, the same result.

The Flying Tigers failed to grab a key defensive rebound that would have given them the chance to take the lead with under a minute left, but their inablity to box out James Singleton, who grabbed two straight offensive rebounds in the game’s most important possession, cost them the win and likely the series.

Up 91-80 with about three minutes left in the game, Guangdong seemed to have a comfortable win in the books until Xinjiang roared back with a 12-2 run to cut the lead to one with 1:20 remaining. A Guangdong miss was Xinjiang’s for the taking, but Singleton tracked down the loose ball to give his team another shot. Another miss gave way to another opportunity for Xinjiang to come down with a defensive rebound, but Singleton again got his hands on the ball to give Guangdong yet another chance. Xinjiang intentionally fouled Zhu Fangyu, who calmly sank both shots to push the lead up to three. When Tim Pickett’s three-pointer came up empty, Guandong ran off the court knowing that two straight wins at home will punch their ticket for the CBA Finals.

Singleton, who frustrated his old team the whole night with his signature combination of athleticism and activity, finished the game with 12 points and 16 rebounds while holding Ike Diogu to a ho-hum 17 points and five rebounds. Wang Shipeng finished with a team high 23 points, Aaron Brooks had 21 and Zhu pitched in 14.

For Xinjiang, Pickett scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 45 minutes. Mengke Bateer ended up with 17 and 10, and Sun Weibo had 15.

With the loss on their home floor, Xinjiang now has to win a game in Guangdong to force the series back to Urumqi for a Game 4. That’s tough enough as is, but it looks like it’ll be even tougher after Xirelijiang re-injured the ankle that he sprained in Game 5 of Round One against DongGuan. If he the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship gold medalist can’t go, expect Sun Weibo to get the majority of his minutes off the bench.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Beijing – 119 @ Shanxi – 122

Marcus Williams was dominant in his first ever CBA semi-finals appearance, finishing with 40 points, seven rebounds and four assists, as Shanxi defended their home court to came away with a close three point victory against Beijing.

But for Shanxi, the game was probably closer than it had to be. With the Brave Dragons up five with less than half a minute left, the win looked all but locked up until Zhang Xuewen was called for a flagrant foul after he followed through with both arms to thwart Stephon Marbury’s breakaway layup attempt with 17 seconds left. The call was questionable, but Marbury hit both freebies to cut the lead to three and head coach Min Lulei called time-out to draw up the last play. Like in Game 1 against Guangsha in Round One, the ball was swung to an open Lee Hsueh-lin with the game on the line. But this time, Lee’s three-point attempt came up short and by the time the ball was done bouncing around the floor, Shanxi had escaped with the win.

Marbury finished with a playoff career high 42 points, most of which game in the fourth quarter when his scoring was needed most. Randolph Morris, had trouble keeping Charles Gaines off of the foul line, as did Ji Zhe and as a result, both fouled out midway through the final frame. Gaines finished with 25 points on 9-10 from the free-throw line and 18 rebounds, eight of which came on the offensive end. Ren Junwei had a very active 14 points and 11 rebounds and was a key reason why Shanxi managed to outrebound their opponents by 21.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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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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