Other than that he is going to be the next No. 1 in the Chinese Communist Party next year, not much is known about current China vice-president, Xi Jinping. A princeling born into Communist Party affluence before he was sent away to live in a cave during the Cultural Revolution, Xi has risen up the ranks on his penchants for business and not pissing people off. His wife, Peng Liyuan, is a nationally known singer who is widely considered to be more famous than her husband. He likes American war movies and his daughter, Xi Mengxe, attends Harvard.
And that’s pretty much what we know about Xi. By design, his leadership traits and politics remain largely a mystery. They’ll remain that way until afte he officially replaces Hu Jintao in 2013.
But Xi’s recent official trip the U.S., which marked his debut as the soon-to-be Chinese president, shed some more light on the man, including the very important news that he, like a lot of people in China, likes basketball and watches the NBA in his spare time.
Before putting the final touches on his five-day stay in the U.S., Xi took in a Lakers game at the Staples Center on Friday. Like most Laker fans, Xi arrived at the end of halftime and watched the entire third quarter and some of the fourth from a suite as the Lake Show beat the visiting Phoenix Suns 111-99.
To welcome Xi, Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, presented him with a personalized Lakers jersey. Magic Johnson and David Beckham among others came up to personally greet the man. And Lakers guard Andrew Goudelock had someone write a welcome message in Chinese to the Chinese visitor on his Peak shoes, which happen to be Chinese.
Xi’s visit to Staples, like everything else on his trip, was meticulously planned. Not that it matters — anybody who likes hoops is OK with NiuBBall. And Xi does like hoops. On his arrival in Washington on Monday, Xi told the Washington Post that “I do watch NBA games on television when I have time.”
No word yet as to whether Xi actually plays. If he does, then he’ll be added alongside Wen Jiabao as part of a potentially deadly combo that could match-up nicely in a game of two-on-two against any other country’s top squad of high ranking politicians. Which means just to be safe, someone in Barack Obama’s cabinet needs to start getting some shots up.
Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler and more are on the list of NBA players who have brought their trade to China this season. And now, China is bringing a list of NBA rules to match.
In an effort clean up ongoing issues of in-game violence, over-the-top on-court behavior and the overall quality of officiating, the powers that be atop the Chinese Basketball Association are instituting a new set of strict “iron rules” that will go into affect this season.
According to the document, which was released to the public on November 10th, the league is instituting these set of rules in order to “cut down on exaggerated gestures, going up to the referee and pretending to count money and the other little tricks players and coaches use when they are dissatisfied with a referee.”
On paper, at least in my eyes, the rules are eerily similar to the ones David Stern tried to implement at the beginning of the 2010-11 season in order to put a stop to “overt” player reactions to calls. But unlike the NBA in 2010, who focused solely on players, the CBA is extending their reach to coaches, translators and even trainers in an attempt to clean the league of what it perceives as referee abuse.
Starting this season, there will be stricter regulations coaches’ interactions with officials. Demonstrative behavior like throwing and kicking things are not allowed. Going to the scorer’s table to argue a call is not allowed. Yelling “travel” or “three seconds” from the bench and discussing a call in a manner that disrupts an official’s rhythm are also not allowed. Translators are not allowed to stand up alongside their English speaking coaches for too long.
On a first offense, referees will dish out a warning and the second time will be a technical foul. If a trainer somehow finds a way to get two technical fouls, then they are automatically transferred over to the head coach, who would then be ejected.
There is also a lengthy list of rules regarding player behavior.
Like their coaches on the sidelines, warnings will first be given to players who use demonstrative, flamboyant body language when protesting calls. Technical fouls will be dished out for repeat offenders. Insulting gestures like pretending to count money (which suggests that a referee is being paid by the other team), throwing up the middle finger and pointing to a ref’s face will result in direct technical fouls.
The league is also putting in rules to stop flopping, a problem that has only increased in severity over the years. Players will receive a warning for a flop if there’s body-to-body contact and a technical for a second offense. If there’s no body contact and the player flops — which in my mind should just be called the Derek Fisher rule — a player will be T’d up directly.
Fighting, an issue that has become a major black eye for the league the past year, received its own section. To prevent the all out brawls that have become popular on Chinese basketball courts in recent years, all players who leave the bench area and walk onto the court will be automatically suspended. The only people allowed on the court to break up altercations are coaches, referees and arena security guards.
The words “zero tolerance” have been used in several Chinese articles when describing how referees will enforce these new rules.
Here’s my take: Nice try, CBA, but if you think that this is going to put an end to referee controversies and unqualified refs running up and down the court, you need to think again. Although players and coaches deserve some of the blame for the CBA turning into a nightly soap opera, the main problem with the league is a systematic one that lies directly on the shoulders of the CBA its referees.
Referee quality needs to be improved. Last year, 35 out of 342 registered CBA officials were of international level, a ratio that should be unacceptable at the league office in Beijing. As history as shown, specifically this summer, Chinese refs do a horrible job of maintaining control during intense, physical games. The best example of that inability of course, was the Georgetown – Bayi fight. But that wasn’t the only one this summer — Foshan got into it with a traveling Australian team and Jiangsu nearly came to blows with an American team. Every fight follows the same pattern — physical play, which goes uncalled by refs, quickly escalates into retaliatory cheap shots and soon, you have angry and frustrated players who eventually come to the conclusion that fighting is the only way to protect themselves.
That’s not to say I’m not in favor of some of the things they’re doing. Instituting a rule banning bench players from entering the court is a move they should have made years ago, but it’s one that should be welcome, no matter how late it’s come. But relying on babyfaced 16 year-old bao’an‘s to restore on-court order? There’s probably a better chance of Barack Obama and Wen Jiabao lacing them up for a game of one-on-one.
But none of those issues are going to be addressed because admitting that there is a systematic problem with referees, who act as representatives of the league, would be akin to admitting there is a systematic problem with the league. And since policy is directed top-down, publicly announcing this fatal flaw would result in a loss of face for the people who direct policy, CBA officials. And under the current government-run system, that’s not happening.
To sugarcoat their new zero tolerance policy, the CBA has been sending international level Chinese officials around the country to talk to teams and answer questions about the new rules for this season. I’m not fooled, though. As someone who’s been around the league — and China — for a while, I don’t see any of this making a major dent in the real problems that afflict this league.
Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links…
We’re back in action after an unexpected and most unwelcome five day separation period from the internet after we coached basketball at an overnight camp located in the middle of nowhere outside of Beijing. To tide all of you over from almost a week without NiuBBall, we’re hitting you up with an extra big two-egg jianbing this morning. Because we got you like that.
Former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers assistant, Jim Cleamons, has been hired as head coach by the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions. Cleamons takes over for Wang Fei, who resigned earlier last week because of “health problems.” We remain skeptical as to if that’s really the reason Wang left the team. Besides being told by a trusted source that he is fine, we were at the Nike All-Asia Camp last month and Wang, who led drills in both morning and afternoon sessions, looked completely OK. Cleamons is already in Hangzhou and has said that the Lions will use elements of the triangle offense this season.
Kobe Bryant is the latest NBA player to throw his hat in the ring for a potential China exhibition tour. Organized by his agent, Rob Pelinka, who also represents the Clippers’ Eric Gordon and the Grizzlies’ O.J. Mayo among several other players, the tour would “likely take place” in the Mercedez-Benz Arena in Shanghai. Intrigued by the idea, Amare Stoudemire was reported to have been interested in joining Bryant, but it now appears as if he’s cooled because of insurance issues, among other complications. Expect a lot more China rumors as the NBA lockout continues this summer.
An anonymous agent talking with Hoopsword believes that teams in China are going to seriously consider approaching locked out NBA players to play in the CBA this year. We’re still not totally sold — even if teams are willing to negotiate month-to-month deals, the risk of having a player just pick up and leave whenever the lockout ends is something that could potentially deter teams from making any big money deals. Instead, I’d bank on a guy like Garret Siler, who played for Shanghai two years ago, to get some calls — he has experience playing here and teams won’t have to break the bank to bring him over.
Somebody might want to tell this over eager defender to chill out and let the Premier of the People’s Republic of China get his lay-up off.
Wen Jiabao, the Premier of the People’s Republic of China, is known by the Chinese public as a man of the people. Since his rise to number three in the Politburo Standing Committee in 2003, Wen has endeared himself to Chinese by showing a human side not often seen from China’s many emotionless, poker-faced politicians.
In the days after the horrific Sichuan earthquake in 2008, Wen endeared himself to the masses by boarding a government plane a mere two hours after news of the disaster had hit Beijing. Upon arrival, he wept openly in front of reporters, earning him a legion of supporters who now affectionately call the 68 year-old “Grandpa Wen.”
In August 2010, in the aftermath of devastating mudslides in Gansu, Wen displayed more care for his people when he flew out to mudslide-stricken Gansu, yelling out encouragement to trapped civilians and ordering rescue teams to “spare no effort to save lives.”
And now, just in time for the NBA Finals, which will be watched by millions upon millions of basketball-crazed Chinese, Wen is further solidifying his title as the people’s champ by taking to the blacktop to partake in one of the country’s favorite sport, basketball.
Without further ado:
The game, which went down last Tuesday at the at the Shibalidian elementary school Beijing’s Chaoyang District, has been all over the news this week, with the above picture showing up on the front page of several national newspapers. Damn right China likes itself some basketball.
Damien Ma over at The Atlantic has some keen insight on the 2:57 clip that’s worth reading, including a who’s who of smiley-faced clapping politicians who came to cheer Wen on. Though no box score exists (that we know of), it’s clear that Wen totally dominated the competition. Playing on kiddie-sized hoops, the lefty used a variety of unorthodox forays into the lane to convert time and time again on his signature scoop lay-up finish. Wen also shows good anticipation and active hands in the passing lanes, as evidenced by his deflection at the 2:02 mark. And as we see at the 1:55, Grandpa has a high motor on the offensive glass, beasting away opponents to turn his teammates’ misses into easy put-backs. In all, Wen made six baskets according to the news report.
Of course, any footage of a basketball playing politician — a lefty politican, in fact — brings to mind arguably the world’s most famous ball-playing politician of all time, Barack Obama, the President of the United States. As the U.S. and China have sparred in the past over human rights, the appreciation of the yuan and the environment, are we in for another showdown between Washington and Beijing… on the basketball court?
It may not be so far fetched. As Ma predicts, “not only is China cleaning our clock on high-speed rail, its leaders are soon to dominate the courts, dunking over Obama like [Taj] Gibson over [Dwyane] Wade in the Eastern Conference Finals.” Clearly, something is going on here. After taking over as the world’s manufacturing superpower, China may have her sights set on taking over yet another industry that would hit hard at the heart of American livelihood, the American-invented sport of basketball.
No, seriously. A look at this picture, which reveals Wen practicing his go-to lefty lay-up in Beijing’s Wukesong Arena during the 2008 Olympics, suggests that China’s top officials view their Premier’s development as a core strategic interest internationally. Giving him open access to the best arena in the country with a cheering section to boot, China appears to be dead set on a one-on-one showdown against the Leader of the Free World. Knowing that Wen will be at a height disadvantage against the 6’1 Obama, Wen’s coaches have made it a point to develop his ball-handling, quickness, and finishes around the rim. Obama, who showed his three-point range out on the perimeter in his nationally televised game of POTUS against Clark Kellogg during the NCAA Final Four in 2010, will be able to get his shot off easily against his short armed opponent. But, as most shooters tend to neglect the defensive end, Wen could give the taller, slower Obama a lot of problems in a one-on-one game if he’s able to break down his Western counterpart off the dribble.
Don’t let that basketball get too dusty, Barack.
If/when this goes down, expect heated pre-game bilateral negotiations over the rules, most specifically, how the score will be kept. Represented by the sharp shooting Obama, the U.S. will likely push hard for three-pointers counting as two points in the one-on-one battle. China on the other hand, will give a long speech on the importance of maintaining “harmonious scoring systems,” with all baskets counting as one point.
What becomes of all of this speculation is anybody’s guess, but this potential showdown is definitely worth keeping an eye out in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, as it could become a key issue for American voters who have grown suspect of China’s global intentions.
Here’s some more pictures of Wen’s memorable performance from a few days ago, accented with original captions for your viewing pleasure:
Grandpa Wen, working on pounding that left handed dribble into the ground.
When you’ve got handle like Wen, you don’t even need an armbar for your protect dribble.
For your information, no, Wen does not to be subjected into wearing questionable red bow-ties during gym class. He does, however, have to participate in mandatory warm-up laps before playing.
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