Tag Archives: Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers

Shanghai Sharks announce Wang Qun has head coach; re-sign Max Zhang

May 16, 2013

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Things are going to be a lot different in Shanghai next season.

Last Friday, the Sharks held a press conference to announce a combination of decisions that will have a huge impact on the club’s short-term and long-term direction: the appointment of Wang Qun as head coach, and the re-signing of “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu.

Wang, who has had a long history with the Sharks and owner Yao Ming, will become the first official Chinese head coach since Yao took control over the club in 2009. He had been serving in an interim role after American Dan Pannagio was fired mid-season last year.

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Zhang Zhaoxu… CBA’s highest paid Chinese player?

April 22, 2013

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How many Subway footlongs could 8 million RMB buy? Depends on if you’re eating the Sub of the Day, but the answer is a lot.

Is “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu on his way to becoming Chinese basketball’s first eight million RMB man?

Could be, according to several recent reports. The Shanghai Sharks 7’3 center is reportedly being offered big money from both the Beijing Ducks and the Xinjiang Flying Tigers.

Last Thursday, Sina Sports, citing an unnamed source, reported that the Ducks are poised to offer a multi-year deal worth CNY 5 million anually (US $808,767) plus a Beijing hukou, while the Tigers will go as high as 8 million ($1,294,027) to get Zhang’s signature.

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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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CBA playoffs set to start on February 27; Beijing to start title defense against Guangsha

February 18, 2013

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After 34 rounds, the Chinese Basketball Association has its eight playoff teams.

Defending champion, Beijing, who finished the season as the league’s third seed, will play sixth seeded Guangsha. Guangsha, who was locked in a late-season battle with DongGuan, Zhejiang and Shanxi for a post-season berth, jumped over everybody after beating Jiangsu at home last night 116-100.

At the top of the standings, Guangdong, who guaranteed themselves as the league’s top seed weeks ago, will play against Zhejiang. Despite losing on the road last night against Shanxi, who also finished the season with the same 16-16 record, Zhejiang clinched their spot after winning out on head-to-head point differential tiebreaker.

In other match-ups, second seed Shandong will play against DongGuan and fourth seed Xinjiang will play Liaoning.

The best-of-five first round, which implements 1-2-1-1 format with the lower seeded team hosting Game 1, will start on February 27. All games will start at 7:35pm.

The full first round schedule is as follows:

2/27 – Wednesday
Guangdong at Zhejiang
Shandong at DongGuan
Xinjiang at Liaoning
Beijing at Guangsha

3/1 – Friday
Zhejiang at Guangdong
DongGuan at Shandong
Liaoning at Xinjiang
Guangsha at Beijing

3/3 – Sunday
Zhejiang at Guangdong
DongGuan at Shandong
Liaoning at Xinjiang
Guangsha at Beijing

3/6 – Wednesday (if necessary)
Guangdong at Zhejiang
Shandong at DongGuan
Xinjiang at Liaoning
Beijing at Guangsha

3/8 – Friday (if necessary)
Zhejiang at Guangdong
DongGuan at Shandong
Liaoning at Xinjiang
Guangsha at Beijing

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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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Beijing’s Min Lulei instructs players to attack the basket because, “We’ve got a good whistle”

January 22, 2013

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In the Chinese Basketball Association, referees are an ongoing issue. And that’s putting it nicely. Accusations and rumors of point shaving, bribes and various related corruption have all been thrown around, by fans, media and most recently, Tracy McGrady, who was ultimately fined and suspended for publicly criticizing referees.

The most recent case: Sunday’s abomination of a basketball game between Qingdao (again) and Tianjin, which ended in double overtime after 119 total fouls foul shots and six players fouled out. If you’re a CBA vet, you should know how it turned out: Qingdao, playing at home, won on a terrible end-of-game foul off the ball that sent Chris Daniels to the stripe for the two game-clinching free throws. If anyone is interested in either reliving the nightmare or experiencing it for the first time, Anthony Tao over at Beijing Cream has provided the world with video and words that vividly detail the game and the officiating.

The entire game was pathetic no doubt, but as the lessons learned long ago in CBA Officiating 101 continue to remind me: This is how it goes down here. Teams typically get a good whistle when at home, and a bad one when on the road. The degree can vary from a few calls here and there, to some key calls in crunch time all the way to the Wow, I didn’t know it was even possible to get screwed like that-type of officiating. (Of course, that rule is thrown out the window when you play Bayi, in which case you’re getting an extra bad whistle with a bad scorer’s table and an incompetent towel boy on top.)

And though that fact is known, recognized and acknowledged throughout the league in private, publicly nobody offers up even a peep for fear of punishment from the league… Unless a television camera sneaks into your huddle during a timeout and records everything your head coach is saying, which is what happened last Sunday night during Beijing’s nationally televised game against Xinjiang.

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McGrady’s turnover, Gaines’ buzzer beater highlight CBA’s opening round

November 25, 2012

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The Chinese Basketball Association has officially started after Round 1 of the 2012-13 season wrapped up tonight.

And save for Gilbert Arenas’ untimely hip flexor last night, we don’t think it could have started any better.

There’s an overtime game in Shanxi to get to as well as Xinjiang’s impressive home win over Guangdong, but no doubt the game everyone wil be talking about will be Fujian’s dramatic buzzer beater to spoil Tracy McGrady’s debut with Qingdao.

Oh, and that turnover.

The script was set up for a storybook start to the season. T-Mac, who was excellent overall amassing 34 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, set up in an isolation with the game tied at 92 and the shot clock off. “The whole world is expecting McGrady to get the ball here,” the announcer said. And probably everyone watching was expecting that once he got the ball, he was going to send the Eagles home with a win.

But what happened instead, nobody could have predicted. Being pressured by his defender, Fujian’s Zhou Qixin, McGrady exposed the ball and got stripped before he could even get in range for a shot.

After a timeout to set up the last play, Fujian gave the ball to their American, Sundiata Gaines, whose first CBA debut finished in very simliar fashion to his first NBA game: A buzzer-beating three pointer to win the game. Video below.

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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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Xinjiang to travel on private jet this season?

October 3, 2012

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The Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers are all set to become the first team in CBA history to fly a private jet this season.

The Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers are taking their mascot name literally, starting this season.

It’s old news in the Chinese world (this story was released about three weeks ago), but the Flying Tigers and their uber-rich owner, Sun Guangxin, are going forward in their longtime rumored plans to buy a private team jet for the 2012-13 season. If the news indeed holds true, the Flying Tigers will become the first team in Chinese Basketball Association history to use a chartered jet.

Rumors of a private jet have been floating in Urumqi since last season, when Sun promised the luxurious mode of transportation if the team could capture their first ever CBA championship. A disappointing season only saw the Flying Tigers reach the semi-finals, but this season it appears as if Sun is going to allow the team to fly the plane anyway.

“Xinjiang is very far away from the other teams,” said club general manager, He Changjiang in an interview with Titan Sports Weekly last month. “During a season, players use up a lot of their bodies. So next season, we’ll probably elect to use a private jet, possibly in times when a game is over and we need it.”

Follow up reports have clarified that although the Flying Tigers will be using the plane this season, the vehicle is the property of Guanghui Industry Investment Group, the company owned by Sun, and not of the Flying Tigers.

At first, the decision to buy and use a private jet may sound a little ridiculous. But in actuality, the move to fly private could be a big edge over other teams this year. Every team in the league flies commercial and with the exception of a few superstars and coaches who have clauses in their contracts, players and staff — regardless of height — ride coach.

For the Flying Tigers, that can prove to be quite uncomfortable. Whereas all of the other teams in the league are on the east side of China, Xinjiang’s home city of Urumqi is located in northwest China — thousands of miles away from other CBA cities. A trip to play an away game would be a couple of hours for every other team, but for Xinjiang flights can be anyway from four to eight hours depending on where they’re flying to. What’s more, with limited options out of Urumqi in terms of direct flights, the team is forced to stop off in other airports to connect flights sometimes, making travel days long and tiresome.

Obviously a private jet, which can fly directly to any airport on its own schedule, will change all that. We’ll see if the Flying Tigers actually use the plane this year and whether or not it has an effect on their goal to win a title.

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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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The Legacy of Bob Donewald

August 16, 2012

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Among other accomplishments during his two years as Team China head coach, Bob Donewald Jr. brought home the country’s first Asia Championship since 2005. (Photo: FIBAasia.net)

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Bob Donewald Jr., whose contract in Beijing has now expired, will not be returning to coach Chinese National Team. In a highly eventful three years, the last two of which have been spent as Team China head coach, there’s been suspensions, championships, a documentary, brawls, more suspensions, sideline yelling matches, and a you-couldn’t-make-this-stuff-up crazy half-season in Xinjiang among other notable events. Whatever your opinion of his tenure is, we’re fairly confident that all would agree that his stay in China has been anything but boring.

Of course, the Donewald era is much more than that. The question is: What? What exactly has happened over the last three years? What impact has he made on Chinese basketball? And what is his lasting legacy?

Talking to the Associated Press last week, Donewald offered up his own thoughts on the latter two questions:

“It’s not the way we wanted to end it. But I think we laid the groundwork in the right way,” Donewald said. “We’ve changed some things, we’ve changed some training, we’ve brought ideas, we’ve changed the way we play a little bit. And hopefully they can take it and go from here. … I hope 10 years from now I look back and China’s back on the map and we helped bridge something, we helped do something.”

The full article is well worth the read, not just because Donewald has a lot more interesting things to say, but also because Wang Zhizhi steals the show with a couple of priceless quotes, the best being his initial response in 2010 to Donewald’s defense-first mindset: “This is China. We don’t play defense.”

Critics will obviously point to the recent failure at the Olympics as their perceived reflection of Donewald’s failure to put together and lead a Chinese team capable of winning on the world’s biggest stage. Our views on what went down in London are already well known. But whereas some will want to rate the overall Donewald purely based on an 0-5 record, we’re going to take a few steps back and improve our court vision to assess what’s really gone down the last three years.

1. The turnaround in Shanghai

Known virtually by everyone around the world as the franchise who produced Yao Ming, the Shanghai Sharks were once one of the proudest and most winningest franchise in the Chinese Basketball Association. But, in 2009 — seven years removed from their first and only championship under Yao — the team’s gradual descent into the depths of the league standings hit its lowest point. In last place with 6-44 record and a financial situation that bordered on bankruptcy, the Sharks weren’t just the dregs of the league, they were on the verge of complete extinction.

A savior came from a familiar face, Big Yao himself, who bought his old team in the summer of 2009 to ensure the franchise’s financial future while simultaneously injecting a much needed dose of optimism into the City on the Sea. Shunning the bureaucratic  state-run-styled ownership that nearly put the franchise out of the CBA, Yao vowed to change the entire structure and culture in Shanghai.

That first wave of change came in the form of a new head coach, Donewald. A former NBA assistant in the early 2000s with Cleveland and New Orleans and a successful coach in England in the late 1990s, Donewald had been in Brazil and Ukraine prior to his arrival at the Yuanshen stadium. Unknown virtually by all in Chinese circles, Donewald proved to be the perfect catalyst in Shanghai. With a no compromise attitude, Donewald uprooted practically everything in Sharks-land and brought accountability, professionalism and intensity into a team that was sorely lacking in all three of those departments the previous season.

Under the first year head coach, a reinvigorated Chinese roster teamed up with three excellent imports, John Lucas III, Garet Siler and Zaid Abbas, to finish with the league’s fourth best record before nearly upsetting eventual league champion, Guangdong, in the semi-finals. Impressed by Donewald’s success, the powers that be at the CBA appointed him as head coach of the National Team in April 2010.

That magical season went beyond just himself, though. Lucas and Siler, both of whom were passed over by NBA teams when they came out of college, signed on to play in The League in 2010 with Chicago and Phoenix respectively. Both played this last season for the same teams. Abbas has gone on to star for the Jordanian National Team during the summers and during winters, he’s been busy leading Beijing and Fujian to the playoffs. “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu, who left Cal-Berkeley early to join Donewald in Shanghai in 2010, is now part of the National Team setup.

And though Donewald left in the summer of 2011 for Urumqi, the changes he made in Shanghai can still be felt today as Dan Panaggio continues to build on top of the foundation he first set in 2009.

Yet, perhaps Donewald’s biggest impact on a player was not on an American, but on a Chinese player with deep ties not only to Chinese basketball, but to Yao Ming as well…

2. The resurrection of Liu Wei

The 2008-09 season was long for everyone in Shanghai. But it was their star player, Liu Wei, who perhaps endured the longest and most nightmarish season of them all. Known for his ultra-competitiveness, the raging fire that burned under the longtime National Team point guard smoldered into mere ambers as Liu was forced to deal with not only the worst finish in Shanghai history, but also several nagging injuries, an ugly post-game incident with Yunnan import, Gabe Muoneke, and the 10-game suspension that followed it. His play suffered, and his 15.6 points per game was the worst statistical output since 2001-02. Once a CBA champion and NBA training camp invitee, things got so bad for Liu that he was rumored to be off to Bayi in the following off-season.

Enter Yao, Donewald, and his American staff, all of whom made it a focus to get their point guard back on track for 2009-10. Brought back to health through the dedication of strength and conditioning coach, James Scott, formerly of the Houston Rockets, Liu found his old self again as Shanghai ripped off a regular season 25-7 record. His 21.3 points per game was the third highest output of his career, and individual success carried through to the next season where he averaged 18.6 a game.

Liu’s resurgence has had implications far beyond just Shanghai, however. If you think prolonging the career of the only point guard in China who is consistently capable of playing on an international level, we ask: Have you seen any alternatives at that position?

Neither have we.

3. The transformation of Yi Jianlian

Once appointed head coach of the NT, the job presented to Donewald was to oversee a changing-in-the-guard from the old Yao Ming era to a new decade of Chinese basketball. Not exactly an easy task.

Without an all-world center who could dominate at both ends, Donewald trashed the rely-on-one-player philosophy in favor of a more balanced defensive-oriented, blue-collar approach. But all teams need a guy to dump the ball into on offense and get buckets… and that’s where Yi Jianlian comes into the story.

Under the shadow of the Yao in the 2000s, a then-young Yi played tentatively and inconsistently for China. But since Donewald arrived in 2010, Yi has been a completely different player. Given the task of being The Guy for the Chinese, the seven footer has responded beautifully over the last two international seasons. At the 2010 FIBA World Championship, Yi was the only player in the tournament to average 20 points and 10 rebounds. The following summer at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, he won tournament MVP (16.6-10.2) as he led China to a championship over Jordan. And though China flopped miserably in London, Yi managed to lead all players in rebounds (10.2 a game), while putting up strong individual performances against Spain and Russia before an injury suffered against Australia hampered him for the rest of the Games.

No, he’s not Yao. But in the post-Yao era, Yi is unquestionably the best and most important player to the Chinese. He has consistently been at the top of his game when China has need him the most. The player deserves much credit for accepting that challenge, but he — and the CBA — will have to thank Donewald, first for believing in him, then for giving him the support to make the Yao-to-Yi transition a success.

4. The modernization of the National Team

What the CBA chooses to do in light of these Olympics (changing the import rules in their domstic league, increasing the amount of games, hiring a new coach, implementing a new  national daily regimen of three-man weave drills) is anybody’s guess.

Our two cents: They’d be wise to continue in the direction that Donewald and his staff has pointed them in.

Whether it’s been compiling thick tomes detailing every in-and-out of their opponents, meticulously breaking down film, implementing individualized strength and conditioning programs for each player or successfully appealing to the CBA to allow the coaching staff to pick their own players, Donewald has managed to do away with the old days of mindless 6-8 hour-a-day practices and two-hour team meetings. All of which are very positive for Chinese basketball, by the way. The days of 30 exhibition games in the summer? Maybe not. But, one step at a time.

If Chinese basketball is going to catch up to the rest of the world one day, they’ll have to eventually run their program accordingly. Again, whether the CBA decides to take a knee-jerk reaction to what’s gone down in London is anybody’s guess. Yet what Donewald’s been able to do — and teach — to people inside Chinese hoops about the modern requirements for developing a National Team should certainly be beneficial in the long-term for both the country and the next coach who replaces him. You know, if the CBA allows it…

5. The trophies

Lost in all of the Deng Hua de bu xing (Donewald sucks), Deng Hua De de zhan shu bu hao (Donewald’s X’s and O’s aren’t good) and Deng Hua De bu dong Zhongguo (Donewald doesn’t understand China) arguments that I’ve heard from Chinese over the last couple of weeks, is the simple fact that no matter what you think of the guy, he’s won when he was supposed to win. Every time.

And if you don’t think that getting cheng ji – results — in Chinese sports are important, you haven’t seen this yet.

Make no mistake: Donewald’s gotten results. First came a championship at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, beating Iran in a thrilling semi-finals before dispatching South Korea in the finals. Not exactly a huge deal, since China had one five out of the last six gold medals at the Asian Games, but still a championship nonetheless in a competition that demanded no other result.

The following year in Wuhan, however, was something totally different. Despite playing without two key players, Zhou Peng and Wang Shipeng, both of whom were injury casualties of an endless summer of warm-up games, Donewald and the squad managed to come back in the second half against Jordan in the finals to eek out a win and an automatic berth in the 2012 London Olympics.

Whereas Guangzhou was pretty much always in the cards, triumphing in Wuhan was anything but guaranteed. Some people, including this very space, doubted China’s chances of getting to London because of prior history and a less-than-full-strength roster. On top of proving people wrong, Wuhan represented something far greater: China’s first Asian title since 2005 and more importantly, the first in the post-Yao era, an accomplishment Donewald’s predecessor, Guo Shiqiang, could not get done in 2009.

Was Donewald’s China journey always a smooth ride? Hardly. But at the end of everything, Donewald can go out with a title that nobody in China can take away from him: A winner. We’ll see in 10 years if we can call him a pioneer, too.

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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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CBA off-season carousel in full swing

March 14, 2012

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As the the playoffs rage on come to a grinding halt (thanks, Shanxi), and as we’re back on the blogging trail, now seems as good a time as ever to update everyone on the coaching and front office changes that are going on around the league.

Jim Cleamons not coming back to Guangsha; Wang Fei set to return?

Jim Cleamons, like a lot of foreign coaches over the years who were originally promised long-term stays with their Chinese squads, won’t be back for a second season in Guangsha. Initially brought in to install a program that would promote long-term development, Cleamons was a big reason why Guangsha was able to land Wilson Chandler during the NBA lockout. With his Bulls/Lakers triangle-offense import working well along with his NBA import, the Lions got off to a great 13-4 start that had some people thinking that they were a legit threat to Guangdong.

But once the lockout ended and it became apparent that he had a huge contract waiting for him in the States, Chandler turned on the cruise control, Cleamons turned off the triangle, and Guangsha sputtered to a 2-9 record over their next 11. They eventually made the playoffs, but in order to get back before the March 1st offer-sheet deadline, Chandler left back to the U.S. and Cleamons was left with Rodney White to face Beijing. As most (but not all) would guess, Guangsha was swept out of the playoffs.

With Cleamons out, the team is reportedly considering bringing back former China National Team head coach, Wang Fei, who was in Guangsha from 2007-11. Nothing official has been announced at this time, however.

Liaoning get rejected by Jiang Xingquan, hire Wu Qinglong

It is the official opinion of NiuBBall that Liaoning should be better than they are. Like, way better. After Guangdong’s roster of National Team stars, Liaoning  has the best domestic lineup of players. With Guo Ailun, Zhang Qingpeng, Yang Ming, Han Dejun and Li Xiaoxu among others all healthy this season, there was simply no good reason as to why the Jaguars weren’t in the post-season.

And it’s an opinion that Liaoning management apparently agrees with. They fired Guo Shiqiang midway through the season and after his replacement, Li Ge couldn’t guide them to a better record, they’ve decided they’re done with him too. According to QQ Sports, Liaoning at first had decided to find a foreign coach, but with the National Games coming up in 2013 – a competition that foreigners are not allowed to participate — management felt going with a Chinese coach was the better decision.

Atop their list was Jiang Xingquan, who is from the province and coached Liaoning in 1970 and from 1976-90. Jiang’s homecoming in the twilight of his career seemed like a storybook ending to the most impressive resume in Chinese basketball history, until Liaoning’s master plan hit a snag: Jiang wasn’t down. Jiang has a good deal in Xinjiang and at 72 years-old, he’s not willing to go through the day-to-day grind of head coach.

So in comes Wu Qinglong, who coached at Liaoning from 1997-2001, where he lead the team to two appearances in the CBA Finals in four years. In the years after, he served as head coach in Yunnan, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Fujian among other teams before landing back with Liaoning as their youth coach, and with the China Youth National Teams. Last year, he coached the Chinese U-16 Team (lead by none other than Zhou Qito a gold medal at the FIBA Asia U-16 Championship.

Xinjiang signs Cui Wanjun to five-year deal, Jiang Xingquan to step down (again)

If his re-appointment as head coach just 11 games into the Bob Donewald era was shocking, this is the exact opposite: Jiang Xingquan, after telling Liaoning no thank you, won’t be in his big chair on the Xinjiang bench next season. The Xinmin Evening News is citing an anonymous source who says that Xinjiang has officially signed Cui Wanjun to a five-year deal. The 72 year-old Jiang will go back to his original position as advisor, a role that he agreed upon shortly after the team hired Donewald last summer.

Cui is actually a pretty interesting story. Hardcore Memphis Tigers fans will remember him as the Chinese guy who was with John Calipari and the rest of the Tiger coaching staff for the entire 2007-08 season in Memphis. As an intern, Cui followed Coach Cal and the team so he could learn their practice structure, up-tempo offense, strength and conditioning methods,and overall team management. After the season in June, he received a Final Four ring from Calipari when he and a group of players from Conference USA came to China for a set of exhibition games and coaching clinics.

Careful NiuBBall readers will recognize Cui as the former head coach of the NBL’s Jiangsu Tongxi, who in addition to winning a championship last year, also helped polish the game of NiuBBall.com Rookie of the Year, Zhu Yanxi. I’ve never seen Tongxi play, but they apparently liked to play fast; not surprising given Cui’s connection with Calipari.

Wang Min the latest head to roll at Jiangsu

Joining Liaoning and Bayi on the list of traditional CBA powers not to make the playoffs this season, Jiangsu is busy cleaning house as they try to recover from a dead last place 9-23 season. Longtime head coach, Xu Qiang, was the first to be axed before his replacement, Hu Weidong, was told not to come back after the season. Not content with just clearing out the bench, Dragons general manager, Wang Min, is also stepping down.

After finishing in fourth place last year after Antoine Wright saved their season from Ricky Davis, one would have hoped that Jiangsu had learned how to pick good imports this season. Instead, they signed Dan Gadzuric and Mardy Collins, both of whom didn’t last more than eight games. Gadzuric was replaced by 2010-11 NiuBBall.com First Teamer, Jackson Vroman, who CBA teams should have never let get away in the first place; Collins was replaced by Marcus Williams (the UCONN one), who may have been the worst import in league history.

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