Tag Archives: Zhai Xiaochuan

East Asia Basketball Championship: More proof that something is seriously wrong with Chinese basketball

May 28, 2013

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The East Asia Basketball Championship in Incheon, Korea concluded last Tuesday mostly as expected. As the qualifying tournament for the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, all the big boys from the region clinched their ticket to the Philippines, including China, Korea, Japan and Chinese Taipei, as well as not-so-big-boy Hong Kong. (And congrats to HK, who will be making their first trip to the Championship since 2007.)

One thing didn’t go quite as expected, however: China didn’t win gold.

It’s old news by now, but for those who don’t know, the heavily favored Chinese went down to South Korea 79-68 in the gold medal match. Even though it was a battle between China’s Olympic Team (a fancy name for their U-23 team) and a hodgepodge of Korea’s military team and some college players, the win was marked as the Korean’s first ever triumph at the EABC and their first win over China in a major international competition since 2002.

Now let’s get things totally straight. For the Chinese, this is not a complete disaster. Even though it kind of is.

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Panagiotis Giannakis hired as head coach of Chinese National Team; initial 24-man roster released

April 28, 2013

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In a country where the dragon holds significant cultural importance, perhaps its fitting that one will be the next head coach of the national team.

Ending a long search, the CBA announced the appointment of Panagiotis Giannakis as head coach of the Chinese men’s national team. Nicknamed “The Dragon” for his long reign of dominance over European and international basketball, the 56 year-old will become the fourth foreign head coach in Chinese basketball history.

According to reports, the contract is a four-year agreement that will take Giannakis all the way through the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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Zhai Xiaochuan goes Boomshakalaka at National Games preliminaries

April 23, 2013

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Darryl Dawkins, Shaquille O’Neal, Robert Traylor… Zhai Xiaochuan.

All have two things in common: They’ve all played professional basketball, and they’ve all gone boomshakalaka on a backboard.

Last night during pre-game lay-up lines at the 2013 National Games preliminaries in Chongqing, Sichuan province, Zhai, representing Beijing, went up for a dunk and did that. The game, which featured the capital city against Shandong, both of whom entered the night with a perfect 3-0 record, was postponed for about 20 minutes as stadium workers replaced the backboard.

Unfortunately for Beijing, the shattered glass was the high point of the evening. Shandong won 67-64 to go to the top of the group. Zhai finished with nine points, all on three-pointers.

We’re not hating on Zhai by any means — with the Ducks, he plays his butt off and guards usually guards the opposing team’s foreign perimeter player — but he’s not exactly known as a power dunker, which means we’re a little skeptical over the quality of both the rim and the glass itself. And if you don’t know boomshakalakawe’re not hating on you either; it just means that you didn’t play NBA Jam, which is unacceptable to a certain degree.

Yet, even more surprising than Zhai’s destructiveness? How about the fact that they actually had a backup backboard?

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2013 CBA All-Star Weekend Recap

February 25, 2013

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

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

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2013 China National Team stock watch

January 21, 2013

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It’s never to early to talk National Team. And given that there’s only eight more rounds in the 2012-13 Chinese Basketball Association regular season, followed by the playoffs, its really not that early anymore.

Which is why we figured we’d offer up a quick report on who is rising, who has been staying steady, and who is falling on most important Chinese basketball index there is: this summer’s China National Team.

It’s going to be a busy and important summer for the boys in red: They’ll ultimately be playing in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, which will be played in in Manila from August 1-11 and will serve as the qualifying tournament for the 2015 FIBA World Cup, where they’ll be aiming to repeat their gold medal from 2011. But before they can do that, they’ll first have to qualify out of East Asia; a task which won’t be any problem.

What type of roster the team goes forward with, however, is somewhat of a problem. Do they keep the same aging core that failed to win a game in London? Do they attempt to introduce some new blood at the risk of losing out in Asia? Or do they totally hit the reset button and go forward with a new era in Chinese hoops?

Since failure in Asia is unacceptable, don’t bank on the latter. But with so many players increasing in age, its highly probable that we’ll see some new faces this summer.

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Five things to take away from last night’s CBA opener

November 25, 2012

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One of many flops from last night’s Beijing-Shanghai CBA regular season opener.

The lights went out, bad music was sung, championship rings were passed out and with that, the 2012-13 Chinese Basketball Association regular season finally got underway with a result that happened frequently last year: A Beijing win.

Playing in their first game since winning the title last year, the Ducks avoided a ring ceremony hangover by running over the visiting Shanghai Sharks, 94-78. Randolph Morris lead the Ducks with 23 points, Ji Zhe had 19 and Stephon Marbury ran the offensive very effectively for 16 points and eight assists.

D.J. White lead all scorers with 24 points and also grabbed 17 rebounds.

In a game rife with storylines, the most hyped-up being the Gilbert Arenas-Marbury individual matchup, the game’s luster was decreased dramatically when Arenas left the game midway through the first quarter with a groin pull. He did not return for the rest of the game and the Sharks were thus forced to play agains the defending champs with one import player.

Yet despite that relative disappointment, we’re keeping it positive in here and giving everybody five observations we took note of while we took in the game last night inside Shougang Gymnasium.

Box Score

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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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Yang Ming, Zhu Yanxi cut from National Team roster

May 23, 2012

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Yang Ming and Zhu Yanxi have been cut from the National Team roster. (Photo: Sina)

True to their word, Bob Donewald and the Chinese Basketball Association have announced two cuts on the heels of the first three exhibition games of the Chinese National Team’s summer London warm-up schedule: Yang Ming and Zhu Yanxi.

They are the fourth and fifth players to be released from National Team duty this year. They join Xirelijiang, Duan Jiangpeng and Li Xiaoxu, all of whom were casualties from the team’s first round of cuts on May 8th.

Whereas Donewald’s cut downs earlier this month were met with a relatively high degree of controversy inside China, the decision to release Yang and Zhu will give critics little to complain about. Yang, a point guard who plays for Liaoning Hengye, was in serious contention to land a spot on the team as a back-up to longtime National Team point guard, Liu Wei. Hailed by some as the best Chinese point guard in the CBA this past season, Yang averaged  12.2 points and 6.5 assists for the Jaguars.

But Yang had been battling injury throughout training camp and did not play in any of Team China’s three exhibition games in Qingdao against an American All-Star team last week. Already behind the curve with the injury reportedly serious enough to keep him out for a further period of time, the decision to release Yang was a relatively easy as Donewald looks to clear up the team’s biggest position battle. The fact that Yang has never represented China on the senior level internationally also contributed to his dismissal.

Zhu, a power forward who played his first season for CBA champion Beijing Shougang last year, was never considered to have a realistic shot at London this summer. Known as a knockdown stretch-four shooter, Zhu failed to score a single point in any of the three games, going a combined 0-7 from the field in 15 total minutes.

China went 2-1 against the Americans, winning the first two games before losing the finale on May 20th.

The current roster stands at 17 players. The remaining players are as follows:

Center: Yi Jianlian, Han Dejun, Zhang Zhaoxu, Wang Zhelin, Wang Zhizhi, Su Wei

Forward: Yi Li, Sun Yue, Zhu Fangyu, Zhou Peng, Ding Jinhui, Zhai Xiaochuan, Zhang Bo

Guard: Guo Ailun, Wang Shipeng, Chen Jianghua, Liu Wei

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Change in plans: Donewald cuts three from Olympic roster

May 8, 2012

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Together for over a month, Bob Donewald Jr. has seen enough to know which players he can do without this August in London. So much in fact, that he doesn’t even need to watch them play a single warm-up game.

In a surprise move, Donewald announced three cuts from the National Team team today: Guards Xirelijiang and Duan Jiangpeng, and forward Li Xiaoxu.

At present, 19 players remain on the roster.

Originally, Donewald planned to make his first cuts after Team China’s set of three exhibition games against a United States All-Star team in mid-May. But talking to media today, Donewald said that it had become clear in recent practices which players were having trouble keeping up with the increased intensity and that a change in plan was needed.

The one player who’s dismissal comes as somewhat unexpected is Xirelijiang. The 6’0 guard from Xinjiang played under Donewald in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship and was expected to battle for a spot backing up long-time National Team stalwart, Liu Wei. Though far from a lock to make the final 12-man roster, many thought he’d last into the summer.

Instead, he won’t even last until China plays its first warm-up game. According to quotes from Donewald (translated by Chinese media into Chinese), Xirelijiang lacks the requisite point guard skills to be effective at the one, and is too short to play at the two. In the eyes of Donewald, those deficiencies were enough to overshadow his on-ball defense, which ranks among the best in China.

In three years with Team China, Donewald has overseen a 9th 16th place finish in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, a gold medal in the 2010 Asia Games and a gold medal at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, which automatically qualified China for the 2012 London Olympics.

In 38 games for Xinjiang this year, Xirelijiang averaged 33.7 minutes, 11.5 points, 2.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game on 39% shooting.

The remaining 19 players are as follows:

Centers:

Wang Zhizhi (Bayi), Yi Jianlian (Dallas Mavericks), Zhang Zhaoxu (Shanghai), Su Wei (Guangdong), Han Dejun (Liaoning), Wang Zhelin (Fujian)

Forwards:

Zhou Peng (Guangdong), Yi Li (Jiangsu), Zhang Bo (Bayi), Zhu Fangyu (Guangdong), Ding Jinhui (Zhejiang), Zhu Yanxi (Beijing), Zhai Xiaochuan (Beijing)

Guards:

Liu Wei (Shanghai), Wang Shipeng (Guangdong), Chen Jianghua (Guangdong), Sun Yue (Beijing Aoshen), Guo Ailun (Liaoning), Yang Ming (Liaoning)

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Assessing China’s Olympic roster

May 8, 2012

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Confident, versatile and aggressive, Yi Jianlian is the unquestioned centerpiece of the post-Yao Ming Team China. (Photo: Xinhua)

Two.

That’s the amount of years its been since Team China improbably got out of the group stages in Turkey at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, thanks to, of all things, a last second three-point fling from Puerto Rico’s David Huertas against Cote d’Voire.

As China fans know, Huertas’ three caused Group C’s last game to end in a 88-79 win for Cote d’Voire, a score that proved to be significant for two reasons: First, it kept Puerto Rico from getting their second win of the group stage, which would have surpassed one-win China and qualified themselves for the knockout round. But second — and most memorable of all — the scoreline gave China the tie-break on point differential they needed to get past Cote d’Voire. Before the game, China needed the West Africans to win by less than 12 points, and up 88-76 with only seconds remaining, it looked as if the Chinese weren’t going to get their wish. Until, of course, the Huertas swish with just seconds left on the clock.

Unfortunately for China this summer in the 2012 Olympics in London, Cote d’Voire will not be in attendance and Puerto Rico, though still eligible as part of the 12-team Olympic Qualifiers Tournament, may not be there either. And with only two groups and 12 teams, compared to the four groups and 24 teams in the World Championship, the number two has a much greater — and more challenging — meaning.

It’s the number of wins China will require to get out of their group.

Since the Olympics expanded their basketball tournament to 12 teams in 1984, no team has ever made it out with less wins. And no team ever will; mathematically, its impossible. Which means, even if Puerto Rico does qualify for London at the FIBA World Qualifying Tournament, they’ll need more than just one win for a random buzzer-beating three to help push them through.

The good thing is, they’re very capable of that. China played Greece, Puerto Rico and Russia extremely tough in the group stages two years ago in Turkey. Much of that had to do with American head coach, Bob Donewald Jr., and his emphasis on defense. Now in 2012, China is even better on that end, arguably the best they’ve ever been. Whereas China once relied almost solely on Yao Ming to do everything, China now prides itself on helping the helper and quick rotations from all five guys. The belief is that though China doesn’t have the talent it did before, they can stay in games if they’re able to consistently limit opponents’ points. It’s worked both in Turkey and in Wuhan, and it’s something that Donewald has gotten the entire National Team roster to completely believe in heading into London.

Who that roster will be comprised of, however, isn’t exactly clear at this point. As it stands, 22 players are training with the National Team in Beijing, a number that is much smaller than the 37 players that were put on the roster in April 2011 in preparation for the FIBA Asia Championship. Zero play in Europe and only one, Yi Jianlian, plays in the NBA. Everyone else plays for teams in China.

Sounds like a good excuse to go on a 2,800 word tear. We go over every player’s chance at playing in London.

The Locks:

Sun Yue

Yi Jianlian (PF/C, Dallas Mavericks): Now two years past the Yao Ming era, Yi is the unquestioned centerpiece of Team China and will be depended on as their primary option on offense for London and beyond. He played extremely well in the 2010 FIBA World Championship and in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, where he helped China secure an automatic bid in this summer’s Olympics. He’ll probably have to play even better if China is to achieve their goal of making the quarter-finals.

Sun Yue (G/F, Beijing Aoshen Olympians): If Yi is the most important piece of the current National Team setup, then Sun comes in as the squad’s second most indispensable cog. The 6’8 lefty isn’t really a point guard, but he’s good enough with the ball in his hands to alleviate some of the pressure from Liu Wei and he’s skilled enough to create some offense for himself and others. He’s also becoming more reliable from the three-point line with every passing summer, making him arguably China’s second most dangerous offensive player. The problem with Sun, however, remains the same as it always has: Getting him some good reps against good competition so that he can hit his top gear by August. Wasting away with Beijing Aoshen for yet another season, Sun has been playing against fourth and fifth-rate competition in various invitational tournaments that result in nothing more than easy, meaningless wins. The good news is that Donewald has experience in getting Sun’s game where it needs to be, but we — like many others — only can shake our head as to why one of China’s best players is unable to play in China’s best league.

Wang Zhizhi (C, Bayi Fubang Rockets): Although old and creaky, Wang is China’s most experienced player. And he can still ball, too. The lefty may be past his prime, but at 7’1 with killer footwork and cash-money stroke from three, he’s still somebody that has to be accounted for on the offensive end. His minutes won’t be crazy, but like always, he’ll figure out a way to make his mark on at least one game, which may also double as his last.

Liu Wei (PG, Shanghai Dongfang Sharks): Like Da Zhi, Liu Wei is up there in age, but with nobody else even remotely capable of  taking the reigns at point guard, the longtime Team China vet will be playing a significant role for the third straight Olympics. Like Wang, this could very well be Liu’s last go around for the National Team.

Zhou Peng (SF, Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers): Long, versatile and young, Zhou has developed into China’s best perimeter defender and will be a key guy in August for Donewald. His offense is slowly improving and if he can ever consistently knock down an open jumper, watch out.

Not Locks, But Almost:

Ding Jinhui

Yi Li (F, Jiangsu Nangang Dragons): Even if he was a bit disappointing during the domestic season (then again, who on Jiangsu wasn’t?), he was fantastic for China off the bench during the FIBA Asia Championship, a fact that will be very fresh on Donewald’s mind. Like Zhou Peng, he’s young, long, athletic and can defend multiple positions. He won’t start, but I think he’ll get some very meaningful minutes in London.

Ding Jinhui (PF, Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls): There’s a reason why nobody in the CBA looks forward to playing this guy. “The Bulldog,” as he’s known around National Team parts, is a favorite of Donewald for his unmatched energy, physicality, toughness and intensity. He doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional Chinese four because he’s undersized, but he more than makes up for it with his non-stop motor and a decent spot up jumper. He should and will be on the final roster.

Wang Shipeng (SG, Guangdong): At one time considered a lock in the not so distant past, Wang has slipped due to his notable post-season struggles this year, especially in the Finals. In five games against Beijing, Wang averaged 4.4 points per game and looked like a completely different player than the cold-blooded assassin that tormented Xinjiang in the 2011 en route to a CBA Finals MVP. Is his spot in London at risk? We don’t think so. Though an unapologetic chucker on offense, he’s one of the only guys on the team who can get his own shot off the dribble. He has also shown on a number of occasions that he is unafraid to take and make big shots (just ask Slovenia and Iran). Unless he has a complete meltdown, 2012 will mark his third straight Olympics.

In The Hunt:

Zhang Bo (G/F, Bayi): He doesn’t do anything noticeably really well, but he also doesn’t do anything noticeably really bad either. Donewald likes him because of his versatility and his high IQ off the ball. He can also be a spot ball handler if the need ever arises. Most helpful to his cause is that he’s played on both the 2010 and 2011 editions of the National Team.

Su Wei (C, Guangdong): Beijing fans will be calling on Donewald to huan Su Wei, but in all likeliness he’ll be included in the final 12-man roster. Increasingly inept offensively, Su is part in the Team Setup for one reason: The man is freaking huge and he plays with a mean streak. With Spain and their huge front line placed with China in Group B, Su could be called on to repeatedly smash his chest into one of the Gasol brothers. Unless Donewald goes with the even more massive Han Dejun (and we doubt he will, more on that later), Su is the guy to fill the defensive enforcer role China needs on the interior — assuming Donewald wants a defensive enforcer, that is.

Zhang Zhaoxu (C, Shanghai): Since signing professionally with Shanghai in 2010, “Max” has gotten noticeably better over the last 18 months and its in no small part to Donewald and the patient work he’s put in with the 7’3 center during his time with the Sharks and the National Team. A walking foul machine in the early stages of his professional career, Zhang has improved his defensive footwork and timing, the latter of which has helped him become an effective rebounder and shot blocker. He’s gaining more confidence with his offense as well, flashing a nice turnaround jumper and jump hook, moves that are both on their way to becoming at least somewhat dependable. Zhang will be with the National Team for a long time this summer, but whether he makes the final cut will depend on how Donewald wants to the shape the roster (i.e. small or big) in response to his group’s opponents.

Zhu Fangyu (SF, Guangdong): The CBA’s all-time leading scorer is a beast during the domestic season, but in international competition Zhu’s game doesn’t translate so well. He’s heavy and slow, which makes him a defensive liability and on the other side of the ball he can’t create his own shot. He can, however, shoot the heck out of the ball, which is always a useful skill. And depending on the match-up, he can occasionally go on the block to outmuscle smaller players. With Sun Yue, Zhou Peng, Yi Li and very possibly Wang Shipeng as well, China is pretty set on the wing so it’s tough to say whether Zhu will be there in London.

Guo Ailun

Guo Ailun (PG, Liaoning Hengye Jaguars): Included on the World Championship roster in 2010, Guo was universally considered China’s most promising prospect at the point guardposition and the virtual heir apparent to Liu Wei. Then, he organized a blood letter against his U-23 head coach, Fan Bin and set his development back a year after he was banned from the senior team for a year. Originally left off the initial 19-man roster in March, Guo got on in April. He didn’t go down with the team on their recent trip to Sanya, instead staying in Beijing to work individually with assistant coach, Li Nan. What all of that means is anyone’s guess, but obviously there is definitely more than just basketball in Guo’s summer equation. He still struggles with his decision making and his shot is a mess, but he’s good at getting into the paint off the bounce and is a solid finisher around the basket. Adding to his cause is his enthusiasm for on-ball defense and occasional ability to pressure guards full court depending on the matchup. He’s got the talent, but with his well-known disciplinary issues, his fate for London might be out of his hands.

Yang Ming (PG, Liaoning): Donewald has gone on the record saying that he’ll take two from the Guo Ailun-Xirelijiang-Yang Ming-Chen Jianghua quartet of guards to backup Liu Wei, but which ones? If we had to predict, we’d say Guo should be one of them. Nobody among the four is the sure-handed, sure-headed point guard that China needs, but Guo is probably the closest guy available.Finishing with averages of 6.4 assists and just 1.5 turnovers this year in Liaoning, the 26 year-old Yang is one of the best playmakers in National Team camp and because of that, is also likely the front runner to spell Liu.

Xirelijiang (G, Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers): The Xinjiang born-and-bred guard made his debut on Team China last summer in Wuhan because he is the best defender at the guard position in all of China and one of few domestic players who can effectively guard imports. But will that be enough this time around in London? Though he lead the league this season in awkward-footed three-point makes, he’s still not a knockdown shooter from the outside (37.5% from three) and as one of the few players in the world who prefers to use his right hand when driving left, he is going to struggle mightily against pressure from longer and more athletic defenders. Of the four previously mentioned guards, Xire has the best singular skill of anyone, but at the same time he also probably has the weakest all-around game. A definite guy to follow this summer and someone who is definitely on the selection fence.

The Longshots:

Han Dejun (C, Liaoning): Han is surprisingly light on his feet, surprisingly athletic and surprisingly pretty consistent with his face-up jumper. Not surprisingly, he’s still fat and poorly conditioned, none of which will sit too well with the defensive-minded Donewald. If the selection process was based on skill alone, Han would be the pick. But given his weight problems and his absence from the National Team last year and in 2010, Han is not going to surpass Su Wei or Zhang Zhaoxu, both of whom are guys Donewald knows and trusts.

Zhu Yanxi (PF/C Beijing Shougang Ducks): The 2012 NiuBBall CBA Rookie of the Year, Zhu endeared himself in these parts due to his out-of-nowhere Chongqing-to-Beijing-to-NBL-to-CBA champion story and his Euro-styled game at the center position — even if he did lose serious points for being stretchered into an ambulance for what amounted to be nothing more than bruised ribs, an injury that didn’t even prevent him from missing practice the next day. Although he’s one of our favorite CBA players, we’ll have to wait labeling him as one of our favorite Chinese National Team players until another year as he’s too young and too inexperienced to be called upon for Olympic service.

Li Xiaoxu (PF, Liaoning): Li rebounds and has a decent spot-up jumper, but he’s not going to London unless there are injuries. He didn’t play in the World Championship or Asia Championship, which hurts his cause.

The No Shots:

Wang Zhelin (C, Fujian SBS Sturgeons): He’s going to be dominant in the CBA and he’s going to be a big part of the National Team, but just not this year. For all the hype surrounding the kid, he’s just 18 years-old and has yet to play a single minute professionally. With China gunning for the best result possible in August, there’s no room for developing young guys, so Wang will have no choice but get up super early and watch Big Red on television like everyone else in China.

Zhai Xiaochuan (F, Beijing): Can’t shoot, can’t play in the half court, can’t play in London. If Stephon Marbury was running point for China, he could reprise his role this season for the Ducks running the wings and finishing in transition. By FIBA rule, Steph can’t, so he won’t. He shouldn’t fret too much, though. He’ll get a major look in 2016 when his skills are more refined.

Duan Jiangpeng (SG, Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons): Duan is a specialist who’s speciality — shooting — shouldn’t really be considered that special. Adding to things, he can’t get by anybody off the bounce and he can’t defend. He got cooking a few times this year for Shanxi, but more often than not he disappeared from games. Likely to be among the first cuts in May.

Chen Jianghua (PG, Guangdong): Before we go on further, allow us to say this: Chen should have played more in the Finals against Beijing. He was consistently Guangdong’s best player at the point, and caused problems for Beijing with his ability to set his team’s offense and get good looks for everyone. Instead, Li Chunjiang made it a zero-sum game between Chen and Aaron Brooks, and refused to put the two of them on the floor together for any meaningful period of time. So when Chen gets cut (which he will, he’s been ravaged by injuries over the years and is just not a very good international player with his super slight frame), that’s what we’ll be thinking about.

Prediction: Yi Jianlian, Sun Yue, Wang Zhizhi, Liu Wei, Zhou Peng, Ding Jinhui, Yi Li, Wang Shipeng, Zhang Bo, Su Wei, Yang Ming, Guo Ailun

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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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The looming question of CBA Finals MVP

March 29, 2012

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Ask, and no one would question that Stephon Marbury has been the best player in the Chinese Basketball Association this season. And nobody would question that he’s been the best player in the first four games of the Finals.

But, thanks to two CBA rules, Marbury won’t be officially recognized by the league as such. Forget for a minute that at 3-1, the Finals aren’t over and with Games 6 and 7 both to be played (if necessary) in DongGuan, they are far from over if Beijing doesn’t finish the job tomorrow night at home. No matter who wins this, no foreigners will be officially etched into the CBA history books. Both the regular season and Finals MVP awards are only handed out to Chinese players.

If that seems unfair given Marbury’s mastery over the last four games, sit down, take a deep breath and repeat the three words that often can provide oneself with some closure in these situations: mei ban fa. There’s nothing that can be done to change it for now, and probably forever. For the last 17 years, that’s way the rule has always been.

Which means the chants of “M-V-P!” from the 18,000 strong at MasterCard Center are falling on deaf ears. No matter how much the people want it and no matter how much Marbury deserves it, the player standing on the podium at the end of this series will be Chinese.

“The rules on selecting our Finals MVP award  are all written in this season’s official league handbook,” said a CBA spokesperson earlier today. “They’re not the result of somebody just coming out and specially changing them. If someone has a suggestion, we’ll consider it after the season.”

In the handbook, the rules stipulate that the award can only be handed out to one of the top three Chinese scorers on the winning team. Heading into Game 5, those are Zhai Xiaochuan (11.5 points per game), Lee Hsueh-lin (9.9) and Zhu Yanxi (8.5).

So who wil it be? First, let’s go with who it probably won’t be. Lee Hsueh-lin, who in our eyes has been the most deserving due to his averages of (almost) 10 points, four assists and two iron lungs, likely won’t receive the award for political reasons. Remember: Lee is from Taiwan, a country China doesn’t recognize. And since the CBA is run by the government, I highly doubt Lee will get the trophy over his Chinese teammates.

And if that is indeed the case, that leaves us with either Zhai Xiaochuan or Zhu Yanxi. Zhu missed most of Game 4 with an injury, but has otherwise been pretty solid. Zhai has better numbers, but hasn’t been as consistent — in Games 2 and 3 on the road in DongGuan, he only managed a combined 10 points and three rebounds, and looked out of his element for large parts of both contests.

Obviously, there’s still some games to play so there’s still time for people to separate themselves from each other. With no clear-cut Chinese candidate, its obvious what should happen: They should give it to the guy who deserves it, Marbury. But since the CBA is bent on encouraging/promoting/hyping/propping their own players, we just have to move on and say: Mei ban fa and move onto other things, like why Su Wei is on the bench yawning during Game 4 of the CBA Finals.

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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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Marbury calls Game 5 win “best feeling I’ve ever had playing basketball”

March 19, 2012

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Stephon Marbury was visibly emotional after last night’s Game 5 win against Shanxi. (Photo: Osports)

New York State Mr. Basketball, McDonald’s All-American, NCAA All-American, NBA top four pick, NBA All-Star… say whatever you want about what happened between all of those accomplishments, but there’s no denying hat Stephon Marbury has a very impressive individual basketball resume.

So when he said “this is the best feeling I’ve ever had playing basketball” after last night’s Game 5 win against Shanxi, you have to take notice.

The video and pictures really say it all. Anthony Tao over at Beijing Cream has more post-Game 5 follow-up. He also live-blogged it, for anyone who’s interested.

Here’s some more stuff that we took in from last night’s game:

  • I’ve been to many CBA games over the last two years in many different cities, including the Finals last year in DongGuan between Xinjiang and Guangdong. I have never seen more security, maybe anywhere, than I saw last night. There were at least two policeman sitting in every section and one or two standing to the side of each section with 10 to 15 more standing in each corner. 15 minutes before tip, fans were lined up all the way out to the street waiting in line to go through security. At least four paddywagons were parked outside the north gate. A riot squad was outside the south gate.
  • All of that — and the fact that nobody was allowed to bring in anything throw-able — stopped anyone from having ideas of chucking stuff onto the court. It did not, however, deter anyone from yelling sha bi (stupid cunt) at the top of their lungs at: Marcus Williams, Makan, Zhang Xuewen, the referees and anything Shanxi in general. Several times, the entire stadium could be heard chanting it in unison. Even when standing policeman went over to some of the loudest sections to tell everyone to sit down and calm down, people were still standing, throwing up middle fingers and yelling obscenities.
  • And speaking of Makan, the kid did pretty well for himself considering every breath he took was met with a sha bi from nearby fans. Shanxi went away from Zhang Xuewen and used the rangy guard/forward almost exclusively to guard Marbury. He scored a career high 18 points and never once looked afraid, even when an enraged Charles Gaines was pushing him away after he rushed over to break-up an intense encounter between a referee and his American teammate during the second quarter. On a season-long loan from Xinjiang, he emerged as a key player for Shanxi during the playoffs and is reportedly working to make his move to Taiyuan permanent.
  • Chinese basketball has come a long way. Even in the three years I’ve been closely following it, the overall level of play and the individual play have all improved dramatically. But one thing that still needs work: Finishing lay-ups at the rim. Other than Chen Lei’s ridiculous one-in-a-million backwards flip lay-up, nobody Chinese could consistently make anything close to the rim in traffic. Beijing’s Ji Zhe even missed a wide-open dunk. Why that is, we still haven’t totally figured out. Now of course, all Chinese players don’t suck at finishing under pressure. Zhai Xiaochuan is actually pretty good, as are Liaoning’s Guo Ailun, Xinjiang’s Meng Duo and Jiangsu’s Yi Li. But it is a widespread problem.
  • Despite Stephon Marbury’s request, hardly anyone wore white. Tao, you know Chinese wardrobe too well.
  • Beijing’s offensive spacing is just so much better than Shanxi’s. While Marbury was finding open driving lanes and open passing lanes, Marcus Williams was finding his life to be much more congested in the three-second lane. Granted the Brave Dragons don’t have the shooters to space the floor like their opponents can, but if Boss Wang wants to find something to obsess over this summer, he should start with his team’s half-court offense.
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