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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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Breaking down the CBA playoff picture

January 28, 2012


Zhejiang Chouzhou’s success will depend on whether or not J.R. Smith is still committed to playing at high level in the Chinese Basketball Association (Photo: Osports, via Sina Sports)

Let’s reflect for a moment on what we’re doing here right now. You’re about to read a post about the very complicated, very indistict Chinese Basketball Association playoff picture. That in and of itself is a huge accomplishment. Why? Never, and I mean never has the CBA enjoyed this much parity down the standings, and never have we seen a finish that we’re about to see starting tomorrow: Seven playoff spots up fo grabs with 11 teams in legitimate contention to fill them up.

Starting with Beijing, who at 17-8 currently sits in the No. 2 position, and going all the way down to Jilin, who’s at 11-13 occupying the No. 11 spot, more than half the league will be gunning for the post-season with eight rounds to go. Like I said, that’s just nuts for a league whose final standings can be predicted with stunning accuracy up to six months before the start of the season.

Making things even crazier, everyone pretty much has the same record right now. Only three games in the loss column separate DongGuan (16-9, third place) and Xinjiang (12-12, 10th place), which means that tiebreakers like head-to-head records and head-to-head point differentials will most definitely come into play by the time we hit Round 34. Added to all of the positional jockeying that will be going down in an attempt to avoid Guangdong in the semi-finals, and we should have a highly refreshing, exciting and unpredictable race to the finish.

To help you sort though the madness, NiuBBall is breaking down the post-Spring Festival break schedule while also providing predictions that will likely end up being very wrong.

1. Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers (21-4)
Remaining Games: Jilin, Liaoning, at DongGuan, Fujian, at Xinjiang, at Shanxi, Bayi

After losing to J.R. Smith and Zhejiang on December 30th, the Southern Tigers have reeled off eight straight wins to put some major distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. They’ve already clinched a playoff birth, and barring something as catastrophic as the 2012 Mayan Armageddon, they’ll have the No. 1 seed wrapped up with plenty of games to spare. No prediction needed here.

2. Beijing Shougang Ducks (17-8)
Remaining Games: Jiangsu, Tianjin, at Qingdao, at Shandong, Foshan, Shanghai, at Guangsha

The Ducks ran off 13 straight wins to start the year before proceeding to lose eight of their next 12. Yet despite the midseason slip-up, the Ducks are in excellent shape to hold onto their No. 2 spot. Their next five games, three of which are at home, are all against non-playoff teams. Even better, three of those five teams, Jiangsu, Tianjin and Foshan, have the three of the worst records in the CBA.

The Ducks wil also be boosted by the return of Taiwanese point guard, Lee Huseh-lin, who is practicing for the first time since hurting his lower back on December 9th. Lee is a key player for head coach Min Lulei — Playing off the bench this year with Stephon Marbury dominating the point, Lee is the only other guard who is able to take some of the ball handling duties away from their star import. There’s still no timetable on Lee’s return, but it appears as he’s well on his way back onto the court.

Prediction: 23-9, No. 2 seed

3. DongGuan New Century Leopards (16-9)
Games Remaining
: at Guangsha, Jilin, Liaoning, Guangdong, Fujian, at Xinjiang, at Shanxi

DongGuan goes back to work after their Year of the Dragon vacation with a visit to the notoriously unfriendly confines of Guangsha Hangzhou Stadium, where the visiting team has walked away with a win only three times this year. It’s a huge game because the winner will put themselves in pole position for the much coveted No. 3 spot, which guarantees that a playoffs matchup with Guangdong will come in the Finals.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Leopards afterwards — five of their last seven are against teams with winning records, and the other two, Jilin and Xinjiang, are teams on the cusp of a playoff spot. If DongGuan can lock up a top two position, nobody can say they didn’t earn it. After starting the year 0-4, third place is impressive. But when you consider that they’ve only beaten five teams with winning records this year, a drop in the standings looks to be the most probable outcome.

Prediction: 20-12, No. 4 seed

4. Zhejiang Guangsha Lions (14-10)
Games Remaining
: DongGuan, Fujian, at Xinjiang, at Shanxi, Bayi, Zhejiang, at Jiangsu, Beijing

Considered a potential contender to Guangdong’s throne just three weeks ago, the Lions have dropped six of their last seven, including loses to Foshan, Qingdao and Jilin. Much of that is on the shoulders of Wilson Chandler, who has scored 15.8 points per game over his last four. When Chandler is motivated, there’s not a more versatile player in this league. But the challenge for Guangsha all season has been maintaining a balance between him and the rest of the Chinese squad. Lin Chih-chieh, who put in 15.5 points a game last year, has seen his scoring drop to 11. Jin Lipeng is the only other domestic player to average double figures.

When Guangsha was winning, Chandler was content to let P.J. Ramos and his other teammates share the heavy lifting on offense for the first three quarters before taking over in the fourth. It was a good recipe when Chandler was up to the task. But when he’s coasting and content to throw up jump shots (33 three point attempts over his last five, 14 free-throw attempts over his last four), Guangsha is a highly beatable team.

Unlike most other imports, Chandler, like his inter-province NBA-to-CBAer, J.R. Smith, is heading back to a big payday in the NBA after the season is over. Long-term, this season will not affect anything he does in the NBA as long as he stays healthy. Whether it’s this season or next, Chandler will receive a lucrative multi-year offer from a wing-needy NBA team. That point is something to keep in mind as we close the season — if he’s already decided to play to not get hurt, then Guangsha’s chances at the No. 2 position have taken a big hit. The next few games should be a telling sign as to how dedicated Chandler is to finishing out the CBA season strong.

Guangsha hosts DongGuan tomorrow in the game of Round 26. DongGuan won the first match-up earlier in the year in DongGuan. Guangsha will have to win and win by more than the seven points they were beaten by if they’re to hold the tiebreaker against their opponents — something that will come in handy in sidestepping Guangdong in the semis if the two squads finish with the same record at the end of the year. Behind a rejuvenated Chandler playing at home, Guangsha gets a double-digit win and a leg up on the third seed.

Prediction: 20-12, No. 3 seed

5. Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons (14-10)
Games Remaining
: at Shandong, Foshan, Shanghai, Guangsha, at Jilin, at Liaoning, Guangdong, DongGuan

The good news for Shanxi: They’re four games over .500 and are in good position to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The bad news: It’s the Year of the Dragon, which means its the Brave Dragons ben ming nian, their Zodiac year, a year that is associated with very bad luck.

Wearing red underwear (or red Under Armour, if you’re a ball player) is one way, according to Chinese tradition, to help off-set the inauspiciousness of your Zodiac year. But for the Brave Dragons, taking care of business right away tomorrow night at Shandong would be the best way. Because after a game against Foshan at home, the schedule toughens up big time. Shanxi’s five of their last six are against teams they lost to earlier in the year. A trip to Liaoning before a home match-up against Guangdong is their most dangerous stretch, because it sets up an all important final game of the year against DongGuan. A three-game losing streak to cap off the year would not be a good way to go about securing that playoff spot.

One guy Shanxi will be counting on to avoid that fate: Marcus Williams. As a trusted CBA confidant dutifully reminded me this week, Williams needs to be included in any NiuBBall MVP talk from now on. Truth is though, he’s been on the short list for a while. 30.5 points, 4.5 rebounds 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals on a 14-10 squad is more than enough to earn that right, even despite the fact that he is most definitely not shooting 69.4% from three. Or 82.4% for that matter. They’ll need him, along with Charles Gaines, to come up with some big performances if the squad is to ward off the dreaded Chinese ben ming nian, and the clump of teams behind them.

Prediction: 18-14, No. 5 seed

6. Liaoning Hengye Jaguars (14-11)
Games Remaining
: at Guangdong, at DongGuan, at Fujian, Xinjiang, Shanxi, at Bayi, at Zhejiang

Liaoning is a team that should be way better than they are. Perhaps other than Guangdong, the Jaguars have the most talented group of Chinese players in the league. Li Xiaoxu, Guo Ailun, Zhang Qingpeng and Yang Ming have all played for the Chinese National Team, while center Han Dejun received an invite to camp last spring. Sensing that there was more to be had from this team, management went ahead and fired favorite son, Guo Shiqiang, from his position as head coach shortly before Christmas. Under the leadership of Li Ge, who was promoted from assistant, Liaoning has gone 7-4 to climb their way into sixth place.

The entire team has been playing better, but it’s been Han whose seen the most improvement. He’s put up 14.5 points and 8.6 boards on 61% shooting under Li, including a 30-20 game that saw him shoot 12-12 from the field and 6-8 from the free-throw line. With Josh Powell struggling so much that the team was seriously considering making a switch, Han’s emergence has been a key development in Northeast China.

Unfortunately however, the way their late season schedule has developed is not a good sign for their playoff hopes. With only two road wins all year, Liaoning is faced with the worrisome predicament of playing five of their last seven away from home. Right away, they’ll head on the road for the annual Southeast China triangle-of-death trip that will see them play Guangdong, DongGuan and Fujian before coming home for two tough ones against Xinjiang and Shanxi. Bayi at home looks to be the only slam dunk of their remaining schedule, which means that in order for them to keep their grasp on a playoff spot, they’ll have to take care of some business on the road. And that’s unlikely to happen.

Prediction: 16-16, out of the playoffs

7. Fujian SBS Sturgeons (14-11)
Games Remaining
: at Shanghai, at Guangsha, Jilin, Liaoning, at Guangdong, at DongGuan, at Xinjiang

Five on seven on the road screams “out of the playoffs,” but let’s break this down for a second: Jilin and Liaoning have won a combined three road games all year; there’s a good chance they win against both teams. A huge game hangs in the balance tomorrow night at Shanghai, a team who like themselves cannot afford any slip-ups at home this late in the season. Something tells us that in his Shanghai return, Zaid Abbas, has something for his old squad. Another road win, in combination with two wins at home, would put Fujian at 18-14, and as Abbas’ third playoff team in as many years, joining Shanghai and Beijing.

Prediction: 18-14, No. 6 seed

8. Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls (13-11)
Games Remaining
: at Tianjin, Qingdao, Shandong, at Foshan, at Shanghai, at Guangsha, Jilin, Liaoning

Even if J.R. Smith has lost his love for the game, it still doesn’t hide the fact that Zhejiang’s remaining schedule is cupcake soft. Even if the Golden Bulls survive a random explosion by Qingdao’s Lester Hudson, not a given by the way, they’ve got three other games against some of the league’s worst teams, Tianjin, Foshan and Shandong. The Golden Bulls will get their haul of wins over the next eight games.

How many they get beyond the games that they should win (at Shanghai, at Guangsha) will depend solely on that guy J.R. The entire league has been mesmerized by his entertainment on the court as well as off the court. So have his teammates, who have reverted to their early season ways of standing around on offense to watch the show. In his last two games, losses to Xinjiang and Beijing, J.R. has racked up a mere one assist. When J.R. is passing, this is a tough team to beat because it’s hard to keep him out of the paint. But like with Wilson, J.R. may have already put his mind and his full basketball repertoire back in the U.S. to prepare for his NBA return in March. That story line, at least to me, remains as the most interesting backdrop to this mad rush to the post-season.

Prediction: 18-14, No. 8 seed

9. Shanghai Dongfang Sharks (13-11)
Games Remaining: Fujian, at Xinjiang, at Shanxi, Bayi, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, at Beijing, at Tianjin 

No team other than Xinjiang was devastated as much by injury this year than Shanghai. He never put up insane scoring numbers, but the all-around consistency and offensive awareness of Ryan Forehan-Kelly, to us, was the main reason why Shanghai bucked a NiuBBall bottom four pre-season prognostication. With his familiarity of Dan Pannagio’s triangle offense, Forehan-Kelly fit seamlessly into the Sharks new offense. Marcus Landry, a capable player, has done solid in replacement, but isn’t an ideal fit for the triangle because of his inconsistent stroke from the outside.

The loss of RFK, plus more road games than they have home and I don’t see this team going anywhere over 4-4 over their last eight, which puts them out of the playoff picture.

Prediction: 17-15, out of the playoffs

10. Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers (12-12)
Remaining Games
: Foshan, Shanghai, Guangsha, at Liaoning, at Jilin, DongGuan, Guangdong, Fujian

I mentioned DongGuan only has five wins against teams with winning records, so therefore I have to bring up the humiliating fact that the Flying Tigers, runners-up the last three years, have beaten a mere three teams with over-.500 records. Oh, and that they’ve only won three road games all year. I guess that’s what US $10 mil buys you in Urumqi.

But no matter how disastrous this season has been, Xinjiang finds itself in good position to get into the playoffs. Their six home games to close the year is the most of out of any team in the league and with a home record of 9-1, they’ve got a chance to start piling up some wins. A loss against Guangdong in Round 31 is likely, so at least a split on their Liaoning-Jilin road trip will be needed if they’re to get into the No. 6 spot — another piece of prime real estate in the standings because it avoids Guangdong until the finals.

If Gani Lawal and Tim Pickett keep putting up the numbers and they can some sort of production from either Mengke Bateer or Tang Zhengdong, Xinjiang will find themselves in the post-season. The fact that I even have to write that, however, underlines what a miserable season it’s been for a team that thought of themselves as championship material.

Prediction:  18-14, No. 7 seed

11. Jilin GBT Northeast Tigers (11-13)
Games Remaining
: at Guangdong, at DongGuan, at Fujian, Xinjiang, Shanxi, at Zhejiang, at Jiangsu

How does an 0-3 start to the New Year sound? Sounds a lot like racking up mahjong tiles, which will be exactly what the Northeast Tigers, the Chinese ones at least, will be doing when they’re sitting at their houses in early March.

Prediction: 12-18, out of the playoffs


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CBA Round 25 Recap

January 17, 2012


DongGuan – 101 @ Foshan – 99

The Leopards stayed in second place thanks to 40 points from Josh Akognon, 23 from Shavlik Randolph… and a translating error from Foshan.

With the shot clock off in the fourth quarter, the Dralions saw themselves down two with the ball. Foshan head coach, Jay Humphries Shi Liping, called a time-out to draw up a a last second play. The Dralions came out of the huddle and went pick-and-roll for Michael Maadanly, a play which resulted in a miss and ultimately the loss. But after the game, Humphries Shi told reporters that his team wasn’t supposed to run pick-and-roll — instead, Maadanly was supposed to pass to Marcus Haislip for the game winning shot — and blamed the miscommunication on the team’s translator.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangsha – 92 @ Liaoning – 106

How do you follow up a season low 12 point performance on Friday night? If you’re Wilson Chandler, you kick up a notch with an eight point Sunday night on 3-12 shooting. The loss is Guangsha’s fourth in a row, a particularly head scratching development after the team had beaten every contending team but Guangdong over the first half of the season.

Rodney Carney had 29 for the winners, who were also helped by 18 points from han Dejun, 15 from Zhang Qingpeng, and 11 each from Liu Shunan, Yang Ming and Li Xiaoxu. Liaoning are now streaking to the tune of three games in a row. Liaoning’s 12-2 home record means that if they can get into the top four, they’ll have a very sizable advantage over their first round opponent.

Jon Pastuszek

Bayi – 98 @ Beijing – 112

Calling a win against Bayi a “bounce back win” is pretty redundant when almost every team in the league has bounced them around this year, but Beijing did get a much needed victory to keep the pressure on DongGuan in second place.

Randolph Morris lead all Duck scorers with 27, rookie Zhu Yanxi hit for 25, and Stephon Marbury ran wild with 24 points and 10 assists on only one turnover. Perhaps in a move aimed to save their best guns for another day, Bayi head coach Adijiang rotated 11 players, choosing to rest key starters Zhang Bo and Han Shuo for their upcoming game on Wednesday against 16th place Tianjin. In 26 minutes, Wang Zhizhi scored 27 and grabbed nine boards.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangdong – 101 @ Shanghai – 85

Despite the noise from packed Yuanshen Gymnasium and a frisky first-half performance, the Shanghai Sharks couldn’t pull off an upset victory against the Guangdong Tigers. With Mike Harris out of the line up due to family reasons, the Sharks needed maximum focus from their remaining squad but after a solid start, but Shanghai condemned themselves to another defeat after a poor third quarter allowed the Tigers take control before going on to win by the resounding margin of 101-85.

By the start of the fourth quarter, the one-two punch of Zhu Fangyu and James Singleton had opened up a twenty point lead. The Sharks were fighting to keep their heads above the water and Guangdong’s 80-60 lead underlined the Tigers’ dominance. A furious Shanghai rally at the start of the quarter, led by Liu Wei’s 10 point flurry only served to enrage the champions further, and Singleton went on a mini-scoring spree of his own to punish the Sharks for their obstinacy. The former Clippers/Mavericks/Wizards forward had no qualms with baiting the crowd and at one point gestured to the Yuanshen to keep on booing him after perfectly sinking a brace of free-throws, neatly reflecting both the ruthlessness and swagger of the champions’ performance.

The final buzzer rang shortly afterwards and sparred the Sharks any further embarrassment considering that the scoreboard was already at 101-85 to Guangdong. For the Tigers, Singleton earned himself a double-double (27 points, 10 rebounds), as did Zhou Peng (16 points, 10 rebounds) whilst Zhu (21) and Aaron Brooks (17) made it into double figures from the floor. Marcus Landry made 23, Liu got 19 and Tseng Wen-ting picked up 15 but once again, Shanghai were kicking themselves after another bad third quarter and the Sharks’ losing streak now stands at three-in-a-row.

–Andrew Crawford

Xinjiang – 97 @ Qingdao – 115

Xinjiang’s miserable season continued with a miserable loss on the road to Qingdao, pushing their miserable road record to 3-10. Lester Hudson contributed the most to the Flying Tigers’ sorry performance on both ends of the court by baptizing their entire backcourt with nine splashes from downtown en route to 41 points overall. Playing against his former team, Xue Yuyang also got into the act by netting 20 points, 12 of which came from behind the arc.

The Flying Tigers have been simply atrocious on defense recently, giving up 100 or more points in four of their last five games. Forget championship, now officially out of a playoff position at 11-11, they’ll need to fix things up on that side of the ball if they even want to make the playoffs in March.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Tianjin – 102 @ Shanxi – 119

Box Score

Shandong – 95 @ Fujian – 116

Box Score

Jiangsu – 93 @ Zhejiang – 116

Box Score


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CBA Round 24 Recap

January 15, 2012


Beijing – 111 @ Shanxi – 114

Stephon Marbury’s return to his Chinese “hometown” of Taiyuan was spoiled by an unusually balanced effort from the Brave Dragons, who had five players score in double figures. Charles Gaines paced the home squad with 28 points and 14 rebounds, while Marcus Williams and Lu Xiaoming each pitched in with 19 points and five assists.

Marbury, who played his first season with Shanxi two seasons ago, scored 22 points and handed out six assists. But a slow start that saw the Ducks down 14 at the half ultimately doomed them as they failed to come back despite a strong third quarter. Randolph Morris lead the way for Beijing, scoring 32, most of which came at the free-throw line, and grabbing 11 rebounds. Chen Lei, who is nursing an injury from earlier this month, only played four minutes.

The loss is Beijing’s eighth in the last 10 games.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangdong – 133 @ Foshan – 124

While Guangsha and Beijing slip down the standings after strong starts to the season, Guangdong continues to play itself into form after winning its fourth straight game at the hands of inter-province rival, Foshan. The visiting Souther Tigers shot a blistering 46-80 from the field as six players scored 10 or more points. Aaron Brooks had a team high 31 points.

Foshan’s Michael Maddanly put in a CBA career high 42 and Marcus Douthit scored 30. With the win, Guangdong goes to 19-4 on the year and now holds a comfortable four game lead over second place DongGuan.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score


Shanghai – 84 @ Liaoning – 93

The Shanghai Sharks gave up their first sweep of the season. Having lost at home to the Liaoning Jaguars in December, they got the same treatment when they played the reverse tie in Benxi. Like the last time the Sharks encountered their hosts, the Jaguars were slick, ruthless and more than willing to pass the ball around as Shanghai tried but failed to keep up with the home side’s offence. The 93-84 loss means that the Sharks road record now stands at 3-9.

The Sharks went in at half-time in the lead thanks to a strong showing by Marcus Landry in the first quarter but after that, the deafening Tiexi crowd helped pull the Jaguars out of their funk and when Josh Powell appeared from the bench, things started to click for the home side in the third quarter. Shanghai stuck with it and kept on fighting until the final buzzer but the Liaoning offence simply too much to contain for the visiting Sharks team.

Zhang Qingpeng scored 20 points while Powell grabbed a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds. For the Sharks, Mike Harris made 30 points, Landry picked up 21 and Zhang Zhaoxu scrapped his way to 11.

Andrew Crawford

Box Score

Tianjin – 112 @ Xinjiang – 134

Tim Pickett exploded for 36 points in the first half to finish with 55 points and 12 rebounds in an entertaining affair in Urumqi that ended with a much needed win for the Flying Tigers. Picket’s double-nickel is the second highest single-game tally of the season, two points behind J.R. Smith’s 57. The home win ended a three game losing streak for Xinjiang and puts them at 11-10 on the year.

With Tianjin’s Lebanese point guard, Rony Fahed, out for the year with a broken hand, it was up to Tianjin’s domestic players to guard Pickett. They failed miserably as Pickett came in midway through the first quarter with an aggressive mindset that saw him on constant attack. He missed only two shots the entire first half and through Pickett, Xinjiang built up a big halftime lead. It’s Xinjiang’s biggest win of the season and by far the most points they’ve put up all year. Gani Lawal played well with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Xirelijiang, who celebrated his birthday with the win, contributed with 16 points on 4-8 from three.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangsha – 74 @ Jilin – 93

Wilson Chandler scored a CBA career low 12 points and Guangsha was held to under 100 points for the fifth straight game in a surprising road loss to sub-.500 Jilin. The loss is the Lions’ third in their last four and puts them back into the multi-team crowd that is clogging up the playoff picture. At present, they are tied in the loss column at eight with Beijing and DongGuan.

Osama Dahglas went for 25 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, Lu Wei scored 20, Jameel Watkins saw double with 19 and 15 boards and Cartier Martin put in 18 points.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Shandong – 89 @ DongGuan – 95

Box Score

Bayi – 94 @ Jiangsu – 112

Box Score

Qingdao – 110 @ Fujian – 104

Box Score


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China’s future at the guard spot is on hold

December 18, 2011


For me, there’s no bigger question mark for the Chinese National Team going forward than the on that’s stamped in bold at the end of “point guard.” For now — just like it’s been for years and years and years — there’s Liu Wei, who will once again carry the load at the position for China at the 2012 London Olympics. But, the soon-to-be 32 year-old is clearly dribbling a basketball on borrowed time and his retirement from the National Team could come right after London.

Which means, for the first time in a while, China has to worry about a successor. Over the last two years, the young duo of Jilin’s Yu Shulong and Liaoning’s Guo Ailun have both played on Team China and have been widely tabbed as the front runners as Liu’s heir apparent. But, apparently northeast China hasn’t gotten the memo yet, because both Guo and Yu have found themselves buried on the bench for most of the domestic season.

For Yu, the situation has to be especially puzzling. The (listed as) 21 year-old point guard has averaged 35 minutes per game over the last two seasons and on paper heading into this year, was expected to remain on the court for around that time, even after Jilin signed Jordanian National Team starting point guard, Osahma Dahglas, as their Asian import this season. Instead though, Dahglas has taken most of Yu’s minutes and Yu has clocked a mere 15 minutes per game. Yu sat on the bench the entire game against DongGuan on Friday night.

When asked for a reason why, head coach Wang Han pointed to the match-ups and an overall preference to Dahglas at the point: “If Yu had played,” said Wang after the game, “and he had guarded Josh [Akognon], we would have been at a disadvantage defensively. Dahglas has a connection with the team, he runs the team well.”

Meanwhile in Liaoning, Guo finds himself in a similar situation. After playing on pretty much every international stage possible, Guo made the final roster in 2010 at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey as a 16 year-old. Because of that, Guo was able to bypass the 18-and-over age limit to play for the Liaoning senior team last season as a 17 year-old, becoming the youngest player in CBA history while simultaneously creating his own special clause. In his rookie year, Guo played in 31 games,  including 12 stars, and played 25 minutes, averaging 10.2 points and 3.1 assists.

This year, Guo was expected to build upon his promising campaign from last season and develop into an even more prominent member of the team’s backcourt rotation. But like Yu, Guo’s minutes have decreased. He’s only getting 17 minutes of run per game and has only hit the court for more than 20 minutes three times.

Some of that may have to do with the return of combo-guard Zhang Qingpeng, who is back with Liaoning after spending last season on loan with Xinjiang. It also might have to do with his involvement in a highly controversial “blood letter” signed to oust China U-19 head coach, Fan Bin, from the team. But at least officially, according to his head coach — and his uncle — Guo Shiqiang, Guo’s increased bench time is directly related to a lack of commitment of the defensive end.

“People are saying that I have no way to control the situation,” said Guo (the coach) on Friday. “Everyone knows our relationship. I’ll use whoever I want, I’m not going to give into selfishness. Our goal is to win games. Whoever is useful to the team will play more. If you don’t play well, then you’re off. Everyone’s the same, Guo is not an exception. Everytime he steps on the court, I’m always telling him to play defense. If you can’t get out there and guard someone, then you’re out of the game.”

Whatever the reasons really are, one thing is for certain: the National Team’s point guard depth chart for the Olympics is being messed with in a big way. Which to me strikes me as ironic, since the CBA’s official logo this season, which can be seen all over stadiums and on the cover of the official handbook, has “London” in both English and Chinese plastered onto it. CBA officials like to talk about the long-term development of its Chinese players and the success of its National Team. They view those two tenets so seriously in fact, that they blocked Kobe Bryant’s temporary NBA-to-China lockout vacation.

But if the two point guards who are being etched as the future of the postion aren’t getting on the court, what does that say about the CBA? And what does that say about the post-Yao, post-Liu Team China?


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CBA Power Rankings: Week 2 (11/30-12/6)

December 8, 2011


*Note that the highly complicated methods that comprise these rankings do not factor in the results of Round 8, which was played on Tuesday and Wednesday night. These are as of Round 7, December 4th.

1. Beijing Shougang Ducks (7-0)

Last week — 1: Last week, perhaps the argument could have been made we were hopping on the Ducks bandwagon a little too soon. And we really stress the word “could,” since they won on the road at four-time defending champion Guangdong. After following that up with home win against three-time runner-up, Xinjiang, their spot at the top is now indisputable. But it’s not by any means permanent — Beijing’s next four games are on the road, including a Friday match-up against J.R. Smith and the 4-1 Golden Bulls.

2. Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers (5-2)

LW – 2: Guangdong, who like Xinjiang, hardly ever loses in the regular season, already has two more ticks in that column than most people thought they would this early in the year. And yet, we are still taking the champs’ word for it, despite issues surrounding Aaron Brooks so far unsuccessful integration into the lineup. Given the Southern Tigers’ winning ways over the years, we think he’ll come around eventually. Until he does though, and until the team stops losing games to Qingdao, Guangdong is riding shotgun to Beijing.

3. Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers (3-2)

LW – 3: The two losses don’t concern us as much as the lack of production Xinjiang has been getting from two of the three expensive Chinese players who transfered in this summer, Tang Zhengdong and Chao Yonggang. Tang, who’s knee is obviously not healthy, is now out with an ankle injury. Chao is averaging three points a game. K-Mart’s near 20-20s and Patty Mills’ offensive explosions are all fine and well, but if Xinjiang is to win a title this year, they need more from their local guys.

4. Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls (4-1)

LW – 9: Winners of four straight, the Golden Bulls find themselves back in the position we originally marked them down in before the season started. A lot of that has to do with J.R. Smith. 52 points (11-15 from three), 22 rebounds and 7 steals against Bayi and 32 the game before against Shanxi has his scoring average up to over 27 a game, good for fourth in the league. That number is bound to go up when J.R. figures out how to get some easier shots for himself (only 40% from two-point range).

5. Zhejiang Guangsha Lions  (4-2)

LW – 4: Peter John Ramos is back and up to his old tricks (20 points and 15.5 rebounds in two games), great news for Guangsha who were getting absolutely zilch from the guy he replaced, Dwyane Jones. A huge game on the road against Guangdong will tell us if Ramos’ return to his old home of Hangzhou makes the newly Wilson Chandler-lead Lions legitimate contenders this year.

6. Bayi Fubang Rockets (3-2)

LW – 10: In our eyes, there’s a big drop off after number five — not necessarily a bad thing when you consider that the CBA has enjoyed Grand Canyon-esque rifts between the have and have-nots since its inception in 1995. And speaking of have and have-nots, the Rockets have won every game at home (3-0). They have not won one game away (0-2). That trend won’t continue along that extreme line, but the Army’s home/away discrepancy, much like last year, will be something to keep an eye on.

7. Liaoning Hengye Jaguars (3-4)

LW – 11: Yeah, you’re in the playoffs, Liaoning, but it’s tough for us to excited about a team that can’t put together back-to-back wins. Since opening up his Sina Weibo account last week, Zhang Qingpeng is averaging 12 points a game. The lesson: opening up a Sina Weibo has only a minimal effect on struggling players. Bummer. The bigger bummer here though is Guo Ailun’s scanty 16 minutes per game average so far.

8. Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons (2-3)

LW – 6: Another team with loads of talent that hasn’t been able to win two games in a row. Despite having three studs, Marcus Williams, Charles Gaines and Duan Jiangpeng, the Brave Dragons are always going to be at somewhat of a loss because supporting players Zhang Xuewen, Shang Ping and Liu Shaoming are inconsistent. The roller coaster ride is going to continue, but we still think their Big Three is good enough to get into the post-season.

9. DongGuan New Century Leopards (3-4)

LW – 17: Shame on us for ever doubting Brian Goorjian. The Leopards’ three-game (and nearly four if they didn’t give one away to Beijing in Round 4) win streak is due in big part to Shavlik Randolph’s 25.5 points and 14.3 rebounds over that stretch, but who are we kidding. It’s obviously due to the fact that the entire team posted up last week’s power rankings, which had them last, on their locker-room bulletin board.

10. Fujian SBS Sturgeons (3-4)

LW – 13: Fujian’s on a two game win streak. They have five guys averaging double figures. Will McDonald is having the most underrated season of any foreigner out here (roughly 26 and 10 a night). They have Zaid Abbas. They have, what we think, is a playoff contending team. Trust us, they’ll be right there.

11. Jilin SBT Northeast Tigers (3-4)

LW – 7: Do Chinese coaches have it in for promising Chinese point-guards? Like his young 2010 FIBA World Championship teammate, Guo Ailun, Yu Shulong is collecting splinters. Since the DongBei Tigers have turned the ball over more than 20 times in their last two games, maybe more Yu would be a good thing.

12. Shanghai Dongfang Sharks (2-4)

LW – 15: Just when it looked like our man Andrew Crawford had an article about a three-game win streak in the books, the Sharks went out and got blown out by Liaoning on Sunday. Anyways, we think the Sharks are onto something. Either that our we’re just super biased. But it’s all starting on the defensive end. Mike Harris is leading the league in rebounds, and the team is holding opponents to a stingy 91 points per game so far.

13. Shandong Kingston Gold Lions (3-4)

LW – 5: In his last 79 minutes, Sun Jie has five points. Yeah, five. Definitely not the norm for a guy who is usually on fire from deep. Sun’s alarming recent lack of offense is directly related to the Gold Lions’ even more alarming 89.7 ppg, last in the league. In seven games, they have yet to crack the 100 point mark once, an unsettling statistic in a league that plays with a high pace.

14. Qingdao Double Star Eagles (2-5)

LW – 14: Congrats on beating Guangdong, but it still doesn’t mean Qingdao is a playoff team. It does mean, however, that Lester Hudson can go the heck off from at any given game. And for that reason alone, Qingdao will win some games. But their Chinese talent remains as one of the league’s worst and until they get their import big-man situation settled (Ivan Johnson was the second American sent home this year for the Eagles), they’re going to remain in tough shape.

15. Jiangsu Nangang Dragons (2-5)

LW – 11: By far the most disappointing team of the season, Jiangsu started at four pre-season, dropped to 11 at the first week and is now at lowly 15. As is always the case, the foreigner was blamed first after Dragons management finally got Mardy Collins on a plane back to the States. Jiangsu started slow last year with Ricky Davis before they brought in Antoine Wright as his replacement; is Marcus Williams (the UCONN one) this year’s savior?


16. Tianjin Ronggang Golden Lions (2-5)

LW – 8: Yeah, remember when we had them at number eight last week? Yeah, well we were really, really off on that.

17. Guangdong Foshan Dralions (2-5)

LW – 15: Gerald Green is out and Marcus Haislip is in. It’s not a bad idea at all — Haislip can definitely play — but we wonder if it’s going to be their last. Marcus Douthit has been putting up decent numbers, yet is he the right fit alongside Haislip? This team needs a guard and fast.


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CBA Round 5 Recap

December 4, 2011

1 Comment

Guangdong – 94 @ Qingdao – 104

Another round, another shock upset. For the second time this year, four-time defending champion Guangdong was blindsided by a heavy underdog. Lester Hudson, who was a big reason why Guangdong won a title last year, exacted his revenge against the team that opted to replace him this year with Aaron Brooks with a 31 point, 7 assist, 7 rebound, 3 steal performance while holding his counterpart to 18 points.

James Singleton paced Guangdong with 26 points on 10-12 from the field.

Why the slow start for Guangdong? They’re dealing with the sudden departure of Yi Jianlian, who is heading back to the States to secure a job with an NBA team. They’re also adjusting to life with Aaron Brooks, who has been with the team for less than two weeks. Brooks will very likely do well here once he adjusts to the physicality, but a smooth integration into the lineup isn’t certain, at least in my opinion. Guangdong’s crop of National Teamers aren’t used to playing alongside a shoot-first point guard — in years past, they’ve played with guards and wing players who are comfortable with being secondary options on offense. Brooks’ volume shooting is something that both he and the Chinese will have to figure out. Given the team’s history of winning, I’d expect them get on the same page in plenty of time for the playoffs.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Beijing – 111 @ Fujian – 79

The Ducks took care of business on the road against the Sturgeons, winning (for once) in non-dramatic fashion to move to 5-0. Randolph Morris lead all scorers with 23 points and also chipped in 9 rebounds. As the norm has become, Beijing was not shy about taking or making shots from long-range, hitting 13-29 from three. Chen Lei, who didn’t shoot one two-point shot the whole game, hit 7 of 11 from there for 21 points. Stephon Marbury had 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.

Zaid Abbas scored 19 and grabbed 13 boards in his first game against the team he helped lead to the playoffs last year.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Zhejiang – 102 @ Shanxi – 99

After a rocky start to the J.R. Smith era, the Golden Bulls are back to their winning ways of last year after they came away with a victory on the road against Shanxi. It’s the team’s third straight win. Smith had a good all-around game with 32 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists and Josh Boone continued to confuse the heck out of everyone who witnessed his offensive limitations in college, the NBA and last year CBA by going 11-14 from the field en route to 26 points.

Shanxi’s Big Three of Charles Gaines, Marcus Williams and Duan Jiangpeng all hit double-figures, but the rest of the team wasn’t able to step up and provide any amount of consistent scoring.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangsha – 75 @ Shanghai – 91

In a big game, live on national television, the Sharks came up with the goods and took care of a somewhat off colour Guangsha outfit in Shanghai, 91-75. The American duo of Ryan Forehan-Kelly and Mike Harris were key to their team’s success, variously making clutch three-pointers, hauling in rebounds and scrambling for loose balls as Shanghai opened up a lead in the second quarter and never looked back. Forehan-Kelly made 30 points whilst Harris picked up a double-double, with 18 points and 16 rebounds.
For Guangsha, Wilson Chandler was an ever present threat, making 25 points before being pulled along with guard Lin Chih-chieh in the fourth quarter as the Lions realised the match was beyond them. The Sharks can look forward to a visit from Jilin Northeast Tigers on Friday and will be lifted by an resolute performance that was even more remarkable considering they had previously lost their last three games.
–Andrew Crawford

Box Score

Jiangsu – 84 @ Xinjiang – 96

Playing for the first time against the team that raised him from youth, Tang Zhengdong scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as Xinjiang overcame a slow start to eventually pull away from visiting Jiangsu. Despite being short both Yi Li and Mardy Collins, who was left home so he could be replaced by Marcus Williams, the Dragons jumped on the home squad early and went into halftime up seven.

But in the second half, the Flying Tigers regrouped and came out with more energy and focus which resulted in a 35-19 advantage in the third quarter. Kenyon Martin had his best game in China thus far, scoring 19 points and snatching 21 rebounds. Patrick Mills had 20 points and Meng Duo had 19.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Shandong – 87 @ Liaoning – 91

At the top of the standings after Round 3, Shandong dropped their second straight game, this time at the hands of Liaoning. Rodney Carney headed the charge with 23 points and Zhang Qingpeng helped with 19.

Though Shandong shot the ball reasonably well and held their opponents to 4-21 from three, they were undone by their astounding 26 turnovers.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Other Games:

Jilin – 103 @ Foshan – 99

Box Score

Tianjin – 79 @ DongGuan – 97

Box Score


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2011-2012 CBA Preview

November 20, 2011


J.R. Smith is just one of many reasons why people are more excited than ever to watch the CBA this season.

Technically, the 2011-12 regular season started tonight. Paced by Othello Hunter’s 11 points and 21 rebounds The visiting Shandong Golden Bulls took out the Foshan Dralions in front of a national audience, 93-79.

Normally, that’d take some of the shine off of fresh off the press 2011-12 CBA preview. Thing is though, this preview is anything but normal.

For your viewing pleasure, we’re not only previewing every single team for the new season, we’re putting in a power rankings, too. Yeah — there’s almost 6,000 English words on Chinese basketball in this beast. We don’t want to toot our own horns or anything, but we think that’s got to be a record.

Read it all at once right now, print it out and take it on the go, or break it all up into easy to manage blocks. And as always, if you have any questions, hit up the comments.

Throughout the season, we’ll be updating the power rankings, probably every Monday.

Note: *Indicates an import who is playing his first season in the CBA.

1. Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers
2010-11 record: 25-7 (2nd place, won CBA Championship)
Head Coach: Li Chunjiang (5th year)
Imports: James Singleton, Aaron Brooks*

Rule number one of NiuBBall Chinese Basketball Association power rankings: The champs are put at the top at the beginning of the year — no matter what other teams with Tigers for mascots have done in the off-season.

So like they would have been for the past four years, Guangdong starts the season in pole position. And that decision isn’t solely based on the fact that their reigning champs. As it stands right now, they’re also a lot more talented than they were last year, primarily thanks to an ongoing labor dispute in America.

No team has benefited more from the NBA lockout than Guangdong, who have bolstered their already championship-caliber roster with not one but two players who played in the League last season.

Both will be very familiar to China. After spending five years in the States, Yi Jianlian, has returned to his hometown squad that raised him from youth. Having clearly emerged as the leader of the post-Yao Team China setup at the FIBA Asia Championship this summer in Wuhan, Yi returns to China playing perhaps the best ball of his career. Unlike other NBA-to-CBA hoopers, Ah Lian has a special out-clause that will allow him a free passage back to America if/when the lockout ends.

Joining him will be another lockout casualty, Aaron Brooks, who according to Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reportedly committed to joining Guangdong cause.

But, wait! There’s more recognizable faces heading to southern China — after helping Guangdong overcome Xinjiang in six games in the Finals, the team says goodbye to both Lester Hudson and Marcus Haislip, and hello to the guy they were game-planning against, James Singleton. A rugged player whose willing to sacrifice his own numbers for wins, Singleton will be a good fit next to Guangdong’s prolific roster. Besides making for good basketball, his move down south also adds an extra element to the Xinjiang-Guangdong rivalry, which in our eyes is the best in CBA history.

You should know the rest of the roster by now: Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Zhou Peng and Su Wei comprise the team’s core of National Teamers that give them the match-up edge against virtually every team in the league.

If there’s any bones to pick against Guangdong this year, its that there may be too much talent. How a low-percentage chucker like Brooks will mesh with China’s laoda, Yi, and the team’s other Chinese players is a question that is on our minds heading into the season. Brooks will have his 40 point games, but as Guangdong has built its championship formula around its Chinese players, is he really what the team needs?

In any case, just mark Guangdong as a lock to be back in the Finals this year. As to who they’ll face, well that’s pretty much a lock, too…

Jon Pastuszek

2. Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers
2010-11 record: 31-1 (1st place, lost in Finals to Guangdong)
Head Coach: Bob Donewald Jr. (3rd year)
Imports: Kenyon Martin*, Quincy Douby**

What do you do if you’re a basketball-infatuated billionaire owner who’s team has lost in the Finals the last three years in a row? You spend close to USD $10 million in the summer to make sure that losing streak doesn’t become four in a row.

How do you spend 10 mil in the Chinese Basketball Association, you ask? You start by bringing in the head coach of the Chinese National Team and noted CBA miracle worker, Bob Donewald Jr.

What could have been: Douby and K-Mart chat during practice pre-Douby wrist-break.

Donewald, who rose to the top of Team China after leading the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks from the depths of bankruptcy to a magical semi-finals run in 2009, will now be aiming to rise to the top of the CBA in Urumqi, where expectations reside somewhere between championship and championship. If you don’t believe that, think about the guy who he replaces, Jiang Xingquan; he only went 31-1 last regular season. Having spent all this money, there is no room for failure now.

If there’s anyone who’s up for the task though, its Donewald, who had to deal with the “win, or else” pressure that was placed upon him this summer in Wuhan, and media firestorm that came with it. The regular season is just a prelude to a Finals match-up against Guangdong, and the team’s result in that series will determine the success of the season.

Coaches need players to coach, though. And good thing for Donewald, Xinjiang added some good ones. Former NBA number one overall pick, Kenyon Martin, was signed in September to the richest contract in franchise history. He may not score 30 a night, but he won’t need to either — unleashing K-Mart inside an arena near you will be more than enough to deter opponents from even venturing into the lane. Simply China has never seen that type of defensive intensity. While J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler will be making headlines for their offensive outbursts, expect Martin to make his mark on the winning end of the court, the defensive side.

Xinjiang also added three domestic players who will play a large role in determining the result of this season. Former three-time MVP, Tang Zhengdong, who’s been wanting to get out Jiangsu since forever, finally got his wish. Though not what he once was when he was with Jiangsu back in the mid-2000s, he’ll be a load for opposing second units to handle when he subs in for current three-time reigning MVP, Mengke Bateer.

Chao Yonggang, a sharp shooting small forward who played with Foshan last year, was also signed for a large transfer fee. The team has big expectations for him: He’s been playing as a starter during pre-season games. China U-23 Olympic Team member, Meng Duo, who has been with DongGuan New Century since his teenage years, has been brought over on a two-year loan. A six-foot guard, Meng is an athletic and capable player who will be relied upon to provide scoring off the bench.

Keep in mind, though: This is a team that lost one game last regular season. There’s still a lot of veteran talent on this team. Bateer is the best Chinese big man in the league and will continue to be a rock inside for the Flying Tigers. Local product, 20 year-old Xirelijiang, spent the entire summer under Donewald with the National Team and looks primed to improve on last year’s promising campaign. The Mai Brothers combo will be short one after Maiwulan went to Foshan via the short-term transfer draft, but Maierdan will be back to smash heads/get called for moving screens under the basket.

There is bad news, though. Xinjiang’s title hopes took a hit when arguably the best import in league history, Quincy Douby, suffered a broken left wrist during a pre-season match last Sunday. Douby has already returned to the States and undergone surgery and it appears that the team is looking at other options to replace him.

Whether they choose to wait it out until he’s healthy or they go with a replacement player right away, Xinjiang will have a healthy and supremely talented import guard at the end of the year to play alongside K-Mart, Bateer and sons. So start getting ready now for Guangdong – Xinjiang, part III.

Jon Pastuszek

3. Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls

2010-11 record: 18-14 (6th place, lost to DongGuan in first round)
Head Coach: Ding Wei (2nd year)
Imports: J.R. Smith*, Josh Boone

Based in the sock capital of the world, Yiwu, the Golden Bulls enjoyed moderate success last season with Marcus Williams and Josh Boone as the focal points of the team. They got off to a slow 2-7 start with Mike James, but finished the year 17-6 once Marcus Williams came over as a replacement. Williams’ dominance ended in the playoffs though, and with it so did Chouzhou’s run as they suffered a disappointing first round playoff sweep at the hands of Jiangsu.

During the off-season, Chouzhou let go of Marcus Williams and made what might be the biggest acquisition in the CBA by signing former Denver Nuggets guard J.R. Smith. If Marcus Williams could average nearly 30 points a game for Chouzhou, the sky is the limit for Smith, who is one of the best pure scorers in the world. He possesses unbelievable range on his beautiful jump shot and has incredible athleticism that allows him to finish above the rim. With the Nuggets, he was relegated to the sixth man role due to the presence of Carmelo Anthony and his head-scratching shot selection. This won’t be the case with Chouzhou, where he will have the green light as the first, second, and third option.

Alongside Smith will be veteran big man Josh Boone, who is be entering his second season with the Cyclones. Boone is an athletic shot blocker who lacks a refined offensive game. He scores most of his points off of put-backs and broken plays. With J.R. Smith commanding so much defensive attention, Boone should enjoy a productive season on the offensive end. Ding Jinhui has been a National Team regular since Donewald took the reigns for his non-stop motor, and he’s one of the better Chinese forwards in the league.  The Golden Bulls’ success rests on the shoulders of Smith and Boone; if they can get their role players involved, the victories should add up.

Edward Bothfeld

4. Jiangsu Nangang Dragons

2010-11 record: 19-12 (4th place, lost to Xinjiang in semi-finals)
Head Coach: Xu Qiang (13th year)
Imports: Dan Gadzuric*, Luther Head*

The Jiangsu Nangang Dragons are coming off another successful season in which they finished with the fourth best regular season record and an appearance in the semi-finals. With three returning starters and two new imports, the Dragons have a good chance of replicating last year’s success.

Jiangsu's Yi Li took a big step forward this summer with his strong performance for the National Team at the FIBA Asia Championship.

Although he may still be fighting jetlag during the home opener, Luther Head is a capable combo guard who might excel in the CBA’s style of play. He is mostly known for his shooting abilities, but if Head can find some success driving to the hoop and keep defenders honest, he could be in for a big season. While Head makes plays on the perimeter, nine-year NBA veteran Dan Gadzuric will be doing dirty work in the paint. Known for his defensive presence and ability to run the floor, Gadzuric is limited on offense, where he has difficulty creating for himself.

Even with the loss of their force in the middle, three-time CBA MVP, Tang Zhengdong, who was sold to Xinjiang, Jiangsu still has the solid core of Chinese players that have made Jiangsu a perennial threat. The spindly Yi Li, who had a strong showing for the National Team as their sixth man at the Asia Championship this summer, will be asked to play a more prominent role now that Tang is gone. Fan favorite Hu Xuefeng will continue to be ageless at the point guard position and Meng Da, though also getting up there in age, should average double figures in scoring once again.

The culture of winning cannot be understated, and NiuBBall believes Jiangsu will be heading back to playoffs for a ninth straight year.

Edward Bothfeld and Jon Pastuszek

5. Zhejiang Guangsha Lions
2010-11 record: 18-14 (6th place, lost to DongGuan in first round)
Head Coach: Jim Cleamons (1st year)
Imports: Wilson Chandler*, Dwyane Jones 

Hangzhou is home to the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions, a usually mediocre team that annually flirts with being among the CBA’s elite. For the past three seasons, the team has revolved around big man P.J. Ramos, otherwise known as “The Puerto Rican King” (at least that’s what the large tattoo on his wrist says). Ramos enjoyed some success with Guangsha, but after finishing last year with an 18-14 record and a first round playoff exit, the club’s management decided to make drastic changes, and during the off-season they overhauled their roster and coaching staff in an attempt to permanently join the upper-echelon of teams.

In comes Coach Jim Cleamons, who is by far the most experienced and heralded NBA coach in the CBA. He has spent the majority of his coaching career as an assistant in the league under Phil Jackson. He has over a decade of experience teaching some of the most talented players of all time – Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal. In his basketball career, he has won a staggering ten championships – ten as a coach and one as a player. Guangsha is hoping Cleamons’ leadership and addiction to winning will transform the Lions into a championship contender.

However, a coach cannot win games by himself. Fortunately for Cleamons, Guangsha was also able to sign Wilson Chandler. Standing at a broad 6-8 (208 cm), Chandler has spent his NBA career with the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets. He possesses a unique skill-set with his ability to shoot from long range and use his size to score inside, thus making him difficult to defend. Look for Cleamons to make Chandler the focal point of the team, and for him to average around thirty points a game.

During training camp, the Lions suffered a significant setback. To complement Chandler, they had recruited fellow NBA star, Earl Clark. After arriving in Hangzhou, Clark received the wonderful news that his girlfriend was pregnant and understandably returned home. With Clark gone, Guangsha turned to former NBA player, Dwayne Jones. While he is not nearly as talented as Clark, he is tall (211 cm), has already spent a year playing professionally in China for Foshan, and is a capable post defender and rebounder.

Expectations are high, but with Chandler filling up the box score, Jones doing the dirty work, a talented supporting cast led by Taiwanese National Lin Chih-Chieh, and Jim Cleamons roaming the sidelines, the Lions should be in for a successful and winning season.

Edward Bothfeld

6. Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons

2010-11 record: 15-17 (9th place)
Head Coach: Yang Xuezeng (2nd year)
Imports: Marcus Williams, Charles Gaines

As Jim Yardley’s new book on Shanxi will tell us when it his stores in February next year, it’s probably pretty stupid to bet on a team that is owned by a raging lunatic. Still, there’s enough talent here — both American and Chinese — to convince us that this team can overcome that to make the playoffs.

Let’s start with the U.S. guys. After trying to sign Kobe Bryant to a one-month deal before the CBA squashed that idea, Shanxi made two sound decisions in the import market by signing China old-hands Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines. Williams made everyone look really stupid for passing him up at the beginning of the year when he came over to Zhejiang Chouzhou mid-season as a replacement for Mike James. His one man band show that culminated with four straight triple-doubles to end the regular season, parading the Golden Bulls to a playoff birth, and an appearance on the NiuBBall.com All-CBA First Team. Boasting the best all-around game in China, there’s no reason for us to believe he shouldn’t be there again this year.

Gaines is no slouch either. Two years ago for Xinjiang, he averaged over 30 points a game, and last year he led the league with 33.7 per contest on top of 13.5 rebounds. Yet, he remains most famous for slapping the eff out of Du Feng in the 2010 CBA Finals. And probably rightfully so. But Gaines, who was also a NiuBBall.com First Teamer last year, in combination with Williams will probably be famous this season because he’ll be part of one of the most potent import duos in the league this year.

On the Chinese side, swingman Duan Jiangpeng is coming off a strong summer that saw him suit up for the China Under-23 Olympic Team before earning a brief call-up to the Senior National Team. His Brave Dragon teammate, Zhang Xuewen, also averaged double-figures for the Brave Dragons last year and is another young piece expected to help the playoff cause.

If there is one weakness with this team — besides their bumbling mad owner — it’s that this team lacks a point-guard. Williams, who excels when the ball is in his hands, may be enough to compensate for that though. This is a team with a ton of talent and they should make the playoffs, despite an owner that made the late George Steinbrenner seem like Abe Polin.

Jon Pastuszek

7. Liaoning Jiebao Innovators

2010-11 record: 14-18 (10th place)
Head coach: Guo Shiqiang (6th year)
Imports: Rodney Carney, Josh Powell

The normally relevant Liaoning PanPan Dinosaurs were anything but last season, finishing with an unimpressive 14-18 record. Their struggles could be mainly attributed to the poor play from any of the four imports they put on the court during the year, Donta Smith, Anthony Myles, Myles McKay and Chris Richard.

This season, however, could be different. In fact, it’s already different — at least in name. Provincially-owned Liaoning dropped their longtime shareholder sponsor, PanPan Doors, turned around and bought the club themselves. Once dubbed the PanPan Dinosaurs, Liaoning is now the Jiebao (a car company)… Innovators? The name of the team in Chinese is 前瞻, which according to nciku.com means “to look ahead; to forecast.” I don’t think the Liaoning Weathermen sounds very good, so I went with “innovators.” That is very likely 100% wrong. If you know their name in English — if they have one — holler at us in the comments.

It also could be different, because Liaoning looks pretty darn good on paper. Overpowering every other storyline is the return of guard Zhang Qingpeng, who is back after a one-year loan to Xinjiang. A common sight on Team China a few years ago, Zhang has fallen out of favor with Donewald’s National Team. But he’s on the short list of top Chinese guards in the league, and his accuracy from the outside will be a big boost for the team this year.

Former L.A. Laker and two-time NBA champion, Josh Powell, and NBA journeyman Rodney Carney have joined the Hunters. Together, they are hoping to kick start a Liaoning revival (they were finalists in 2008). With poor ball-handling skills, Carney is reliant on his leaping ability and athleticism on the offensive end. The game needs to be played at a frenetic pace for him to be effective. While Powell has size – 6’9 and 240 lbs — he isn’t a banger and gets most of his buckets on midrange jumpers.

Up front, Liaoning can play with anyone. 6-9 power forward Li Xiaoxu played at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. 7-1 Han Dejun, participated in all-you-can-eat pork dumplings competition in Liaoning last year. OK that’s a joke, but the 300+ pound puffer can play a little bit, even if his body weight only allows him to play in short bursts.

If the Innovators can get consistent play from youngster Guo Ailun, one of China’s best prospects at the point-guard position, they’re headed back to the post-season.

Edward Bothfeld and Jon Pastuszek

8. Beijing Shougang Ducks

2010-11 record: 16-16 (8th place)
Head Coach: Min Lulei (14th year)
Imports: Stephon Marbury, Randolph Morris

Like NiuBBall, Starbury is way down with Beijing and Niu Bi.

Stephon Marbury says he’s been happy in China since signing with Shanxi in 2010. That’s impressive given who he’s played for and the cities he’s called home the last two seasons, Taiyuan, Shanxi and Foshan, Guangdong.

Now in Beijing for his third season, Marbury, who had his own feature in China Daily two days ago, is even happier.

Ducks fans should be happier, too. China likes themeslves some Marbury, but it seems that Beijing, who has taken to the Coney Islander with even more reverence, likes him the most. And that was before he officially signed for them in the off-season.

Partered up with Randolph Morris, who put up huge numbers for the Ducks last year, fans are going to like what they see at Shougang Arena this season. Neither have ever played in China with a better import, and seeing how both of them were pretty good on their own last year, logic would suggest that they’ll be pretty good together.

The one concern for Beijing this year is the loss of their Asian import, Zaid Abbas. The tireless forward ran circles around opponents last year rebounding, defending and picking up garbage points. Because there are no rules that restrict Asian import players’ playing time, Abbas is one of the most valuable players in the league and Beijing will definitely miss him.

But, is the loss of Abbas really going to affect the Ducks that much? After all, Beijing snuck into the eight spot last season, despite playing a good portion of the year with only one American. (Steve Francis, that was totally on you, man.) Pint-sized Taiwanese point-guard, Lee Hsueh-lin, likes to push the pace and find open teammates, and him and Marbury will be sharing the same backcourt most of the time. Forward Chen Lei is a good all-around player, and “The Journalist,” Ji Zhe, is a big man who can stretch defenses out with his outside shooting.

I think Abbas’ departure is a big blow, but with two Americans playing alongside what basically amounts to the same roster as last season, the Ducks will be in the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Jon Pastuszek

9. Jilin GBT Northeast Tigers

2010-11 record: 12-20 (13th place)
Head coach: Wang Han
Imports: Cartier Martin*, Jameel Watkins, Osama Dahglas (Asian import)

Unlike our good friend Guan Weijia over at Sheridan Hoops, I’m not hopping on the Jilin post-season express right now. But, get back to me in a few weeks and see what I say then, because Jilin definitely has a ton of potential.

Why? The Northeast Tigers are simply loaded in the backcourt with Dahglas, Martin and Yu Shulong, who has spent considerable time with the National Team over the last two summers. Dahglas, who starts at point for the Jordanian National Team, played well for Shanxi last year. With Daghlas, you know what you’re getting — a good playmaker at the point-guard position who is looking to get in the lane and dish to teammates. But he’s not much of a scorer and that’s where Martin will come in. He didn’t get too much run for them, but some people liked him when he was with the Wizards and he should have a big year scoring the ball in this league.

Up front, Jameel Watkins comes back for his second season with Jilin and his fourth overall in the CBA. The 34 year-old isn’t going to put the ball in the hoop too much, but he protects the paint well and rebounds the ball. With Martin doing most of the scoring, they won’t need him to do much else. Zhong Cheng played with the Chinese U-23 Team this summer.

Since the Asian import rule was implemented in 2009, one team has gone from bottom four to the playoffs each season. Of all the teams who qualify for an extra foreigner, Jilin has the best chance to be the third.

Jon Pastuszek

10. Bayi Fubang Rockets

2010-11 record: 17-15 (7th place)
Head Coach: Adijiang (10th year)
Imports: None

You probably know them as the guys who went WWF on the Georgetown Hoyas last August in Beijing. But, in China, they’re mainly known as the team that always wins. If the NiuBBall prophecy is indeed true, however, and the Bayi Rockets do miss the playoffs this year, it will end a 50+ year reign of dominance over Chinese basketball.

Like many people, including a growing number of Chinese, we won’t be needing any tissues when it happens.

Protectors of the old guard, Bayi is primed to miss the playoffs for the first time since the CBA was founded in 1996. Like always, the team that represents the People’s Liberation Army is devoid of any foreigners and will go into battle with a roster comprised entirely of Chinese players. Most famous, of course, is Wang Zhizhi, who will creak into his 15th professional basketball season, his 12th in CBA. The spindly left-hander is running on his last legs — the 2012 London Olympics will be his last international competition for China — and though he’s still capable of throwing up 20-30 points in a game, his best days are way behind him.

That’s not a good thing for the Rockets, who have rode Wang to eight championships since he made his debut in 1995-96. While all solid in their own right, Mo Ke, Zhang Bo and Wang Lei aren’t centerpieces, which means once again the burden will be placed on an aging center who’s played year-round for 15 straight years.

With their superior height advantages all over the court, Bayi will present match-up problems against smaller teams. And like every year, they’ll still get great whistles at home, even when they’re playing bad. Bayi could sneak into the playoffs — especially if the CBA decides that the league still needs soldiers playing under the bright lights — but, I think this is the end of the road for the Rockets as we know them.

Jon Pastuszek

11. DongGuan New Century Leopards
2010-11 record: 25-7 (3rd place)
Head coach: Brian Goorjian (2nd year)
Imports: Josh Akognon, Shavlik Randolph*

The CBA is rarely surprising, which is why DongGuan was such a refreshing team to watch last season. Put under the control of longtime Australian National Team head coach, Brian Goorjian, DongGuan exceeded all pre-season expectations to go 25-7 in the regular season. Goorjian arrived in the spring right after the 2009-10 season and went straight to work on improving the team’s defense. Centering both the offense and defense around Jackson Vroman, whose mobility, passing and versatility made him a organizer and facilitator on both ends, and leaning on Nigerian-American, Josh Akognon, to light the scoreboard from three point-line, the Leopards were able to overcome a young and inexperienced roster to go all the way to the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual champion, Guangdong.

Thing is though, maybe they could have done better. Jackson went down with a fractured hand just before the playoffs and with it, so did DongGuan’s fairy tale season. Was it always unlikely that they were going to beat their DongGuan neighbors? Yes, but it would have been a much more competitive series.

This year, Goorjian is back, but Jackson has left for the Korean Basketball League. Akognon, who took more threes than anyone last year, is also back for another season. He’ll be joined by Shavlik Randolph, has been in-and-out of the NBA the last five years since leaving early from Duke in 2005.

With Goorjian, one of the best coaches in Asia, DongGuan will always be well prepared and will thus win games against teams with more talent. Last year, veterans Zhang Kai and Qiu Biao played arguably the best basketball of their career under him. But, what was already a young team got even younger with the departure of Meng Duo, who went to Xinjiang. Goorjian himself has said that this season is more about the development of DongGuan’s set of promising youngsters Li Muhao, Gu Quan and Sun Tonglin, and not so much about wins.

They’ll take a step backward with the loss of Vroman. But, with Goorjian still at the helm, DongGuan will never be an easy game for opponents and they may even sneak into the playoffs, despite their step back in talent from last year.

Jon Pastuszek

12. Fujian SBS Sturgeons
2010-11 record: 8-24 (16th place)
Head Coach: Joseph Stiebing (1st year)
Imports: Will McDonald, Anthony Roberson*, Zaid Abbas (Asian import)

Zaid Abbas has turned around both Shanghai and Beijing in the two years he's played in the CBA.

The Sturgeons will be happy with any improvements after a pathetic 8-24 record during the 2011 season. As a cellar dweller (bottom four teams), they were eligible to find a third Asian foreign import. Jordan National Zaid Abbas, who is no stranger to turning teams around, will serve as their third import alongside Anthony Roberson and Will McDonald. This will be Abbas’ third stint as the third import for struggling teams, but his previous two teams, Shanghai and Beijing, both improved dramatically with his addition. He doesn’t have a single skill that stands out, but his scrappy play and hustle are infectious.

If Fujian has any hope for a winning season, Abbas will need some help from Anthony Roberson and Will McDonald, who are probably among the least known imports in the CBA. Roberson is a streaky, shoot-first point guard who has occasional lapses on the defensive end. The 32 year-old McDonald has spent the majority of his career playing in Europe and will struggle against the likes of Josh Boone, Randolph Morris, and Kenyon Martin.

Edward Bothfeld 

13. Shandong Kingston Golden Lions
2010-11 record: 14-18 (11th place)
Head Coach: Gong Xiaobin (8th year)
Imports: Alan Anderson*, Othello Hunter*

Last year, Shandong replaced their longtime head coach, Gong Xiaobin, with Bob Weiss, who had coached Shanxi the year before and the Seattle Supersonics before that. Keeping it going with American CBA veterans, Shandong then went with two imports with China experience, Myron Allen and Rodney White.

The end result was not what they were hoping for: 14-18, 11th place.

This season, Shandong is going back with Gong on the bench, but they’re treading in uncharted import territory. Michigan State product, guard Alan Anderson, will mark the beginning of his Chinese career this year, as will power forward, Othello Hunter. Anderson has an impressive resume that includes stints the Charlotte Bobcats, FC Barcelona and Macabbi Tel Aviv. Hunter spent two years with the Atlanta Hawks from 2008-10. Last year he played for Dinamo Basket Sassari in Italy.

The rest we know: Sun Jie is thwacking threes and losing his hair, Sui Ran is flopping all over the place and pissing people off in between the occasional nice drive to the rack, and Ding Yanyuhang is a promising player with a really long name.

Behind Anderson, who I think will do well here, Shandong could be a dangerous match-up against the CBA’s middling teams. But, a lack of dependable Chinese to flank him will once again hold the Golden Lions back from a playoff spot.

Jon Pastuszek

14. Qingdao Double Star Eagles
2010-11 record: 10-22 (15th place)
Head Coach: Zhang Zhengxiu (2nd year)
Imports: Lester Hudson, Peter John Ramos, Sakakini Sani* (Asian import)

Qingdao recovered from their silly initial decision to sign Jarron Collins by first cutting him, and then signing combo guard Lester Hudson. Ike Diogu was on the radar at one point, but the team ultimately settled on 7-3 monster Peter John Ramos, who has spent the last three years with Zhejiang Guangsha.

If the Eagles can get a good big who can score to place alongisde Hudson, then I kind of like this team. Especially when the team’s Asian import, Jordanian forward Sakakini Sani, who played well in China’s second-tier professional league, the National Basketball League, this summer. Though not incredibly skilled, the 6-8 Sani has a big frame which he frequently uses to move bodies under the basket. He’s not on the level of Abbas, but he should have a solid year here playing as many minutes as his coach wants him to.

One cool thing about this team is that their head coach is Korean and the only non-American foreign coach in the league.

Part of me wants to put this team up further because of their nice trio of foreigners, but this squad’s Chinese roster is just too poor. Swingman Li Gen, who averaged a touch over 10 points a game last  year, is the only one I’d tell my friends about. Wang Gang moves to the coast from Shandong, and he’ll step into the point-guard slot. I guess I’ll have to go against impulse and instead settle with merely labeling the Eagles as a potential sleeper.

15. Shanghai Dongfang Sharks
2010-11 record: 12-20 (12th place)
Head Coach: Daniel Panaggio (1st year)
Imports: Mike Harris, Ryan Forehan-Kelly

After a failed attempt to sign with Shanghai last year, Taiwanese national Tseng Wen-ting is finally all set to go in China.

It is now ten years since the Sharks last finished as CBA champions and it remains to be seen if the notoriously fickle Shanghanese will pay much attention to the Sharks now that the days of Yao Ming averaging thirty-points a game seem so far away. These days, the shadow of Yao quite literally hovers over the Sharks team as the now-retired, newly-repatriated Chinese icon watches over the team he famously rescued from bankruptcy in 2009.

The 2011 side is very much one in transition as the Sharks adjust to life without the influential John Lucas III and the popular coach, Bob Donewald. The new man at the helm, former D-League coach, Daniel Panaggio, has arrived with intentions of utilizing the triangle offense, something that has taken a bit of getting used to. Panaggio’s hiring also coincides with the arrivals of Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who previously played for the Jiangsu Dragons in 2007-08, and Taiwanese forward, Tseng Wen-ting, both of whom featured prominently in the Sharks’ final pre-season games in Zhejiang province. Tseng’s addition will be particularly welcome — he was supposed to come over last year, but the deal fell apart after the transfer deadline passed.

Predicting how the Sharks’ will do this season very much depends on how full or empty your glass generally tends to be. Cynics will point to the departure of Donewald and lack of big name signings as symptomatic of the club’s lack of ambition. Those of a more positive persuasion can get excited about a new coach bringing fresh ideas to a side that already boasts experienced veterans like Liu Wei and Mike Harris as well as up-and-coming Chinese internationals, “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu, Peng Fei and Zhou Zhang. A mid table finish is the most likely outcome, anything higher would be a decidedly unexpected bonus.

Andrew Crawford 

16. Guangdong Foshan Dralions
2010-11 record: 11-21 (14th place)
Head coach: Jay Humphries (2nd year)
Imports: Marcus Douthit*, Gerald Green*, Michael Maadanly (Asian import)

Gerald Green will be bummed to know that the Chinese don’t typically do cupcakes.

–Jon Pastuszek

17. Tianjin Ronggang Gold Lions
2010-11 record: 5-27 (17th place)
Head Coach: Zhang Jian (11th year)
Imports: David Harrison, Donnell Harvey, Rony Fahed (Asian import)

After finishing at the bottom of the league last year, Tianjin opted not to retain American head coach, Bob MacKinnon Jr., instead going with the guy who coached them in 2009-10, Zhang Jian. They also decided against bringing back NiuBBall.com CBA Defensive Player of the Year, American guard Vernon Hamilton, despite his string of strong performances to end the year.

Instead they went with a familiar strategy — going with two big men as their Americans. Last year it was Lee Benson and Herve Lamizana, this year its David Harrison and Donnell Harvey. They used their Asian import spot on Lebanese point guard, Rony Fahed. If they’re lucky, they may get 40 points a night out of the three. Harrison is not even one year removed from a broken fibula and hasn’t looked good in pre-season games. Harvey, who enjoyed two great seasons for Jiangsu in 2008-09 and 2009-10, will do what he does best, attacking the offensive glass, but isn’t someone who they’ll be able to throw the ball into on the low block.

With their poor choices in the foreign market and their deplorable Chinese roster, look for Tianjin to once again finish at the bottom of the league.

–Jon Pastuszek


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The ugly side of Chinese hoops rears its head again… twice

October 22, 2011


On Tuesday and Wednesday, two separate teams from the Chinese Basketball Association were involved in bench clearing on-court altercations. (Photo courtesy of Sina Sports)

Chinese Basketball Association pre-season should be a time to enjoy import rumors, special clauses made up seemingly on-the-fly, and the Jiangsu Nangang Dragons’ annual hold out.  Just call it some of the charms that come with watching Chinese hoops year round.

But this week, Chinese hoops has jutted out its well-documented ugly side for all to see again. And not just once, but twice.

On Tuesday, what started as a pre-season match between the Guangdong Foshan Dralions and an All-Star team visiting from Australia turned into a violent bench-clearing chair-throwing brawl that had obvious simiarities to the one that went down last August between the Bayi Rockets and the Georgetown Hoyas.

The video below was taken by a Chinese fan who was sitting in the stadium’s upper section:

Within hours, the CBA announced that Foshan would be prohibited from playing and practicing for a week. The team will also have to write self-reviews which will be sent into CBA administration for review. Three players in all were fined for their involvement in the fight. He Ben and Yang Wenbo, each of whom played big minutes for the team last year, were fined RMB 10,000 (about US $1587) and Zhao Lei, a reserve, was fined RMB 5,000 (US $793).

On Wednesday, just one day after the Foshan incident, it was reported that Jiangsu got into a major fight with a travelling All-Star team from Chicago (pictures). However, soon after reports hit the internet, Jiangsu general manger, Wang Min, went on his Weibo (Chinese twitter) account to set the record straight.

“People on the internet have been saying that [Jiangsu players] Yi Li and Meng Da were involved in a fight today. But, in fact that simply did not happen… both of them held up and controlled themselves.”

Wang was right — a video of the incident has since surfaced on online video sites that proves initial reports were exaggerated:

Still, the two events, especially the Foshan fight, will continue to swell the already large black eye on Chinese basketball. In addition to the high-profile brawl between Bayi and Georgetown, there have also been other widely reported on-court fights. Last year, the Chinese National Team and a Brazilian club team were engaged in a bench clearing melee after a Brazilian player set a highly questionable on-ball screen on China’s Zhang Qingpeng. Zhang hit the ground hard and was later diagnosed with a concussion. China received similar punishments to the ones Foshan were handed down.

But in the eyes of Chinese fans, those punishments aren’t severe enough. In a poll on Sina.com, 68% blame the Foshan players for not being calm and 75% feel their punishment was too light.

Count us as one of the 75%. Suspending all games and practices will have no effect in preventing things like this from happening again. Because the root of this problem lies within Chinese refereeing. And that’s not to say the players aren’t to blame for charging out with fists and chairs, because they definitely are. But, blaming only them takes attention away from the people who are supposed to have full control the game, the refs.

I wasn’t at the game, but I didn’t have to be. I, like anyone else who has either watched games or played in them, knows that Chinese refs do a piss-poor job of managing games. On top of that, they cheat blatantly. Overly-physical play is allowed, cheap shots go uncalled and vexed, argumentative players and coaches aren’t reeled in and T’d up. What happens next is pretty easy to understand: Players get really frustrated and ultimately really angry that the laws of the game aren’t being held up, and play escalates until tempers get out of hand and a fight breaks out.

That all can be prevented — if refs blow their whistles more and put an end to dirty play and hard fouls. And yet, for some reason, Chinese refs consistently refuse to do that. Much is made about China’s poor system for developing youth players, but the system the CBA uses to train and approve in-game officials could use just as big of a remodeling.

Another thing that could use some remodeling? How about making a rule on players leaving the bench area? Fans of the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns may hate the rule, but it has completely shut down the potential for 12-on-12 mass brawls in the NBA. What once was a problem in the league now is not because players and coaches know if you leave the bench area, you’re going to be suspended and fined. The problem of bench players rushing onto the court is more serious in China, so make the penalties more severe — five games suspension for coming onto the court, plus a big fine. And then on top of that, subject them to the punishment almost all Chinese students who misbehave receive and force them to write “I will not leave the bench” 1,000 times neatly and legibly on a piece of paper.

Because after all, this is “basketball with Chinese characteristics.” And while we’re pretty open-minded about the differences of hoops between East and West, this simply has to stop.


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Injured Zhou Peng left off 12-man Asia Championship roster

September 13, 2011


After five months of closed door practices, international tournaments and warm-up games, the Chinese National Team roster is finally set for the FIBA Asia Championship, which starts on September 15 in Wuhan, China.

The roster consists of Yi Jianlian (Washington Wizards), Su Wei (Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers), Wang Zhizhi (Bayi Fubang Rockets), Zhang Zhaoxu (Shanghai Dongfang Sharks), Ding Jinhui (Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls), Yi Li (Nanjing Nangang Dragons), Zhu Fangyu (Guangdong Hongyuan), Zhang Bo (Bayi Fubang), Sun Yue (Beijing Aoshen Olympians), Liu Wei (Shanghai Dongfang), Xirelijiang (Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers) and Yu Shulong (Jilin Changchun Northeast Tigers).

The Chinese will open their tournament against Bahrain in Group D on Friday at 8pm.

Though considered as one of the teams who will contend for the tournament’s only automatic bid to the 2012 London Olympics, China is coming into Wuhan severely shorthanded. As expected, Guangdong Hongyuan forward, Zhou Peng, who played a prominent role for China off the bench during the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey, has been left off the roster due to an injured elbow. National team regular, Wang Shipeng, is also off the roster after the sharp-shooting guard broke his wrist during a game against Australia in London.

Without two key wing players, head coach Bob Donewald told media that he’s bringing a bigger, more inside oriented lineup to better matchup against opponents. Guard Zhang Qingpeng, who played for the National Team for the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou before enjoying a solid year in the CBA this season for Xinjiang, was left off in favor of 7’3 center, Zhang Zhaoxu. As a result, China will sport the tournament’s biggest roster, an advantage the team hopes to capitalize on when they play rivals Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and South Korea.

The winner of the Asia Championship will automatically qualify for a spot in the 2012 London Olympics, while the second and third placed teams will enter the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in 2012.


(via Sina Sports)


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Is China in danger of missing out on the 2012 Olympics?

September 8, 2011

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The FIBA Asia Championship starts on September 15th in Wuhan, Hubei province in China. Like the FIBA Americas, FIBA Oceania and FIBA EuroBasket Championships that already underway, and the FIBA Africa Championship that concluded on August 26, the winner of the Asia Championship receives an automatic berth into the 2012 London Olympics.

Throughout the tournament’s history, the Asia Championship’s result and a spot in the Olympics has generally been guaranteed for the Chinese, who have won the competition a record 14 times. But, this year things look to be vastly different for Big Red, who enter Wuhan as consensus underdogs for perhaps the only time other than the 2007 Asia Championship when they sent their “B team” to Tokushima, Japan, since their participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympics had already been guaranteed as the host nation.

After all, why should they be considered favorites? For the first time since 1997, China will not be defending its FIBA Asia Championship crown. Instead, they’ll be trying to deny Iran from lifting their third straight championship, an image that many — including us — feel is the tournament’s most likely result.

If Iran does indeed win the Asian crown, China would find itself in a pretty big mess. Assuming at least a top-three finish, their next shot at Olympic qualification would come in July 2012 at  the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. There, the top three teams out of 12 will advance on to London. Since those spots are typically grabbed up by European teams, China would be faced with the very real scenario of missing out on the 2012 Olympics altogether. Which is why this tournament is so important and why the Chinese Basketball Association has been hell-bent on getting Team China ready.

Ready or not, though, China will head into Wuhan clearly behind Iran. Why the change from perennial favorites to sudden underdogs? Let’s break it down.


Be patient, there’s a lot of them.

On August 16th, reigning CBA Finals MVP, Wang Shipeng, broke his wrist in an exhibition game against Australia in London. Initially expected to be out 4-6 weeks, there was a small glimmer of hope that Wang would be ready for the team’s opening match against Bahrain on September 15th. However, on August 26th doctors announced that Wang will not be able to play in any of the Asia Championship.

It’s a huge blow for the Chinese. Not only is Wang one of China’s best and most experienced players, he’s the only guard who can consistently create his own shot off the dribble. Without Wang’s scoring on the perimeter, Yi Jianlian is now option A through Z on offense, which is why opposing teams are likely to send even more defenders in his direction in an attempt to keep him from taking over on that end.

To replace Wang, the team decided to call up Duan Jiangpeng, a soon to be 22 year-old guard/forward who plays domestically for Shanxi Zhongyu. Duan played well for the Chinese U-23 Team this summer in their three-game exhibition series against the Duke Blue Devils and is someone who like Wang can create some offense for himself on the wing. But, let’s be honest — if Duan was good enough for the Senior Team, he wouldn’t have been cut from the roster altogether earlier this summer. Maybe he surprises, but we doubt he’ll be seeing any playing time in any of China’s “must-wins” against Iran and South Korea.

As unfortunate as Wang Shipeng’s injury is, what’s more unfortunate is that he’s not the only guy who is injured. Wang’s Guangdong teammate, Zhou Peng, who played Quincy Douby in the CBA Finals as well as anyone had all season last year, dislocated his elbow during training in early July and has been on the sidelines since trying to get right for the Asia Championship. According to a report yesterday on Sina Sports though, Zhou’s recovery isn’t going well and his status is in major doubt as he has yet to participate in any full-team practices.

There’s more: Zhejiang Chouzhou’s and NiuBBall’s favorite Chinese undersized power forward, Ding Jinhui, ruptured an ankle ligament earlier in the summer and although he has healed well enough to train with the team, team doctor Du Wenliang told reporters yesterday that there has the ankle is flaring up after practices and that Ding “is a little scared he might re-injure it, during practice he’s still playing tentatively.”

All of this is quite problematic. Healthy, China is thin enough as it is. At the 2010 World Championship in Turkey, China went only seven deep throughout the tournament, relying heavily on Yi Jianlian, Wang Zhizhi, Sun Yue, Wang Shipeng and Liu Wei to carry most of the minutes, with Zhou Peng and Ding Jinhui playing in spots off the bench. With China’s core seven definitely down to six and possibly five depending on Zhou Peng’s elbow, other less experienced and less talented players are going to have to step up for the Chinese, especially in games against lesser opponents so that the starters can get some rest in the preliminary rounds. Possible? Maybe. Likely? No.

Better competition

Though China has won the Asia Championship a record 14 times, they haven’t won a title since 2005 when they had a healthy Yao Ming leading the way. Some people will be quick to point out that China, who had automatically qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics as the host nation, sent out its young “B team” in 2007, which opened the door for Iran to win gold. And that’s valid.

But in 2009, China sent out its best squad to regain the country’s Asian glory. They were famously destroyed by Hamed Haddadi and Iran in the Finals, a result that still haunts the team today. Some of the same people who were quick to point to China’s B teammers in 2007 will be equally quick to point out that Yao Ming was hurt in 2009. That point is also valid, but Yao’s injury was and still is the cold reality of a Chinese system that leaned too much upon one player to deliver gold medals to the country. And this year, that cold reality is going to be made even more frigid when China goes up against the toughest field in Asia Championship history.

In addition to their already strong roster led by Haddadi and Mahdi Kamrani, tournament favorite Iran is adding Rice University standout, Arsalan Kazemi, who has been granted permission by his school to play in Wuhan. The addition of the 6’7 Kazemi, a Second-Team All-Conference USA selection last year and the only player in his conference to average a double-double, will make Iran even more of a favorite when the tournament starts up on the 15th.

There’s other teams that will challenge China on the top-tier as well. Lebanon, who has finished in the top four in each of the last five tournaments, will be joined by 32 year-old 6’9 American forward Sam Hoskin, who naturalized this summer and has officially been put on the team’s 12-man roster. Though past his prime, Hoskin was once a very good player in Europe, playing EuroLeague ball with Greek power Olympiacos and Croatain outfit Cibona Zagreb.

South Korea, who China narrowly beat last year in Guangzhou at the 2010 Asia Championship, will also be very much in the mix, too. Yes, as there are 16 teams in the Asia Championship, there are still plenty of cupcakes like India, Bahrain, Indonesia and Malaysia that will make up the majority of the tournament’s early stages. But at the top, there has never been this many good teams. And that’s not good news for China.


We wrote about it over at Shanghai City Weekend and Bob Donewald went on the record about it in the New York Times, but really it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to anyone who’s even casually followed Team China over the years: The Chinese basketball system simply cannot develop a crop of young, talented basketball players.

Case in point: 32 year-old Wang Zhizhi and 31 year-old Liu Wei, whose odometer reads somewhere between  250,000 and 300,000 miles after playing domestic and national team basketball year-round for the last decade or so, are still playing major roles for the team in 2011. We’re not saying that these guys shouldn’t still be playing because Wang Zhizhi clearly demonstrated he can definitely still hoop last year during China’s run to gold at the Asia Games. We just think they shouldn’t be playing 25+ minutes a game. Ideally, we think both would be great in small doses of concentrated court-time — think Lithuania’s highly seasoned 31 year-old point guard, Sarunas Jasikevicius, who is playing an average of 15.6 very effective minutes per game at EuroBasket backing up Lithuania’s 24 year-old young-ishblood Mantas Kalnietis.

Of course, China has nobody who can allow Big Wang and Liu to ease into roles more suitable for their senior citizen statuses. China’s next-gen guard combo of Guo Ailun and Yu Shulong aren’t ready yet and the development of big men Max Zhang and Su Wei haven’t gone as well as initially hoped. No matter how much is done in the garage to keep Wang and Liu running somewhat smoothly, these two rickety players will eventually either show their obsolescence or just completely break down for good.

Chinese fans are just hoping that doesn’t happen in Hubei.

They’re just not that good

Maybe its a product of all of the things mentioned above, maybe its because they’re tired from playing basketball all year, or maybe its just that this group of Team China just isn’t that good. Or maybe its a combination of everything.

Whatever it is, China has been losing games way more than they’ve been winning them this summer during their long schedule of “warm-up games” in preparation for the Asia Championship. And we don’t think that’s a very good sign of things to come.

In late June, China lost two close games against Australia in the 2011 YouYi Games, one of which was played in Perth and the other in Singapore. From August 1-9, China went 1-7 in the Stankovic Cup, losing all four of their games in Haining to Russia (twice), Angola and Australia before losing  their next three to New Zealand, Angola and Australia in the Guangzhou tournament. In the tournament’s last game, China managed to eek one out against Angola. From August 16-21, China went 0-5 in the London International Basketball Festival, losing by an average of 24.3 points to Australia, Serbia, Croatia, France and yes, even Great Britain, who did not even have a basketball team six years ago. During the festival, China put up a 43 point stinker against the Aussies in the opener, and never cracked the 60 point plateau in any of the four games after.

We’ve watched Team China throughout the summer and the results have confirmed our beliefs — this just isn’t a very good team as currently constructed. On offense, China’s motion offense looks like a pile of wet leaves. Like always, their guards are still to easily flustered by on-ball pressure, which makes it difficult for them to get into any kind of rhythm on offense. Defensively, though Donewald praised this group back in June for being “the best defensive team in Chinese history,” the team just looks plain tired in September. And while Yi will get his stats as he is a tough matchup for most teams in the international game, China is going to have major problems getting consistent offense from anyone else, especially without Wang Shipeng.

Donewald has tried to search for answers in these tough times, giving hard looks to Yi Li, Mo Ke, Xirelijiang, Zhang Bo, Zhang Qingpeng and Yu Shulong in the hope that someone is ready to make the jump into a trusted player Donewald can rely upon in Wuhan. So far, no dice. Which could mean come next year, no Olympics.


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Catching up on all things China National Team

June 24, 2011

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June 14th: China’s young “second team” goes down to Japan in East Asian Championship semi-finals

Coming off of a solid win against South Korea on June 12th in the last game of the group stage, young Team China entered their semi-finals game last Tuesday against Japan with a marquee win over one of their biggest Asian rivals. Knowing that a rematch in the Finals was all but assured after the Koreans beat China Taipei in the game before, the Chinese knew that their toughest work still lay ahead of them.

If only they knew.

Forcing the Chinese into 17 second-half turnovers, Japan spoiled any thoughts of a China-Korea Round Two as they stormed back from a 12 point halftime deficit to upset the hosts 72-62 in Nanjing. Though the loss is a bitter disappointment for the Chinese, their failure to win won’t have any effect on their qualification for the FIBA Asia Championship in September. As the host nation, China has already received an automatic bid and will be assured the chance to play in the official Asian qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics.

Kenta Hirose, Shinsuke Kashigawi and Kosuke Takeuchi all scored 13 points to lead the Japenese. “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu led the Chinese with 16 points.  The Chinese Second Team hasn’t beat Japan in six years, dating back to when they lost to the Japanese in the 2005 East Asia Games semi-finals.

Yu Shulong, Meng Duo, Yi Li, Dong Hanlin and Su Wei started for Team China, but with the Chinese’s spot in the FIBA Asia Championship locked up as the host nation, substitute head coach Li Nan subbed in and out freely in order to give all players ample time to showcase their ability.  Yu, Meng, Zhang Bo and Han Shuo interchanged throughout the first half in a three-guard attack, with China’s four-headed inside combo of Su, Dong, Zhang and Mo Ke doing the dirty work up front.  Facilitating mostly out of the high-post, the Chinese offense looked decent at best and positively terrible at worst.

But, by the end of the first half, China’s huge size advantage up front translated into numerous offensive rebounds and putbacks.  On the defensive side, the Japanese couldn’t get anything going in their offensive sets, and when it got late in the shot clock, the Japanese guards had trouble breaking down anybody off the dribble for clean looks.  With their domination on the glass and solid defense, China went into the locker room up 38-24, despite turning the ball over nine times.

Coming out in the second half, Japan made a few key adjustments on both ends. Ramping up the effort on the defensive end, Japan swarmed China’s big men on the catch, sending two and sometimes three men into the post. Though all of China’s bigs struggled to do anything positive offensively in the second half, Su Wei stood out as the team’s worst performer.  Looking equally inept at either scoring or passing, Su charged into defenders, lost the ball in traffic, threw the ball away and got his shot blocked en route to six turnovers.

It didn’t get much better for China’s guards.  Meng coughed up the rock seven times, most of which came as a result of forcing reckless drives into traffic.  Yu, who threw a couple of loopy passes that were picked off and converted into points on the other end, didn’t fare much better, finishing with four himself.

When Japan wasn’t racing out in transition off turnovers, they were calmly executing in their half court offense off of dribble penetration and ball screens.  Confounded by Japan’s steady second half diet of pick-and-rolls, the Chinese allowed their opponents easy access into the lane for simple lay-ups or kick outs.  Japan purposely picked on the immobile Su and Zhang on pick-and-rolls, and with the plodding duo slow to both show out and recover, Hirose and Kashigawi ran amok as China’s helpside defense refused to make even the most basic rotations.

Though the loss is disappointing, its key to remember that this was not even close to China’s best team.  Bob Donewald was back in Beijing with the team’s best players preparing for China’s trip to Australia, so this was a chance for China’s young and inexperienced players to pick up some game action.  But, don’t try telling that to Chinese fans. On a poll after the game on Sina.com, 76% of voters said the game was “a dissapointment, there’s no way they should have lost.”

In the third-place game, China beat Chinese Taipei, and Korea beat Japan in the championship.

June 16th: Before team heads off to Australia, Donewald trims National Team roster to 20

Forced to do another round of cuts in the days prior to China leaving for a an exhibition series in Australia, Bob Donewald released seven players from National Team duty.

Liu Ziqiu, Peng Fei, Duan Jiangpeng, Han Shuo, Zhang Kai, Dong Hanlin and Zhang Sontao were all axed.  Yao Ming, despite publicly contemplating retirement, remains on the roster.

The remaining players:

Guards: Wang Shipeng (王仕鹏), Zhang Bo (张博), Liu Wei (刘炜), Zhang Qingpeng (张庆鹏), Xirelijiang (西热力江), Meng Duo (孟铎), Guo Ailun (郭艾伦), Yu Shulong (于澍龙)

Forwards: Sun Yue (孙悦), Zhou Peng (周鹏), Zhu Fangyu (朱芳雨), Wang Lei (王磊), Ding Jinhui (丁锦辉), Yi Li (易立)

Centers: Mo Ke (莫科), Su Wei (苏伟), Wang Zhizhi (王治郅), Zhang Zhaoxu (张兆旭), Yi Jianlian (易建联), Yao Ming (姚明)

All except Yao, Yi, Guo and Meng went on the trip.  Yao is injured, Yi is back in the States training privately, and Guo is with the U-19 National Team preparing for the FIBA U-19 Championship.  Meng did not make the trip for undisclosed reasons.

China beat Austrailian professional club team, the Perth Wildcats, on Wednesday and will play the Australian National Team tonight.  The two teams will play again on Sunday in Singapore.

June 20th: CBA announces roster for FIBA U-19 World Championship

With the FIBA U-19 World Championship set to tip off in Latvia on June 30th, the CBA announced the official roster for the tournament.

Guards: Wang Zirui (王子瑞), Guo Ailun (郭艾伦), Luo Hanshen (罗汉琛)

Forwards: Zhai Xiaochuan (翟晓川), Gu Quan (顾全), Ju Mingxin (鞠明欣), Wang Pu (王璞), Zhu Xuhang (朱旭航), Sun Tonglin (孙桐林)

Centers: Xu Tao (徐韬), Wang Zhenglin (王哲林), Li Muhao (李慕豪)

China has been drawn in Group D with U.S.A., Egypt and Serbia.

This is considered to be one of the best U-19 teams China has ever fielded.  Beyond Guo, who should be one of the better players in the tournament, China also boasts Li Muhao, Gu Quan and Zhai Xiaochuan among a roster that is expected to at the very least make it out of the group stages.


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James Singleton is the latest to call Jiang Xingquan “military”

June 8, 2011

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Despite relative success, James Singleton’s year with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers was a tough ride for the four year NBA veteran.

Like almost all foreign players who played last year in the CBA, James Singleton is back in his home country, watching the NBA Finals, living in the comfort of familiar surroundings… and doing interviews on international satellite radio.

OK, well maybe the latter is quite unlike most CBA foreign players.  But, that’s because Singleton’s story is very different than most Chinese imports. What, you think NBA-caliber players who reject NBA contracts to play in rural China just grow on trees?

The answer: no.  Which is why Singleton appeared on Canadian radio show, Hardcore Hoops, which is broadcast by The Score, to talk about his year with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers.

To give an equally brief and general recap of what happened with the former Clipper-Maverick-Wizard foward this year in Urumqi, Singleton was brought in with former King-Raptor guard, Quincy Douby, to form the highest paid foreign player combination in league history.  The reason was simple: beat the Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers, the team who had beat Xinjiang with ease in the CBA Finals the last two years.

And though he, Douby and the Flying Tigers won the franchise’s first ever regular season title, the team ultimately fell short in their quest to win a CBA title, losing to the same team, the now seven-time champion Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers, for the third straight year.

Back in his home base of Dallas for almost two months since the loss, Singleton, who has had some time to ponder his year with the Flying Tigers, painted his Xinjiang portrait as one full of frustration and dismay:

It was kind of tough for me when I first got there.  The guys were all so willing to learn.  You know, me and [Quincy] Douby when we first got in we tried to teach them different things, but… They had a coach [Jiang Xingquan] there that was just … military … you know, he wouldn’t let them progress and learn. You know everything was one way or no way. And they were so afraid to just go out there and play basketball that it got to the point where we got to the championship, they all just locked up because if they made a mistake, they’d look straight at the bench.”

As NiuBBall readers know, similar to a drill sergeant, the straight from the Chinese old-school Jiang rules over every aspect of his Chinese players’ lives, including when they go to sleep, when they’re allowed to talk on their cell phones, who they are allowed to see during the season and how long they are to practice.

In the interview, Singleton said he “learned to be a lot more patient” as a result of his coach’s personality.  It’s known in the CBA that he and Coach Jiang clashed, most notably late in the season.  That’s not news.  It’s also not news that Singleton, who gave us an extremely open and honest interview back in December, would be so, well, honest about his feelings towards Jiang.

We were at Games 4 and 5 of the CBA Finals in Guangdong, and we saw the exact same thing that James did — scared, unaggressive local players who were constantly looking back in fear towards the bench every time they made a mistake.  That’s no way for anybody, let alone grown men, to play good basketball.  Whereas Guangdong’s players had the freedom to play because they had a trust in their coach and his system, Xinjiang instead looked too much to its super foreign duo of Singleton and Douby to take the load simply because they didn’t think attempting to make a play was worth risking the wrath of their coach.  Instilling discipline and smart basketball through strictness is one thing.  But, scaring your players into being downright afraid?

That’s why we think it’s news that Xinjiang is bringing this guy back for another year.

Singleton also shared that upon arrival, all he ate during the first week was “eggs and rice” and that on the road, his diet consisted of McDonald’s and KFC. There are a lot of things we have been able to understand in this country, but why teams can’t find good, healthy restaurants for their foreign players when they’re on the road will always be beyond us.

When asked if he plans on making a return to the NBA next season, Singleton said:

I’m going make a push to come back [to the NBA] this year… if there’s not a lockout, I’m definitely going to be back home.  Because I haven’t lost anything.  I’ve learned more each year.  Coming back home, if you play overseas… it’s a whole new world, man.  If you can play in China, the contact in the NBA is nothing compared to the contact over there.  So it definitely gave a little bit more of a weapon to use when I come home.

Anybody who has watched Singleton, either in the NBA, Europe or China knows that he is a player who likes to bang inside, so we take his words about the differences in physicality between the NBA and China very seriously. Trust me, I know — your probably scoffing at the mere suggestion that the CBA is more physical than the NBA.  But, for those who have either played pick-up in China or watched Chinese hoops, it’s not as far fetched as you’d think.  Though local CBA players aren’t nearly as strong or athletic as NBA players, officials in China call things very loose in the paint, especially off the ball.  As almost every Chinese player tends to play defense with their upper body, the non-stop clutching, grabbing, pushing, chopping, clubbing, hugging and even the occasional choking go un-whistled most of the time.

And about his goal of coming back to the NBA, it looks like he’ll have an opportunity to make good on that.  According to Scott Schroeder at Ridiculous Upside, Singleton is among 15 players who will participate in a free-agent camp with the Oklahoma City Thunder this week.  We’d be surprised if he didn’t get a contract offer from an NBA this summer (or whenever teams are again allowed to offer contracts to free-agents).  He plays the right way, rebounds, works his butt off and doesn’t care about his own offense.  He’d be a good contributor for any team’s bench.

The rest of the interview covers James’ take on his old team’s, the Dallas Mavericks,  run to the NBA Finals , what it was like watching Dirk Nowitzki practice, and his goal to make basketball more fun for kids.  It’s well worth the listen, even if the guys at Hardcore Hoops butchered the crap out of the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers.

(H/T Truth About It.net)


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Xinjiang’s Jiang Xingquan to stay on for another year

May 24, 2011

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Contrary to rumors over his retirement, Jiang Xingquan will be back for another season at the helm of Xinjiang.

After losing to Guangdong Hongyuan the last three years in the CBA Finals, Xinjiang Guanghui isn’t intent on quitting just yet.  In fact, they’re determined to be even more competitive next season.

According to a Xinhua report, Xinjiang will bring back head coach Jiang Xingquan for another season and invest more money into the club in order to realize their ambitions of becoming “China’s top basketball team.”

“Our championship goal won’t change,” stated Xinjiang board president, Hou Wei.

Last season, Xinjiang poured an unprecedented 70,000,000 RMB (roughly $10 million) into the club, an amount three to five times more than most other teams.  Xinjiang is owned by billionaire Sun Guangxin, who according to Forbes is the 25th richest man in China and the 459th richest man in the world.

Increasingly frustrated by Xinjiang’s inability to beat Guangdong for yet another season, there were rumors that Sun had reached his wits’ end and was considering selling the team.  However, according to the article, Sun is willing to spend even more next season on players, facilities and coaches in order to capture his elusive championship.

The first order of business, locking down a head coach for next year, has already been settled.  Jiang, who is known for his unbending strictness as much as he is known for his success coaching the National Team and Xinjiang, will be brought back to coach another season.  It had been believed that the 70 year-old Jiang was retiring.

Though the announcement will bring stability to Xinjiang’s coaching situation, it also opens up an entirely new set of challenges.  Jiang’s return essentially guarantees that NiuBBall.com All-CBA 1st Team forward, James Singleton, will not come back to play for the Flying Tigers next year.  It has been widely reported that Singleton became fed up with Jiang’s authoritarian coaching style, and that the two were barely on speaking terms — both in practice and in games — by the Finals.

Concerned by the divide between their highest paid import player and their head coach, Xinjiang is taking steps to ensure another situation like that doesn’t occur in 2011-12.  In addition to bringing back Jiang, the team will also hire up to two “high quality” foreign assistant coaches.  With at least one American coach on staff, the club believes that their foreign players will be able to handle Jiang’s coaching style better.

The club still has many questions that need answering, however.  CBA regular season MVP, Mengke Bateer, is out of a contract and is unlikely to return and Zhang Qingpeng, who was brought in for a season from Liaoning, is set to return to his original club next season.  Minus Singleton and their two best domestic players, Xinjiang has some serious decisions to make on how they want to shape their roster for next season.  Obviously, a lot of those decisions will depend on what Guangdong does as well.


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Four Real: Guangdong wins fourth consecutive CBA championship

April 30, 2011

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Guangdong’s Wang Shipeng lifts his first ever Finals MVP trophy after Guangdong took home the CBA crown on Wednesday night.

There is still no parity in the Chinese Basketball Association.

For the fourth year in a row, the Guangdong Southern Tigers finished the season as CBA champions, beating the Xinjiang Flying Tigers on the road 103-93 on Wednesday night.  It’s Guangdong’s seventh title in the last eight years, solidifying them as one of the preeminent dynasties in league history.

Guangdong’s Marcus Haislip, displaying the offensive versatility he’s flashed all series long,  missed only one of his eight three-point attempts en route to his game-high 35 points.  Lester Hudson continued his solid all-around play by filling up the box score with 17 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals.  Wang Shipeng and Su Wei each chipped in 12.

For Xinjiang, Quincy Douby put in 35 points on 16-19 from the free throw line, adding 4 assists and 3 steals.  James Singleton went for 20-10.  Mu Lati and Xirelijiang each scored 10.

Emphasizing the defensive end, Guangdong held Xinjiang to just six offensive boards, holding the always active Singleton to zero.  Guangdong also forced their opponents into 19 costly turnovers, many of which were converted on the other end.

It’s a dissapointing end result for Xinjiang.  Winning their first regular season title in franchise history behind the most expensive import duo of all time, the Flying Tigers were dead set on ending three years of finals failure.  But like the last two years, the team ultimately went down to a more experienced and more balanced Guangdong side, despite pushing the series to a CBA record six games.

Wang Shipeng won his first ever CBA Finals MVP.  Like the league’s regular season MVP, foreign players are ineligible to win the award.  In six games, Wang averaged 22.7 points on 53.9% shooting, including 44.4% from three.

Coming out with a lot of energy, several of Xinjiang’s domestic players were called for silly, over-aggressive fouls,.  At the end of the half, Xirelijiang, Zhang Qingpeng and Mu Lati all finishing the half with four personal fouls apiece. Sending Guangdong to the line needlessly, Xinjiang wasted an excellent first half by Singleton and went into the half up only one.

The game remained close in the third.  Entering the fourth quarter with Xinjiang up 77-74, Guangdong came out of the break firing on all cylinders and never looked back.  Riding two threes by Haislip and another three by Wang in transition, Guangdong leaped out to a 9-0 run to start the quarter before Xinjiang head coach, Jiang Xingquan, called time-out.

But, Guangdong’s run continued, highlighted beautiful mid-air reverse lay-up by Haislip, the lead balooning to 93-79 before Douby ended Xinjiang’s long drought.  The stagnant, stand around isolation-heavy offense that haunted Xinjiang in Games 2, 4 and 5 came back in Game 6, as the team’s domestic players  again appeared content to stand around and watch Douby or Singleton create either off each other or by themselves.  The few times the ball went to a Chinese player, nothing good happened.  His shot blocked by Wang Zheng and his pass picked off for an easy two by Wang inside of three possesions, CBA regular season MVP, Mengke Bateer, was subbed out with just over seven minutes to play, as the 35 year-old center was clearly gassed and physically unfit to play.  With Xinjiang continuing to opt for one-on-one basketball, Guangdong’s run extended to a 22-4 margin.

With their experience, chemistry and depth coming together in the game’s final frame, Guangdong depended on the trusty trio of Hudson, Haislip and Wang to put the game away in short order.  A beautiful mid-air reverse lay-up by Haisip highlighted the run and put the stamp on what was an incredible performance by the 6-10 forward.  Without almost any plays specifically called for him, the always even-tempered Haislip simply took what was given to him, scoring off kick-outs, run-outs and drives.  Perhaps him and Hudson, who were brought in mid-season after David Harrison went down with a season ending injury and Fred Jones was cut, never received the press that Douby and Singleton did, but their ability to quickly adapt to this championship team’s mentality and style of play demands commendation.

This league all depends on how you match up with the champs, and despite having advantages over Guangdong in the import department, Xinjiang’s domestic players were simply not up to the task of going head-to-head against Americans and Chinese national team players.  With Zhou Peng on Douby-duty for long stretches, Hudson switched onto Zhang and minimized his threat as a three-point shoot pointer.  Zhang ended a highly disappointing finals on 2-10 shooting for five points.  Xinjiang’s other perimeter shooter, Xu Guozhong, went 1-7 with three points.  With Bateer pretty much swallowed up by Su Wei and Wang Zheng, and the Mai brothers offensively inept as ever, Xinjiang found it difficult to get good looks in late-game situations, whereas Guangdong, through the strength of their collective roster, was.

It makes one wonder how anyone will be able to beat this Guangdong core.  Xinjiang spent a record number of Renminbi to bring in Douby, Singleton and Zhang, yet still fell short in the end.  With coach Jiang expected to retire in the off-season, rumors are already swirling about a major shake-up with the team.  Bateer, whose contract ends this summer, isn’t expected to be re-signed and the press is reporting that the team is looking into paying a large buyout clause for Jiangsu’s disgruntled center, Tang Zhengdong.  Xinjiang will also have to find another head coach, as coach Jiang is widely expected to retire in the off-season.

Meanwhile, the only thing Guangdong will have to worry about is whether they’re going to fly Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Su Wei, Chen Jianghua and Wang Zheng out to national team training in Beijing on first-class or coach.  Which is why they’ll be favored for another title in their quest for a five-peat next season.


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