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Shanxi: A four-year history of throwing things

March 15, 2012

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Shanxi has been fined nine times in the last four years for incidents similar to the one that went down on Sunday. (Photo: Osports)

Yesterday, to provide some context for Sunday night’s craziness, we wrote a post listing all of the times fans league-wide have thrown stuff onto the court this season. Which then got us to wondering: Exactly how many times has Shanxi chucked stuff onto the court over the last few seasons?

Today, thanks to a NetEase report published late Tuesday night, we now know that answer. Since 2008-09, Shanxi has been fined nine separate times for their fans’ behavior, eight of which are listed below.

December 3, 2008 - Round 8 vs. Beijing: Fans throw lighters onto the court in two separate incidents, causing the game to stopped. The league gives the club a strong warning, fines them 100,000 RMB.

February 11, 2009 – Round 34 vs. Guangsha: With 3:41 to go in the game, fans pelt the court with lighters and other objects and shout obscenities at the referees. Afterwards, the league publicly criticizes the team, fines the club 10,000 RMB and fines the arena 50,000 RMB.

March 15, 2009 – vs. Round 48 vs. Shandong: With 27.3 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, fans throw bottes, lighters, fruit and other objects which causes the game to be interrupted for five minutes. During that interruption, Shanxi’s owner “Boss Wang” Wang Xingjiang, gets into the referees’ face and violently kicks a courtside advertisement. The team is given a strong warning, a public criticism and is fined 100,000 RMB. The arena is fined 50,000 RMB for their failure to control the crowd.

February 5, 2010 – Round 20 vs. Guangdong: Fans throw objects onto the court during the game. The club is strongly warned and is fined 80,000 RMB, the arena is fined 30,000 RMB. On February 2nd, Shanxi was fined for a similar offense, making this the second time in the last three days that Shanxi has been penalized by the CBA.

December 22, 2010: Round 5 vs. Guangsha

Shanxi’s Shang Ping hammers Guangsha’s Javaris Crittenton and and gives out an additional elbow after the while. Guangsha’s P.J. Ramos, who is trailing the play, runs over and pushes Shang Ping down to the ground. Fans lob anything they can get their hands on, causing the game to be stopped for several minutes. Shang Ping and Ramos are suspended a game each. Both teams receive a public criticism. Shanxi is fined 10,000 RMB and Guangsha is fined 20,000 RMB.

December 23, 2011 – Round 15 vs. Liaoning: A water bottle is thrown at Liaoning’s players from behind their bench and lands on the nearside foul-line. The CBA dishes out a strong warning to both the team and the arena, and fines the team 10,000 RMB.

February 12, 2012 – Round 33 vs. Guangdong – 2012

Shanxi’s Zhang Xuewen is called for a foul on Guangdong’s Wang Zheng. Not happy with the call, Zhang punches the basket support and is called for a technical. Seconds later, fans begin to throw lighters onto the court. As Guangdong normally does in these situations, the coaching staff orders the team into the locker room. Despite orders from the game’s technical director to come back, Guangdong insists that they will do no such thin until order has been restored. Shanxi an the arena are both levied a strong warning and the team is fined 20,000 RMB.

March 13, 2012 – Semi-Finals Game 4 vs. Beijing: Fans throw water bottles and lighters towards the end of the fourth quarter after a no-call on Marcus Williams’ drive to the basket. After the game, fans block the Beijing bus while throwing things at it, and prevent it from leaving for one hour and 20 minutes. Shanxi and the arena are fined 30,000 RMB each.

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Marcus Williams Interview

March 10, 2012

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Thanks to slicing drives like this, Marcus Williams has been putting lots of numbers and wins in his first season for Shanxi. (Photo: Osports)

Sometimes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

After learning that lesson midway through last season, the Zhejiang Golden Bulls are having to re-learn it from the comfort of their home living rooms as they watch their former star, Marcus Williams, carry one of their rivals deep into the post-season. For Williams though, who is starring for the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons this season, the success in his new digs is just the continuation of the pattern he’s set for himself over the last three years: winning games, putting up huge numbers and establishing himself as one of the CBA’s best import players.

At 25 years of age, Williams has had a unique road to CBA stardom. A high school star in Seattle, Williams chose to attend the University of Arizona, where he spent two years before being drafted in the second round by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. After spending most of 2007-08 season in the D-League with the the Spurs’ affiliate, the Austin Toros, Williams was signed by the Los Angeles Clippers for the rest of the season in March 2008. Unable to secure a deal in the NBA, he spent the next season back with the Toros and earned himself All-NBDL First Team honors and an NBDL All-Star selection.

But feeling the need for a change, Williams went in a totally different direction with his career — he went across the Pacific Ocean to China where signed a contract with Zhejiang in the fall of 2010. Younger and less experienced than most of the league’s older import players, the then 23 year-old Williams bucked the trend and averaged 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists while nearly pushing the Golden Bulls into the playoffs.

That apparently wasn’t good enough in the eyes of Zhejiang management, however, and the team opted to bring in longtime NBA veteran Mike James to replace Williams. Like many NBA-to-CBAers last season, James didn’t last long and Williams was brought back a mere nine games into the season. With Williams in the lineup, Zhejiang erased their 2-7 start to finish the year 17-6. By year’s end, the Golden Bulls were back in the playoffs and Williams had amassed averages 29.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

After the mess that Williams cleaned up, you’d think the team would have learned their lesson by signing him in the off-season. They didn’t.

Despite two great seasons, Zhejiang felt once again that the grass was greener over by the NBA fence and elected to sign a locked-out J.R. Smith over Williams. No longer wanted in Yiwu, he skipped to Taiyuan to sign with the Brave Dragons. By the time the smoke cleared on the 2011-12 season, J.R. and the Golden Bulls went 15-17 and missed the post-season. Williams and the Brave Dragons went 20-12, made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and are now playing for a trip to the CBA Finals.

Not surprisingly, Williams has been a huge part of Shanxi’s historical season. Improving on what was already an extremely refined and versatile offensive game, Williams has become even more dominant than before to become arguably the best player in the entire league. A 6-7 walking triple-double, he averaged a CBA career high 31.9 points per game this season in addition to 4.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.5 steals. What he shoots from the field is somewhat of a mystery as different websites have listed his three point percentage anywhere from 50 to 90 percent. So while we don’t know the exact number, we do know this: Boasting excellent balance and shot selection, he doesn’t miss too much and his field goal percentage is definitely over 50 percent.

And in the post-season, he’s been missing even less. In Shanxi’s seven playoff games, he’s hit for 35 points in four of them. In the semi-finals alone, he’s averaging 38 points on over 60 percent from the field and 95 percent from the free-throw line. Down 2-1 against Beijing, Shanxi will need a win and some more of the same from Williams on Sunday night to force a deciding Wednesday Game 5 in Beijing.

Yet, his biggest bucket came off the court when the two-time NiuBBall All-CBA First Teamer sat down with NiuBBall to discuss the playoffs, his development as a player in the CBA, life in Taiyuan and more.

NiuBBall: Let’s talk first about your series with Beijing. In some leagues, the pace of the game really slows down in the playoffs in comparison to the regular season. But with you and Beijing, especially the last two games, it seems like the pace has actually gotten faster. What are some of the differences you’re noticing in this series versus the regular season or even your first round series against Shanghai?

Marcus Williams: Our first playoff series was against Shanghai, and they totally slowed the pace down. Once we were able to advance and get to Beijing, we were so anxious to speed the game up and play at a fast pace. I think everyone is being really aggressive, we’re shooting more free-throws. I just think that’s our style of play. But at the end of the day, we need to get stops, especially at the end of games, and I think that’s what hurt us in Game 2 and Game 3. We just weren’t able to focus on the defensive end and they had two big nights.

NiuBBall: You mentioned the defense already, what were some other differences between Game 1 and the last two games in Beijing?

MW: Well, in Game 2 Stephon [Marbury] got going really early and I think that gave the rest of their team a lot of confidence. He got into the paint, he was able to kick to shooters and those guys were making shots. It makes it a lot harder because now instead of worrying about one player, you’re worrying about three or four players. Number #20 [Zhai Xiaochuan] had a good game. Stephon obviously had 25 in the first quarter and I think in our first game it was something like 12. So, that’s something that hurt us. He’s the leader of their team and when he goes, they go.

Game 3 was a tough game we fought back from down 15 points in the second quarter and it was a close game all the way until the fourth. I think we ran out of gas a little bit. Having to come back from 15 took a lot out of us. There is definitely some things we can improve for next game. We need to rotate on matter to their shooters and do a better job keep Stephon out of the paint. But, Game 4 is in Taiyuan and obviously it’s a win or go home for us, so I think we can bring it next game and send it back to Beijing. And in Game 5 anything can happen.

NiuBBall: Obviously he’s put two huge nights back-to-back on you guys. When you’re game planning for him, are you trying to limit him or limit his teammates? Or is it a combination of the two?

MW: It’s going to be more of keeping him out of the paint so that he has to do it more himself. He wants to get in there, draw the help and kick out. That’s what he prefers. I think he’d rather be a facilitator than go out and score 40 a night, so we definitely want to close out on their shooters. But if he’s being aggressive, then you have to focus on him because he can have big nights.

NiuBBall: A lot of your team’s offense is geared towards getting you and Charles [Gaines] the ball. It’s certainly worked, you guys scored the most points in the league this year, but do you ever see it as a challenge to get your teammates involved on that end of the floor?

MW: With me and Chuck playing together for a while, obviously we played all of this year and then we played some D-League together [in Austin], I’m real familiar with him. But, no I don’t really see it as hard to get our teammates involved. We have Lu Xiaoming at the point, he can run the show. I think it was hard at the beginning of the season. I think they hadn’t really gotten used to having us both there. But, as the season progressed and once the second-half of the season began, they got a lot more comfortable and started to trust us and I think that really helped our team, it allowed us finish up the regular season really strong.

NiuBBall: You first played with Chuck in the D-League with the Austin Toros, now you’re teammates again in Shanxi. What’s it been like reuniting with  him in China this year?

MW: It’s been great. Me and him both live in Houston back in the States, and I was talking with him this summer to figure out what he was going to do this season. It’s a big key to have an American on your team who’s game you’re at least a little bit familiar with. And he’s a good friend of mine, so it’s made it really easy just coming to Shanxi and having the quick transition, to be able to build a relationship with him and build an on-court chemistry with him. I know he’s the type of player who goes after it every night, so that makes my job a lot easier. If I have an off night, he can fill in for me and vice versa.

NiuBBall: Playing in China, how important do you feel that foreigner-foreigner relationship is?

MW: I think it’s really important, at least on the court. Obviously, you can’t control the other things, but on the court you have to have a foreigner who you can feed off of or at least you can play decently with because it’s just you two out there. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with him, he’s probably the only other guys on the team who can speak English, so you just need kind of a comfort level. Then, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on both of you to perform, so to be able to help each other is key.

NiuBBall: The last two years, you were with Zhejiang, now you’re almost done with your first year in Shanxi. Talk about both teams and how they differ from one another.

MW: In Zhejiang, we definitely played a slower game. As far as the basketball, it was all good. Obviously my first year, we weren’t able to get into the playoffs, but my second year we got better and advanced to the playoffs and we played really well. Shanxi is really fast paced. Both teams are really young, both had good players. In Zhejiang we had Ding [Jinhui] and Cao Fei, in Shanxi we have Lu Xiaoming, Duan [Jiangpeng], Zhang Xuewen and the kid from Guangdong [Ren Junhui]. So both teams are kind of similar as far as their makeup. That’s why I think it was a pretty easy adjustment.

NiuBBall: Shanxi is a little unique in the fact that the team hired a Chinese head coach at the beginning of the year and then brought in an American assistant, Beau Archibald. How has that dynamic worked and what’s it been like to have Coach Archibald around?

MW: It’s been great, Beau has really helped on the defense as far as picking up on the schemes and adjusting to what teams are doing. Also, it’s been good to talk to a coach who has his eyes out there on the floor, who can see something and come directly to talk to you and say “Hey, this is what I’m seeing out there.” And he’s familiar with the U.S. style of basketball, so the things I’m comfortable with he can help to put into the offense. It’s just been really good.

NiuBBall: You came to the CBA when you were pretty young. For various reasons, I think it’s tough for younger players to adjust to this league. How were you able to come in as 23 year-old and not only adjust, but play at a high level?

MW: I’m not going to lie, my first time here was hard. That first year I think is the one that’s going to tell you if you can make it here or not. My first year, I got really sick out here, I got some kind of virus. I think I missed two or three games. Then there’s the food. I just tried to tough it out because I think the basketball was good for me. I was able to come out and get a lot of minutes. Coming from the NBA and the D-League, in the D-League I was able to get a lot of minutes, but the money’s not there. In the NBA, I wasn’t really playing a lot. But to come here, you’re able to play your game freely and you can take that leadership role. For me, as long as the basketball is good, I’m good. That’s how I roll.

NiuBBall: This year, obviously the big story was all of the NBA guys coming to China during the lockout. What kind of impact do you think it had on the CBA this year, and how do you see it affecting the league’s development in the long-term?

MW: I think it was great. I think a lot of attention was brought to the CBA. Having guys like Aaron Brooks, Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith, these aren’t small-time NBA players, these are legitimate NBA guys who have logged years and have had success. The talent level really went up this year. And I think it just brought a lot of eyes from really everywhere. I think some big time players in Europe might start coming over, like [Will] McDonald. I think a lot of players are really going to start wanting to come out here and play. There’s a lot of freedom out here. The CBA tries to mimic the NBA a little bit, so the basketball is not bad. So I think for guys who are similar to me, as long as the basketball is good they’ll be good. In Europe, it’s a slower game, you don’t get as many minutes and you don’t really get to shoot the ball as much. So, I think the CBA is only going to keep going up.

NiuBBall: You just mentioned the freedom and the minutes as some of the positives about playing in the CBA — your numbers have gotten better every year, do you think this league is a good place to come and improve? Do you feel like you’ve improved over the last three years?

MW: I do. I think the only way you get better is by playing. If you’re sitting on the bench and you’re not getting a lot of playing time, sure you can work on your game away from the court, but eventually it’s going to have to translate to game situations. Obviously, the competition level in the CBA is lower than the NBA, but if you’re a guy that wasn’t getting a lot of playing time, I think you can come here and play and you go on and play somewhere else, like the NBA, I think you’ll be more confident in your game and I guess just more tricks up your sleeve just because you’re able to show all of that in this league.

NiuBBall: One thing that you’ve improved on, at least on paper, is your three-point shooting. Every website has a different percentage, on the CBA official stat tracker you were shooting a perfect 100% for a while. So let me ask: Do you know what you’re shooting from the three point line this year?

MW: [Laughing] No, I really don’t. I know the last two years I was between 45 and 50 percent, so I would guess around there. I remember when they had me shooting 90 percent [earlier in the year] and people were calling me saying they couldn’t believe it. I missed two threes in 10 games. It was too unrealistic, but it gave us some good laughs though.

NiuBBall: Mike Harris said in a recent interview that he felt you are the best import in the league and that you have NBA talent. I know in talking with other players and coaches around the league, he’s not the only person who feels that way. Is the NBA on your radar at all, getting back a goal for you?

MW: I don’t really think about the NBA too much. I had times where I was in the NBA and tried it. But, I love playing basketball. I like to be out there and play, that’s what I’ve loved to do ever since I was a kid. I would obviously love, best case scenario, to be in the NBA playing minutes. But if that doesn’t happen I’d rather be playing somewhere else and getting minutes. That’s just who I am. Now if an opportunity came along, if I couldn’t pass it up, I have a son and a family and I’d love to be home, I’d take it. But until that happens, I’m happy in the CBA.

NiuBBall: You’re a China vet, what’s your favorite city in China?

MW: I like Hangzhou. While I’m in China, I definitely want to feel like I’m in China. In Shanghai or Beijing, you kind of get lost in the ambiance, it’s still kind of like the States. But Hangzhou, they have some pretty nice restaurants, the lake is real nice… It’s kind of between Beijing and a more traditional Chinese city.

NiuBBall: So you like to go out and go see the different cities.

MW: Yeah, I like to go out and see a city and explore a little bit. I don’t really go out, but while I’m out here I might as well.

NiuBBall: What do you do in Taiyuan?

MW: Well, we’ve been really busy during the season, but there’s a couple of restaurants I go to. Pizza Lovers and 1950 are two good restaurants. But as far as sight-seeing in Taiyuan, I haven’t really had the chance to go out and do that. I’ve heard of a couple of places, I think they have a real famous temple out there about an hour away, but we’ve been really busy once the season kicked off so I haven’t really had the time.

NiuBBall: Marcus, thanks for the chat and good luck with the rest of the playoffs.

MW: Thanks.

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals – Game 1

March 6, 2012

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Guangdong – 95 @ Xinjiang – 92

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Beijing – 119 @ Shanxi – 122

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

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

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

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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

December 8, 2011

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*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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2011-2012 CBA Preview

November 20, 2011

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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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Li Xiaoxu, five others cut from National Team roster

May 13, 2011

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Li Xiaoxu was a National Team regular since 2009, winning a gold medal in the 2010 Asian Games.

Chinese National Team head coach, Bob Donewald, sprung his first surprise of the international season earlier today when he announced that 2010 FIBA World Championship participant and Asian Games gold medalist, Liaoning PanPan’s Li Xiaoxu, was amongst the first six players cut from the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship roster.

In addition to Li, two other Liaoning players were sent home, center Han Dejun and small forward He Tianju. The other three players were Shandong guard Sun Jie, Shanxi power forward Zhang Xuewen and Jilin forward Zhong Cheng.  The roster, which originally stood at 37 players, is now down to 31.

Dismissing Li Xiaoxu, a two-time CBA All-Star and a regular fixture with the National Team since 2009, was largely unexpected.  The 6-9 power forward played big minutes off the bench for Team China last year during the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, and was seen by some as an improving young big man who would continue to back up Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlian at the four and five spots this summer. Li helped China bring home gold in the Asian Games.

Donewald, however, obviously wasn’t one of those people.  Talking to the media earlier today, Donewald blamed Li’s early exit on an injury that kept the player from even reporting to training camp, and expressed remorse that the Asian Games gold medalist couldn’t be on the team this year.

But, Chinese media is reporting there are reasons surrounding Li’s unexpected cut.  Sourcing insiders, Sina Sports’ Chen Xi is reporting that Li’s club team, Liaoning, communicated to the National Team that Li’s physical and mental condition would make it unable for the player to adapt to Donewald’s high intensity training, and told the team he would need some time to get himself back into playing shape.  Thus, Li never reported to Beijing and the decision to cut him wasn’t Donewald’s, but rather Liaoning and the Chinese Basketball Association’s.

Still, some people remain convinced politics played a role in the decision, especially considering that Li’s Liaoning teammates, Han Dejun and He Tianju, were also cut.  Donewald and Liaoning’s head coach, Guo Shiqiang, were involved in a high-profile sideline spat during the CBA season, and the two’s relationship is rumored to have deteriorated greatly.  Donewald replaced Guo as head coach of the National Team in April 2010.

All that aside, clearly Han and He were clearly never going to be even seriously considered for a final roster spot.  As anyone who has seen the 7-foot 320 pound play, Han is amongst the worst conditioned big men in the country and tires himself out after a couple of trips up and down the court.

Donewald and the rest of Team China will head to Hainan next Tuesday for more training before they leave for a set of friendly games in Australia in late June.  More cuts are expected in the next couple of weeks as the team gets ready for a 30-game warm-up schedule that will prepare them for the Asia Championship in September.

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China National Team roster announced, Yao Ming included among 36 others

April 11, 2011

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On Friday April 8th, the Chinese Basketball Association announced the 37-player Men’s National Team roster that will train at the China National Sports Training Center in Beijing this spring in preparation for the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship.  The competition, which will be held in Henan, China from September 15-25, is the the qualifying tournament for FIBA Asia for the 2012 London Summer Olympics men’s basketball tournament.

With both the CBA and NBA seasons still in progress, the roster has been split up into three separate groups, each of which have different mandatory dates to report.  Group 1, which is comprised of 11 players whose teams did not make the CBA playoffs this season, officially reported to training yesterday afternoon.  Group 2, which has 21 players, all of whom played playoff basketball, will report sometime around May 1st, while Group 3, China’s NBA players, will join everyone at a later date.

Among the usual names like Yi Jianlin, Wang Zhizhi, and Liu Wei is Yao Ming, who despite missing most of season with a stress fracture in his left ankle was selected by the CBA to represent the National Team this summer in Beijing.  Though he’ll be required to report, Yao’s selection is almost certainly only symbolic — throughout the year the CBA has maintained they will exercise extreme caution in allowing Yao to recover from yet another serious injury, and have even implied that the big man’s National Team career could very well be over, even if his ankle heals properly.

Yao, who will spend time in China this summer, was happy after learning of his selection.

“It’s an honor to be selected to the National Team.  If my foot allows, I’ll be right there to cheer them on,” said Yao to a Chinese reporter in Houston.

Unlike in the United States and other Western countries, Chinese players are required to serve on the National Team if called upon.  Since players were raised and trained by the state, as opposed to Western players who received coaching from club teams, schools and amateur associations, the top Chinese athletes have only their country to thank for their development, and thus athletes’ priorities to their country come before those of both their professional team and themselves.  The superiority of the state over the individual in sports is one of the main cultural differences between China and the West.

The roster will be paired down in June as Team China will play a number of warm-up games in preparation for the Asia Championship.

Group 1:

Sun Jie (孙杰) Guard, Shandong*
Guo Ailun (郭艾伦), Guard, Liaoning
Yu Shulong (于澍龙) Guard, Jilin*
Zhong Cheng (钟诚) Guard, Jilin*

Liu Ziqiu (刘子秋) Forward, Shanghai
Peng Fei (彭飞), Forward, Shanghai
Duan Jiangpeng (段江鹏), Forward, Shanxi
Zhang Xuewen (张学文), Forward, Shanxi*
He Tianju (贺天举), Forward, Liaoning

Li Xiaoxu (李晓旭), Center, Liaoning*
Han Dejun (韩德君), Center, Liaoning

Group 2:

Chen Jianghua (陈江华) Guard, Guangdong
Wang Shipeng (王仕鹏) Guard, Guangdong*
Zhang Bo (张博) Guard, Bayi
Han Shuo (韩硕) Guard, Bayi
Liu Wei (刘炜) Guard, Shanghai*
Sun Yue (孙悦) Guard, Beijing Aoshen
Zhang Qingpeng (张庆鹏) Guard, Xinjiang*
Xirelijiang (西热力江) Guard, Xinjiang

Zhou Peng (周鹏) Forward, Guangdong
Zhu Fangyu (朱芳雨) Forward, Guangdong*
Dong Hanlin (董瀚麟) Forward, Guangdong
Wang Lei (王磊)Forward, Bayi
Mo Ke (莫科) Forward, Bayi*
Ding Jinhui (丁锦辉) Forward, Zhejiang Chouzhou*
Yi Li (易立) Forward, Jiangsu*
Zhang Kai (张凯) Forward, DongGuan*
Meng Duo (孟铎) Forward, DongGuan

Su Wei (苏伟) Center, Guangdong*
Wang Zhizhi (王治郅) Center, Bayi*
Zhang Zhaoxu (张兆旭) Center, Shanghai
Zhang Songtao (张松涛) Center, Beijing Aoshen

Group 3:

Yi Jianlian (易建联) Forward, Washington Wizards
Yao Ming (姚明) Center, Houston Rockets**

Reserves:

Mengke Bateer (巴特尔) Center, Xinjiang*
Tang Zhengdong (唐正东) Center, Jiangsu
Wang Zheng (王征) Center, Guangdong

* Denotes 2010-11 CBA All-Star
** Denotes 2010-11 NBA All-Star

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Everything you need to know about All-Star Weekend

March 18, 2011

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We’ve gotten quite a bit of e-mail about All-Star Weekend this Saturday and Sunday in Beijing — where it’s being played, who is participating, what events are being held, etc.

All participants will report in Beijing tonight.  Tomorrow night at 7:00pm, the CBA’s brightest young stars will play in the All-Rookie Game.  At halftime, the preliminaries for the Three-Point Shootout and Slam-Dunk Contest will commence.  Those who advance will go onto the finals, which will be played after the All-Star Game on Sunday night.

All-Star rosters are structured the same as domestic CBA rosters: Two imports per team, one starter and one reserve.

Here’s the official schedule:

Friday: Player Registration
Saturday, 7:00pm: CBA Rookie Game; Three-Point Shootout and Slam-Dunk Contest Preliminaries (at halftime)
Sunday, 7:00pm: CBA All-Star Game; Skills Challenge, Three-Point Shootout and Slam-Dunk Contest Finals (after the game)

Rookie Game Roster:

North: Tao Hanlin (Center, Shandong), Li An (Center, Jilin), Yu Changdong (Center, Shanxi), Guo Ailun (Guard, Liaoning), Lian Ming (Forward, Liaoning), Zhang Zhihan (Forward, Tianjin), Shen Tunjun (Guard, Tianjin), Han Chongkai (Center, Beijing), Chen Shidong (Guard, Beijing), Sun Weibo (Guard, Xinjiang)

South: Gu Quan (Forward, DongGuan), He Zhongmian (Guard, DongGuan),  Ren Junfei (Forward, Guangdong), Li Yuanyu (Center, Guangdong), Zhang Zhaojun (Center, Zhejiang), Ji Xiang (Forward, Shanghai), Zhang Chengyu (Guard, Bayi), Jin Jiming (Guard, Foshan), Zhao Dapeng (Guard, Guangsha)

Skills Competition Participants:

Guo Ailun, Liaoning
Xie Libin, Beijing
Yu Shulong, Jilin
Lin Chih-Chieh, Guangsha

Three-Point Shootout Participants:

Stephon Marbury, Foshan
Quincy Douby, Xinjiang
Zhang Qingpeng, Xinjiang
Lee Hsueh-Lin, Beijing
Zhang Bo, Bayi
Sun Jie, Shandong

Slam-Dunk Contest Participants

James Singleton, Xinjiang
Zhang Xuewen, Shandong
Wu Nan, Jiangsu
Zhang Ji, Tianjin
Wu Ke, Shandong
Zhao Tailong, Fujian SBS

North All-Star Starters:

Guard: Quincy Douby, Xinjiang
Guard: Zhang Qingpeng, Xinjiang

Forward: Zhang Nan, Tianjin
Forward: Li Xiaoxu, Liaoning

Center: Mengke Bateer, Xinjiang

North All-Star Reserves:

Guard: Yu Shulong, Jilin
Guard: Lee Hsueh-Lin, Beijing
Guard: Sun Jie, Shandong

Forward: Chen Lei, Beijing
Forward: Zhong Cheng, Jilin
Forward: Zhang Xuewen, Shanxi

Center: Randolph Morris, Beijing

Head Coach: Jiang Xingquan, Xinjiang

South All-Star Starters:

Guard: Stephon Marbury, Foshan
Guard: Wang Shipeng, Guangdong

Forward: Zhang Kai, DongGuan
Forward: Mo Ke, Bayi

Center: Wang Zhizhi, Bayi

South All-Star Reserves:

Guard: Liu Wei, Shanghai
Guard: Lin Chih-ChiehGuangsha

Forward: Zhu Fangyu, Guangdong
Forward: Yi Li, Jiangsu
Forward: Ding JinhuiZhejiang 
Forward: Marcus Williams, Zhejiang

Center: Su Wei, Guangdong

Head Coach: Li Chunjiang, Guangdong

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