Tag Archives: Zhejiang Guangsha Lions

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

February 18, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

The full first round schedule is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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Plenty on the line in CBA’s final weekend

February 15, 2013

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With both a playoff spot and the individual scoring title on the line, Zhejiang’s Quincy Douby has a lot on his plate this weekend.

It goes by quickly, doesn’t it? After a week-long Spring Festival break, the Chinese Basketball Association’s 34-round regular season will come to a close this Sunday. And while Guangdong, Shandong and Beijing have already locked up the top three spots, there’s still plenty of stuff going on below them. To help everyone out, let’s go over what everyone should be watching for over these last two games.

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Forbes for Thornton in Guangsha one of several mid-season import moves

December 14, 2012

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Gary Forbes, who is already in China, has officially replaced the injured Al Thornton in Guangsha.

The Chinese Basketball Association has hit the one-third mark, which means import players are being replaced at a higher rate. Let’s break down the moves that have gone down within the last week.

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The definitive NiuBBall.com CBA preview

November 22, 2012

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Stephon Marbury and the Beijing Ducks won the title last year… But will they have enough to repeat in 2012-13? (Photo: Osports)

Moreso than ever, the Chinese Basketball Association has become quite difficult to predict pre-season.

It’s hard to predict first of all because we generally stink at predictions, but more importantly that the league is as deep as its ever been top-to-bottom. There’s a more than a few reasons for that — more off-season player movement, more players going abroad to train in the summer, better coaching in-country, a commitment to strength and conditioning programs and better foreign players all round out the top of our list. But the end result of all that should be a very watchable and exciting league this season. Which is a good thing for us fans, of course.

Bad thing for NiuBBall’s annual predictions, however.

By our count, there’s 11 and possibly 12 teams (depending on how well you think Tracy McGrady is going to do in Qingdao) who have a shot at the playoffs. That’s well over half the league. If you think DongGuan is ready to make a jump (we do), then there are now four teams who could sport legitimate Finals cases. Building on Beijing’s buck-the-trend run to a championship last year, there appears to be a level of parody in the league. Pencilling in the top two, top four and top eight is no longer easy.

So as always, take what is about to come with a grain of salt and know that most likely this will all be very wrong.

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Yang Xuezeng hired in Zhejiang

May 23, 2012

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Yang Xuezeng, who recently resigned from Shanxi Zhongyu, is now officially the head coach at Zhejiang Chouzhou. He had been linked to Zhejiang since earlier this month, when it was announced that he had walked away from Shanxi.

Yang is the second head coach to sign with a new team this off season. In April, Zhejiang Guangsha brought back Wang Fei after releasing Jim Cleamons.

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Shang Ping signs with Qingdao, Li Gen to Guangsha?

April 26, 2012

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The good news for Qingdao: They’ve just signed a serviceable big man who actually wants to play inside.

And the bad news: They’re about to lose the this season’s leading Chinese scorer.

Shang Ping, who played the last two seasons for Shanxi Zhongyu, has become the first player to officially change laundry this off-season. One of the few players to be a free-agent, the 6-8 power forward has signed a three-year deal with the Eagles.

Big 12 fans may know Shang from his days at Nebraska — after transferring from Illinois Central College in 2006, he played one season for the Cornhuskers in 2007-08 and averaged 9.9 minutes, 3.0 points and 1.4 rebounds per game in 21 appearances. At the conclusion of the season, Shang then transferred to Division II Emporia State where he averaged 14.9 minutes, 5.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in 25 games.

When his four years of college eligibility were up, Shang opted to play professionally in China and signed a one-year deal with Beijing Shougang. In his rookie season, he piled up 21 starts out of 30 games, averaging 15.6 minutes 4.1 points and 3.5 rebounds. Apparently content with his basketball nomad lifestyle, Shang packed his bags once again in the summer of 2010 to sign with Shanxi. He showed improvement over in 2010-11, boosting his averages to 9.8 points and 5.3 rebounds, but with Ren Junhui in on loan from Guangdong this year, Shang’s playing playing time declined considerably this year, especially towards the end of the season.

Qingdao lacks size on the interior and at a burly 6-8, Shang will at least give them some toughness down on the block. Their only other true four, Xue Yuyang,  prefers to hang out on the three-point line and possesses arms only slightly longer than spatulas, making things like rebounding a tough proposition. Shang may not be super skilled, but he is physical and he will give something Qingdao didn’t have last year.

But that bit of good news will soon be cast over by the ominous dark cloud that is Li Gen’s imminent departure. According to Sohu, Li, who like Shang is a free-agent, is close to signing with Zhejiang Guangsha; so much so that Sohu’s sources are declaring it “90% done.” Li’s old team, Shanghai, who he left in 2010, is also in the mix but according to the report, Guangsha’s offer is apparently too good to pass up.

Listed at 23 years-old, Li averaged a career high 17.5 points per game last year en route to becoming the leading Chinese scorer in the league. He also won CBA All-Star MVP.

If Li indeed joins Guangsha, it’ll be quite a coup for the Lions who will have made a big local addition only weeks after bringing back head coach, Wang Fei. They will, however, need to figure out who’s going to set up the offense — with the content-to-shoot-it-from-anywhere Li potentially joining forces with notorious chucker, Lin Chih-chieh, team management would be wise to ensure that their point guard going forward knows how to pass the ball. How they’ll go about doing that remains to be seen because Jin Lipeng definitely isn’t that guy and Wang Zirui likely isn’t seasoned enough to step into huge minutes at the point quite yet.

Being as tough as it is to add talent in the off-season, if Guangsha ends up with Li, the point guard situation will be one of those good problems and Hangzhou might become the host city of a top-five team.

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Wang Fei officially returns to Guangsha

April 10, 2012

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After we posted last month about a coaching change in Hangzhou, Guangsha has officially announced that Wang Fei will be returning to act as the team’s head coach next season. He will replace Jim Cleamons, who is not coming back after spending this past season with the team.

This is Wang’s second stint with Guangsha. Wang coached the Lions from 2007 to 2011 before leaving the team due to health reasons.

Way before Guangsha, Wang coached the Bayi Rockets starting in 1994 and led them to six championships. He then took the reigns of the Chinese National Team twice, the first time from 1997-99 and the other from 2001-02 before coming back to the CBA in 2005 to coach Xinjiang. Wang worked this past season as a color commentator for CCTV-5.

According to Guangsha general manager, Ye Xiangyu, though Wang took this past season off, his contract never expired and deciding to bring him back “shouldn’t be considered as an unexpected decision.”

Wang will rejoin the team this month.

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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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CBA off-season carousel in full swing

March 14, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Liaoning get rejected by Jiang Xingquan, hire Wu Qinglong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wang Min the latest head to roll at Jiangsu

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

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

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NiuBBall Water Cooler/Heater: CBA Playoffs And More Wilson Chandler Shenanigans

March 1, 2012

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The NiuBBall water cooler/heater: Where you can chat with friends about hoops while sipping either hot or cold water.

This chat originally appeared on Shark Fin Hoops before last night’s pair of Game 4s were played.

After a brief break to take in the madness of the CBA postseason, Edward Bothfeld is back to survey the wreckage of Fujian and Guangsha’s seasons now that they have been knocked out of the playoffs, as well as giving his thoughts on Wilson Chandler’s acrimonious departure from Hangzhou.

Andrew Crawford: I think we should start by talking about the Guangdong-Fujian series?

Edward Bothfeld: Well it’s hard to be surprised that Guangdong won like they did. I thought Fujian would get a game, but without Abbas and Roberson, they were hopeless and weren’t going to have a chance versus a well-oiled, all-cylinders firing Guangdong team who are without doubt the team to beat.

AC: It does look kind of ominous. Guangdong’s big players are all heating up nicely- I noticed they were averaging 123 points a game in that series, which says a lot about how their offense is functioning right now. That said, we should probably doff our caps to Fujian, who’ve made the playoffs a year after finishing second from bottom in the CBA. If I’m Jiangsu, I want Zaid Abbas signed up for 2012/13 ASAP to try to have the same sort of recovery.

EB: His hustle is infectious. If you’re on his team and he’s on the court, you would feel guilty if you weren’t going at 100% because of the type of effort he puts in. He’ll be a welcome addition to any bottom dweller.

AC: Beijing Ducks swept a Wilson Chandler-less Guangsha Lions? I guess that can’t have been fun for you?

EB: The writing was on the wall really. It was a really difficult situation for the team and coaching staff after losing your best player in that fashion and at that time. They put in a good effort and showed a lot of heart in Game 1 but I think after losing that game, it was all downhill from there; Jin Lipeng struggles on the road, as do many of their other role players. Rodney White played hard and tried to show some leadership, which was good to see, but Stephon Marbury was too much.

AC: Yeah, that series looked pretty tricky but I think Guangsha got a lot of respect considering how they went down fighting. Obviously, Chandler’s gone but how much more personnel change do you think there’ll be at the club now that the season is done?

EB: I’ve been told that Ramos is still under contract, and the owner said the team will have a new import to pair with him for next season so it will be interesting to see who that is. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lipeng retires, whilst Jim Cleamons still doesn’t know if he’ll be back- although he doesn’t sound opposed to the idea. They need to make sure to develop Wang Zirui at the point and try to get some national team players in because Guangsha’s Chinese supporting cast just isn’t very good.

AC: We should also cast our eye to Xinjiang-Dongguan- any thoughts?

EB: Ike Diogu is certainly giving them some offense but Tim Pickett isn’t 100% healthy and he’s a very important part of that team. They were fortunate that Diogu caught fire to win Game 3 because Pickett only scored 10 points. If Dongguan can pull out Game 4, anything can happen in Game 5, although Xinjiang has experience on their side.

AC: Another live series is obviously my own Shanghai Sharks against the Shanxi Dragons. Every game has been really close so far and tonight’s game is a sell-out. How do you seen the series going?

EB: It will probably go down to the wire. I have always been a fan of Shanxi’s tandem of Gaines and Williams. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Shanghai force a Game 5 but I think that Shanxi is too strong with Williams’ ability to get to the foul line. He WILL get 30 a night but the same can’t be said about Landry. It’s harder for Shanghai to win.

AC: This is all true but Williams has looked tired. He always has the potential to go out and put up a triple-double but so far he hasn’t been himself. Obviously I don’t want to tempt fate for tonight but with Shanxi, everything goes through Williams- if he isn’t on fire, generally neithier are the Dragons. Also Liu Wei has been inspired this series- maybe he knows he isn’t going to have too many more trips to the playoffs, but he’s gone all out during the last few games.

EB: Well, now’s the time to go all out. This is the playoffs, you have leave it all on the table.

AC: We should probably talk about one man who certainly didn’t leave it on the table. As a Guangsha fan, I imagine you’re not impressed at Wilson Chandler’s no show at the crucial stage in the season?

EB: I can sort of understand his predicament; Thursday is the deadline for him to sign a long-term deal in the NBA- a deal that would set him up financially for the rest of his life so that’s one side of the situation but leaving the team at this stage in the season is kind of whack, especially now it’s being reported that he might sign in Italy. Should that happens, I would be disappointed because during the CBA season, he could put up 40-15 if he wanted to and that Guangsha Beijing series would be really competitive. If he signs in Italy it would be like he left China for nothing and the fact that he didn’t even get to say goodbye to his teammates or coach leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Overall, it’s a little crazy how it went down but would you expect anything less from the CBA?

AC: It also sounds like the CBA isn’t going to let Chandler just walk away and they are going to make life difficult for him [Edit: Chandler has since got his letter of clearance -AC].

EB: Guangsha’s season is over, so what else do they want?

AC: To me, it feels like they want to reclaim some face after the Kenyon Martin balls-up, but like you say, Guangsha’s season is done so I don’t know how they can make that work.. Its kind of weird to think that of all the big name guys that came over this season, only the craziest one in JR Smith saw out his contract.

EB: He finished it, but it was a rollercoaster of a ride- and to think he was fined $1 mil for not going to practices…

AC: Yeah, that’s a lot of money the Bulls have now got saved away in a jar for next season’s overseas recruiting drive. Alright man, its been great. Let’s try and do this again next week.

EB: For sure. Bye.

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Chandler’s FIBA LOC first gets denied, then gets granted

February 29, 2012

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Two weeks after leaving Zhejiang Guangsha, Wilson Chandler’s road back to the NBA has finally been re-opened. Now the question is, has it been re-opened in time?

Chandler’s early exit from China can be attributed to one thing: Money, and potentially lots of it. A restricted free-agent coming off of a career year last year with the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets, Chandler stands in an excellent position to sign a lucrative multi-year contract back in the NBA. But, whether that payday comes this season or during the off-season will be the end result of the Chinese Basketball Association’s rule that forbids back-to-the-NBA opt-out clauses — and their insistence on upholding it.

Chandler’s current situation is as unusual as it is complicated. After helping Guangsha make the post-season, the team allowed Chandler, at his request, not to participate in the post-season. Upon first look, letting what had been at times the most dominant player in the CBA get on a U.S.-bound plane days before the playoffs seemed strange, if not downright nonsensical.

But with a lot of money at stake back in the NBA — and a quickly approaching March 1st deadline to secure that money — Chandler simply had to get back to the States if he was going to have a chance at signing this season, a point that Guangsha management ultimately came to understand. Chandler was a model citizen during his almost six-month stay in Hangzhou, and out of respect for the rest of his career, Guangsha essentially sacrificed their post-season for the benefit of their foreign player’s long-term career. The reasoning to get out of China was twofold: The first was to avoid injury; the second was to get his FIBA letter of clearance before March 1st.

The date is an important one: After March 1st, Chandler will only be allowed to re-sign with the Nuggets, something that isn’t within the interest of a player looking to leverage a long-term deal. With the Toronto Raptors reportedly going hard after the versatile forward, Chandler’s hope was to get his letter of clearance last week, which would have given him ample time to handle his impending business back in the States.

The latter part of the plan hit a snag, however, when the CBA refused to grant his clearance late last week.

Though likely frustrating, the decision shouldn’t have come as too big of a shock. Before the season, the CBA passed a rule forbidding players who were under contract in the NBA last year from including back-to-the-NBA opt-out clauses into their Chinese contracts this season. The rule was designed to prevent a potential mass exodus back to the States in case the lockout ended, which would have upset leaguewide stability and sent teams scrambling for replacement players mid-season. Per rule, the only way for a player to get his clearance was to wait until after his team’s season had been completed.

Or at least, that was how it was supposed to be until Kenyon Martin came along.

Martin, who signed with Xinjiang Guanghui in September, was unexpectedly granted his clearance after his FIBA application was left unanswered for seven by the Chinese. Consistent with Chinese basketball as a whole, Martin’s release didn’t come without its share of drama. Taking full advantage of Chinese New Year when the entire country takes an extended break from work to go home and celebrate the holidays with their families, Martin’s FIBA application was sent inside the one week of the year when nobody is in the CBA office. The timing was significant because as FIBA rules stipulate, a league has seven days to either grant or deny a clearance application. If there’s no answer within that time, a player’s clearance is automatically given.

The situation caused a loss of face for the league, who had been adamant all year about no early opt-outs. Though Martin’s application process was completely legal, CBA officials were furious that their iron-clad rule had been busted open through a Chinese New Year glitch.

In the aftermath of Martin’s case, the league vowed that there wouldn’t be a repeat incident and declared that no player would would be allowed out of their signed agreement while their team’s season was still being played. So when Chandler sent in his application late last week — one that requested he be released midway through Guangsha’s first-round playoff series against Beijing — the league, not surprisingly, responded with an emphatic “no.”

“After the situation with [Kenyon] Martin, the CBA has been paying extremely close attention to developments surrounding our foreign players,” said CBA Director of Operations, Gong Luming last Sunday. “We will strictly adhere to the rules we passed before the season. At present, we won’t be giving Chandler his release.”

But that was on Sunday morning. At that time, Guangsha had yet to be eliminated from the post-season. By Sunday night, however, Guangsha’s season was officially over after they were swept out of the playoffs by Beijing. With Guangsha’s season finished, Chandler re-submitted his application and was granted his release, according to Emiliano Carchia at Sportando.

Yet whether that clearance has come in time remains to be seen. With only one day before the March 1st deadline, Chandler’s options may be quite limited. As Beinjamin Hochman over at the Denver Post writes, Chandler has until tomorrow to receive an offer sheet from another team. And although there has been considerable interest from the Raptors, Chandler hasn’t received an official offer yet. A one-year deal with the Nuggets is out, which means if he’s unable to agree to a long-term deal with either the Nuggets or Raptors, Chandler will wait until the summer to sign the big money NBA contract he’s looking for.

Chandler’s agent, Chris Luchey, told Hochman ”we’re considering all options,” which includes a potential stint in Italy.

In 32 games for Guangsha this season, Chandler averaged 26.6 points and 11.6 rebounds.

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Round 1 – Game 1

February 24, 2012

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Beijing – 106 @ Guangsha – 103

For recap, check out Edward Bothfeld’s full report from Hangzhou.

Box Score

Shanxi – 90 @ Shanghai – 85

A wretched third quarter and some dire shooting from the free-throw line condemned Shanghai to a painful 90-85 home defeat in game one of their playoff series with the Shanxi Brave Dragons. The hard work now beckons for the Sharks, who must now go to the north of China and win at least one of the next two games in Taiyuan to remain in the playoffs. For the Brave Dragons, Marcus Williams made 37 points, Charles Gaines picked up a beefy 27 point, 19 rebound, double-double whilst Duan Jianpeng got 10. For Shanghai, Mike Harris scored 22 points whilst Zhang Zhaoxu got 18.

‘We executed out game plan, we kept the score in the range we wanted to keep it in but unfortunately we didn’t make our free-throws’, acknowledged Shanghai head coach, Dan Panaggio, at his press conference. Though acknowledging that his side could have won the game had they been more clinical when they went to the line, Panaggio also stressed the unique situations that come with postseason games. ‘This is playoff basketball, and if you look at the history of playoff basketball, statistics decrease during a playoff series’, he stated in response to a question about the team’s scoring in the second half. ‘Teams have a week to prepare for one team, not three teams in a week- you’re preparing for one. [Shanxi] know our personal and we know theirs’.

The Sharks’ coach also made it clear that his side were nowhere near out of the series after one game and that he fully believed in his players’ ability to rally back from tonight’s defeat. ’We’ve got ourselves in a tough spot but we’re going to go up [to Taiyuan] and battle’. Having underlined his own intensity and determination, now Panaggio’s players must do the same on Friday when the Dragons host Shanghai in game two of the series.

Andrew Crawford

Box Score

Xinjiang – 95 @ DongGuan – 101

Widely seen as a major underdog in their opening round series, DongGuan came away with an important Game 1 victory at home against Xinjiang.

After being dominated on the offensive glass in their Round 33 regular match-up in Urumqi, DongGuan limited Xinjiang to a small +3 advantage. The home squad also got pretty hot from downtown, hitting 13-28 from three as a team. Shavlik Randolph 31 points and 14 rebounds, Zhang Kai came up with 16 points and nine boards, and Josh Akognon put in 24.

Meanwhile, Xinjiang struggled to find a consistent rhythm playing their first game without Gani Lawal. The team shot just 39% from the field and came up with only 11 assists. Newcomer Ike Diogu scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds in his CBA debut. Tim Pickett struggled to get going, scoring 19 points on 6-22 shooting, while Mengke Bateer had 18 and 11.

The series will move back to Xinjiang tonight, where the Flying Tigers have only lost twice all season.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Guangdong – 115 @ Fujian – 97

Without the injured Anthony Roberson, Fujian was no match for Guangdong, who turned up the intensity to record an easy blowout victory. Wang Shipeng, who has largely been in hibernation for most of the winter, came out of his cave for team-high 24 points. Aaron Brooks came up with 22 points and eight assists, and Zhou Peng had 18 points.

For Fujian, Will McDonald did his best, playing a full 48 minutes for 33 points and six rebounds. Zhao Tailong had 25 points.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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Bothfeld: Beijing squeaks by Guangsha in Game 1

February 23, 2012

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An embattled Guangsha team entered the playoffs free of any expectations after their star forward Wilson Chandler was released from his contract prior to Game 1.  With his replacement, Rodney White, making his debut, the Lions had no choice but to leave it all on the floor while trying to adapt to their new teammate.

Leave it on the floor they did; adapt to White they didn’t. Beijing squeaked by Guangsha in a closely contested contest, 106-103. Stephon Marbury led the Ducks with 32 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals. He resembled a wrecking-ball as he was able to get to the basket at will.

“We have to stop his penetration and keep him off the free-throw line,” said Guangsha head coach, Jim Cleamons, post-game.

Beijing entered halftime up 55-48, although they should have had a double-digit lead considering they forced 11 Guangsha turnovers compared to their one.

After scoring four points in the first half, White made a concerted effort get going in the third quarter, but was unable to find a rhythm. His rust was obvious as his jumpers fell short and he committed five turnovers, and finished with 7 points on 2 of 13 shooting.

Nevertheless, Cleamons praised his performance.

“I thought he played very hard. This is a very difficult situation so I think he did well considering all the things that could have happened.”

With White a non-factor, P.J. Ramos carried Guangsha’s offense. He continually overpowered Randolph Morris on offense and caused him fits on defense. Morris’ third quarter offensive struggles allowed Guangsha to briefly take a 63-62 lead on a Wang Zirui three. However, after a timeout, Marbury took the reigns of his team’s offense, repeatedly burning his defender and getting to the hoop for lay-ups. With Guangsha’s momentum stalled, Beijing extended their lead to 86-70 at the end of the third.

Cleamons inserted Jin Lipeng in the game to start the fourth and he gave Guangsha the offensive spark they desperately needed. He scored eight early points and helped whittle Beijing’s lead to five with 4:45 minutes remaining. Guangsha continued to chip away at the lead and found them selves within striking distance with under a minute remaining. Up two, Marbury drove to the basket and was rejected by Ramos, which triggered a fast break that resulted in a game-tying lay up by Lin Chih-chieh. With 27 seconds left, Beijing called an isolation play for Marbury. He held the ball at the top of the arc before driving left against White. Wang Zirui cheated towards the lane and Marbury found Wang’s man, an open Lee Hsueh-lin, in the corner for a three. After a timeout, Ramos fumbled the inbounds pass and Guangsha was unable to get up a shot attempt as time expired.

Guangsha can view this game as missed opportunity. They lost on a last second shot despite the fact that White didn’t play well offensively and Marbury and Morris shot a combined 18 of 50. Ramos led the Lions with 26 points and 20 rebounds. Wang Zirui chipped in with a career high 19 points.

Game 2 will be played in Beijing on Friday.

Box Score

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It’s here! The official 2012 NiuBBall CBA Playoff Extravaganza!

February 22, 2012

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(Graphic via China Daily)

We have a saying over at NiuBBall: There is no parity in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Understand: Since the CBA went to a best-of-five format for the first round and semis in 2005, never has there been a do-or-die Game 5. Since the CBA went to a best-of-seven format for the finals a year later, only two teams – Bayi and Guangdong, both seeded 2nd, in 2007 and 2011 – have upset the regular season’s best team. Only one series has gone past Game 5 – last year, when Guangdong beat Xinjiang in six. In that same span, only three lower seeds have upset the higher seed.

The CBA is entertaining for many reasons, but the playoffs is definitely not one of them.

Its predictability has affected even the postseason schedule makers: best-of-five first round series take the 1-2-1-1 format in which the lower-seeded team hosts Game 1, based off the reasoning that attendance will be higher if a fan base’s optimism hasn’t been completely dashed by their team being in a 0-2 hole.

This year, though, we’re guaranteed at least this bit of variety: for the first time in three years, there will be at least one new team in the finals. That’s because Xinjiang and Guangdong are on the same side of the bracket, which means if everything goes to plan, they’ll play each other in the semis.

Expect it – and every other series – to go according to plan.

That doesn’t mean that we’re not rolling out the red carpet on this, though. Because in addition to reading a breakdown of every single first-round series here at NiuBBall, you can also check out Andrew Crawford’s roundtable approach to previewing things over at Shark Fin Hoops. Two English-language CBA Plaoff previews? Now that Niu Bi.

And while you’re at it, check out main man, Anthony Tao, and his new site Beijing Cream, which will cover everything and more about China’s capital city. Tao and NiuBBall are xiongdi – in 2010, he wrote great stuff about Stephon Marbury’s first season in China when he was with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons, a piece that not only stood (and still stands) as one of the best ever written about Chinese hoops, but also one that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. We’re honored to have this preview appear on his site, and we’re looking forward to pitching in more CBA coverage throughout the playoffs and beyond.

And now, without further ado…

(Note: all start times subject to change.)

#1 Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers (25-7) vs. #8 Fujian SBS Sturgeons (17-15)

Regular Season Series:
(12/21) Guangdong – 85 @ Fujian – 90
(2/8) Fujian – 116 @ Guangdong – 126

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 7:30 pm, @ Fujian
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ Fujian (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong (if necessary)

The question isn’t whether the Southern Tigers will win their fourth straight championship and eight of the last nine – feel free to pause to let that sink in – but how many games they’ll need to do it and who they’ll beat. So there’s absolutely no chance of a first-round upset…

Yet – a big yet, but yet – if there was a team with a fighting chance of achieving the most monumental upset in Chinese basketball history, Fujian would be the pick. Able to trot out three foreigners to Guangdong’s two because of its abysmal record last season (a quirk in the CBA rules), Fujian can compensate for its inferior Chinese roster better than any other team in the playoffs. And those foreigners are good. In his first season in China, Will McDonald has become the hands-down best center in the league, blending the inside-outside game he developed in Spain with solid work on the boards. The tireless Zaid Abbas, the team’s Asian import, led the league in rebounding (14.7 per game) and minutes (42.7). Anthony Roberson rounds out the foreign lineup doing what he’s always done: shooting the air out of the ball, which is good if he’s hot (bad if he’s not).

But the best thing about Fujian’s imports? They actually match up pretty well with their opponents. Guangdong’s center combo of Su Wei and Wang Zheng have no offensive skills to speak of and don’t move well on either end of the floor, which means they’ll likely struggle to guard McDonald, who can stretch the floor. The more athletic yet smaller Dong Hanlin might have to shoulder that burden. The ever-active Abbas will make James Singleton work very hard to get his. And Roberson, who can and sometimes does go completely off, will probably have to garner at least some defensive attention from Aaron Brooks, who will resume his NBA career as soon as the season ends.

As CBA watchers know though, talking about foreigner matchups is usually a moot point when it comes to Guangdong, a team that relies on its Chinese guys to get it done: Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Zhou Peng, Chen Jianghua, Dong Hanlin and, yes, even the aforementioned duo of Su Wei and Wang Zheng make up seven of the top eight Chinese players in the series. So long as Brooks doesn’t get caught up trying to match Roberson’s shot total and does what he does best in this league — work out of the pick and roll and get into the lane at will — Guangdong will be more than fine.

*Roberson, who has been battling an injury the last few games, missed practice today and his status is in doubt for tonight’s game.

Prediction: Guangdong in 4

#2 Beijing Shougang Ducks (21-11) vs. #7 Zhejiang Guangsha Lions (18-14)

Regular Season Series:
(12/28) Guangsha – 118 @ Beijing – 112
(2/15) Beijing – 94 @ Guangsha – 114

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 7:30 pm, @ Guangsha
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ Guangsha (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing (if necessary)

While Wilson Chandler is back in the U.S. getting a haircut for the first time since August and negotiating a $40 million-plus contract, the team he used to play for, the Guangsha Lions, is trying to figure out how in Mao’s name to replace the singularly most destructive foreigner in the CBA (when he wanted to be) not named Stephanie Smith.

They can contemplate all they want, but the reality is that they won’t find that replacement. Well, technically they have found a replacement, Hangzhou old-hand Rodney White. But let’s be clear: 2007 Rodney White ain’t walking through that door. And even if he was, it probably still wouldn’t be enough. So even though they swept the season series vs. Beijing, they’re about to get paid back in full. It’s a sad thought when you consider that the Lions were in third place in mid-December and looking like somewhat serious title contenders.

If you ignore, for a moment, the Chandler-exodus storyline, Guangsha’s season was interesting in its own rights – and also interesting because it mirrored Beijing’s. The Ducks sprinted out to a 13-0 start, then lost 11 out of the next 19. Yet because of the instability in the teams under them, Beijing was able to hang on to second place.

A lot of that incredible start was due to Stephon Marbury, who has played his butt off every night in a city he now considershome on a team with players far more talented than his teammates in Shanxi and Foshan. He was always meant for the big city, and in a place where he’s comfortable, his rededication to basketball is evident.

Two of his teammates, Zhu Yanxi and Zhai Xiaochuan, are in their first years in the CBA, and both have thrived playing with Marbury. Zhu, a rookie sensation who was picked up from China’s second-tier National Basketball League, is the most Euro China big man you’ll see in this country. That may be an insult in the NBA, but in China it’s a huge compliment. Big under the boards and accurate from deep, Zhu amounts to the Chinese poor man’s version of Ersan Ilyasova. Zhai has no far-fetched NBA comparison, but he is a young, long and bouncy effort guy who does nothing particularly bad.

The Ducks’ longer-term success, i.e. a trip to the finals, will be predicated on whether Chen Lei and Lee Hsueh-lin are healthy. The good news is that they’re both back in the lineup after missing extended time with injuries; the bad news is that they haven’t really gotten an in-game run in a while, especially Lee, who, before coming back in Round 33 against Shanghai – the penultimate round of regular season games – had not played since December 9.

It boils down to this, though: Guangsha is bummed about Chandler, and Beijing is amped on making a finals run. Quack, quack.

Prediction: Beijing in 4

#3 Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons (20-12) vs. #6 Shanghai Dongfang Sharks (18-14)

Regular Season Series:

(12/16) Shanxi – 90 @ Shanghai – 92
(2/3) Shanghai – 108 @ Shanxi – 119

Playoff Series Schedule:

Game 1: Tonight 8 pm, @ Shanghai
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Shanxi
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 7:30 pm, @ Shanxi
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ Shanghai (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Shanxi (if necessary)

As Jim Yardley just expertly shared with the rest of the world in his book, Brave Dragons, what the rest of the CBA has known for quite some time: the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons are a flipping mess of a team.

Run by an owner who can switch from head coach to assistant coach to video coordinator to sports psychologist on a whim – or just hold all those titles at once – the Brave Dragons have gone through coaches, general managers, translators and players of all nationalities at an alarming rate over the years as “Boss Wang” continues his search for people who will give him the instant results he craves. Not surprisingly, as success in basketball usually comes from a gradual building process that nurtures familiarity and chemistry, Shanxi had never made the playoffs since their inception in 2006.

Which is why this year is so special: The Brave Dragons are finally in. How’d they do it? Boss Wang reportedly stopped meddling (as much – he definitely still meddles), and he stopped trying to bring in big-name NBA players who may come with NBA talent but also bring their NBA requirements, which the coal city of Taiyuan is largely incapable of fulfilling.

Wang took the safe bet this summer by bringing in Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines, two players who have played inChina before and have had no problem adjusting to the culture while accumulating monster stats. The two have developed into the best and most dependable foreign duo in the league. Gaines, who’s been putting up huge numbers ever since he played for Xinjiang two years ago, enjoyed another fantastic season, averaging 29.2 points and 13.1 rebounds on 64.1% shooting. Williams, who turned around Zhejiang Chouzhou’s season last year after coming in midseason after the Mike James experiment blew up, hasn’t missed a beat in his second season, averaging 32 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.5 steals.

The problem for Shanxi, though: Nobody else can consistently score and nobody defends. Yeah, Lu Xiaoming can get out in transition and probe around for dump-offs and kick-outs, and Duan Jiangpeng has had some big nights on the offensive end, but this team starts and ends with their foreigners.

Shanxi’s obvious reliance on their foreign studs is in stark contrast to Shanghai. Allowing just 89.6 points per game, Shanghai boasts the stingiest defense in the league. First-year head-coach Dan Pannagio, following in the defensive footsteps of China national team coach Bob Donewald Jr. from two years prior, has stressed solid team D while also installing the equal-opportunity triangle offense. The jury’s still out on the effectiveness of the triangle — the Sharks score a league-low 91.1 points a game – partly because they’ve dealt with injuries. Ryan Forehan-Kelly, who played the triangle under Panaggio in the D-League, was enjoying a great season, possibly even a NiuBBall MVP-type season, in his familiar offensive surroundings before rupturing his Achilles in late December.

His replacement, Marcus Landry, and especially Mike Harris, who stepped up with some big games down the stretch, have both helped the team move forward. But several Chinese players do their part here. The Sharks go nine, occasionally 10 deep, led most notably by their two national team players, veteran point guard Liu Wei and the young, ever-improving 7-3 center “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu. Liu Ziqiu is one of the better Chinese perimeter defenders in the league and Meng Lingyuan provides a lefty herky-jerky change of pace off the bench.

Throw in the fact that Shanghai’s very-much-on-the-same-page American coaching staff will have the freedom to make whatever adjustments they deem necessary, while Shanxi’s half-American, half-Chinese staff may or may not depending on how Boss Wang is feeling, and you’ve got the makings of a very intriguing and competitive first-round series. But with two NiuBBall All-CBA first-teamers in Gaines and Williams and an important home-court advantage that will challenge the road-weary Sharks (4-12 on the road this year), we’re giving the nod to the Brave Dragons.

Prediction: Shanxi in 5

#4 Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers (19-13) vs. #5 DongGuan New Century Leopards (19-13)

Regular Season Series:
(12/25) Xinjiang – 90 @ DongGuan – 97
(2/12) DongGuan – 89 @ Xinjiang – 97

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 7:30 pm, @ DongGuan
Game 2: Friday (2/24), 7:30 pm, @ Xinjiang
Game 3: Sunday (2/26), 8 pm, @ Xinjiang
Game 4: Wednesday (2/29), 7:30 pm, @ DongGuan (if necessary)
Game 5: Friday (3/2), 7:30 pm, @ Xinjiang (if necessary)

No team has gone through more turmoil, more changes and more disappointment this season than the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. Once drooling over the prospect of having Kenyon Martin, Quincy Douby, Tang Zhengdong and Mengke Bateer all being coached up by the American head coach of the Chinese National Team, Bob Donewald Jr., the team is now devoid of all three of those Americans (Douby broke his wrist in pre-season, Donewald was fired 11 games into the season and Martin left shortly after with 12 games under his belt).

They’re also short the player they replaced Douby with, Australian national team point guard, Patty Mills, who was released controversially mid-season after tearing his hamstring against Guangdong on December 23rd. And now, they’re going to be short the player who they replaced Martin with, Gani Lawal, who is reportedly being replaced by Ike Diogu.

Not coming as a shock, the team is likewise devoid of any real shot at the championship that’s they’ve come up just short of achieving the past three seasons.

They will however, storm through DongGuan. Because even though this has been the most drama any team has ever had to endure in one season, Xinjiang is still a very good team, a much better one than their opponents. Though they haven’t been the force that some people thought they’d be, Bateer and Tang still get it done on the inside and DongGuan’s light frontline will be pushed around without too much effort. On the wings, Xu Guochong is as lights out as ever from three and Xirelijiang is as good a two-way guard this league has. And that’s just domestic players. Tim Pickett has done very well coming into the team on short notice and before being released, Lawal was serviceable as a rugged blue-collar rebounder.

The team’s make-up will change wit Diogu, but even if he starts a big sluggish, Xinjiang will still win this series. Though DongGuan head coach Brian Goorjian for the second year in a row has done a masterful job at the helm, leading his team to a No. 5 seed after starting the year 0-4, they don’t hold any discernable advantage in any key category. Xinjiang is bigger and better than DongGuan’s big man rotation of Shavlik Randolph, Zhang Kai and Sun Tonglin, and should dominate the offensive glass. On the perimeter, nobody American or Chinese can handle Pickett.

The one mystery, maybe the only one of this series, is how Diogu, who’s been sitting at home all winter while professional basketball has been going on all around the world, will play in the face of loads of playoff pressure. This being his first time in China, it’s quite a lot to ask of a player to come into a new country, play in a new league, and suit up for a team who is expecting you to carry them to playoff glory. Lucky for him, he’ll probably be able to gradually find his rhythm this series without it affecting the final result.

Prediction: Xinjiang in 3

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Guangsha, Xinjiang shake up their import Playoff rosters

February 22, 2012

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After Guangsha allowed Wilson Chandler to return to the United States, the familiar Rodney White has been brought back to suit up for the team’s post-season run.

Edward Bothfeld also contributed to this story.

Zhejiang Guangsha, who played the entire regular season with Wilson Chandler, will now have to play the entire post-season without him after both sides agreed to let him return to the United States to negotiate his next NBA contract after he helped the team secure a Playoff berth. Chandler is already back in the U.S., where he is reportedly in discussions over a long-term deal with the Denver Nuggets.

Guangsha has signed Rodney White as his replacement.

Guangsha opted to bring in White because of his familiarity with the team and with the CBA.

White played for three seasons with the Lions from 2007-10 before playing for Shandong Kingston last year. In his last season for the Lions in 2009-2010,  he averaged 27 points and nine rebounds, leading them to the second round of the playoffs. He also has experience playing with Guangsha’s holdovers from that season, most notably P.J. Ramos, Lin Chih-chieh, and Jin Lipeng, all of whom are core players this season.

That said, White should fit into Chandler’s role better than any other options that were on the market. White had been playing for Anyang KGC in South Korea before getting injured, and arrived Sunday morning in Hangzhou in decent shape. If he can buy into Coach Jim Cleamons game plan, Guangsha will have a puncher’s chance against Beijing in the first round of the playoffs, which begin Wednesday.

In 29 games last season for Shandong, White averaged 22.4 points,8.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals.

Guangsha head coach, Jim Cleamons, who spoke to NiuBBall’s Edward Bothfled, welcomes his addition.

“Rodney is going to do well for us. [Wilson and Rodney] are not the same player, but they have similar characteristics. He’s not going to be the ball handler in the open court that Wilson is. Rodney’s been a successful player in this league for a few years and he has playoff experience.”

As for Chandler’s departure, there is some level of disappointment that he is gone, but most people within the Guangsha organization understand his position. “I’m very happy for him. I think he did what we asked him to do. He came over and played hard. He improved his skills so I think it was a good experience for him,” said Cleamons.

Cleamons himself did not learn that Chandler had been granted his release until the night it happened. Along with the rest of the Lions team, he was unable to say goodbye to Chandler before he left.

Still, his teammates understand Chandler’s situation, “I think they wish him well. If the shoe was on their foot and they had the opportunities that Wilson is going to have, they would wish him well,” added Cleamons, “ From a business perspective, they would understand. The timing could be better. It is what it is.”

Meanwhile, three-time Finals runners-up, Xinjiang Guanghui, is also making a change — again. Yesterday, the team officially announced that they have brought in former NBA lottery pick, Ike Diogu to replace Gani Lawal. It marks the fifth time this season that Xinjiang has brought in a new foreigner this season.

Lawal, who came in mid-season to replace Kenyon Martin, averaged 18.4 points and 12.3 rebounds on 61.2% shooting over 17 games. During that stretch, the team went 11-6 and climbed up the standings from tenth place all the way into fourth.

Though Lawal came in and was more than serviceable, and at times even dominant, especially on the glass, Xinjiang team management felt they needed to add more offense on their front line. With Mengke Bateer and Tang Zhengdong having struggled with their offensive consistency all year, the team felt they needed somebody who provide a a more diverse scoring threat.

Diogu comes into his first stint in China at a high-pressure time when Xinjiang is gearing up for their annual run deep into the playoffs. After not playing any professional basketball during the NBA lockout, Diogu was signed by the San Antonio Spurs on January 3rd, but was released one week later. With management’s notoriously sky high expectations for their import players, the heat will be on Diogu to step in and immediately perform at a high level.

It’s not uncommon for teams to replace foreign players right before the playoffs. Last year, Beijing swapped Joe Crawford out for Orien Greene, and DongGuan replaced the injured Jackon Vroman for Courtney Sims. Beijing’s move to bring in Greene backfired, however, as FIBA elected to extend a two-year suspension that was originally handed down in March 2009.

The 2012 CBA Playoffs start tonight with #4 Xinjiang going on the road to play #5 DongGuan, while #7 Guangsha will host #2 Beijing in Game One of the best-of-five first round.

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