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Tag Archives: Zhou Peng

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

April 28, 2013

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

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

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

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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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Grading Team China’s Olympics

August 16, 2012

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The United States 107-100 triumph against Spain in the gold medal match on Sunday marked both the end of Olympic basketball and the Olympics altogether, as the closing ceremony was held only a few hours after. Of course for China, basketball has been over for a while now after they went 0-5 in Group B.

Without a doubt, the winless finish will be viewed as a disappointment. But smearing blame across the entire team wouldn’t be fair. Who failed to play up to their standards, and who pulled their weight? We grade each player on a scale of 优 (excellent), 良 (good),中 (average), and 差 (bad), evaluating their performances with expected results in mind.

优- (Excellent) - Yi Jianlian

Key Statistic: 30 points (13/19 FG), 12 rebounds vs Spain

China was expected to rely heavily on their only NBA-level talent, Yi Jianlian and in the early going, Yi did not disappoint, notching a huge double-double against Spain in a respectable defeat. He followed up with another strong effort against Russia, putting up 16 points and 7 rebounds.

Photo: Getty Images

However, just as it looked as if Yi might singlehandedly lead China to some wins, he suffered an injury in the second half against Australia that severely limited him the last two games. Other teams started to focus their defenses upon him as the rest of Team China was not much of a threat, and in turn he made just 5 field goals. Yi was unable to shoulder the heavy burden placed upon him, even though he was the top rebounder at the Olympics with 10.2 a game and was one of only two players to average a double-double. It is difficult to evaluate Yi in light of his injury; if he was healthy throughout, perhaps the dominance he showed offensively early on would have continued. Though Yi Jianlian’s effort in the face of injury is commendable (14 rebounds against Great Britain), what China needed was points. Yi could not create enough offense by himself, and though that is a tall task with the support cast he has, we have to dock him a few points for his average finish to the Games.

良+ (Very good) — Wang Zhizhi

Key Statistic: 1 point (0/8 FG), 12 rebounds vs Australia

Photo: Getty Images

The longest-tenured member of the national team started his last   Olympics off strong, scoring an efficient 15 points against Spain. But, his minutes were limited against more athletic teams as his defense, never a strong point even when he was young, was too much of a liability. Against Australia, he had 12 rebounds, a career high, but fatigue and strong defensive pressure obviously had gotten to him, as he missed all eight of his shots and his rhythm was noticeably off. It is disappointing that China still has to rely on Wang to create offense, but when facing weaker defenses, the veteran was still able to put up big numbers. Wang averaged 6 points and 5.2 rebounds, showing he can still stroke the mid-range shot and rebound in short amounts of time. A great example for younger players, he suited up for the game against Brazil despite having five stitches on his face. Fatigue, age, and physicality caught up to him, though, and he was unable to sustain his quality production.

良+ (Very good) — Wang Shipeng

Key Statistic: 13/21 (61.9%) 3PT, highest in tournament

China eclipsed 60 points only two times in these Olympics, a testament to its anemic offense. Wang, though, wasn’t shabby on the offensive end, with very efficient games when he was given time on the court. Perhaps he could have been a little less turnover-prone, but on a team that frequently failed to get off shot attempts, the confident gunner was a much-needed shot creator. His unconscious shooting night against Australia will be one to remember; Wang hit 7 of 10 three pointers, and his 21 points kept China in the game for a while. He averaged 9.6 points, the second highest total on the team by quite a margin, which goes to show the dearth of a supporting cast behind Yi.

中- (Below average) — Liu Wei

Key Statistic: 1.3 assist to turnover ratio

When a team struggles as much as it does on offense as China did, a certain degree of blame must be put on the floor general of the team. Never known as an extraordinary playmaker, Liu Wei still could have done better than the two assists and 1.5 turnovers a game he averaged in the Olympics. Much of the time, it seemed that the only play the team had was to hand the ball to Yi, back off, and watch him from the perimeter, resulting in many 24 second violations, contested jumpers, and the lowest team assist average in all of the Olympics. Liu averaged 5.2 points a game on less than efficient shooting, the majority of which were mid-range jumpers. The point guard position has always been a headache for China, though Liu getting into foul trouble against Spain created playing time and much hope for…

良+ (Very good) — Chen Jianghua

Key Statistic: 12 points, 5 assists, 0 turnovers vs Spain

Perhaps Chen has become a step slower after his knee injury, but even with his reduced speed, he is still able to penetrate defenseseasily, and has developed a better feel for the game as well as nice passing instincts. Chen recorded an impressive performance against Spain with 12 points and five assists, then scored 10 points apiece against both Australia and Brazil. What is even more significant than those numbers is that China’s point guard position finally seems to be in decent hands. Chen is still blessed with much of the talent that made him such a prized prospect, and with experience, he can only improve as a playmaker.

差 (Bad) — Zhu Fangyu

Key Statistic: 8 points in 4 of 5 games, 4 total rebounds

Apart from netting 13 points on 6 shots against Brazil in garbage time, Zhu had a forgettable Olympics. Averaging a paltry 4.2 points and 0.8 rebounds (which China ranked last among all teams in), he was unable to contribute much in the areas that the team needed the most help. The leading scorer in CBA history didn’t get many minutes in London, and oftentimes he wasn’t able to stop his matchup on the defensive side. His performance is a glaring sign that China’s old rotation of players desperately needs some newcomers to step up.

差 (Bad) — Sun Yue

Key Statistic: 3/16 FG in 3 games

Many had high hopes for Sun Yue, one of the only NBA-caliber talents on the team, but London represented a far tougher competition than the guard was used to after yet another season playing against inferior competition with Beijing Aoshen. He was inefficient from the field, blowing layups and jumpers alike. Sun did showcase his physical toughness on defense, stopping multiple fast breaks against Russia that otherwise would have been easy points. Sun was sidelined for the last two games with an injury, a brutal end to a disappointing tournament.

中 (Average) — Zhou Peng, Yi Li

中- (Below average) — Ding Jinhui Guo Ailun, Zhang Zhaoxu

Key Statistic: First Olympics

Zhou played significant minutes in 3 games, and was a great energy guy off the bench, gathering rebounds and playing tough defense. He protected the post with Ding, who provided his trademark brand of aggression. Both are undersized and raw on defense, and could not make much impact on the offensive end (Ding was 2-9 from the field). Yi Li provided a remarkable first half against Russia, where he nailed a couple of important jumpers for 9 points, and in subsequent games flashed his confidence in his shot. Guo Ailun, often paired with Chen in a combo guard position, started for China against Brazil, logging 8 points, while Zhang Zhaoxu filled his role of a 12th man big body, and set a couple of nice screens. The two were prone to making mistakes, and Zhang found it hard to stay on the floor with fouls and turnovers. All in all, Coach Donewald played his youngsters sparingly. They gained much experience from these Games, but in a perfect world, these players would have been capable of playing big minutes in place of the veterans presently. Not many expected them to, though, and this group didn’t really prove the doubters wrong; other than Zhou and perhaps Yi, the youth movement was not able to contribute much.

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China announces final 12-man roster for Olympics, wins gold at Stankovic

July 11, 2012

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Team China celebrates their first ever Stankovic Cup gold medal last night in Guangzhou. (Photo: Osports)

China finalized its 12-man roster for the 2012 London Olympics yesterday, then they proceeded to win the finals at the 2012 Stankovic Cup in Guangzhou.

The Chinese capped off their undefeated run to gold with a 70-51 win over Australia last night. It’s China’s first and only gold medal since the competition was first established in 2005. Yi Jianlian finished as the game’s top performer with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Yi Li pitched in with 12.

Although the level of competition at this year’s even wasn’t as strong as it has been in years past — Russia and Australia both sent younger teams — the achievement is still notable for China. Clearly better and more experienced, the Chinese suffered no letdowns and played well throughout the tournament. The win should give the team some momentum heading into their next set of pre-Olympic exhibition games, which start on July 20 in Poland against the Polish National Team.

But while the historic result was highly noteworthy, the real news came a few hours before tip-off when the 12-man roster was announced on Chinese media outlets. Five players will be making their Olympic debut in London: Center Zhang Zhaoxu, forwards Ding Jinhui, Yi Li and Zhou Peng, and point guard Guo Ailun.

Joining them will be the familiar faces of Chinese basketball over the last several years, Yi Jianlian, Wang Zhizhi, Zhu Fangyu, Wang Shipeng, Sun Yue, Liu Wei and Chen Jianghua.

CBA officials said the roster can change in the event of injuries.

Bob Donewald’s decision to carry only three centers on the roster speaks to the emphasis on versatility and defense that has been placed within the Chinese National Team since he took over the reigns in the spring of 2010. Whereas Chinese teams in the past relied on a slower pace that was designed to punish teams down low — i.e. get the ball into Yao Ming by any means necessary — China is now likely to go with rangier and more athletic lineups that will be better equipped to handle what is an extremely talented Group B.

So the exclusion of what is already being seen as China’s two biggest snubs, centers Su Wei and Wang Zhelin, shouldn’t really be considered as such. Though Su picked it up recent weeks, his confidence and overall play has taken a major hit since his disastrous showing in the CBA Finals last April against Beijing. Limited on offense even on a good day, Su’s ability to finish the simplest of plays around the hoop made him into a major liability on that end of the floor. And with Donewald’s commitment to fielding a more athletic lineup, there was no room in the end for the plodding former rower-turned-hoopster. After having played under Donewald in 2010 at the FIBA World Championship, missing out on the chance to play in his first Olympics will have to sting for Su because with a wealth of talented young Chinese centers primed to make the team in 2016, this may have been his last.

For Wang Zhelin, however, this will very likely be the last time he’s cut for any major international competition at the senior level. Though the 18 year-old performed very well in spots this summer, his inexperience and poor defensive play ultimately sealed his fate.  Though he was eligible to play for Fujian SBS last year in the top division in the CBA, Wang was held back and placed on the youth team to allow his body and game to develop. Not only does Wang not have any experience with the Senior China National Team, he’s never suited up against the top level domestically either. Added to that, Wang’s inability to either guard anybody on the ball or help off of it put him in a bad spot with the defensive-minded Donewald.

Another notable development is the inclusion of Guo Ailun. Guo, who played in Turkey two years ago, fell out of favor with the National Team setup last year after he lead a “blood letter” demanding the removal of China Olympic Team head coach, Fan Bin. Then he found himself off the roster for the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship. And this season, it looked like he’d be left in the cold once again when he was left off the preliminary roster in March. However, with limited options at the back-up point guard spit, he was called back up on April 14th. With injuries to Yang Ming and Zhang Bo, Guo will go to London. As the odds-on eventual short-term heir to Liu Wei, a trip to London bodes well for the future of Chinese basketball.

China plays its opening game in the Olympics against Spain on July 29.

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Yang Ming, Zhu Yanxi cut from National Team roster

May 23, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Change in plans: Donewald cuts three from Olympic roster

May 8, 2012

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

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

At present, 19 players remain on the roster.

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

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

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

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

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

The remaining 19 players are as follows:

Centers:

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

Forwards:

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

Guards:

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

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Assessing China’s Olympic roster

May 8, 2012

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

Two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Locks:

Sun Yue

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

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

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

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

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

Not Locks, But Almost:

Ding Jinhui

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

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

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

In The Hunt:

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

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

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

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

Guo Ailun

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

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

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

The Longshots:

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

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

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

The No Shots:

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

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

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

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

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

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Beijing – Guangdong Game 4: Ducks move one win away from CBA title

March 29, 2012

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Randolph Morris’ excellent performance on offense, which included three big dunks, was key in Beijing’s Game 4 victory. (Photo: cfp.cn)

Guangdong – 98 @ Beijing – 107

The Beijing Ducks are one win away from their first ever CBA championship and the biggest upset in CBA history.

Stephon Marbury scored 28 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds, Randolph Morris hit for a double-double with 32 points and 12 boards, and Zhai Xiaochuan came up big with 17 points as the Ducks pasted the Southern Tigers inside to pick up a huge Game 4 win.

After struggling to cope with their opponents’ Game 3 adjustment, the Ducks answered to their opponent’s small ball lineup last night by pounding the ball inside to Morris, who responded with arguably his best game of the series. All too aware that Guangdong was switching on all of his screen-and-rolls, Marbury called Morris over almost exclusively to run the two-man game in the second half with excellent results. When Marbury’s man, Zhou Peng, switched on to the much bigger Morris, Marbury gave up the ball let the center go to work on his physically overmatched opponent. Isolated with little help behind him, Zhou hardly stood a chance as Morris either drove by him or shot over him with equal ease.

And when Marbury wasn’t dishing off, he was scoring it himself, often it key moments. In the fourth quarter with Beijing down one, Marbury hit a deep three and a tough lay-up in quick succession to put the score at 87-81. Later, with Beijing up four in the closing minutes, Marbury hit another big three to put the game at 99-92 and effectively out of reach for Guangdong.

Committed to going small from the beginning, starting Dong Hanlin over Su Wei, Guangdong elected to focus their offense on the perimeter. And while Zhu Fangyu got many open looks, neither he nor anyone else was really able to get it going from the outside. Guangdong as a team shot 8-34 from three, including 1-6 from Zhu, 1-7 from James Singleton, 3-12 from Aaron Brooks and 1-4 from Wang Shipeng. Wang, who has been awful this series, reached a new low in Game 4. He went 1-5 from the field, with his lone make coming on a meaningless three-pointer in the game’s final minute. Unlike in last year’s Finals against Xinjiang, he has been unable to get his own shot  off or create for teammates and is in a total funk.

Singleton finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds and Brooks has 28 points and six assists.

Game 5 is on Friday night.

Box Score

Other notes:

  • Before the game and at half-time, Beijing played a video featuring Chen Lei, Min Lulei, Marbury, Morris and members of the front office urging fans to keep their language under control and behave properly. On Tuesday, the CBA threatened to move Game 5 to another stadium or city if fans continued to act “uncivilized.” Minutes before tip-off, Chen Lei grabbed a microphone to personally ask fans to keep themselves in check. Unlike Game 1, there were no incidents and fans refrained from cursing and throwing things onto the court.
  • Zhu Yanxi went down hard midway through the second quarter after a big collision with Chen Jianghua at mid-court. Zhu stayed down for several minutes before laboring to the sidelines with an apparent injury to his midsection, where he remained on the floor for quite some time. He did not re-enter the game and was later driven to the hospital after the game. Doctors declared the injury as not serious. He was back at practice today and is expected to play tomorrow.
  • Su Wei, who has become public enemy number one in Beijing after his much publicized on-court spat with Marbury in Game 1, played only four minutes and was serenaded by mocking chants of huan Sui Wei – sub Su Wei — the entire night. Fans also chanted shang tui in reference to Li Chunjiang’s order to ”sweep the leg,” also from Game 1.

 

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Beijing – Guangdong Game 3: Guangdong goes small to win big

March 26, 2012

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Beijing – 93 @ Guangdong – 111

Using a variety of smaller lineups for most of the game, Guangdong was able to limit Stephon Marbury from getting into the paint while completely shutting down Beijing’s bigs from getting good looks on the perimeter. Putting James Singleton at the five and Li Yuanyu at the four for large parts of the second half, Guangdong switched many of the pick-and-rolls that have become the staple of Beijing’s Marbury-centric offense. And although Marbury hit 7-10 from the three-point line, the strategy worked at both keeping him away from the basket and from keeping his passes out of the hands of wide-open teammates.

For Guangdong, the return of Zhu Fangyu’s scoring touch helped things as well. So did Aaron Brooks’ decrease in turnovers. Zhu scored 26 on 8-13 shooting to record his best game of the Finals, while Brooks put in a team high 30 points on only three turnovers. Singleton also enjoyed his best game of the Finals, scoring 21 points, grabbing 19 rebounds and generally making life difficult for everyone he guarded.

The key in this game, however, was Guangdong’s adjustment to go smaller. Su Wei, who missed several easy looks at the basket to go 3-11 from the field en route to an all-around awful performance in Game 2, only played 12 minutes and Wang Zheng never got off the bench. Against more traditional back the basket bigs, like Xinjiang’s Mengke Bateer, Su Wei is at his best. But, against an agile Beijing Randolph Morris-Zhu Yanxi-Ji Zhe rotation of bigs who can all shoot the ball, the lumbering seven-footer is simply not the answer on defense, either in pick-and-roll defense, help-side rotations or in close out situations.

Li Yuanyu, however, looks to be better suited for all of that. He scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in nearly 24 minutes before fouling out in the fourth quarter, all of which are playoff highs. He hasn’t received much playing time this season — only 23 appearances at an average of seven minutes per game in the regular season — but, with him and Dong Hanlin as the only two mobile Chinese bigs on the squad, it’s quite likely that coach Li Chunjiang will be calling his name more often as this series progresses.

For Beijing, Marbury finished with 39 points and three assists, and Morris had 21 and 14 rebounds. Nobody else finished in double figures.

Once again though, this game was plagued by fouls. 65 of them were called all together with Ji Zhe, Zhu Yanxi, Li Yuanwei and Zhou Peng all finishing the game on the bench with six apiece. For such an exciting series on the final scoreboard, we have yet to really see good, flowing basketball from start to finish.

Box Score

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Beijing – Guangdong Game 2: Beijing takes 2-0 lead behind steady Morris, clutch Marbury

March 24, 2012

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Beijing – 109 @ Guangdong – 106

Winning on the road at Guangdong? Tough. Coming back from 10 points in the fourth quarter? Also tough. Taking a 2-0 lead against four-time defending CBA champs? Even tougher.

But, toughest of all? The Beijing Ducks, who managed to check off all three last night during Game 2.

Randolph Morris had a game-high 33 points to go along with 12 rebounds as the Ducks stole home court advantage away from the Southern Tigers last night in DongGuan. Stephon Marbury added 23 points — 21 of which came in the second half — and nine assists, while three other players Chen Lei had (15 points), Zhu Yanxi (14) and Lee Hsueh-lin (13) all chipped in with double figures. It’s only the second home loss of the season for Guangdong with both coming at the hands of the Ducks.

Heading into the fourth quarter down 10, things looked like they were getting back to to normal for Guangdong. But Marbury had other ideas, scoring two buckets in the paint before leading a three-on-one break that ended with a Morris dunk. He’d keep coming until Beijing took the lead 94-93 with just over seven minutes left: A three from the corner, a driving lay-up to the left, two free-throws and a driving lay-up to the right. Zhou Peng would give the lead right back for Guangdong, but that’d be the last time the champs would be ahead.

A steal by Marbury and a turnover on Aaron Brooks gave four easy points to the visitors, and with the score 100-98 with Beijing inbounding under Guangdong’s hoop, Chen Lei got free on the baseline for an and-one to make it 103-98. After a bunch of missed threes by Guangdong, Morris hit a shot from the elbow to push the lead up to seven. Marbury then got it to nine with under two minutes left on a pull-up jumper to seemingly put the game away.

But for the second game in a row, the Ducks were the ones who nearly gave the game away. Marbury handed three points to Brooks after he fouled him on a three-point shot. Two possessions later, Morris traveled and James Singleton answered with a three on the other end to cut the lead to three. On Beijing’s next trip, Morris was called for an offensive foul and Guangdong had a chance to tie the game. Zhou Peng’s three missed as did Zhu Fangyu’s, so Marbury went to the line with 14 seconds left to ice the game. He missed both, and Guangdong had a third chance to tie the game. Brooks’ pass to Zhou Peng bounced off his chest, however and Beijing came away with a 2-0 series advantage.

Once again, Guangdong will point to turnovers and volume three-point shooting. They coughed up the ball 20 times and shot 7-28 from downtown, which were enough to counter the 22-8 advantage on the offensive glass. Brooks scored 25 for Guangdong, but also had seven turnovers. Singleton had 18 and 10, and Zhu Fangyu had 15.

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Beijing fined 110,000 RMB for “uncivilized behavior” from fans

March 23, 2012

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Yelling sha bi (stupid cunt) at the top of your lungs is worse than throwing bricks at an opposing team’s bus. Or so that’s what the CBA says.

Upon reviewing Wednesday’s Game 1 of the CBA Finals, the CBA has fined Beijing 110,000 RMB (US $17,460) for “uncivilized behavior” that included cursing Guangdong’s players, splashing them with drinks on their way into the tunnel after the game was over, and throwing stuff onto the court.

The report specifically mentions Zhou Peng’s flagrant foul on Stephon Marbury in the third quarter as the precursor to the cursing and throwing. This is the second time Beijing has been reprimanded by the league for cursing and the the third time for throwing things onto the court.

The fine is almost twice the amount that Shanxi was fined after Game 4, when fans threw lighters, bottles and cups onto the court at the end of the fourth quarter before ultimately taking to the parking lot to throw things at Beijing’s players and bus, which they prevented from leaving the arena for over an hour.

Known as jing ma, Beijing fans from Worker’s Stadium to Shougang Gymnasium have become synonymous with angrily cursing referees and opponents over the years. Other than put a muzzle around each fan’s mouth before entering the stadium, I really don’t know what the team can do to prevent this from happening again.

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Beijing-Guangdong Game 1: The night the CBA was at its best and worst

March 23, 2012

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Zhou Peng and Stephon Marbury exchange words midway through the third quarter. Moments before, Zhou intentionally took Marbury out while he was in mid-air shooting a three-pointer. (Photo: cfp.cn)

Guangdong – 101 @ Beijing – 108

Box Score

As I settled into my seat, took my coat off and looked around MasterCard Center (formerly known as Wukesong Arena) last night shortly before tip-off for Game 1 of the CBA Finals between the Beijing Ducks and Guangdong Southern Tigers, two thoughts immediately entered my head:

First, this nice cushy seat is way better than anything in Shougang Gymnasium.

Second, holy schnikes! There is not an empty seat in this entire arena!

The latter made me forget where I was for a second. Whoa, whoa, whoa. 18,000 seats totally sold out? The 2008 Olympics, of course. NBA China Games, ditto. But, the Chinese Basketball Association? The running joke of China; the league who’s mere mention typically elicits a scoff and a laugh from most Chinese?

The CBA? The NBA is waaay better. I don’t watch that…

But last night, people were watching that. A packed house of 18,000 people were watching to be exact — the most amount ever for a single CBA game.

And it was awesome. There was an atmosphere. It felt like basketball should feel. It felt like the Finals should feel. Whereas most CBA games typically are played over the staccato backdrop from fans — good play, let’s cheer! Poor turnover, let’s groan! Bad call, let’s throw water bottles! – this game had ebb and flow. Fans roared during Beijing’s player intros. They shut up when Guangdong’s Wang Shipeng splashed a three to open the scoring. Once at a rolling boil, they simmered when the visitors took 14-8 lead on a Zhu Fangyu three from the corner. They worked themselves back up when Ji Zhe knocked first knocked down a three, then drove by James Singleton baseline for a lay-up. They exploded when Lee Hsueh-lin cashed a three to give Beijing their first lead of the night. And they became flat-out delirious by the end of the quarter when Beijing was going into the huddle up 37-22.

Last night even the in-game DJ, the man every team employs to play horrible, loud music during every second of every game, couldn’t ruin what was going on. The slow buildup that starts from a dribble-drive and ends with a loud, satisfied cheer of appreciation when the play ends off of a made three from the kick, swing-swing that came after it; Wukesong had that last night. Instead of artificial noise being pumped in through the speakers, fans were actually chanting FANG-shou (de-FENSE). Instead of being instructed to cheer their team on, fans did it instinctively. Instead of loudly chorusing the Southern Tigers with sha bi (stupid cunt), they were instead just booing them loudly chorusing the Southern Tigers with sha bi.

Some things never change, I thought to myself.

Little did I know that my state of awesomeness would be soon interrupted by that same thought.

Guangdong managed to cut the lead to eight by the half, but after numerous turnovers and defensive breakdowns, they quickly found themselves down 71-52 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter. Coming down on offense, Guangdong’s Wang Shipeng drove right from the left side, ran into three defenders, stumbled and lost the ball. Wang felt like he was tripped (he was). The ref called a travel. Wang stamped up and down, ran to the official, pointed at the official, kicked the air, pointed to Marbury (the tripper), then stood incredulously at half court with his mouth open and his hands on his hips.

After the tantrum, Wang was called for T and Guangdong’s head coach, Li Chunjiang, called a time-out. Now down 20 after Marbury split the free-throws, stopping the game to calm the seven-time champs down seemed like a good idea. With 17 minutes left in the game, there was still plenty of time to stage a comeback.

But Coach Li didn’t do any calming. He did the exact opposite. He poured gasoline.

First, he ordered his two imports, Brooks and Singleton, to sit; a strange move considering nobody ever sits their two imports in the third quarter of a CBA game, nonetheless a Finals game. Maybe he was sending a message to his foreigners? Maybe he was sending a message to the league and the refs? Maybe he was throwing in the towel?

From my seat, it was obviously difficult to figure this one out. About a minute later, however, when Marbury was flat on his butt outside the three-point line, Li’s intention became quite clear — he had sent them out to hurt someone.

(YouTube people, go to Beijing Cream)
Amazingly, Zhou Peng stayed in the game. Even more amazingly, Marbury was called for a technical for his candid discussion with Guangdong center, Su Wei (Marbury hit two of three free-throws, Zhou Peng hit two of two).
Yet the most amazing was that Coach Li, a man who has won seven CBA championships, was the one who ordered the hit.
One good thing about CBA telecasts (and there are few, trust me), is that they don’t cut to commercial during time-outs. Instead, they go inside each team’s huddle so viewers can listen (and sometimes see, when players aren’t blocking the camera) what the coaches are saying. When the cameras went into Coach Li’s huddle, here’s what they recorded.

Shang tui! Shang tui!
“Sweep the leg! Sweep the leg! Do you understand?! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!” (H/T China Sports Review for that excellent translation).

Zhou Peng, one of four Guangdong players who represented the National Team in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, understood perfectly. Hence, the sweeping of Marbury’s leg and the attempted elbow to his face that went extra. Unable to stop Beijing from winning fairly, Guangdong had resorted to its Bill Lambier catalogue.

And with that, all the night’s awesomeness was ruined. The chant of sha bi from the 18,000 strong fans rained down, as did a couple pieces of debris. The game resumed, albeit very sloppily. Guangdong came back in the fourth and Wang Shipeng even had a chance to tie the game late with a three. It clanked, and Beijing ultimately took the game 108-101. It didn’t matter, though. By the final whistle, 73 fouls had been called. 79 free-throws had been shot Four players, Zhou Peng, Su Wei, Ji Zhe and Randolph Morris had all fouled out. And Guangdong, winners of seven out of the last eight championships, had been exposed as a dirty, classless team.

It’s the last point that makes me the most disappointed. Don’t confuse it for surprise, though. Cheap shots like the one on Marbury are common in Chinese basketball. In combination with terrible officiating, they’re often the cause of the many in-game brawls, National Team, Bayi Rockets and second-tier leagues included, that have occurred within China over the last few years. Instead of letting your game do the talking, you let your elbows do it for you.

The thing about this particular incident, however, is that the refs had the game in control for the most part. As evidenced by the high number of fouls, the game was being called with a tight whistle. This wasn’t a situation where things kept escalating until they hit Code Red. The only other pre-sweep the leg incident came in the first quarter when an in-air Marbury planted his knee onto the face of an on-ground Brooks while Marbury was going up for a lay-up right outside the charge circle. Marbury thought it was a dangerous play on Brooks; Brooks thought it was an unnecessary collision given that the whistle had gone off about two seconds before. Both got in each other’s face about it, but it didn’t carry over and affect the game in any major way.

Guangdong was just plain frustrated. Were the refs giving Beijing some home cooking? Maybe. Did Guangdong have a right to be aggrieved about the trip on Wang Shipeng, and a few other calls as well? Maybe, but that’s true of any game. Refs are always going to make mistakes.

In this case, the blame lies squarely on Guangdong and on Coach Li. And to be honest, I’m probably even more disappointed with Zhou Peng, who is by far China’s best and most versatile perimeter defender. Guys who take the challenge of guarding each team’s best outside scorer every night should have more pride in their craft. No matter if you’re getting torched; nobody should have to stoop to that level.

Yet, too often does Chinese basketball stoop to that level. Five years from now, people won’t remember Beijing and Shanxi’s semi-finals series because it went the maximum five games, the first time that’s ever happened in CBA history. They’ll remember it because Shanxi’s fans blocked Beijing from leaving their stadium and baselessly accused Marbury of hitting a fan… after Shanxi won Game 4. Five years from now, nobody will remember that outside the 2008 Olympics and possibly the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship last summer, last night was arguably the best in-game atmosphere in Chinese hoops history. They’ll remember Zhou Peng and sweep the leg.

And as rode back to my home on the subway after the game, it made me think: What a waste.

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2012 CBA Finals Preview

March 21, 2012

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Considered underdogs against seven-time champions Guangdong, Beijing will be looking to Stephon Marbury even more in the Finals. (Photo: cfp.cn)

The best CBA Finals ever?

With two hours away from Game 1′s tip-off, it’s obviously tough to answer that question.

Most anticipated CBA Finals ever?

Now that’s something we can answer more definitively.

Yes, yes and yes. Yes, 18,000 times over. With tickets in such high demand this Beijing-Guangdong match-up, the league agreed to take tonight’s opening game out of dumpy Shougang Gymnasium and into the world-class 18,000 seat MasterCard Center (formerly Wukesong Arena). Given that some CBA games sometimes struggle to draw 18,000 television viewers, everybody figured the arena would offer plenty of room.

At 8:00pm tonight, however, there will hardly be any room to put your elbows. On Monday, tickets sold out in eight minutes.

Outside China-United States’ opening group stage game during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Game 1 of the 2012 CBA Finals will undoubtedly be the most electric atmosphere in Chinese basketball history. And the series itself, despite its end result, will be the most talked about and watched CBA Finals of all time.

Since things in China come in threes, we thought we’d add to the most in-depth English language preview on the CBA Finals to make a nice trio of “best ofs.”

#1 Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers vs. #2 Beijing Shougang Ducks

Regular Season Series:
(1/4) Beijing – 104 @ Guangdong – 92
(2/10) Guangdong – 112 @ Beijing – 99

How They Got Here:
#1 Guangdong over #8 Fujian, 3-0
#1 Guangdong over #4 Xinjiang, 3-0
#2 Beijing over #7 Guangsha, 3-0
#2 Beijing over #3 Shanxi, 3-2

Playoff Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tonight 8:00 pm, @ Beijing
Game 2: Friday (3/23) 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 3: Sunday (3/25) 7:30 pm, @ Guangdong
Game 4: Wednesday (3/28), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing
Game 5: Friday (4/30), 7:30 pm, @ Beijing (if necessary)
Game 6: Sunday (4/1) 7:30pm, @ Guangdong (if necessary)
Game 7: Wednesday (4/4) ) 7:30pm, @ Guangdong (if necessary)

In seven game series, Game 1 is always an important game. So

But in the CBA, the 1-2-2-2 Finals format puts even more importance on Game 1. As in must-win importance. A win tonight by Beijing would not only put them up 1-0, it would ensure two more home games, which would be good consolation in the likely event they’re heading back for Game 4 down 2-1. A loss, however, and Beijing is looking at a potential 0-3 hole and the end of their title dreams.

So while Beijing can talk all they want about having nothing to lose and being the underdogs, there is considerable pressure tonight. In front of 18,000 of their fans, they’ll have literally the biggest home court advantage anyone’s ever had. What they’ll do with it remains a mystery: Not only is it Beijing’s first time in the Finals, it’s the first time for most of their players playing in this big of an arena. Will they freeze up under the bright lights? Or will they feed off the energy and play better as a result?

There is one thing that’s not a mystery, however — Guangdong has been to the Finals eight times and they’ve won it seven times. They’re not scared of this stage. And with their stable of National Team players, they won’t be scared of playing in Wukesong. Beijing will have to go out and win this one, because Guangdong certainly isn’t going to play like it’s their first time doing this.

Winning will be tough, not just because this is Guangdong, but because this is the best Guangdong team ever. Their regular season doesn’t indicate how good they really are, but when does it ever? Aaron Brooks is a legit NBA player and James Singleton is too. Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Su Wei, Zhou Peng and Chen Jianghua are all going to be in Beijing in a few weeks for National Team training camp. There simply has never been a more talented roster in Southern Tiger history.

The counter to that is that Beijing has never had a more talented import than Stephon Marbury. Wins for Beijing start and end with him, and he’ll to play just as well if not better than he did against Shanxi for his team to have any shot at pulling this off. Seeing how he was near perfect, it’s difficult to see how that’s possible. It’s even more difficult when you consider the waves of defenders that come his way this series. Guangdong can throw Wang Shipeng, Chen Jianghua, Aaron Brooks and even Zhou Peng at him if he really starts to go off. Heck, they might even throw Zhou Peng at him right away and deploy him in the same defensive-stopper role Coach Li Chunjiang used him at against Xinjiang’s Quincy Douby last year. 50+ points will be tougher for Steph to come by in this series.

Life will be a a lot little easier for Brooks, however. Lee Hsueh-lin and Marbury are the only two who will be considered to check him and both will have a tough time of executing their assignment. Nobody can stay in front of in the NBA; nobody can stay in front of him in China. He’ll get into the lane whenever he wants and once he’s there, it’s pick your poison for Beijing.

The 12 day layover may be a factor tonight for Guangdong, which is why I see a Game 1 win for Beijing. But, I don’t see them winning four against the champs.

Prediction: Guangdong in 6

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Senior and Olympic National Team Rosters announced

March 16, 2012

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After starring at the youth international level, Wang Zhelin has been selected for the Senior National Team, despite never playing at the top level in the CBA.

The CBA Playoffs are approaching its end and spring is coming to Beijing, which means soon we’ll be able to sit outside and engage in our favorite warm-weather pastime, beer and chuanr. Oh, and it also means that the National Team season is about to kick off.

Yesterday, the official rosters for both the Men’s Senior National Team and the Men’s Olympic National Team were announced. 21 players were selected for the Senior Team, while 19 were picked for the Olympic Team.

To answer some people’s question: No, the Olympic Team doesn’t actually play in the Olympics. I know, it’s strange. Just roll with it. According to the CBA, the goal of the Olympic Team is to ”prepare for the 2012 Asia Stankovic Cup, to be played this September in Japan, and the 2013 East Asia Games in Tianjin. To select the best players for the 2016 Olympics and develop high level backup players.”

The Senior Team, however, does play in the Olympics. And with the Olympics coming up in August, this is a huge summer for Chinese basketball. The CBA considers the Olympics as the most important international competition, and views the tournament as the best way for China to showcase themselves to the rest of the world.

In order to space everything out and give players some rest, the Senior team roster has been split up into three groups, with players whose season ended at the end of the regular season to report first, while players who are in the midst of deep playoff runs to report last.

The usual suspects are all on there, but the big story are the three players making their National Team debut, including one who doesn’t even play in the CBA yet. If you’ve been paying attention, you shouldn’t be shocked by the inclusion of Beijing’s young duo of Zhai Xiaochuan and Zhu Yanxi, who’s selection into Bob Donewald’s roster was basically assured by midseason.

The real shocker is Wang Zhelin, Fujian’s long hyped 18 year-old seven-foot center. One of the brightest prospects in China, Wang nabbed tournament MVP in China’s gold medal run FIBA Asia U-18 Championship in 2010 and was a key member in the FIBA World U-19 Championship last year where China finished 13th. Wang did not play top level CBA ball this year, as the team opted to keep him with the second team in order to improve his body and conditioning. One of the key long-term pieces for China, his entrance onto the team says a lot about the expectations the CBA has for him going forward.

He is widely expected to make his CBA debut next season.

Notable omissions from the Senior squad include 2010 FIBA World Championship and 2011 FIBA Asia Championship backup guard, Yu Shulong, who plays domestically for Jilin and Qingdao’s Li Gen. With Osama Dahglas getting most of the minutes at point guard in Jilin this year, the 22 year-old Yu averaged a career low 15.5 minutes per game. Li Gen, who played under Donewald in Shanghai in 2008-09, missed the cut despite averaging 17.5 points per game, the most of any Chinese player in the CBA this season.

For the Olympic squad, Guo Ailun and Fan Bin come back together for the first time since Guo reportedly lead a U-19 player rebellion against their head coach last year, demanding that he be removed due to his repeated physical and verbal abuse. Guo and most of the team signed a ”blood letter” to show the seriousness of the situation. Fan was suspended in April before finally being reinstated in May, promising to be more sensitive to his players emotions.

The entire rosters are listed below. The Senior team will eventually be cut down to 12, the timeline of which has yet to be publicly announced.

Men’s Senior National Team

Head Coach: Bob Donewald Jr. (USA)
Assistant Coaches: Li Nan (China), Selcuk Ernak (Turkey)

Group 1 (to report on March 20th)

Yang Ming, Han Dejun, Li Xiaoxu (Liaoning Hengye); Wang Zhizhi, Zhang Bo (Bayi Fubang); Zhang Zhaoxu (Shanghai Dongfang); Ding Jinhui (Zhejiang Chouzhou); Yi Li (Jiangsu Nangang); Wang Zhelin (Fujian SBS)

Group 2 (to report on April 8th)

Liu Wei (Shanghai Dongfang); Xirelijiang (Xinjiang Guanghui)

Group 3 (to report 15 days after each player’s respective season)

Wang Shipeng, Chen Jianghua, Zhou Peng, Zhu Fangyu, Su Wei (Guangdong Hongyuan); Sun Yue (Beijing Aoshen); Zhai Xiaochuan, Zhu Yanxi (Beijing Shougang); Duan Jiangpeng (Shanxi Zhongyu); Yi Jianlian (Dallas Mavericks)

Men’s Olympic National Team

Head Coach: Fan Bin (China)
Assistant Coaches: Du Feng, Wu Naiqun (China)

Li Muhao, He Zhongmian (DongGuan New Century); He Tianju, Guo Ailun (Liaoning Hengye); Wang Zirui (Zhejiang Guangsha); Dong Hanlin (Guangdong Hongyuan); Xu Zhonghao, Cao Yan, Tian Yuxiang (Bayi Fubang); Ge Zhaobao, Yan Pengfei, Xing Zhiqiang (Shanxi Zhongyu); Ding Yanyuhan, Sui Ran (Shandong Kingston); Yu Changdong (Xinjiang Guanghui); Zhang Zhihan (Tianjin Ronggang); Zhao Tailong (Fujian SBS) Yu Shulong (Jilin SBT); Li Gen (Qingdao Double Star)

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CBA Playoffs Recap: Semi-Finals – Game 3

March 10, 2012

1 Comment

Xinjiang – 102 @ Guangdong – 120

Four the fourth straight season, Guangdong has eliminated Xinjiang from the post-season.

Looking like they had already given up from the start, Xinjiang went down 11 in the first quarter before entering the locker room at half down 18. Five players for Guangdong finished in double figures: James Singleton (21 points and 16 rebounds), Zhu Fangyu (20 points), Zhou Peng (20), Aaron Brooks (16 and seven assists) and Wang Zheng (11). Guangdong is a perfect 6-0 this post-season and now enters the Finals for the eleventh time in their franchise’s history.

For Xinjiang, Xu Guochong finished with 23 points, while Ike Diogu and Meng Duo each scored 22.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

Shanxi – 115 @ Beijing – 128

Two nights after scoring 52, Stephon Marbury scored 53 points as Beijing took pivotal Game 3 in front of their home crowd to take a 2-1 series lead.

Reverting to the strategy they used for part of the regular season, Shanxi opted to sit both Marcus Williams and Charles Gaines during the first quarter so that they could play the rest of the game together. Rudderless on offense and totally lost on defense, Shanxi gave up 35 points in the quarter and entered the games’s second frame down 15.

With Gaines and Williams on the court together in the second though, Shanxi made up some ground despite Randolph Morris’ solid offensive effort to cut the score at halftime to 61-55. In the third, Shanxi’s good run continued behind their foreigners and the scoring of Lu Xiaoming, taking the lead for a moment until Beijing grabbed it back to head into fourth quarter with Shanxi down two.

With Morris on the bench in foul trouble to start the quarter, it looked like Shanxi had the game for the taking. Then, Starbury hit. For Beijing’s first 13 points of the quarter. Hitting contested threes in between his forays into the paint, Marbury’s personal 13-2 run broke all of Shanxi’s momentum and turned the game permanently in the Ducks’ favor. He finished the game 7-8 from three and 14-15 from the free-throw line while also dishing out four assists. Morris finished with 31 points and seven rebounds, Zhai Xiaochuan had 11, and Lee Hsueh-lin and Zhu Yanxi each finished with 10.

For Shanxi, Charles Gaines finished with 34 points and 21 rebounds, Williams had 32 and nine boards and Lu Xiaoming had 17. Game 4 is in Taiyuan on Sunday.

Jon Pastuszek

Box Score

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