What is it with China's national men's basketball team? After its throwdown with the Brazilian national team last week, the team has now been involved in three of the worst fights in international basketball this decade. There was China-Lebanon in 2001, China-Puerto Rico in 2005 (video), and now China-Brazil in 2010.
The latest came in an exhibition game in Xuchang (Henan province) to prepare the China for November's Asian Games. Here's a YouTube video of the fight, and here is a Youku video. The YouTube one captures the tantrum that China's head coach throws before the fight, and the Youku one shows the foul that set him off.
The Chinese Basketball Association has levied 290,000 yuan ($43,660) in penalties to 15 people for the melee (Chinese report). It fined head coach Bob Donewald, an American who has coached a season in the CBA, 50,000 yuan ($7,530), and suspended him from practice. Three players—Zhu Fangyu, Ding Jinhui and Su Wei—were each fined 30,000 yuan, and six other players drew 20,000-yuan fines. Team official Zhang Xiong also was suspended, and fine 30,000 yuan.
The CBA should not just be investigating this incident, but also looking for answers as to why China is building up an ugly history of fights in international play. The fact that Donewald, a former Bobby Knight protégé, blew his top, contributed to the China-Brazil mess, but this isn't out of form for China. The throwdowns with Lebanon and Puerto Rico were already some of the worst in FIBA-sanctioned play. And the domestic league, the CBA, also sees its share of fights (witness: Charles Gaines-Du Feng, 2010) often with fans getting involved by throwing objects on the court. Do officials need to learn how to keep the players and crowd under control? Is the Chinese style of play actually not physical enough, leading to frustration and anger when players come up against a little more contact? Does China's tendency toward soccer-style faking and flopping raise the level of tension? Does alleged match-fixing rob players of an outlet for their competitive emotions? Or are these guys all too roided up?
Whatever the answer, the CBA needs to be searching for it, because these incidents make China look thuggish and amateur.
In case you haven't seen the brawl:
Numerous videos posted online indicate that emotions got hot when coach Bob Donewald lost his temper at officials for a missed moving screen call in the first minute of the game. Donewald cursed and screamed at referees, pounded his fist on the scorer's table, and was removed from the game with two technical fouls. The team claims that guard Zhang Qingpeng, who received the screen, suffered a concussion from it, although it certainly didn't look like Zhang's head hit anything. Media reports show Zhang in a neck brace.
After another 30 seconds of very physical play, Chinese veteran guard and one-time CBA MVP Zhu Fangyu blatantly hip-checked to the floor a Brazilian who was already bent over and getting his footing. What followed was a bench-clearing brawl that made the Malice at the Palace look mild—Brazilian players threw some punches, but for the most part, they were trying to get out of the way, while Chinese players were taking cheap shots and kicking their opponents while they were down.
As for the Chinese players with substantial playing experience in the United States, Wang Zhizhi (Dallas Mavericks, LA Clippers, Miami Heat) seems to have stayed out of the brawl; Sun Yue (LA Lakers) got some cheap kicks in; and Max Zhang (Cal-Berkeley) threw and received some punches.
Tags: basketball, Bob Donewald, CBA, Max Zhang, Sun Yue, Wang Zhizhi, Zhu Fangyu
The highlight of the tournament for Team China was the play of Yi Jianlian, who averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds, and took it to the competition with some aggressive play inside. His performance has Washington Wizards bloggers buzzing about what he might bring to their team this year—but playing well in international tournaments has never been Yi's problem. It's when he goes up against NBA bodies that he seems to wither. And he's already a little banged up, sitting on the bench for China's game against Turkey with a sore Achilles tendon.
The low point of the tournament for Team China was a 47-point loss to Turkey. With Yi out of the lineup, China only managed to scrounge up an anemic 40 points—and just 6 and 7 in the first two quarters. Not surprisingly, the loss led to some questions in Chinese sports media as to whether new coach Bob Donewald is the right man for the job.
As he starts facing more scrutiny from Chinese media. Donewald is benefiting from a misguided "young and inexperienced" label placed on China by lots of sports media. It's true that they are playing without veteran centers Yao Ming and Mengke Bateer, and elder statesman Li Nan has finally traded his jersey for an assistant coach's polo shirt, but the average age for the starting lineup is over 27. And that's before you take into account the rampant downward adjustment of ages that goes on in Chinese basketball. All of the starters played in the 2008 Olympics, and four of them—Yi, Wang Zhizhi, Liu Wei and Sun Yue—have NBA experience (point guard Liu only played in some pre-season games, but the rest al signed with teams for the regular season). Despite all of that, most Chinese media describe the team as young—a convenient excuse for its 1-5 record in Turkey.
Next up for China is the Asian Games in Guangzhou this November. Yi will stay with the team through then, before returning to the Wizards.
Tags: basketball, Bob Donewald, FIBA, Li Nan, Liu Wei, Sun Yue, Wang Shipeng, Wang Zhizhi, Yi Jianlian
The Guangdong Southern Tigers beat the Xinjiang Flying Tigers 103-94, winning their sixth Chinese Basketball Association title. Guangdong took the series 4-1. Only the Bayi Rockets, the Chinese army team, have won more titles (8), and Guangdong has been the CBA champion all but one of the last seven years. (Xinhua)
Bob Donewald, coach of the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks of the CBA, was tapped to coach the Chinese men's national basketball team through the end of the year (Washington Post). Donewald coached NCAA basketball at several different Midwestern universities throughout the 80s and 90s. He will lead a Yao-less team at the world championships in August and the Asian Games in November.
The International Olympic Committee stripped China of its bronze medal in the gymnastics team competition in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, after Dong Fangxiao was ruled to have been underage. The bronze now goes to the United States team. Ironically, Dong was outed by her accreditation papers for working as an official at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. That paperwork has her birth date as January 23, 1986, and not January 20, 1983, as she had declared in Sydney. Olympic gymnasts must turn 16 in the year they compete in an Olympics, per restrictions set by the Federation Internationale Gymnastique (AP via ESPN).
Kenny Huang is NOT denying rumors published in the Sunday Mirror that he is in talks to buy Liverpool Football Club. He only denies speaking to a reporter from the paper, and said he would not comment on the rumor.
China may not have a team in the FIFA World Cup, but they do have a presence. Many of the South African flags currently selling well in the host country, are made in China and apparently the imports were not quite printed right (Mail & Guardian)
Tags: basketball, Bob Donewald, CBA, FIFA World Cup, Guangdong Tigers, gymnastics, IOC, Kenny Huang, NFL, Olympics, Shanghai Sharks, Xinjiang Tigers, 黄建华