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
Liu and a teammate were each fined 50,000 yuan and suspended for 10 games for their involvement in the incident. Muoneke has posted his own account on his blog on HoopsHype.com. It's not too different from the story that's been reported by Chinese media. Muoneke confirms that he was with two of his children when the Sharks confronted him, and writes, "I hold no ill will toward them and was on record saying I had no desire for them to be punished."
Muoneke also uses the post to vent other frustrations he is having with the CBA in his first season here. He hasn't been impressed with the level of play. He writes:
"One day, I'd love to discuss the fine points of basketball and its utter decimation in certain places. I'd love to brag about my numbers over here but I have some pride."
He also complains about the fouls against him that aren't called, and expresses some frustrations as a black American playing in the CBA. Here Munoeke, who is of Bantu-speaking Nigerian descent, recounts a conversation with a Chinese coach:
"My first coach here in 2003 told me he studied human anatomy in college and through his studies he learned (Bantu) people are made only for certain sports. He said, basketball, football and other power sports were those [sic] for Bantus but a sport like, 'Tennis for example,' he said was made for white and yellow. I didn't get offended. Ignorance can't offend me. I just smiled and said, 'Venus and Serena.' And he thought, smiled and shook his finger at me half embarrassed, half laughing with a steroetypical, 'very good.'"
Muoneke is a global journeyman, who has played in the NBA D-League, and for teams in at least nine other countries. It doesn't sound like he'll be back for a second season in the CBA.
Gabe Muoneke image:HoopsHype.com
Tags: basketball, CBA, Gabe Muoneke, Liu Wei, Shanghai Sharks, Yunnan Running Red Bulls
119-115 overtime win for his Shanxi Zhongyu over Fujian.
While Wells is blowing up the scoreboard and earning the dubious distinction of "best former NBA player in the CBA," China's professional basketball league seems to either be cleaning itself up or descending into chaos--we're reserving judgment on which one.
The news feed on the league's Web site right now features four stories about recent fines for players and teams. A recent league order required the Jilin and Jiangsu clubs to pay fines of 50,000 yuan ($7,300) each for unruly fan behavior at a game. Earlier this month, Liu Wei (a captain of the Chinese National Team and a once-upon-a-time NBA prospect) and Cai Liang, took on-court aggression off the court when they chased down opponent Gabe Muoneke after a game. Water bottles were thrown at Muoneke, who was reportedly leaving the arena with his family. Liu and Cai were fined 50,000 yuan apiece and suspended for 10 games; their club, the Shanghai Sharks, paid a 100,000 yuan fine. Also recently fined was the Tianjin club, again for fan behavior.
And while the fights and fines are getting headlines, the widespread practice of fudging players ages (making them younger so they can compete in youth tournaments) has also garnered some bad publicity. Li Zhigang, a reporter for Sports Illustrated's Chinese magazine, dug up some evidence that several players, including New Jersey Net Yi Jianlian, are a few years older than the age listed for them on official league documents.
It would be a good year for the CBA to get its act together, and a bad year for it to cement a reputation for lies and fisticuffs. The NBA is making big moves here—opening its NBA China office about a year ago, and announcing extensive arena construction plans this fall. Whether the CBA lets itself get bought out or digs in and tries to compete with a possible NBA-run Chinese league, the less shine it has on its brand image, the stronger the NBA's position gets.
Tags: basketball, Bonzi Wells, Cai Liang, CBA, Liu Wei, Shanghai Sharks, Shanxi Zhongyu, Yi Jianlian
China's 59-55 win over Germany last night puts the team into the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament. With very little hope of medaling, securing a spot in the final eight was the goal the team had set for itself.
With wins over Germany and Angola and losses to Spain and the United States, China is tied for third with Greece, which lost to and beat the same teams as China. Even if Germany were to win its final game against the United States, and China lost to Greece, the two would still be in a tie, and China's victory in head-to-head competition would put them in the quarterfinals.
Yao Ming has been setting the pace, as expected, averaging just under 20 points per game. The team's next leading scorers are Liu Wei (刘炜), with 10.3, and Zhu Fangyu (朱芳雨), with 9.5 (CST would like to point out that we told you how important these two players—little known to fans outside of China—are to the team, in this post last week). Both players have gotten most of their points from long distance: Liu has knocked down 8 threes and Zhu, 10.
Yao's NBA colleague, Yi Jianlian, is averaging just 8 points a game but has been a strong defensive presence for China. Sun Yue (孙悦), who will join the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers for the 2008-2009 season, has also had a quiet performance offensively, averaging 6.5 points, but has come up with key steals and blocked shots.
China will play its last preliminary game Monday against Greece. The quarterfinals begin on Wednesday.
Related: Yes, China can beat the Dream Team
Tags: basketball, Beijing Olympics, Liu Wei, Olympics, Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian, Zhu Fangyu
Liu Wei passed out six assists, grabbed five rebounds (the same number as Yao) and had 18 points, including a key three pointer to put China up by six with about three minutes left. Wang Shipeng （王仕鹏）was the team's next leading scorer with 13. China's other NBA player, Yi Jianlian（易建联), had just 11 points and 6 rebounds.
After a slow start that had them down 18-10 in the first quarter, China took the lead for the first time in the second half but didn't have the game in hand until the last minute. China still struggles with Angola's quick ball movement and an active defense that often makes it tough for China to pound the ball in to Yao and Yi. The teams are 1-1 in their two meetings this summer; they play again August 14, in a preliminary round game.
China plays Australia at 4:00 this afternoon.
Link: FIBA game report
Tags: Angola, basketball, Liu Wei, Wang Shipeng, Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian