Friday, April 20, 2007

Moving...for good

Ok, so I haven't updated in months. The reason is because I was offered a place at With the launch of their new site design, they have a new "blogosphere" feature, of which I am now a part. To see more of my writings, please to there from now on. Since I can start from the beginning again, I have a lot of new ideas, so please stay tuned.

Monday, November 06, 2006

More on Yi Jianlian

Perhaps something I might have neglected to say in my last post is this: It is not certain that Yi Jianlian will be going to the NBA. Probably what a lot of people missed is the fact that it was not the CBA that gave their consent to Yi, it was his club that gave him their OK.

So, does this announcement mean nothing then? No, it actually means lot for Yi's chances. When Yao Ming and Team Yao was preparing for the draft in the summer of 2002, he not only had to negotiate with the CBA, he also had to talk with his club. People might forget that there was actually a lot of uncertainty all the way up to the draft, and the Rockets had to have a lot of confidence to stand by their man. For Yi, he has already cleared one obstacle, and gained an ally. Because they announced their consent, his team will not want to lose face if he can't enter after all, so they'll be fighting for him when he's talking to the CBA. Furthermore, now the NBA teams will know Yi is serious, and what's more, he has the backing of his club. There might not be a team like the Rockets that would take the chance on an unproven rookie that might not even come over, so every bit of official backing is a point in Yi's favor

Another factor that's going for Yi is that Yao has been through all this before. The CBA will now be more confident in handling the situation, and Yi's people will have a precedent to go by.

Does this mean that Yi's path is paved already smooth? Well, let's say it's smoother than Yao's was, but it's definitely not going to be a rosy pathway from here to the NBA. For one thing, the CBA has set the rule that Chinese players can't leave China for the NBA until they are 22. Yi will still be only 19 when the the 2007 NBA draft takes place. However, I think the CBA can see far enough ahead to be able to see that this rule should be either be abolished, or that Yi should be an exception. Yi isn't as ready as he should be, but he's as ready as he'll ever be playing in China.

There's also the financial aspect, as both the Guangdong Tigers and the CBA will want some monetary reimbursement for giving away a crown jewel. There are rumors that Guangdong will want even more money than the Shanghai Sharks wanted for Yao, which I think is somewhat greedy of them, because Yi's absence won't affect the Tigers the way Yao's did.

Meanwhile, this news makes its way into Yao's hearing, and he gives his first response. The first thing he said (or at least, the first quote of his in the article) said that he didn't want Yi to end up in Houston, because if the Rockets were high enough to draft him, then that would probably mean they would not have made the playoffs. That's a very good point, and that's not mentioning the fact that Yi would not be the kind of three-point shooting power forward (Steve Novak, Scott Padgett, Juwan Howard) or scrapper (Chuck Hayes) that the Rockets are looking for. Yao did say the NBA team Yi should be on was the Phoenix Suns. Unfortunately, the Suns will probably also have too low a draft pick to draft Yi.

One interesting quote Yao did have was this: "I can't say now whether Yi entering the NBA will be helpful for Chinese basketball, but it will be good for his personal improvement." Personally, I think Yi's personal improvement will help Chinese basketball, as another NBA-level player will automatically make the Chinese national team better.

Speaking of the national team, Jonas Kazlauskas must have a big headache right now. Six of his players, four of whom are supposed to be starting, have nagging injuries. Du Feng has a knee injury, Wang ZhiZhi is still fighting his leg injury, Liu Wei just pulled a ligament, Yi Jianlian and Wang Shipeng sprained their ankles, and Li Nan is also injured. While they are not really, really serious, they will require rest, and the games against the NBDL team, the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, is coming up in less than two weeks, and the Asian Games will be starting in days. However, there might be a silver lining, because if one of the above players pulls outs, a younger player, just waiting for a chance to shine, might be able to claim a spot on the roster that would normally be filled by that veteran.

Friday, November 03, 2006

News from China

In 2007, a collection of all-star players from the CBA and Korean Basketball League (KBL) will be facing off against each other. Now, similar to the NBA's All-Star Game voting, you can vote for who makes the roster here (it's all in Chinese, of course).

However, I have a feeling that the Chinese players won't be taking it seriously. No one plays hard in an all-star game, but the level of Korean basketball has fallen off in recent years, and Wang ZhiZhi said publicly that they no longer look at Korea as their biggest rivals, instead saying that Lebanon and Qatar were the biggest challenge they would say (and then continued by saying they would still beat them anyway).

Immediately after it was announced that Yi Jianlian would be entering the NBA draft, put up a poll asking where Yi would be drafted. With about 10,000 votes, most (37%) think he'll be gone in the first ten. I was a bit surprised, though, that fully 18% thought he wouldn't even get drafted in the first round, and only 6% said he would be picked first. If people think Chinese fans are biased, then they should look at this poll.

Another poll that was made asked readers to pick the four players they thought would be cut from the national team. If you don't remember, my picks were Hu Xuefeng, Zhang Jinsong, Zhang Quingpeng and Huo Nan. The general consensus agreed with me on Huo and Zhang Songtao, but the majority said the last two would be Zhang Quingpeng and Chen Jianghua, instead of my predictions of Hu Xuefeng and Zhang Jinsong.

On a related topic, it appears that Li Nan's long-lasting injury (which has prevented him from playing in the World Championships or any games in this CBA season) means he will not be traveling to Doha for the Asian Games. Originally, it was Gong Songlin that was going to be his replacement, but when he got injured himself, he was forced to withdraw, meaning that a spot has been opened for one more lucky player.

Finally, an interesting article from Slam Magazine, which was posted here. Although the author was there to try to catch up with God Shammgod, he also had some nice things to say about Yi and Chen Jianghua.

Yi and Chen both look good and like legit prospects. Yi finished with 36 points and close to 20 boards. He is stronger than I thought, quite athletic, has good court sense and is a little more street than I thought. Byrd tried to intimidate him with pushes and bows and Yi gave it right back. It’s still a little hard for me to gauge his NBA potential because he was a man amongst boys. If he can maintain that attitude and aggression against guys as big or bigger than him, he is going to be very good. Point guard Chen is supposedly only 17 or so but birthdates of the players here are notoriously suspect. I’d say he’s 19 or 20 and he looks legit too.

Chen is very quick, but under control, has a great handle, is confident and seems to have really good instincts. He and hahmm were a good matchup. Chinese players do not get the greatest coaching and often have trouble really developing their games but Chen is lucky to be from Guangdong and in the best possible place. I am definitely going to keep my eye on him and hope he continues to grow, both literally (he is probably 6-1 and could use 2-3 inches) and hoops-wise.

However, I found one interesting little side-note right near the end:

The crowds of people waiting there for autographs had time to rush over and crush against the door, screaming “Yi Jianlin!” The team translator said to another American on board, “You take the back and I’ll take the front. Put your shoulder down and push.” I walked off the bus right in front of them and a huge surge clawed at Yi. They followed the plan and just bulled through. It was pretty wild and aggressive. A lot of people were asking me for autographs, which I thought was funny. I actually signed a few from people who were persistent even when I said Chinese something approximating, “You don’t want me.” I signed a jacket, a T shirt and several programs.

Either the masses were just interested in getting an autograph from someone famous (as evidenced from asking an autograph from the writer, who's a nobody), or else Yi Jianlian is really big superstar. I would pick the latter. I would also say that there's going to be several dozen million new fans of whatever NBA team drafts Yi next year, and that Yi's jersey number (9 for Guangdong, 11 internationally) will probably be one of the top 5 jersey sellers in the NBA, if not the very top.

If you believe all that is going to happen, then you find yourself wondering "Would ever surpass Yao in popularity?". You know what? I'm wondering that myself...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Yi Jianlian officially entering the 2007 draft.

Although for months NBA draft sites have been putting Yi Jianlian on their 2007 mock drafts, it has finally been announced that it is certain Yi will be entering the NBA draft next year, which means (barring a total fall from grace that leaves him undrafted and unsigned) he'll be only the fourth Chinese player to do play on an NBA team.

(The Chinese article is here, if you want to read the original article).

Although I don't think it will be just clear sailing from here (the NBA team that drafts him, the CBA, and Guangdong will have a lot of negotiations on a buyout, contract terms and so on), this is the first big step.

However, the man himself, Yi, refused to comment on his feelings or where he thought he would be drafted, saying only that he was still focused mainly on winning the Asian Games and the CBA title.

After the CBA season has run its full course, I will be planning on focusing a lot more on Yi Jianlian and his coming NBA career, on his strengths and weaknesses, and what to expect and not expect from him.

Before the start of the CBA season, I wrote a long post about the change in the CBA schedule. At the time, I was opposed to the change, for reasons listed in the post. However, now, I may stand corrected. Of the three warmup games played by the national team before the Asian Games, one game will be against a junior Australian team, which won't do any power of good.

However, they will twice play against the champions of the NBDL, the Albuquerque Thunderbirds. Not only will this be good competition for the national team, it will also server as a comparison. If the team's top young prospects get outplayed by players that can't even make the IR of an NBA team, then there should be some serious re-thinking going on in the offices of the CBA. This is especially important for Yi. He should take this chance to prove himself, grab it by the horns, and dominate. Although it won't improve his draft position any, since a dominant performance is expected, the opposite, a lackluster game, would hurt his position a lot.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Asian Games roster and predictions

Jonas Kazlauskas announced the 16-man roster for the training camp, which will be cut down to 12 before the Asian Games. Apparently, Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, Yi Jianlian, Wang ZhiZhi, Li Nan, Mo Ke, Du Feng, Liu Wei, and Tang Zhengdong all have guaranteed roster spots–unless they get injured, they won't be cut. That leaves Zhang Jinsong, Hu Xuefeng, Zhang Quingpeng, Chen Jianghua, and the three Aoshen players (Sun Yue, Zhang Songtao, and Huo Nan) to fight it out for the last three spots. I think Sun Yue and Zhang Songtao will make it in without any problem. The last spot will be hotly contested, Chen Jianghua will be the last two to make it. Both Zhang Quingpeng and Hu Xuefeng have had a better season than Chen, but I still firmly believe (and I think Kazlauskas recognizes as well) that Chen is still one of the top-three point guards in China, despite being less than impressive in his debut season.

If these predictions comes true, then the roster will look something like this:

PG: Liu Wei, Sun Yue, Chen Jianghua
SG: Wang Shipeng, Li Nan,
SF: Zhu Fangyu, Du Feng
PF: Wang ZhiZhi, Mo Ke
C- Yi Jianlian, Tang Zhengdong

Although Kazlauskas will probably have Yi Jianlian and Wang ZhiZhi as his starting (very athletic) Twin Towers, I think Tang Zhengdong will be the first one off the bench. His role will be something like Bonzi Well's on the Rockets this coming season–he doesn't start, but he plays almost as much as the other starters. I think that there will be a three-man rotation at the power forward and center spot. Kazlauskas did the same in the World Championships, with Yi, Wang, and Yao.

While the big man rotation has been getting better and better, Zhang Songtao will be left out in the cold—again. Zhang has the talent to be a star for China, yet with the flux of big men, he is without an opportunity to improve.

Although on my depth chart I listed Chen as shooting guard, because he is a naturally a shooting guard, I think Kazlauskas will use him (when he's in the game) as the primary ball handler. But, like Zhang Songtao, he has several other competitors at his position, so minutes could be scarce. However, his one advantage over Zhang is that he is the team's best dribbler, so Kazlauskas will use him in the face of a dogged full-court press from the other team.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tattoos and Techs

Over at ESPN, as part of a special preview for each team, the Daily Dime included a section called "Ask the Blogger", and the question asked was "What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the [insert NBA team] on your chest." I'm green with envy that each blogger could get a free appearance on ESPN. However, if I cannot participate in body, I can participate in spirit. So, I'll do my own twist on the question: What would it take for me to get a tattoo of the CBA logo?

I hope to keep my chest unscarred, but I would get a tattoo when...

–Yao Ming breaks a backboard, preferably over Amare Stoudemire, in the finals of the Beijing Olympics, on a momentum-turning play.

–Yi Jianlian becomes a full-fledged NBA player...on and off the court. That means he totes the gun, he sports the 'fro, and he shows off the girl.

–Chen Jianghua becomes the first Chinese player (besides Yao, of course) to get a technical. He dunks in the face of a big stiff, and then screams in his face, thereby drawing the tech.

–Tang Zhengdong shows the utter lack of quality centers in the NBA by not only being signed by a team, but playing, and starting for his team.

Unlikely? Probably? But then again, I don't like having a permanent scar on my chest. And I think most bloggers who participated on ESPN didn't either, so they just said some wacko things. And didn't it make it all the more brilliant?

Friday, October 27, 2006

The CBA and its system

On Tuesday night, Guangdong brushed aside Shangdong. Two days before, they shell-shacked the Zhejiang Lions, and walked away with a 35 points victory. The game before that was another 35 point win, this time against Shanghai. In short, after a 6-point opening win against Bayi, they have dominated everyone. No team has come close to even challenging them, let alone getting a win. Maybe this will change when Jiangsu and their Player of the Week Tang Zhengdong comes calling on Friday, but the Tigers' dominance has already been established for all to see.

This team is a dynasty by anyone's standards. They already have the "three-peat", and a fourth straight title in looking very, very likely. Indeed, they might threaten the Bayi Rockets of old, who won the CBA's first six titles. And one question that is already being asked around the league is: Can they win it all? That is, can they go undefeated throughout the regular season and sweep the playoffs? As the season progresses, that seems more and more likely, and with a shorter season, the odds for it get higher and higher.

And perhaps the most scary thing of it all is that this team isn't even as good as they want to be, as the team's collective prime has yet to be reached. Their three native starters, Wang Shipeng, Zhu Fangyu, and Yi Jianlian, are 23, 23, and 19, respectively. Although they'll almost certainly be losing Yi next year to the NBA draft, they'll hardly be affected, as junior national team starter, Zhou Peng, will simply be able to step in and fulfill his role. You could take away their foreign import, Terrence Green, but they could fill that hole with Chen Jianghua or Liu Xiaoyu, two of China's best young point guards. To say that they are stacked at every position is a big understatement.

Now, why write about this? Well, the Tigers are probably the perfect example of the almost unique (and outdated) system that is now in place in the CBA. Basically, there is no trading, no salary cap, no draft, and the only free agents are players that were released by their team (can you imagine a free agent market where the best free agents were Keith Van Horn and Dermarr Johnson?). Because of this, the Guangdong GM doesn't have to worry about whether one of his starters will get fed up and demand a trade, or whether there's enough room left in the salary cap to resign his star player (actually, I don't even think CBA teams have a GM, since he wouldn't have much to do). As a result of this, a team can easily retain their superstars, and become and remain a dynasty for many years, while the bottom-level teams stay the same. So, while Steve Kerr is wondering "Is parity good for the league?", the CBA is (or should be) wondering how to make the league more competitive. Thee remedy is actually as clear as anything: Every league has player movement, maybe some more and some less, and in different forms, but they all have a lot of players moving around. In the interest of competitiveness and progress, something similar should be instituted in the CBA. Maybe it doesn't even have to be all at once, but a step-by-step implementation will do wonders for the CBA's overall competition level. And no just for the competition; as each team gets better and has a better chance at winning, the fans will stick around and become more intereseted, thereby raising the popularity of the games, the attendance, and ultimately (and most important), the profit.