Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Unknown

If you think about it, two years ago, Yao Ming said winning against Serbia & Montenegro to advance to the final eight was the happiest day of his life. Did he know, that, 2 years later, that win would be superseded by this dramatic one over Slovenia? No, of course he didn't. Does he know what will happen tonight? No? Neither does anyone on this earth. So, I lay awake at night thinking about all the possible outcomes of this game (there's a lot -- anywhere from a 50-point loss for China to a 50-point win). Such is the life of the NBA junkie.

Speaking of "The Unknown", one big unknown is Yi Jianlian. After getting 14 points and 9 rebounds without either Yao or Wang, he was supposed to come into the World Championships and average something along those lines, maybe 15/10. And yet, his averages are 5.6 points (34.5% FG shooting) and 5.8 rebounds. Hardly the numbers you would expect from a potential lottery pick. In fact, the only decent game he had was once again against the USA -- 13 points, 7 rebounds, 5-9 shooting. To be honest, I think he's not ready, and I think when enters the draft in a years time (that's when he's supposed to be entering), he's not going to be ready. In the article by Fran Blinebury (which I analysed in my previous post), Blinebury said that "
National team veteran Liu Wei went to training camp with the Sacramento Kings two years ago, and it became clear quickly he could not compete with NBA guards." Liu Wei played in two exhibition games, where hardly anyone played seriously. What will happen when Yi goes up against these big strong guys, during the regular season, when everyone plays hard (or is supposed to), and it really does matter? And then what about the playoffs. In Yao Ming's first game in the CBA, he fell over 17 times. Somehow, I have a feeling that that might happen to Yi in his first NBA game (maybe not falling 17 times, but he's not going to go out there and make the sort of debut that Lebron did).

Meanwhile, here is a wonderful little tidbit from AsiaBasketbat's Arthur Volbert. He's echoing what I was thinking about earlier (but, apparently, I didn't write it down soon enough).

Liu Wei hit a two-point shot in the paint with three seconds left in China's 90-87 loss to Puerto Rico that was almost as important as Wang Shipeng's three-point buzzer-beater in the 78-77 win against Slovenia. If Liu had not made this shot, Puerto Rico would have won 90-85 and would have advanced to the Round of 16 over China on point differential.

When Larry Ayuso hit a three-pointer with 1:34 left in overtime, Puerto Rico went ahead 88-80. This is the sort of situation where, in the past, China's team would mentally pack its bags and go home.

Instead Zhu Fangyu answered with his own three-pointer at 1:23. After Antonio Latimer hit 1 of 2 free throws with 44 seconds left, Wang Shipeng hit a two-pointer in the paint 5 seconds later. Wang scored six points in the overtime so he had two games where he performed heroics in cruch time.

Ayuso made one free throw with 12 seconds left, but missed the second and Yi Jianlian grabbed the rebound. This clutch rebound permitted Liu to hit his very important basket.

Credit must also be given to coach Jonas Kauslauskas who trained his team to be focused even after they fell behind by eight.

Once again, continued evidence of small but sure steps in the right direction by the Chinese players. But, as a fan, it still seems so slow. But at least it's better than nothing.

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