Shanghai Sharks open their 2011-2012 campaign with a visit to Shangdong Province to play the hyphen shunning Qingdao DoubleStar Eagles.
Shanghai will have harder away trips this season and will be pleased to open their season with an eminently winnable fixture. Qingdao have a history of sustained mediocrity and finished third-from-bottom in the last CBA with 10-22 record, although it should be noted that the equally underwhelming Sharks lost to them, 98-91 at home last season before returning the favour by beating the Eagles, 113-109 in Febuary.However, Shanghai travel with renewed confidence that there will be no further slips against Qingdao now that the Eagles have lost their star player, Charles Gaines. The previously unheralded American found himself reborn in China and the forward averaged 33.7 points a game during the 2010-2011 CBA season, as well as racking up an impressive 13.5 rebounds.
Having lost Gaines to the just as impressively named, Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons, Qingdao moved to add former Boston Celtics guard, Lester Hudson, who won the CBA last year with another of Shanghai’s recent preseason foes, Guandong. As their most recent opposition in the preseason, Shanghai will still remember the occasional danger posed by forwards Li Gen and Xue Yuyang, and will be under no illusions that the Eagles can do some damage if given the chance. Qindgao will also be hoping to recruit one final import to the team, and Niuball are reporting that ex-LA Clipper Ike Diogu could be booking a flight to Northwest China very soon, but any signing will be in a race against time to arrive before Sunday.
Coach Panaggio is unlikely let his debut in Chinese basketball be spoiled by a less-than-glamourous opposition but will have to deal with Qingdao smoothly if they are to help save this humble blogger’s largely unjustified belief that the Sharks are potential dark horses for this year’s CBA. I’m well aware that games against mediocre teams are what defines the ambition and talent of any team and so Panaggio will be keen to seize the momentum from the first game. I’d expect the Sharks to get a victory but equally I can already hear myself writing a “what-was-I-thinking?” introduction to this Sunday’s match report.