Get your popcorn, folks, the circus will be in town on Wednesday night as Xinjiang Tigers make their way up from Urumqi to the Yuanshen.
From a playing pespective, there will be a lot for Coach Panaggio to plan for. Firstly there’s former NBA All-Star, Kenyon Martin, who hasn’t exactly set the world alight in his opening games with the Tigers but it would be reflective of the Sharks bad luck if the swingman was to suddenly find his form on Wednesday.
Once Coach P is done with K-Mart, he then has to focus on Australian Patty Mills, who is averaging 27.1 points a game. The guard, previously with the Portland Trail Blazers, has generally been a star for the Flying Tigers since he arrived from his previous club Melbourne, and will has to be considered a top priority for defensive duty (you know, when the Sharks aren’t dealing with Martin).
Also one to watch out for is veteran centre, Mengke Bateer, whose Mongolian name translates impressively as ‘Eternal Hero’. What also makes Mengke notable (besides his awesome name) is the big man’s skills- not only can he score on you, he is also deft with his hands and is currently second in the league in assists (6.6 a game).
Obviously the return of Bob Donewald will be of interest as well. The brash American was Shanghai’s previous coach before Panaggio and the former will almost certainly come looking to prove a point to his former paymasters after the acrimonious split..
In a nutshell, this is a HUGE ask for the Sharks and it will take something special to overcome last season’s beaten finalists. The loss of James Singleton has not derailed the Tigers and excellent additions on the bench and in the playing staff make them a force to be reckoned with. If Liu Wei is back, his calm leadership will help immeasurably but regardless, the Sharks need their ‘A’ game tomorrow. anything less and things could get messy.