Niubball contributor, Edward Bothfeld is back for another round of CBA chatter and this week we’re talking about about more upheaval in the league table, Lester Hudson in Qingdao, Yi Jianlian in Dallas and who’d come out on top in a fight between Mengke Bateer and P.J. Ramos.
AC: Hey man, well it looks like we’re back to discuss another crazy week in the CBA; ready to get going?
AC: We’ll get to Guangsha and Shanghai in good time but first of all, let’s talk about Beijing- the Ducks lost again last night, this time to Liaoning. That’s four losses in five games. They are still top of the league but does their recent dip in form suggest that teams are better prepared or do you think something has gone wrong in the dressing room?
EB: I think that teams are starting to figure them out and four losses in five games is certainly alarming. They got off to a torrid pace, so it was to be expected that they would struggle at some point during the season but they have a bunch of home games coming up, so they should be ok
AC: I guess we should probably show Guangdong some love because the five-time champions have quietly gone about their business and climbed back to the top of the CBA table. With Beijing struggling, are the Southern Tigers the team to avoid right now?
EB: They are definitely going about their business. Wilson Chandler told me that he was impressed by the play of the Chinese players. It’s telling that they have five players averaging double figures in points and no one is averaging over 20. To me, that says that they have an effective system in place and play as a team. On other teams, the imports are usually averaging in the mid-20’s. To me, they have to be the current favorites
AC: I’d agree. Brace yourself for a cliché avalanche here, but they’ve got players that have played together for a long time, won before and know how to handle play-off pressure. You can’t have a better foundation to a team then that.
Moving on, I’m guessing you saw the Xinjiang box score? Lawal Gani just went nuts in his first game with 27 points and 24 rebounds. Obviously it’s one game but with their old coach back in the hot seat and a more low key overseas player, do you think this is an attempt to go back to the ethos of last season?
EB: It still seems like a chaotic clubhouse with all of the change so I wouldn’t say they are the same team as last season. Their upper-management still looks pretty stupid for signing Kenyon Martin and Bob Donewald and then panicking so soon. That being said, I would expect to see them in the playoffs. I don’t think that the history of teams with coaching changes in the middle of the season bodes well but this is the CBA though, anything can happen.
AC: Well for my money, I think that going into to the play offs at 31-1 is trickier than going in with 20-12; the pressure would crush most teams. I think Xinjiang would prefer to be the low-key side this time around but that’s just my opinion. Whatever happens, the Southern Tigers management have ensured they’ll be the center of attention whether they like it or not.
EB: They will be dangerous regardless. No one will want to face them in the playoffs and they will be playing with a chip on their shoulder.
AC: Let’s talk Guangsha then- up to third place but with a home loss in Round 19 to Qingdao. I know you have a match report coming up on Niubball so I won’t spoil your copy but how are things shaping up in Hangzhou right now?
EB: They had won eight in a row leading up to last night. You got the feeling that a letdown would come but they looked bad last night- Lester Hudson really tore them a new one; he did whatever he wanted on the court, and even had five off the boards. That’s inexcusable for the best rebounding team in the league to have PG hitting the glass like that.
Once they got down early, I felt, and most of the crowd felt, that some sort of comeback was in the makings but it just didn’t happen. P.J. Ramos had a meltdown on the bench during a timeout and down 20. It will be interesting to see how they rebound from the loss on Wednesday. Coach Cleamons didn’t seem overly worried though- just part of the highs and lows of a long season; no need to overreact
AC: Hudson’s interesting as a player because he’s come out of nowhere to be a big player in the CBA and I suspect he may well still be in China next year with a bigger club. What sort of player do you think it takes to succeed in the CBA or is it the club’s set up that’s important? Obviously there are massive differences in structure and management between Xinjiang and Qingdao but why do you think Hudson has done so well but K-Mart flopped?
EB: If you’re a scorer it’s easier to succeed- look at Marcus Williams too. Kenyon has never been a scorer, neither was Dwayne Jones. With all of their peers putting up 20+ points a game, expectations are built for imports to put up big numbers. Yeah, Hudson is averaging 33 ppg but he also shoots it a lot. Put him in a system where the ball isn’t always in his hands and he might struggle a little more.
AC: Well, back in Shanghai, we’ve lost one of our overseas players. Ryan Forehan Kelly went down in our blow-out win over Shandong and it looks like his season is over . If so, I would imagine, the Shark will have to dip into the free agency. Do you think Shanghai can replicate their current form with a new player or is it too late to plug someone in?
EB: It’s late…but not too late. Imagine if they find someone as effective as Lester Hudson, they would be just fine- you know players are out there that just need to find the right fit. No matter what though, it will be hard to adapt but in the CBA, I think all players have learned to adapt on the fly to new teammates
AC: Its interesting that you talked about scorers earlier but what’s been a big part of my CBA education has been realizing just how much RFK does off the ball; he knew the league from having played here with Jiagsu, he’d played under Coach Panaggio in the States and understood the triangle offence; he is your classic selfless team man which seems to be rare in overseas players. If we do go out into the market, its a big ask to find someone with those aspects.
Anyways, staying on the subject of agency, let’s cast a look at the NBA; Yi Jianlian has got himself signed- with the Dallas Mavericks according to ESPN. He’s only 24 (allegedly) but he’s bounced around a few clubs already. Can he do it in Dallas or does this have a whiff of the last chance in the NBA saloon?
EB: At this point, I don’t think he will ever find the situation where he will be able to live up to the lofty expectations of a 5th overall pick. You gotta feel for the guy though, he’s been bounced around like a ping pong ball; Milwaukee was never a good fit and Washington was in upheaval. That being said, this is the first time he will be around savvy vets; Dirk, Marion, Vince, Terry, Kidd. Who knows, maybe Yi could be the eventual youth movement. Dallas is going to go through a rebuilding phase in the next couple of years here and they have a history of success and being consistent- there isn’t much upheaval there. Remember when Yi was drafted he was being compared to Dirk? Well, know he gets to learn from Dirk.
AC: All very true. I was looking at this myself thinking that it’s an interesting choice because there’s loads of competition for places there but he’d be learning from some of the best guys around. I know he had other choices but this one could be the sort of low key environment to see whether he’s got the right stuff or not.
EB: You also have to remember that Rick Carlisle is an excellent coach when it comes to match ups and roles. He will use Yi in the right way
AC: It sounds like he’s landed in the right place, and even if it doesn’t work out he can always come back to the Southern Tigers, try to win a couple more CBA titles, put up 25 points a night and generally enjoy life as the prince of Guangdong province
EB: Not a bad fallback plan!
EB: I’ll be a homer and take PJ. He’s scary and much more intimidating than Mengke. I don’t know how refs don’t pee their pants when he’s getting in their faces about non-calls
AC: I’m going to disagree with you and take Mengke. I mean, let’s consider the evidence. Firstly, his name means ‘Eternal Hero’ in Mongolian, which makes him a ‘category A’ bad ass. Secondly, he was cast in a major Chinese film, Bodyguards and Assassins, specifically as ‘gigantic bear of a man who will take great pleasure in beating the crap out of you’. In the film, he kills a man with a coconut. A coconut.
The dude is terrifying. I wouldn’t be surprised if years from now, it was discovered that the Xinjiang recruitment policy consists solely of Mengke phoning people in the middle of the night saying ‘you’re playing for the Tigers this season. Training starts next Thursday. Don’t be late’.
EB: Maybe I’ll try to contact P.J. and we can make it happen. Mengke certainly has experience
AC: We could stage it at the CBA All-Star weekend. It would be amazing.
EB: I do believe Jon was writing about how to spice up all-star weekend on Niubball.
AC: Problem solved then. Alright man, we’ve chewed the curd for another week. Thanks for your time.
EB: Great, talk to you soon