Back from a holiday break, Niubball scribe, Edward Bothfeld, is back to talk all manor of CBA happenings and asses how the Chinese Basketball Association is shaping up in the crucial last couple of weeks before the regular season ends and the madness of playoffs begin.
AC: First of all, I thing we should talk about Guangsha- Fujian. It sounded like a crazy game but also crucially, one that the Lions lost. What did you make of the game but also the reaction to another Guangsha defeat?
EB: It was a game of missed opportunities. It really seemed like Guangsha could have pulled away in the second quarter to build a sizeable double-digit lead but every time they got some momentum it was dashed by a dumb turnover or an offensive rebound by Fujian. As for the defeats, they are starting to mount up. The reality is that behind Wilson Chandler and P.J. Ramos, Guangsha doesn’t have much; Jin Lipeng is a nice player, but age isn’t on his side and you could tell that he didn’t have it last night. Lin Chih-Chieh provides a lot of hustle and energy but he is only shooting 30% from three-point range and they don’t have any national team players. So, unless everything comes together at the right time, I don’t know if we can call them a championship contender.
AC: Fujian really surprised me with their hustle when they came to the Yuanshen the previous game. It’s interesting you mentioned the offensive rebounding; I was surprised by just how much their beefy players tried to bully the opposition. Abbas in particular was just a monster to deal with.
Also, what was the reaction from the crowd like? I’m guessing people must start to be getting nervous now because the last thing a team needs is to limp into the playoffs with no momentum. I’m guessing Coach Cleamons must be pissed as well…
EB: He seemed disappointed after the game. There are a number of games that were winnable for Guangsha, but they were just unable to finish it off. As for the fans, well frankly the crowds have been getting smaller and smaller. I don’t know if that has to do with the losing, the New Year break or just a general lack of interest
Talking about Abbas; he is a guy who you hate to play against but you definitely want on your team. Everything about him, his physical size (tall and scrawny), his style of play and his trash-talking are annoying. He would come over to the Guangsha bench yelling, “one on five! They can’t beat us one on five”, referring to Wilson Chandler taking over the game.
AC: And with PJ Ramos within hearing distance as well- that’s a ballsy move to say the least…
EB: If PJ could learn to contain his emotions, I think he could be a lot more effective. One questionable call by the refs and he’s really upset
AC: The Fujian win plus Zhejiang also getting a victory makes things really difficult for Shanghai, who lost last night in Urumqi. Down by a point with 17 seconds left, the Sharks managed to turn the ball over twice (TWICE!) in that time to really let the Tigers off the hook. It looks like Xinjiang could actually make the playoffs and when you look at the options they have available to them, they could be a real problem for a lot of teams, especially at home. Would you be worried if Guangsha got Xinjiang in the post season?
EB: Yeah, I would be worried if Guangsha had to face them! It seems like Pickett and Lawai are really settling in, and with their old coach back, they look a lot better; I mean, who would have thought Gani Lawai would be posting better numbers than Kenyon Martin? It also helps that the majority of their games are at home, which probably gives them more practice time and confidence since Urumqi is so far away and such a difficult place to play.
AC: As for Shanghai, it looks really tough. Fujian are in the mix, Zhejiang are still there and Qingdao, despite losing in Yiwi, still have a decent run of winnable games coming up. The Sharks can still make it but they need to win all their remaining home games, get at least one away win from visits to Tianjin, Beijing and Shanxi and then hope other results go their way.
EB: That Tianjin game would appear winnable on the road and who knows about the Beijing game- with those being the final games of the season, the Ducks might have already secured a playoff seed and be resting players or not playing them the whole game. Since Tianjin is already out of it, they won’t have much to play for in the final game of the season so if Shanghai is in a must win position against Tianjin, you would think they would come out with a W. I remember when Guangsha played Tianjin, Donnel Harvey shook his head and said, “it could be a long season’…
Have you been impressed with Landry by the way?
AC: I like him and I think he’s done well since he got here. I’ve spoken a people who’ll tell me that he’s not a natural guy for the offensive system but as far as quick replacements go, I don’t think you could have asked for more. There might be a few teams looking at him with the viewing of trying to get him to come back to China next season.
EB: Talking about the other teams, I still like Qingdao. After seeing them defeat Guangsha. I thought they would be able to make a run to secure a playoff spot. It might just be that I was really impressed with Lester Hudson but I can’t rule them out.
AC: I guess as the season is starting to draw to a close, JR Smith, Chandler and Brooks will be back in the States; is there anyone else that you think might be getting a call from someone back in the States? Call me crazy but a red-hot Lester Hudson or Marcus Williams might be a nice option to have on the bench. Do you think anyone has put themselves in the shop window over the course of this CBA?
EB: Lester Hudson is a little undersized but he could fill a Nate Robinson type role. As for Williams, his efficiency this season can’t be overlooked. Wing players are a dime a dozen in the NBA but after watching him, I would want him on my team for spot minutes. I’ve been told that Ramos has the size and skills to play in the NBA, but I don’t think he wants to- I think his stint with the Washington Wizards left a bad taste in his mouth.
AC: Its interesting that some guys just like the overseas life better. Him and Marbury are clearly two such examples of dudes who’ve found their comfort zones in more unlikely places.
EB: Especially Marbury; I love how he’s has found a home here. He caught so much flak for “not being a winner” etc. in the States but he’s playing well here, has other business interests and by all accounts is really happy. I think other players should use him as an example of being successful in a different country.
AC: Finally, Chinese New Year has been and gone, do you think any CBA clubs have made some New Year resolutions for this season?
EB I hope Guangsha will work on getting some legit help in terms of Chinese players, but in the meantime, they have some young players that will hopefully develop. Wang Zirui is only 18 and is the youngest player in the league- hopefully they make a commitment to developing him; he’s really quick, I like him a lot. Jim Cleamons told me that Jin Lipeng has been a good mentor to Wang so it all looks promising.
I also think that any bottom feeder should go after Abbas when this current season ends, Xinjiang should try to stick will stick with a strategy in regards to their roster before the season starts and as for the CBA as a whole, Niubball outlined some things they could do to make the league better and it would be great if they took some of that advice!
AC: To Shanghai’s credit, the younger players are already starting to come through and I think that’s been really pleasing to the supporters. Liu Wei will have to retire one day and now they’ve got a really tidy young back-up in Feng Tian coming through and the shooting guard, Meng Lingyuan is great fun when he gets going. I think Shanghai’s biggest resolution is not actually with the club but with the press who cover the team. Maybe its just the city and its obsession with getting successful quickly but there does need to be more patience for the team and it going forward. Anything new or different (COUGH! Coach Panaggio trying to implement the triangle offense, COUGH!) and the press pack goes bonkers and blames it for all the team’s woes as soon as there is a hiccup. If they could, I’m sure they’d blame the triangle offense for the recent problems with air pollution or the bad weather.
I also think Zhejiang should make a mental note to never sign eccentric American guards ever again. If they have any sense, they’ll only sign mellow Candians or nice, quiet guys from Europe.
EB: It’s been well-documented that Smith is itching to get out of China but give the guy his credit, once he hits the hardwood he brings it each and every game.
AC:Very true. Alright, man. A sterling return to form after a deserved holiday. Thanks for your thoughts.
EB: No problem. Let’s do it again, next week.