Although both Shanghai and Guangsha are done for the season, Niubball’s Edward Bothfeld swings by once again to talk Chinese hoops. Easing into a long off season, now its a case of speculating on what could happen in the next few days between Shanxi and Beijing, what could have been in Hangzhou and what it takes to stride the touch line in the CBA.
AC: First of all, we should probably talk about the CBA postseason that’s still going on. Guangdong eliminated an admittedly resurgent Xinjiang (again). Are you at all surprised by this?
EB: No, with all of the turmoil Xinjiang had this season, there was no way that they were going to beat a Guangdong team that was firing on all cylinders. I mean, did their management really think they had a better chance by bringing in a new player RIGHT before the playoffs began? For me, their GM is way too trigger happy, and something has to be said for team cohesion and being familiar with each other. Guangdong is the model of that and that’s they are heavily favored to win it all.
AC: Yeah, Guangdong have just been ruthless. You can call them robots but they’ve set their team up the right way- getting their Chinese players to a very good technical level and then bringing in the best players for their team, not the best player on the market. What are your thoughts about the other tie. Things looks crazy up in north China?
EB: Hard fouls, crazy fans, questionable officiating Game 5 is must see. Marcus Williams continues to put up huge numbers and carry his team; you have to love his game as well- he’s so fast and efficient. He can alter things in so many ways, whether it’s slowing the game down and getting opposing players in foul trouble or getting into the lanes on defense for steals. That said, Beijing has the league’s best player, Stephon Marbury and they can get their roles players involved more than Shanxi can. I think the Ducks have to be favored, especially as it is in Beijing, but anything can happen in a win or go home game.
AC: For my money, Beijing is going through to the final too. Williams and Charles Gaines have been stellar this year, and Duan Jiangpeng has been terrifying from three-point range if someone doesn’t chase him down. However, Beijing is a tough ask because beyond those three, and maybe Shanxi’s point guard, there’s not a lot going on so Starbury and co. should shade it. What is the mood like in Hangzhou now the basketball has stopped?
EB: I think a lot of people think if Chandler had stayed, we would be playing Shanxi right now, if not Guangdong. Seeing Chandler take over games when he wanted to, you realize just how good he is and it would have been great to see him in a playoff atmosphere going at 100% but it is what it is.
AC: I see he’s still having trouble back in the States, he’s talking about sitting out now.
EB: Hah! Well, no one is going to give you $30 mil without a fight and his camp doesn’t have all the leverage in the world. It’s a really unique situation from a free agency standpoint. His agent put a deadline of Friday to make a deal so we’ll see how that turns out.
AC: It seems a pity after all the hype. Is Coach Cleamons still around in the city or has everyone packed up now for the offseason?
EB: They were bought tickets home immediately following their final loss to Beijing. I don’t even know if there were any exit meetings so whether Cleamons is coming back remains to be seen. He has two young daughters, so being so far from home is difficult, although I know he enjoyed his experience here and it would take a lot of thinking to reject an offer [Niubball has since reported that Cleamons is not coming back to Hangzhou].
AC: Yeah, that must be the hardest thing for a lot of guys out here. Coach Panaggio is still in town over here in Shanghai but he’s looking forward to getting some holiday time back in the States. There’s an increasingly number of overseas coaches out here. Do you think the trend will continue and do you think its good for Chinese basketball?
EB: I think that when in most cases your two best players aren’t Chinese, it’s beneficial but obviously, when you can only effectively communicate with two out of your fifteen players, you’re somewhat limited. It’s definitely a double-edged sword- and for what its worth, Beijing and Guangdong are the league’s top two teams and they both have Chinese coaches. Ultimately, I think you have to balance a coach’s skills with the fact that they won’t be able to talk to a player. I realize they have translators, but it’s not the same. That said, teams will continue to flirt with foreign coaches and for good reason; a big factor for Wilson signing with Guangsha was the chance to play under Cleamons so a ‘known’ guy helps lure better import players
AC: Indeed. I think the translation aspect is really interesting as even little things like the emphasis on a certain part of the play or conveying the emotions of the English speaker can get left out. Panaggio’s translator, G Money (yes, this is his real name) can ball a bit and so he obviously understands all the nuances and colloquialisms of basketball. As for the overseas coaches, I think its good to try and bring new approaches into China as it tries to move forward in the sport. I look at Xinjiang and see how rigid things are up there. You have to think what could have happened if they’d persisted with Bob Donewald and tried something different to Xiang Xingquan’s rigid, my-way-or-the-highway methods this season.
EB: Yeah, Donewald didn’t get a fair shake if you ask me.
AC: You think Donewald will get another coaching gig at a CBA team or does two acrimonious departures from Shanghai and now Xinjiang make him too hot to handle for CBA GM’s?
EB: With the way players bounce around, I’m sure he can find another gig. Whether he wants one is also a fair question.
AC: Alright man, for both of us, our CBA seasons are done. What has been your favorite moment as a Guangsha support this year?
EB: Jin’s three pointer at the buzzer was pretty awesome [against Shandong in Hangzhou] and watching them fight back and play Beijing to the end in their final home game- it was a crazy season for Guangsha fans. You?
AC: The Xmas day game between the Sharks and the Beijing was amazing. Full house, loads of noise and a fantastic fourth quarter rally. Fun times.
EB: For sure. Alright, man. Time to roll?
AC: Yeah, talk soon.