The CBA fixture list has indeed landed and the Sharks 2012/13 schedule is right here and waiting for you. However, as we wait for the season to really swing into gear, it’s probably worth looking over the games that will be played at the Yuanshen Arena and recommending eight good ones to mark down in your calendar.
1) Round 4 (02/12/2012): Shanghai Sharks vs. Qingdao Eagles
Yao Ming’s most popular teammate from the big man’s time with the Houston Rockets, Tracy McGrady recently signed with Qingdao and this game will almost certainly get played in front of a passionate sold-out arena. At 33 and with a lengthy history of injuries having taken their toll, this will not be vintage T-Mac but given the paucity of offensive options around him, McGrady will still be at the forefront of everything the Eagles do.
2) Round 8 (11/12/2012): Shanghai Sharks vs. Jiangsu Dragons
The fall of perennial playoff contenders Jiangsu to a 9-23 record last year was a clear illustration of what happens if a team gambles on imports to carry their team and those players then can’t get the job done
This time around, the Dragons are in rebuilding mode and their recruitment drive will mean that the away game in Shanghai will almost be a home-coming for their trio of former Sharks players. Garret Siler and Peng Fei will get some acknowledgement but the majority of the cheers will be for Mike Harris, the all-action forward who spent two years with the Sharks including last season’s push into the playoffs.
Old rivals Liu Wei and Jiangsu’s Hu Xuefeng will also vie against each other. The two point guards own several league records in the CBA and with both men getting on in age, there won’t be too many more opportunities to watch these old foxes try to best one another.
3) Round 14 (25/12/12): Shanghai Sharks vs. Bayi Rockets
Ten years ago, this was the premier clash in Chinese basketball and the two sides squared off against each other for three consecutive CBA finals. Things have changed a lot since then, particularly for Bayi, who as China’s ‘military team’ are not allowed to have foreign players on their rosters and have subsequently declined dramatically as the quality of imports in the league increased.
That said, the historic rivalry between the two teams will still be there and both encounters last year were chippy, hard-fought affairs. The main man for Bayi is their talismanic center, Wang Zhizhi, who at thirty-five is the grand old man of Chinese basketball but still has enough left in the tank to demand respect in the paint as well as drop the occasional long-range three pointer.
4) Round 18 (04/01/2013): Shanghai Sharks vs. Beijing Ducks
Somewhat predictably, this is a monster game as civic pride and basketball bragging rights come together at the Yuanshen Gymnasium. This time, the Ducks will be coming to Shanghai as defending CBA champions and led by the eccentric former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury, are more than capable of putting up triple figures on the scoreboard.
However, the Sharks tend to save some of their best stuff for these encounters and both of last year’s games were extremely memorable, particularly the clash in Shanghai when the home team came roaring back from a deficit to beat Beijing in the final minute of the game.
5) Round 22 (13/01/2013): Shanghai Sharks vs. Xinjiang Tigers
Once again, the Xinjiang chequebook has been waved around and quality players have made their way to Urumqi as a result. The irrepressible James Singleton is back for a second spell with Xinjiang whilst Von Wafer is also in the Tigers’ roster and could be highly dangerous from long or close range.
Mix in the presence of Mengke Bateer (a long-standing cult hero on this blog) and the huge numbers of Shanghai-based Uighurs that will take over half the stadium to cheer on the Tigers and you have an inevitably great game.
6) Round 23 (15/01/2013): Shanghai Sharks vs. Shanxi Dragons
Last year, the two teams went toe-to-toe for seven games in both the regular and postseason, and the rivalry between the two teams looks set to continue in the 2012/13 season.
Shanxi make no bones about relying on their duo of American players but get away with it because guard Marcus Williams and power-forward Charles Gaines are that good. Williams in particular is widely regarded as the one of the league’s consistently best players and is capable of picking up a triple-double on any night so the Sharks will have to work hard to close him down if they are to get a result.
7) Round 28 (27/01/2012): Shanghai Sharks vs. Guangdong Tigers
The Beijing Ducks might be the reigning champions but the Tigers, who have been in every CBA finals since the 2002 season, remain the team to beat in Chinese basketball.
A formidable Chinese roster got even stronger with the addition of Yi Jianlian and China’s current basketball golden boy is a fantastic addition to the team and for my money makes them the favorite to win the league this year.
Mix in the potentially devastating Terrence Williams cutting in from the wing, and this is probably the most formidable arsenal of players a Chinese team could look to collect baring an NBA lockout. Moreover, this is a basketball team that is prone to playing like a ruthless machine so it won’t be uncommon to see several different Guangdong players all averaging above 13ppg as shots get shared around in pursuit of victory week-in, week out.
8) Round 34 (17/02/2012): Shanghai Sharks vs. Liaoning Jaguars
The final game of the Sharks’ season couldn’t have been more tantalizing. The Jaguars were one of only two teams (the other being Guangdong) to beat the Sharks at the Yuanshen and will be gunning for a place in the playoffs after coming very close the previous season.
With Wang Zhizhi having one foot into retirement and Yao Ming obviously done and in the stands, the center spot for the China national time is up for grabs and between Shanghai’s Zhang Zhaoxu and Liaoning’s Han Dejun, you have two of the prime contenders to take the job.
Both men are over 7”1 but Dejun’s poor conditioning has always helped him back. However, he has shown signs of his offensive prowess when he single handily destroyed Shanxi last December by putting up 38 points and shooting 15 of 17 in the process. This would be a statement game for both bigs and each man will be keen to finish this duel on the winning side.