The first game in the 2012/13 Chinese Basketball Association season is a big one and a suitably feisty derby encounter should hopefully set the tempo for both teams’ campaigns from now until the play-offs start in March.
Beijing, as defending champions and infront of an inevitably sold-out home crowd, will obviously be considered the favourites going into this game. For starters, almost every single notable piece of their finals winning team is back this time around and the roster has been further boosted with the arrival of Li Gen from the Qingdao Eagles.
The ubiquitous Stephon Marbury will of course be a factor in the game and despite the guard being thirty-five, Starbury will still be capable of putting up twenty-plus points on the board. When other strong shooting outlets like Zhai Xiaochuan, Ji Zhu and Li also in the mix, this is a genuinely stacked team of offensive options even before considering the close range chaos that 6″11 center Randolph Morris can cause.
Yet the Sharks still have every reason to be confident in themselves. DJ White and Zhang Zhaoxu will absolutely have the stuff to take on whoever is facing them in the paint and a back court of Gilbert Arenas and Liu Wei is certainly nothing to laugh at. Cai Liang, who played along with Li Gen at Qingdao, is now back in Shanghai after a year-long placement with the Eagles and he will be a useful player for the Sharks- and might start at the small forward position on Saturday. Finally, the Sharks’ bench has the capacity to get things going, particularly Meng Lingyuan, who has the sort of energizing directness that can help change a game’s momentum.
This game should be closer than the last time the teams met simply because there is no way Ji will start dropping treys at a rate-of-knots like he did in Febuary. Moreover, the Sharks will know what they are coming up against whilst the Ducks will need at least a half to figure out the games of White and Arenas.
That said, Beijing aren’t the champions for nothing and it will still be an impressive feat if the visitors leave the capital with a victory. Again, the Ducks will be the logical choice to win but don’t rule out a more-likely-than-you-think upset from Shanghai.