The Sharks are not in a good place right now but frankly nether are the visiting Qingdao Eagles. Like Shanghai, the team from Shandong is 0-3 but unlike the Sharks, the visitors have fired their manager after just two games and rely on an offence that is entirely based around one aging former NBA icon, Mr. Tracy Lamar McGrady.
In many ways, both teams will be coming into this game in the same situation. They only really have one overseas player. Yes, sorry DJ Mbenga fans but I can’t see him changing the game by himself. The same can be said for the Eagles’ Chinese roster too- there really is nothing to write home about. Everything in Qingdao’s playbook begins and ends with McGrady getting the ball in his hands.
The Eagles game actually reminds me of this time last season when the Sharks were 0-3 and the Guangsha Lions, led by the NBA-lock out exile Wilson Chandler, came to Shanghai. In that game, Coach Panaggio expertly locked down Chandler and he will surely have a plan for such a similar team this time around as well.
On paper, the Sharks should be able to nullify Mbenga and look to focus on McGrady, who is in solid form despite his team’s poor run, averaging 26.3/4.7/5.7 in his first three games in Chinese basketball. The simplest tactic would be to double-down on T-Mac and dare his teammates to take the big shots but whether or not the Sharks opt for that strategy remains to be seen.
Whilst there are games that I will acknowledge Shanghai have little chance of winning, this certainly is not one of them. Again, without trying to sound like a broken record, it is only McGrady with a sprinkling of a perennial NBA bench player in Mbenga- if Qingdao’s big name gets phased out, this game is over.
Obviously this is still a big ‘if’ but I’m happy to say I still fancy the Sharks for this game and I hope the home side can back up my confidence (and avoid a 0-4 run in the process).