It’s that time of year again when the Sharks have to fly over to Uruqi and take on the perpetually cash flush Xinjiang Tigers, who once again have broken out the cheque book in pursuit of that illusive first CBA title. Gilbert Arenas is still out but the Shanghai will be going westwards in high spirits after their no-nonsense victory over Tracy McGrady and the Qingdao Eagles.
This time last year, the Tigers were a couple of weeks away from the complete self-implosion that saw the former China national team coach Bob Donewald fired after nine games before much vaunted overseas signings Kenyon Martin and Patty Mills followed him out the door in a flurry of controversy.
It says a lot about the organisation that it recovered to make the playoffs last season but this time around, things have been relatively tranquil and new boss Cui Wanjun- replacing the septuagenarian disciplinarian Jiang Xingquan- appears to have steadied the ship, which is never good for a team wanting to come to Uruqi and win.
Most of the Tigers’ Chinese dangermen- Xu Guochong, Xirelijiang and Mengke Bateer to name but three, are still present and correct from last year and added to the mix is Von Wafer, currently scoring at a good rate (21ppg) and returning all-action forward, James Singleton.
Indeed, Singleton is one of the most reliable collectors of double-doubles in the league and having spent a season with Guangdong Tigers, has come back to the team where he forged his CBA reputation.
All things said, this is a VERY strong team and the Tigers will be heavy favourites against a still Arenas-less Sharks team. Shanghai almost pulled off an unlikely win last season in Urumqi but for Xirelijiang’s heroics, although the odds are a lot tougher this time around.