Another week of Chinese basketball is done. Lets talk about it.
Zou Means Bayi Rockets Still Have Hope
When I was eighteen, I was in a crappy high school in rural England, learning about proportional representation and the French Civil War. Zou Yuchen on the other hand is spending the final shades of his teenage years trying to stay alive in the paint against former NBA centers like Andray Blatche, Sheldon Williams and Hamad Haddadi. So far though, the youngster has been doing well for a Bayi team that has little option but to pull their best prospects up from the youth teams and throw them into the fire. This though is how rebuilding works and a team like Bayi, who can’t sign foreign players, need to stick with it if they are to rebuild after years of being pretty bad. Fifteen games into his rookie season, Zou looks like he might be a big part of that future and is averaging 15.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Statistically, only Yi Jianlian and Wang Zhelin are having better seasons among the league’s Chinese players but both those men have played for several years with Yi already having gone to the NBA whilst Wang is expected to go there at some point.
At 6″9, 235lbs, Zou is a little short to be a center but he works well in a front court that also features the cynical rough house stylings of Xu Zhonghao, a 7″0, 246lb big man that doesn’t mind getting chippy with opponents. Together they form a pretty old school low post duo, although Zou, who has shown glimpses of a working midrange game doesn’t have to exist entirely in the paint. All of this means that Bayi have at least something to get excited about during what will almost certainly be another losing season. Zou is off to a flying start whilst young point guards Tian Yuxing and Arslan are having their moments. It’s a rare positive story for the Rockets and that’s all they can hope for in such a desperate time.
2) The CBA’s Best Shooters Are Coming To The Fore
A third of the way into the season and it is starting to look like the two main scoring champion contenders have made themselves known. Dominique Jones has already been discussed as potentially the best shooter in China but since then, another gunslinger has turned up at the party. Errick McCollum is probably not a name known to many outside of his immediate family but he is on fire in the CBA, averaging 41.2 points per game for a Zhejiang Bulls team that other than Charles Gaines is struggling massively. McCollum, a former DII player for Goshan, is getting his points the old-fashioned way by taking a ton of shots (he is putting the ball up in the air almost thirty times a night) and driving to the rim, looking to get fouled and go to the line. But its working and he has already scored over fifty points twice this year including a haul of 63 points (he went 22-of-44 from the field to get there) and there is a real chance that McCollum could get even closer to Quincy Douby’s all-time record of 75 by the end of the season. Unless Douby, currently playing for Tianjin and the third best scorer with the league with 32.7 points per game, starts to get seriously hot, it seems likely that everything is going to be coming down to McCollum and Jones for the scoring crown. Both men though are not just playing for pride on this one; the CBA pays the big bucks for proven offensive talent, if only to bring fans to the arena, so the league’s leading scoring from this season should expect to find himself getting a decent offer sheet the following year. McCollum who had been better from three-point range and the charity strip this season has the nominal edge over Jones but the latter went bananas last December so don’t rule out another crazy scoring run this time around.
3) More Refereeing Disasters
The last seven days have not been good for the image of the league’s referees. Last Sunday, Foshan’s general manager Li Hongjiang came onto the floor to confront a referee who screwed up the last minute of play and allowed Beijing to get out of town with a tough win. The Foshan GM got himself a fine from the league for his actions but tellingly, the chief referee from that game also copped a fifteen game suspension himself. The official had previous been suspended for three games last season for bad refereeing and this time the CBA applied the stiffest punishment they could.
Obviously it made sense to fine Li for rushing the court- and he was essentially daring the league to do so. But the GM had more to say in the aftermath of the CBA’s ruling, arguing that such an incompetent referee should be ‘banned for life’ because its now been proven that he can’t call a game at the professional level. Harsh as that may seem, Li is right. Regardless of the outcome in the Foshan-Beijing game, its hard to see how a referee who has now been banned for almost twenty games due to poor performance is suddenly going to become good at his job.
Refereeing remains one of the biggest problems in the CBA and the Foshan incident is another example of this. In the past, refereeing crews have nearly sparked stadium riots, not because of their performance but because they literally baited an angry home crowd after a controversial and badly officiated game. On another occasion, the entire Qingdao Eagles team walked off the court in protest after a number of bad calls in a game and Tracy McGrady, one of China’s most beloved athletes due to his connections to Yao Ming called that refereeing crew three blind mice. All of this is taking place within an environment where the CBA has shown an ongoing reluctance to improve the training of their referees. So basically the chickens have come home to roost on this one. Put bad referees in the game, they make bad decisions. Keep on putting them in the game and they damage the league’s entire credibility.
4) Sina Sports Is Still The Worst.
Also having a bad week was Sina Sports, the sports branch of one of China’s largest media search engines and news hubs (for the sake of comparison, lets say they are the country’s Yahoo). On Sunday, one of their photographers looked down a cheerleader’s shirt from a podium, took a photo of it and then Sina ran it on their main website. In the days building up to that, they also ran photos of an injured cheerleader having to be carried off the court, which is a popular gimmick of theirs. Sina has a reputation for being creepy as shit towards women- during Zhu Fangyu’s very messy divorce with his wife Hu Mei, Sina also ran a poll asking readers to choose who was hotter, Hu or the mistress that had essentially ended the marriage. But what makes Sina especially maddening is that its impossible not to use them if you want to follow Chinese basketball adequately. Basically, imagine if Bar Stool Sports become the largest media entity covering the NBA. Obviously there is no solution to this problem but its a Sunday night and I’m pissed at their bullshit so I’m going to round off the recap but wishing they’d get their stuff together.