2011-12 CBA: 5 Things to Watch For This Season
By James Burbridge
CBA 2011-2012: 5 things to watch for this season
5) Will anyone challenge Wilson Chandler for the scoring title?
This was initially posed as a question of who would lead the league in scoring: J.R. Smith or Wilson Chandler. But with the recent injury to Smith’s knee and his status this season uncertain, the two-horse scoring race has instead been whittled down to a one man show. Chandler had a great preseason in China and in his first regular season game he recorded 43 points and 22 rebounds in an overtime victory against Tianjin, conjuring up memories of Bonzi Wells and his 50 point outbursts in the CBA of yore.
Few players in the league have the scoring capabilities to keep up with Chandler. Recent Guangdong signee Aaron Brooks is certainly capable of filling it up on a nightly basis, but he will not be given the green light to the degree Chandler has due to the presence of Yi Jianlian and their stable of capable local players. Former UConn guard Marcus Williams closed out last season with four consecutive triple-doubles and is considered one of the league’s most complete players, but he is not the same type of overpowering offensive force that Chandler is. The only player who can keep pace with Chandler is Smith so we will just have to wait and see how serious the knee injury is and if he is able to return to Zhejiang.
4) Who will Xinjiang bring in to replace scoring machine and tights-aficionado Quincy Douby?
Former Rutgers guard Quincy Douby had himself quite a season last year. After breaking scoring records for the CBA All Star Game and Finals, most Chinese viewers began to anoint him the greatest foreign import to ever grace the courts of China. He was surely going to be leaned on once again to produce huge numbers for a Xinjiang team with title aspirations. Alas, Douby broke his wrist in a preseason game with the Shanghai Sharks over the weekend, ending his season before it even started. So who will Xinjiang and new head coach Bob Donewald look towards to pick up the scoring slack? Rumor has it that former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford is on the radar of the Xinjiang front office, but that with the recent developments in the NBA labor dispute, they may aim bigger and once again try to lure away a top-flight superstar to the far away reaches of Urumuqi (the team was in negotiations with Kobe Bryant before the CBA ruled that only free agents committed to the entire season could sign in China). Much like Douby, Crawford never met a shot he didn’t think he could make, so the signing would make sense and would keep Xinjiang in the top-tier of CBA teams this season.
Xinjiang comes to Shanghai Dec. 14.
3) Will Kenyon Martin incite any chair tossing brawls this season?
Pectoral bearing, head-band sporting Kenyon Martin was signed to the Xinjiang Flying Tigers to do three things this season: rebound, defend the paint and scare the living crap out of Chinese players, all to the tune of a record setting $2.65 million dollars this season. Even on bad knees and aging legs, Martin still seems capable of doing these things night in and night out. In an interview with Colorado Public Radio, Xinjiang assistant coach Casey Owens explained that Martin’s defense and demeanor is probably more aggressive, and downright mean, than anything players in China have ever seen before. The question now becomes, how long will it be before retaliation against Martin turns ugly and the all-mighty equalizer, the folding chair, makes an appearance? Despite new rules designed at controlling on-court demeanor and discouraging bench clearing brawls, I’m guessing that an incident will happen with Xinjiang at some point this season. I’ll be taking bets on the side to people who want to predict when it goes down. My money is with the Bayi Rockets.
2) Speaking of chairs, Yi Jianlian returns to China
While the former 4x CBA All Star has never lived up to his hype as the 6th overall pick in 2007 and heir apparent to Yao Ming, he has played pretty well in international competition as China’s best player. Considering that a) he wont be limited by rules concerning playing time that apply to foreign players and b) quite a few of his national team compatriots also play for Guangdong, I’m guessing he’ll be alright and will relish the opportunity to actually matter on a professional basketball court once again. A number of people believe that his addition make Guangdong the title favorite once again this season. It would be hard to argue with them.
1) So, who you got? Xinjiang or Guangdong?
These two teams have met in the past three finals, and each time Guangdong has come out on top. Sick of playing the bridesmaid, Xinjiang opened up the checkbook this summer and doled out some serious dough to lure away current national team coach Bob Donewald from Shanghai and the aforementioned Kenyon Martin. The Flying Tigers also signed former 3x CBA MVP Tang Zhendong to man the post with “K-Mart” and 2x CBA MVP and resident strongman Mengke Bateer. That’s a pretty formidable, albeit old, frontline. Tack on whoever they opt to sign to replace Douby, and its obvious that Xinjiang is done messing around.
Not to be outdone, Guangdong brought back prodigal son and national team lynchpin Yi Jianlian to go along with its endless stream of up-and-coming national team players.
The sad part of this story is that what we see in the regular season will not be a real indicator of who is the better team until they meet in the playoffs. Xinjiang and Guangdong will surely coast through the regular season and rest their superstars for an epic seven game series. Expect both teams to wake up once the title is actually on the line.
(UPDATE: Australian point guard and Portland Trailblazer Patrick Mills has left the Melbourne Tigers to sign with Xinjiang.)