- If you look at the top of the page you will see I added a new section to this website. "Imports in Asia" will provide up-to-date information on who is actually playing here at any given time. I'm looking for ideas on what other info people would like to see in this section. It should be updated at least once a week, so check back often.
- Rodney White was supposed to come to Korea and help Anyang KGC turn around the fortunes of their franchise. It looks like that is most definitely not going to be happening. While I do not want to judge a person for their mistakes, I do wonder what would compel a person set to make over $50,000 a month starting in October to decide that large-scale production of marijuana would be a good side business. It is too bad for Anyang KGC as they now have to find a quality player to fill this spot. This is getting increasingly difficult, as many players have already signed in Europe and other overseas posts.
- Everyone should take a few minutes to read Rafe Bartholomew's recap of Kobe and crew's trip to the Philippines. It really was an amazing two days, and as I discussed a few days ago, has opened up the Filipino market to these nine players in an unprecedented way.
- Did you know that Loren Woods is from Lebanon? Do not feel bad if you did not because it is not 100% done yet. It looks like Loren Woods has turned a strong season in the top Lebanese league and a championship performance at the FIBA Asia Champion's Cup into a new nationality and a full-time gig as the starting center for the Lebanese National Team. The good news for Woods means that Jackson Vroman will no longer be representing Lebanon as countries are only allowed one naturalized citizen on their squad at any given time.
Williams posting up Arwind Santos (AP Photo/Pat Roque)
As any basketball fan knows, the best NBA action this week was over here in Asia as a group of eight NBA players came to play two exhibition games. Before the NBA guys arrived in the Philippines someone on Twitter posed the question of what Derrick Williams was doing on the team. At first glance he does not fit in. The other players are established NBA veterans with built in fan appeal (Harden's beard makes him a superstar in my book). But the connection that explains his involvement is very simple: Rob Pelinka. Williams shares the same agent as Kobe, Fisher, and Harden. Because I am on vacation though, I had the free time to continue thinking about Williams inclusion on the team. It was a brilliant move on Pelinka's part to have Williams play with these other stars, as it has helped Williams establish his personal image and brand. During most regular years incoming rookies are able to do this through promotional appearances in their new communities and by playing in the summer league. Rookies this year do not have those opportunities because of the lockout.
I thought it would be interesting to track Williams popularity during his trip to the Philippines by looking at his Twitter account and the growth in his number of Followers during the trip. By then comparing that growth to the growth in the number of Followers for other rookies during the same time period we can see the impact that the immediate impact that the Philippines trip had on Williams' popularity and his personal brand.
When I first checked Williams' profile about two hours before he arrived in the Philippines he had 37,668 Followers. At the time this post is going up 72 hours later Williams has 43,655 Followers. That is a 16% growth in only three days. During that same time period other first round picks have added between 100 and 300 Followers. To put it in other terms, Williams added at least 20 times more Followers during his stay in the Philippines than he would have if he had stayed at home. Williams name is now known by basketball fans across the Philippines. I would say Pelinka has put Williams in a nice position for future endorsement opportunities in this basketball-crazed country.
And because I am on vacation here are two fun little lists:
Top Ten Picks and Twitter Following
1) Kyrie Irving - 22,829
2) Derrick Williams - 43,655
3) Enes Kanter - 13,326
4) Tristan Thompson - 17,124
5) Jonas Valanciunas - NA
6) Jan Vesely - NA
7) Bismack Biyombo - NA
8) Brandon Knight - 44,004
9) Kemba Walker - 46,447
10) Jimmer Fredette - 47,607
Why have agents not started to have their international players create Twitter accounts? Is Twitter not used as much in Europe? If all the NBA guys have Weibo accounts in China, does it not make sense for international players to get on Twitter?
If Teams Had to Pick Based on Twitter Popularity
1) Nolan Smith - 50,010 (Had a nice spike today because it is his birthday)
2) JImmer Fredette - 47,607
3) Kemba Walker - 46,447
4) Brandon Knight - 44,004
5) Derrick Williams - 43,655
6) Isaiah Thomas - 25,109
7) Kyrie Irving - 22,829
8) Kyle Singler - 22,624
9) Josh Harrellson - 22,332
10) Marcus Morris - 20,557
Interesting that a Duke guard still goes first. And Kahn goes back to his roots with the 2nd pick and takes a point guard. But the big winner of the Twitter Draft has to be Isaiah Thomas, jumping from Mr. Irrelevant to a Lottery pick.
Donald Sloan in action. (www.pba.ph)
While most people will be discussing the huge event with NBA players taking place in the Philippines I thought I would take a moment to update everyone on what is happening in the PBA as the Governor’s Cup enters its second phase. If you want a nice perspective on what the visit of all these NBA players means to the Philippines check out what Filipino basketball expert had to say on the matter on HoopSpeak Live today. http://youtu.be/bysoXuYui3U I love his disbelief that they were actually able to organize this. It is pretty remarkable actually when you think that it was only last month that half of Talk ‘N Text’s players were stranded in the Dubai airport for a day because their tickets were not booked properly!
After the initial round robin phase six of the nine teams have advanced. Powerade, Meralco, and Air21 were unable to make the cut. Powerade showed a lot of improvement behind the strong play of Chris Porter and local star Gary David, but in the end B-Meg and Rain or Shine won the tie breakers based on the head-to-head matchups. Meralco had a tough conference as their gamble to switch imports after the fourth game from Champ Oguchi to Tim Pickett (Florida State, 2nd Round pick, and CBA veteran) backfired when Pickett went down with an injury in his third appearance. Air21’s conference was miserable as they went winless, going as far as shutting down Danny Seagle for the last couple of games. Do not worry though, Alpha Bangura still got his numbers!
Now to the teams that are still playing.
#6 – Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (4-5): Arizona Reid has produced as expected, averaging over 26 points and 15 rebounds per contest. To me though, the key for Rain or Shine is going to be the play of Gabe Norwood. His shooting numbers are down this season. While the Painters have a solid cast of local players, they have no clear cut second option at this point, and I think Norwood is the best bet to step into that role. Case in point was last night’s game where Reid dropped a conference-best 41 points yet the Painters still could not pull out the victory, losing 99-98.
#5 – B-Meg Llamados (5-4): Myron Allen will step in as the third import player of this conference after Darnell Hinson’s sudden departure to deal with a custody battle in the US. I am not sold on Allen at this point. I have watched him the past two seasons in the CBA playing for Xinjiang and Shandong and have seen huge inconsistency in his game. He will score 25 one game and then disappear the next. For B-Meg he will need to drive aggressively and create shots for his teammates. If Allen starts to settle for the 3 his team is in real trouble as he is a very poor shooter. The key is Allen realizing that B-Meg does not need their import to score 30 a game, but instead be a “glue-guy” and help Yap, Simon, and Devance play to their potential.
#4 – Alaska Aces (5-4): I did not like the signing of Jason Forte at the beginning of the conference, and I am still no convinced he was the best player available for the job, but Alaska has played well above expectations this conference. Forte and Thoss on the interior and Tenorio and Baguio on the perimeter makes them one of the most balanced teams. I still do not trust Forte as a shot creator, so one of the local players will need to step up during clutch time.
Scottie Reynolds debuts (www.pba.ph)
#3 – Petron Blaze Boosters (5-3): The Boosters had a tough break when Jeremy Wise went down with a knee injury, but his replacement, former Atlanta Hawk and seasoned international Anthony Grundy showed in his first outing that he can produce in the PBA. While he will not need to score 30 every game, like he did against Powerade, the Boosters are going to need him to score, especially from the outside. Alex Cabagnot is arguably the best pure point guard this conference, so playmaking and ball distribution are taken care of. With Santos and Al-Hussaini scoring in the interior, Grundy will need to shoot the 35% from behind the arc that he has on his previous stops.
#2 – Barnagay Ginebra Kings (5-3): Curtis Stinson’s PBA tenure was cut short by injury, but no loss for the Kings as they were able to pick up fellow D-Leaguer Donald Sloan to fill his spot. While Sloan is not the playmaker Stinson is, he is a more all-around scorer and a better shooter. Ginebra is stacked on the perimeter, but has no presence inside whatsoever. Sloan will have to keep rebounding at the level he has so far (8 a game) to help his team shore up the interior
#1 – Tropang Talk ‘N Texters (7-2): After 8 games with Maurice Baker and despite a 1st place standing TNT is going to the man they initially wanted for this conference: Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds will make this already explosive team even more so. In the last game of the round robin TNT dropped 140 points on Air21, and in the first game of the second phase they scored 103 on the tough defense of Alaska. TNT is the favorite, so everyone will be gunning for them, but their team is loaded enough to handle the challenge.
To show the quality of the imports this conference a quick tally regarding the pedigree of the import players is helpful. Of the 16 import players this conference 3 played in the NBA, 11 in the D-League, and the other two were D1 ballers. Not too many leagues can match those numbers in their import players.
If you have never watched a PBA game you are missing out on some real excitement. www.pba.ph has the full schedule and http://streampinoy.info/rpn-solar-pba-games-live-streaming.html has almost all of the games streaming.
This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
I hope everyone has had a chance to read Dan Levin's fantastic article about Yao and the future of Chinese basketball. If not, follow this link.
I wanted to add one quick thought to the piece. Levin quotes Coach Donewald regarding the effect that the Chinese views on education have on the development of basketball players.
"Those who do play on public courts are in their 20s or older, Donewald said, reflecting Chinese society’s traditionally single-minded focus on education. That means most children spend their days and nights studying for tests, not playing pick-up games in the park or practicing in after-school programs. "
Living in China for three years, I agree 100% with Donewald assessments, but I think it is important to note that this problem is not unique to China. Korea, Japan, and Taiwan (all countries with a Confucian tradition) also lose participation in sports as children grow older. Participating in sports in any of these countries is often seen as a sign that you lack the intelligence to perform well academically, so instead you will be an athlete. No "smart" student would be able to sacrifice the two hours a day that one would practice with a sports team.
I do not know if there is any way to reconcile the two sides to this issue without a seismic shift in cultural values.
Just my two cents on a great article . . . And by the way, I disagree that the cupboard is bare for Chinese basketball. They are the best team in East Asia in all divisions and compete with Iran, Lebanon, and Jordan for every Asia-wide title. They need better guard play, but most of the world would kill for their height.
I devote very little time to Malaysian hoops on this website. Honestly, this is not out of a lack of interest, or a lack of desire, it is merely a lack of content. I check the MABA website daily, and yet have never felt inspired to comment on anything other than the Westport KL Dragons of the ASEAN Basketball League. The past two weeks though have proven to be the most exciting stretch of time for Malaysian basketball fans in recent memory because of three big events. First, Malaysia qualified for the FIBA Asian Championship! Malaysia has not been to the tournament for the past six years. The Malaysians overcame the squad from Singapore 72-64 to clinch a spot in the Olympic qualifying tournament. If history can predict the future, the Malaysians will be battling Indonesia and the teams from South Asia to stay out of the cellar.
Second, before heading over to Indonesia for two games, the NBA Legend team made a stop in Kuala Lumpur for a game and some clinics for children. From the pictures of the main event, it looks like there was a good turnout. While any basketball exposure in Malaysia is positive, this event helped spark interest in the upcoming NBL season.
NBL Malaysia kicked off its 10th season this past weekend. The league includes four teams this year, the Westport KL Dragons, the Miri Fire Horses (in Borneo), Perak Farmcochem (Northern Malaysia), and the Singapore Siglap Basketball Club. Miri and Siglap are new to the league this year. The inclusion of the Miri team was especially interesting to me as there were discussions at the end of the last ASEAN Basketball League season that the Brunei franchise would be moved to Miri. Note: For everyone who lives outside of Malaysia, Miri is a city of around 300,000 people in the Malaysian province of Sarawak that sits about 30 miles from the Brunei border.
First Weekend Results
1) Perak Farmcochem – 3-0
2) KL Dragons – 2-1
3) Miri Fire Horse – 1-2
4) Singapore Siglap – 0-3
One way to stop Kuete . . . (© 1Titan by Lim Chee Sen)
Ranking the Import Players
According to NBL Commisioner Tan Kee Hian each team is allowed three import players but teams can only suit up two per game. At this point in time only KL has used three different import players. I have ranked the import players below based on their individual performances over the first weekend’s games.
1) Anthony Johnson (Miri) – 24.7 ppg and 14.3 rpg. Readers of this site will remember Johnson from his recent play with Dell ASPAC in the LA Lights World Challenge. Johnson also suited up for the Philippine Patriots during the inaugural ABL season. Johnson is a high volume scorer who also loves to grab rebounds.
2) Chris Kuete (Perak) – 22.3 ppg and 14.7 rpg. A familiar name to basketball fans in Southeast Asia. Kuete has played in both ABL seasons and has played in both Malaysia and Thailand for various teams. His scoring prowess makes him a fan favorite. He has lead his Perak squad to a 3-0 first place start.
3) Mike Pilgrim (Miri) – 23.3 ppg and 11.7 rpg. Another ABL alum, Pilgrim played for Brunei during the league’s first season. Pilgrim plays above the rim, and seems to have created a world class highlights reel this season already.
4) Anthony Kent (KL) – 16.3 ppg and 13 rpg. Kent played for Fort Wayne in the D League for three seasons. This is his first stint in Asia. At 6'11" he was brought in to control the interior on both sides of the floor. After three games it looks like he is doing that pretty well.
5) Antoine Broxsie (Singapore) – 16.7 ppg and 12.7 apg. Another familiar face from the ASEAN League, but this time from Satria Muda. Broxsie was an interesting choice as the lone non-Asian import on the Singapore team. He is not a natural scorer or shot creator, but has done pretty well so far in providing solid offensive numbers. Broxsie has a bigger load to carry this season than any of the other imports.
6) Bryson McKenzie (Perak) – 12 ppg and 15.7 rpg. Another D-League vet and teammate of former KL Dragons star Alex Hartman (with the Vancouver Volcanoes) this is McKenzie’s first job in Asia. Perak obviously is looking for him to be an interior presence on both end of the court to pair with Kuete's perimeter abilities.
7) Waki Williams (KL) – 12.5 ppg and 10.5 rpg. Williams played his college ball at the University of Memphis and has since played in a number of countries. Probably his best stint was two seasons ago playing in the bj-league where he averaged 17 ppg.
8) Al Vergara (Singapore) – 13ppg, 3 rpg, and 3 apg. Known around SEA as a PBA veteran and guard for the Singapore Slingers. Vergara is a crafty scorer, but struggled to get his points in two of the first three games. Overall he is averaging 13 ppg and 3 rpg.
9) Ricardo Alonzo (KL) – 10 ppg and 4rpg. The other Filipino import, Alonzo has only suited up for one game for the Dragons. He scored 10 points and grabbed 4 rebounds but also fouled out in only 21 minutes of action.
Top Local Players
The local players have struggled for the most part up to this point. Only six different local players have scored in double figures in a game during the first six games. The key to winning this league is going to be which team’s local players step up consistently.
1) Steven Khoo (Singapore) – His 19 point performance on Sunday was the highest scoring output for a local player so far this season. Khoo is a member of the Slingers and Singapore national squad, so it is not surprising that he is stepping up to lead the Siglap squad. He is averaging 9.3 ppg over the first three contests.
2) Chuan Chin Wee (Perak) – A Malaysian National Team player, Chuan leads all local scorers with an average of 9.7 ppg and is the only local to score in double figures in two different contests.
3) Batumalai Guganeswaran (KL) – Point guard for both the Malaysian National Team and the KL Dragonsin the ABL, Guganeswaran is averaging 7 ppg, but more importantly leading the league in assists at 4.3 a match.
The second round of action begins tonight in Miri. All three teams will again play each other.
In a disastrous three days the hopes that one of the three Asian teams would make a run at the U-19 FIBA World Championship were quickly put to rest. Finishing with a combined record 1-8 record in the initial group play, China, South Korea, and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) will continue on in the “Classification Round” to determine 13th through 16th place. These three teams came in with varying levels of expectation, but in the end have all found themselves in the same place.
Before I begin the recap for each team, I must say how disappointing it is that the only games broadcast over the first three games of the tournament were of the host-country Latvian team. If FIBA’s mission is to create a world-wide competition with passionate fans they failed completely. Really, I watched online games broadcast from gyms in rural Colorado and Wyoming this year, how can FIBA (or is it Latvia) not ensure that every game is available to fans?
Zhai Xiaochuan (Photo: FIBA)
The Chinese team came in with the most confidence and the highest expectations of the three teams. With a FIBA ranking of 16, the Chinese came in expecting to get out of the preliminary stage of the tournament. Unfortunately for them, Egypt rose to the occasion to play inspired basketball against the Chinese and stole the game in double overtime. In a tournament with few other upsets, that loss ended the Chinese team’s hopes for advancing.
Individually a few of the Chinese players were able to produce solid stat lines. The most famous player on the team, Guo Ailun played sparingly in the final game, but averaged 19 ppg, 3.5 rpg, and 4.5 apg in the first two contests. Unfortunately for Guo, the 12 turnovers in those first two games take away from the impressiveness of the previous numbers. Actually, the entire Chinese squad struggled to control the ball and averaged over 18 turnovers per match during the first three days.
Along with Guo, the other bright spots for the Chinese team were the play of Zhai Xiaochuan and Wang Zirui. Zhai led the team in both scoring and rebounding posting averages of 16.3 ppg and 7.3 rpg. At 6’8” Zhai has really nice size for the Small Forward position. Wang is lesser known than some of his teammates, but showed that that should not be the case. The Zhejiang Guangsha junior team point guard finished with a well-rounded stat line of 12.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 3.7 apg.
The Korean squad came in with very little press, just as you would expect for a team that was not ranked highly, but was also not considered to be one of the weakest squads (Taiwan and Tunisia filled that role). As such, the Koreans came out and shocked most people with their play over the three days. On the first day the Koreans took a lead into the last minute against the Canadians, only to squander it on turnovers and fouls.
After getting demolished by the Lithuanian boys on Day 2, the Koreans came out with the biggest upset of the tournament by defeating the Croatian team. While this win is impressive, and the Koreans should be congratulated, it needs to be noted that the Croatians sat their starting PG and C for the entire game. Korea and China will go head to head on Monday, July 4th.
Hung Kang-chiao (Photo: FIBA)
The Taiwanese team came to the tournament marked as the “small fish” or “last man picked.” Their coach, Huang Wan-lung did nothing to dispel this when he was quoted as saying “I tell my guys let's make friends here because basketball is just a game so we need to enjoy ourselves and makes friends amongst the other players and coaches.” Somehow I do not think that the Latvian team they faced on the first day were told to have fun and make friends by their coach before the game. With no pressure on them, the Taiwanese squad lived up to expectations . . . and lost all three of their games.
The problem for the Taiwanese was truly one of size. Their average height was over 6 cm shorter than the next shortest team. It is no surprise that they had difficulty rebounding against the taller international competition. In the game against Latvia the Taiwanese were outrebounded 57-17. The Latvians were able to grab 24 offensive rebounds against their over-matched opponents. The trio of Hung Kang-chiao, Chen Ying-chun, and Hu Long-mao played relatively well showing flashes of the basketball talent there is in Taiwan. Watch for those three to make their way on to the Senior National Team in the next few years.
In a few hours the Koreans and Chinese will face off and the Taiwanese will go up against the Tunisian squad. While there is no way to move above 13th, we can only hope that the teams all play to their fullest potential to showcase a little of the talent and potential present here in Asia.