Slump doesn't worry Marbury
Updated: 2012-01-06 07:43
By Dusty Lane (China Daily)
It's not possible to make sense of the Beijing Ducks right now.
How do you reconcile a 13-0 start with a 1-5 follow-up?
How do you figure out how an invincible team become so, well, vincible?
Don't try, says Ducks guard Stephon Marbury. Don't try to parse it out in terms of this streak was followed by that streak which was caused for this specific reason, because it doesn't matter.
What matters is that, even after a 112-99 defeat to the Guangdong Southern Tigers on Wednesday night, the Ducks are still just a game out of first place. What matters is that fate and history and common sense all point to this being the ebb of a long season.
What matters is the big picture.
"When you're winning, everything's good - the true test is when the adversity sets in," Marbury said on Wednesday night. "As far as us going through this growing pain right now - and that's what I consider this - it's not like we're in sixth place. We lost to Guangdong, the champion, to go into second place.
"And what's a record? I mean, a record is for position and trying to position yourself for home-court advantage in the playoffs, and so I see the bigger picture. It means nothing - a record means absolutely nothing. Xinjiang was in first place last year and lost the championship, and which would you rather have? A title and 10 losses in the regular season, or a perfect record?"
It sounds a lot like what players and coaches say when they're in the midst of a losing streak. Mostly, when they say it, they're blowing smoke. But sometimes, they're just being honest.
The Ducks led with less than 7 minutes left on the clock on Wednesday. In fact, they've led late in just about every game during this sudden skid, and they've often held big leads.
The chances have been there.
Last Wednesday, they held a 20-point edge over Zhejiang before losing 118-112, thanks largely to a dominant performance from Wilson Chandler.
Then, Sunday in Liaoning , they made their way back from a 22-point halftime deficit to tie the score at 100 before a bizarre hailstorm of water bottles from fans who were disenchanted with the comeback and the officiating cleared the court, forcing the game into prolonged hiatus and the Ducks into an unnerving loss. (Just for the record, from Marbury: "Nah, I wasn't scared at all, man.")
So all is not lost, even though all those games have been.
Part of the problem traces back to an injury suffered by Lee Hsueh-lin, who was averaging 5.9 points and 4.3 assists a game. Marbury - who is in the first season of a two-year contract - says both the injury and the team's skid have given the young team a chance to reshape itself, not just for the postseason, but for the future.
"The focus is going to continue to be to get better and continue to develop the younger guys," Marbury said. "It's preparing them to play for what's in the end, and by us being able to develop these guys right now, when the playoffs come, you have several guys who are in position to play in ways they wouldn't have been ready for otherwise. Some of these guys are really growing as players. In the NBA, when a guy gets hurt, it's an opportunity for another guy to step up."
Marbury said Fang Shuo, in particular, impressed him in recent weeks, even as the 21-year-old guard tries to deal with newfound pressure.
"(Fang) is growing, he's growing a lot, and you know with the Chinese guys it's different, because the culture of basketball is a little different," he said. "He has to get acclimated to playing, and the coach is asking him to do things he isn't used to doing."
So the Ducks will try to do what they've done for most of the season, only a little better. For his part, Marbury had what's become an almost routine stat line on Wednesday: 35 points, nine assists, three rebounds. He says he has a history of improving as seasons progress.
"In China they keep asking and asking, 'Are you getting tired?' and I'm like 'No, I'm gonna get stronger as the season gets going,'" he said. "You think I'm tired, and I don't know what to say - I'm in great shape right now, I'm used to a long season."
Dusty Lane is a sports copy editor who would like to wish his mom a happy birthday. Reach him at email@example.com.
(China Daily 01/06/2012 page23)