Another year of progress
Updated: 2013-02-20 07:51
By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)
Tracy McGrady (left) of the Qingdao Eagles reaches for the ball against Yi Jianlian (center) of the Guangdong Southern Tigers during Guangdong's 121-104 win in the last round of the regular season on Sunday. McGrady was the highest profile former NBA player in the CBA this season. Wu Jun / For China Daily
Dominant foreign stars and a rising crop of local talent mark improvement
The best moments always seem to pass the swiftest, and so it was the 2012-13 Chinese Basketball Association regular season.
The 12-week event started with a highly anticipated clash between the Beijing Ducks and Shanghai Sharks and ended in a flurry of excitement with foreign stars showing off their prowess and a feverish race for postseason berths.
The top eight teams were not finalized until the last round on Sunday as the league celebrated a season in which it uncovered promising local stars and enjoyed solid TV viewership and lucrative endorsement deals.
The first round will feature the Ducks facing the Zhejiang Lions; the Guangdong Southern Tigers facing the Zhejiang Golden Bulls; the Shandong Gold Lions facing the Dongguan Leopards; and the Xinjiang Flying Tigers facing Liaoning Jiebao.
The postseason tips off on Feb 27 with a best-of-five format in the first two rounds and best-of-seven in the Finals.
The presence of talented imports was a driving force behind the competition, but big names didn't necessarily translate into good results.
Only three Chinese players (Lu Xiaoming in assists, Zhang Zhaoxu in blocks and Xing Ruixin in steals) cracked the top three in the five major statistical categories, which also include scoring and rebounds.
The other 12 spots were shared by foreigners.
The rise of league runner-up Shandong, which finished 13th last season, was a prime example of overseas influence. Its three imports, including Jordanian forward Zaid Abbas, combined for 53.3 points and 24.2 rebounds per game to drive the squad to a 15-game winning streak before the Spring Festival break.
Another team that relied heavily on its foreigners, the Shanxi Brave Dragons, crashed out of the top four after prolific US import Marcus Williams was banned for using marijuana.
Still, high-profile stars Tracy McGrady of the Qingdao Eagles and Gilbert Arenas of the Shanghai Sharks failed to major differences for their respective teams, both of which missed out on the postseason. However, they did draw large numbers of fans.
"It doesn't work anymore that you sign a big foreign scorer and then your results will improve," said renowned commentator Zhang Weiping of CCTV-5.
"CBA clubs have to be smart in picking the right imports. It's not about fame or celebrity status, it's about the chemistry with the local roster and the will to stay here and develop the game here."
Although the issue of foreign imports restricting the roles for local talent remains a hot topic, a crop of young locals drew attention during the season.
Fujian's NBA prospect Wang Zhelin, Liaoning's teenage playmaker Guo Ailun and Shandong's young guard Ding Yanyuhang led a youthful surge that has drawn international attention.
(China Daily 02/20/2013 page24)