Hoops are just around the corner

Updated: 2012-11-17 00:36

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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After a wait of nearly eight months, basketball fans in China are gearing up for the new Chinese Basketball Association season, which will tip off on Nov 24 when the defending champion Beijing Ducks take on the Shanghai Sharks at Shougang Gymnasium in Beijing.

League officials, promotional partners, sponsors and player representatives gathered at a news conference at the Renaissance Beijing Capital Hotel to celebrate the launch of the new season while releasing the schedule and announcing new initiatives.

The CBA season will run through Feb 17, with the league's 17 teams playing each other on a home-and-away basis during the 11-week 34-game regular season. The top eight teams will qualify for the playoffs, which begin on Feb 27.

The quarterfinals and semifinals will be best-of-five, and the best-of-seven finals will tip off on March 22.

All-Star Weekend will be staged at the Guangzhou International Sports Arena on Feb 23-24.

Entering its 18th season, the league is growing rapidly on all fronts.

Former Houston Rockets All-Star forward Tracy McGrady (Qingdao Eagles) and guard Von Wafer (Xinjiang Flying Tigers) have joined a foreign talent pool that already features Beijing's Stephon Marbury and the Zhejiang Golden Bulls' Quincy Douby.

Local rookies such as Fujian SBS center Wang Zhelin and Guangdong Southern Tigers swingman Gao Shang are set to make their debuts this season.

"How time flies! I can finally play in the CBA and it feels amazing. I can't wait to help my team win," said the 18-year-old Wang.

The league signed lucrative five-year partnerships with sporting goods manufacturer Li Ning and promoter Infront China, providing a solid base for continued growth.

"We will focus on improving the quality of our league, providing a more attractive product for fans and sponsors," league vice-chairman Liu Xiaonong said at the news conference.

"We will also fine-tune the hardware in venues to better serve the media and spectators, and continue to promote charity programs."

Liu said the CCTV sports channel will deliver live games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, as well as three tape-delayed games per week.

"In addition to CCTV programs, we've also been talking with local TV stations to broadcast more games to a regional audience," said Ma Guoli, the CEO of Infront China.

"People always compare the CBA with the NBA. The gap remains huge indeed, but we would like to keep moving forward, step by step. Enough media exposure will help us get bigger."

Agent Zero is coming

Former NBA All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas has signed with the Shanghai Sharks, said his Chinese agent, Sha Yifeng.

"Yes, it's been settled and he has signed the contract with Shanghai," Sha told news website163.com on Thursday. "We only signed for one year, not the reported deal with a one-year extension. That's the decision based on an assessment of his current physical status."

Drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 2001 as the 30th pick, Arenas was a prolific scorer for much of his career with the Warriors and Washington Wizards. A knee injury and legal problems took their toll in recent years. The 30-year-old averaged 20.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game in 11 NBA seasons.