Emmanuel Mudiay gets $1.2 million contract to play one year in China with Yi Jianlian’s team

Class of 2014 star Emmanuel Mudiay has reached an agreement in principle with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the China Basketball Association on a one-year deal that will pay him a total of $1.2 million, a source confirmed to CBSSports.com on Tuesday.

This development, earlier reported by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, comes a week after Mudiay announced he’s skipping college in favor of a contract overseas that would help alleviate some of his mother’s financial concerns. Clearly, this deal makes that possible.

But multiple sources told CBSSports.com that Mudiay’s actual motivation for bypassing a year in the AAC is rooted in the fact that he was facing eligibility concerns — both amatuerism concerns and eligibility concerns — and that the odds of the 6-foot-5 guard ever being cleared for freshman eligibility were slim, at best, mostly because he spent two years at Prime Prep Academy, which a source told CBSSports.com has never actually had a class accepted by the NCAA for the purposes of initial eligibilty.

Mudiay is projected as a consensus top-10 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Former Texas standout Royal Ivey played for the Southern Tigers last season.

via Emmanuel Mudiay gets $1.2 million contract to play one year in China – CBSSports.com.

Jeremy Lin wants ‘bigger role’ in Lakers

2014/07/20 16:12:38

Taipei, July 20 (CNA) Taiwanese American NBA star Jeremy Lin, who was recently traded by the Houston Rockets to the Los Angeles Lakers, said Sunday that he expects to play a larger role on his new team.

Answering fans’ questions at a basketball camp in Taiwan, sponsored by China Airlines, Lin described his trade to the Lakers as “a great opportunity” because he can learn much from his new teammate, Kobe Bryant, four-time NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and a five-time NBA champion.

“I wish my role could become bigger and more important, and I also wish I could get more playing time next year,” said the 25-year-old point guard.

Lin, who is only under contract for one more season, averaged 13.0 points and 5.2 assists in 153 games over the past two seasons with the Rockets. He was moved to the Rockets’ bench last season, after starting for the entire 2012-13 season.

The Rockets announced July 13 that it had agreed to trade Lin and a future first-round pick to the Lakers, in a bid to seek a salary cap relief.

Lin, in the midst of a week-long visit to Taiwan, said at a press conference on July 18 that his main goal during summer training is to improve his floater and 3-point shot and to level up his defense skills.

On July 23, Lin is scheduled to participate in a program for GOOD TV, a local Christian TV channel, along with other publicity events.

via Jeremy Lin wants ‘bigger role’ in Lakers | Entertainment & Sports | FOCUS TAIWAN – CNA ENGLISH NEWS.

5’7” Japanese PG Yuki Togashi Is Taking over the NBA Summer League

Comically short NBA players are a dying breed.

While never a prolific cross section of the league, it always seemed like each generation for the last 30 years had its marquee Mighty Mouse. Spud Webb owned the late ’80s/early ’90s, Muggsy Bogues had the mid-90s, and Earl Boykins stepped up to claim the 2000s.

The closest thing NBA fans have now to a pocket-sized dynamo is 5’9” Nate Robinson, who currently sits sidelined with an ACL injury. There is a vacuum in the NBA market for fun-sized guards, and Japaneseballer Yuki Togashi may be the one to fill it.

A 5’7” point guard out of Japan’s BJ League, Togashi was invited by the Dallas Mavericks to play NBA Summer League ball with their squad inLas Vegas. The sharpshooting guard has since become a fan favorite, dropping triples and winning over the crowd with his slick floaters.

“I know I look like I’m like 15 years old,” Tagashi told reporters. “Maybe that’s why the fans love me. … Sometimes it’s kinda too much, but I gotta get used to it.”

Get used to it, Tagashi. You are a star.

Jake O’Donnel of SportsGrid.com reports that the 20-year-old scored 11 points in 12 minutes on the floor against the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. Even better, his performance sparked a number ofAnimal House puns from the game’s commentators, who said the crowd was chanting “Toga! Toga! Toga!” by the end of the game.

Imagine this at a packed NBA stadium.

If he were to make an NBA roster, Togashi would become the second Japanese player in the history of the league (Yuta Tabuse made the cut for the Phoenix Suns in 2004).

Judging by his highlight tape with the Akita Northern Happinets, the BJ League All-Star Game MVP has the court vision and passing skills to make it a possibility.  

Togashi has one last summer game to make his mark on this league. The Dallas Mavericks summer league squad will close out its Vegas stint with a game against the Phoenix Suns on Friday.

Pray for Togashi. Pray for Toga time.

via 5’7” Japanese PG Yuki Togashi Is Taking over the NBA Summer League | Bleacher Report.

Jeremy Lin: From face of Rockets to trade to Lakers in two years

For 3 1/2 months in the summer and early fall of 2012, Jeremy Lin was the face of the franchise — the leading edge in a wave of change that the Rockets hoped would build toward a new era of playoff success.

And the waves kept coming — James Harden in October 2012, Patrick Beverly in January 2013, and Dwight Howard in July 2013.

But those arrivals had, by this summer, reduced Lin from franchise face to placeholder status, with his uniform number dangled as bait for free agent Carmelo Anthony as the Rockets plotted their next roster move.

And now it is his departure, in a trade with the Lakers completed Friday, that will be the final footnote on his time in Houston as a part of the team’s failed bid to lure free agent Chris Bosh.

Jeremy Lin was welcomed back to Houston with a 3-year deal before the 2012-13 season. ( Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )

“The Harden wave just swamped him,” said television analyst and former Rockets player Matt Bullard. “When the Rockets signed Lin, they had no idea they would be able to get Harden. And so his time here in Houston has been as a building block, but one under a bright spotlight, even unfairly so.”

Lin, arguably, was never bigger in Houston than during the weeks before he actually hit the floor at Toyota Center. Acquired as a free agent after the Rockets traded Kyle Lowry and lost Goran Dragic to free agency, he was front and center in the Rockets’ preseason “A New Age” ad campaign and in the first wave of Comcast SportsNet Houston launch ads but was supplanted when the team traded for Harden shortly before the regular-season opener.

He averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists during the 2012-13 season, including a slot before the home crowd at the Skills Challenge during All-Star Weekend at Toyota Center, and along with center Omer Asik was the only player to start in all 82 regular-season games.

After a slow start (with single-digit point production in 12 of his first 23 games), he closed with a run of 20 double-digit games in the Rockets’ final 24 games of the year, including a three-game run in March with 20 or more points.

However, he was held in check by Russell Westbrook of the Thunder in Game 1 of the playoffs and suffered a bruised chest muscle in a Game 2 collision with Thabo Sefolosha. He did not play in Games 4 and 5, both of which the Rockets won with new fan favorite Beverly and returning favorite Aaron Brooks in leading roles, and managed just three points in 13 minutes in the season-ending loss to Oklahoma City.

Lin got off to a quicker start in 2013-14, with back-to-back 30-point performances against Toronto and Philadelphia in November, but missed six games in December with injuries and then had back spasms that sidelined him for much of the month.

He recorded a triple double in February against Cleveland, but that was one of just three double-digit assists games on the season as he dropped to 33 starts on the year and his averaged dropped to 12.5 points and 4.1 assists. In the playoffs, he averaged 11.3 points off the bench in the six-game loss to Portland.

Then came the offseason reports of more player movement, capped by the Rockets’ use of his uniform No. 7 in a Toyota Center display welcoming Anthony to town. Lin responded, on Twitter, with a quotation from Luke 6:29: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”

That exchange, Bullard said, in part demonstrated Lin’s singular depth of character, which, combined with his ethnic origins as the first Taiwanese-American player in the NBA and his white-hot “Linsanity” breakout season with the Knicks in 2011-12, has arguably pushed his popularity beyond his accomplishments.

“Jeremy has fought against getting cut at every level he’s played,” Bullard said. “When you battle for as long as he has, it makes you strong. He arrived here with a lot of expectations, and he has a lot of fans around the world that are Jeremy Lin fans before they are Rockets fans. That has hardened him in the fires of his career.”

Although Lin leaves Houston without a comparable period of “Linsanity” to match his time in New York, Bullard said the Lakers are getting a better player than the one that arrived in Houston two years ago.

“He is very realistic about what he is good at and what his weaknesses are,” Bullard said. “He has really worked on his jump shot and his left hand. He can go on to be a better player. He handles these things well.”

via Jeremy Lin: From face of Rockets to trade to Lakers in two years – Ultimate Rockets.

Melo opens door for Lin again – ESPN Los Angeles

It was an injury to Carmelo Anthony that led to Jeremy Lin‘s meteoric rise to basketball relevance in New York more than two years ago. Now it appears that indecision on Anthony’s part could lead to Lin trying to recapture the magic in Los Angeles. 

The Lakers still hadn’t heard any official word from Anthony on Friday, according to a league source, when they pulled the trigger on a trade with the Houston Rockets to acquire Lin and Houston’s 2015 first-round pick in exchange for cash considerations and the rights to an undisclosed player stashed overseas. 

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin

Andrew Richardson/USA TODAY SportsIn addition to providing consistency at point guard, one of Jeremy Lin’s biggest assets is his ability to drive to the basket and convert.

While Lin hardly has the reputation now he had back in February 2012 when “Linsanity” reached its height of euphoria thanks to him dropping 38 points on the Lakers of all teams during a Friday night game at Madison Square Garden, it’s not as if he’s some bum either. 

There’s no denying that the last we saw of him on the court, Lin struggled. Lin shot just 21.7 percent on 3-pointers in Houston’s first-round playoff loss to Portland and was particularly ineffective early in the series, scoring five points on 1-for-5 shooting in Game 2 and four points on 1-for-6 shooting in Game 4 as the Rockets fell behind 3-1 before eventually losing in six games. 

But that rough series, combined with the Rockets’ preference for Patrick Beverly at the point, ended up clouding the player that Lin really is today. 

The fact is, he’s a better player than when he was setting the world on fire during that streak with the Knicks. Lin may have averaged fewer points (12.5 compared to 14.6) and assists (4.1 compared to 6.2) last season than he did when he was in New York, but he’s more efficient (35.8 percent from 3, up from 32.0 percent, while his attempts have gone from 2.1 to 3.2 per game), more reliable (82.3 percent from the foul line, up from 79.8) and also more in control (2.5 turnovers per game, down from 3.6). 

At 6 feet 3, 200 pounds, Lin is a bigger point guard than most think, which perhaps has something to do with his durability. Lin played in 71 games last season and all 82 games the season before that. Having a stable point guard would certainly be a welcome addition for the Lakers after Steve NashSteve Blake and Jordan Farmar all missed so many games because of injuries in the last two seasons. 

Lin also has one elite skill that puts him in the company of Friday’s biggest news maker, LeBron James. Lin shot 57.9 percent off drives last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, second in the league last season behind only James (63.8 percent) among players who averaged at least seven drives to the basket per game. 

While Lin’s $15 million salary for 2014-15 might not seem commensurate with what he brings to the court, his cap figure is only $8.3 million, which left L.A. with the necessary cap room to retain Nick Young ($21.5 million over four years) and Jordan Hill ($18 million over two years) on Friday. 

Is Lin, Young and Hill as good of a combination of the Lakers’ preferred Plan A route of Anthony and Pau Gasol next season? Of course not. 

But could it be better for 2015-16 and beyond? Maybe. Lin is only 25 and if he makes it work with the Lakers next season, could find a home for the next several years in L.A. 

Getting that first-round pick from Houston is no small feat, either. The Lakers traded their 2015 first rounder to Phoenix as part of the Nash deal. Getting another good, inexpensive young piece in the draft to grow alongside Julius Randle for years to come is just a smart move in terms of the business of basketball. 

And while L.A. overpaid for Hill, the second year is a team option, so they can cut ties if they choose next summer if it looks as if they’ll need that money to go after Kevin Love or another big fish out there. 

Though it will hurt to see Gasol go, he just turned 34 and has a history of knee and foot troubles, so maybe avoiding giving him a multi-year extension will turn out to be a blessing in disguise. 

Yes, Anthony paved the way for Lin to step into the spotlight once again. 

The Lakers didn’t get the top-tier star they were hoping for, but ended up with Lin who has an extremely high international appeal, and Young, an L.A. native who was literally built for this town. 

It’s not ideal, but it’s not disastrous, considering all the future flexibility the Lakers were able to maintain. 

Coincidentally, the Rockets were interested in Anthony too and tried to recruit the high-scoring small forward by posting images of Anthony wearing a red Rockets No. 7 uniform (Lin’s number) when he came to town. 

Also coincidentally, the Lakers might have been motivated in part to cut ties with coach Mike D’Antoni in April — Lin and Anthony’s old coach with the Knicks — before they went after Anthony this summer because their time together what somewhat rocky. 

Well, only one of the three are in L.A. now. 

And for Lin’s sake, let’s just hope his transition from Broadway to Hollywood includes a little more luck and positive results than there were for D’Antoni when he made a similar leap.

via Melo opens door for Lin again – ESPN Los Angeles.

Video: Houston Rockets trade Jeremy Lin to Los Angeles Lakers

The Houston Rockets have traded guard Jeremy Lin and a future first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers, a league source told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin

Andrew Richardson/USA TODAY SportsJeremy Lin is headed to the Lakers after two seasons with the Rockets.

The Lakers were amenable to this deal, according to sources, because Lin is only under contract for one more season, thus preserving their cap space next summer. They also covet draft picks, after trading away their first-round picks in 2015 and 2017 to Phoenix and Orlando as part of theSteve Nash and Dwight Howard trades, respectively.

The Rockets have made a maximum offer to center Chris Bosh of four years, $88 million, according to sources.

A source told ESPN.com on Friday that the Rockets expect Bosh to commit “soon” to joining Houston after Miami Heat teammate LeBron James told SI.com on Fridaythat he was leaving to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Rockets also intend to match the Dallas Mavericks‘ three-year, $46 million offer sheet to restricted free agent Chandler Parsons after signing Bosh, a source told ESPNDallas.com.

After trading Lin, the Rockets’ plan now is to complete their agreed-upon trade of Omer Asikto the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Philadelphia 76ers had expressed a willingness to trade for Lin depending on what sort of assets Houston is willing to attach to the deal, sources close to the process told ESPN recently.

video: Houston Rockets trade Jeremy Lin to Los Angeles Lakers – ESPN Los Angeles.

Are Rockets disrespecting Jeremy Lin with Carmelo billboard?

Jeremy Lin loaned out his No. 7 on Wednesday. He just didn’t know he did. And he was not happy about it.

When Carmelo Anthony arrived at Toyota Center for his meeting with the Rockets, the Rockets had the building adorned in large photo-shopped pictures of Anthony wearing Rockets uniforms with the No. 7, Lin’s number with the Rockets.

Anthony wore No. 7 with the Knicks, the number Lin took when he moved to the Rockets.

Lin likely would be traded to create the cap room needed to sign Anthony if the Rockets get that chance, but for now, the No. 7 belongs to Lin. When the shots of Anthony in Lin’s number made their way around Twitter and assorted blog posts, Lin acknowledged he felt “disrespected.”

Lin initially Tweeted a bible verse:  “Luke 6:29 – If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them”

 

When a follower on Twitter said that Lin had a right to feel slighted, Lin responded that he felt “disrespected.”

Lin tweeted: “im entitled to standup for myself/say i felt disrespected as i did thru tweet but point is love unconditionally/as jesus loved me”

The Rockets might have been able to avoid the issue by having Anthony pictured in No. 15, his number with the Nuggets and at Syracuse. He could not take No. 15 when he was traded to New York because it had been retired to honor Earl Monroe and Dick McGuire, but would be available with the Rockets.

Lin and Anthony, teammates with the Knicks, are unlikely to be teammates again, even if Anthony chooses the Rockets. Anthony was injured during much of Linsanity with the Knicks, forcing the Knicks to turn to Lin days before he was cut. Though it was clear that Lin would likely be an odd man out in the Rockets salary cap maneuvers this summer, as Anthony toured Toyota Center, Lin was clearly not happy with the Melo-drama.

via Are Rockets disrespecting Jeremy Lin with Carmelo billboard? – Ultimate Rockets.

Houston Rockets dis Jeremy Lin with image of Carmelo Anthony in No. 7 – ESPN

If it wasn’t clear before Wednesday that Jeremy Lin‘s days with the Houston Rockets were numbered, it is now.

In an effort to court Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets posted pictures of Anthony in a No. 7 jersey in the windows near one of the entrances to the Toyota Center.

Anthony wore No. 7 with the New York Knicks, so it makes sense that they’d want to let him know how he’d look in Rockets red. The only problem? Lin currently wears No. 7 in Houston.

Lin responded to the development by tweeting a Bible verse Wednesday morning.

Wednesday’s visit in Houston is the second leg of Anthony’s free-agent tour after he met with the Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday. He is scheduled to travel to Dallas to meet with theMavericks later Wednesday.

Among the contingent meeting with Anthony at the Toyota Center were Rockets centerDwight Howard and guard James Harden, owner Les Alexander, general manager Daryl Morey and coach Kevin McHale. Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler also is there to help with Houston’s pitch.

[+] EnlargeRockets Billboard

Courtesy Billy Smith II/Houston ChronicleThe Rockets welcomed Carmelo Anthony on Wednesday with a billboard image of him in the team’s jersey, wearing No. 7.

Howard told KRIV-TV in Houston that he told Anthony to take his time to make his decision and whatever team he picks “is going to be the right decision for him.” He called Anthony a “great person” who “would be a great guy for our team.”

“At the end of the day we all want to win a championship.That’s why I came here. He would be a big part of that,” Howard told KRIV-TV.

Most expect Lin to be moved in a trade to help the Rockets clear enough cap space to offer Anthony a near-max contract. There’s an irony here because Anthony, according to reports, wasn’t too thrilled when Lin garnered so much attention during his “Linsanity” run in 2012.

Several reports state that Houston already has a deal in place to move Lin if the Rockets get a commitment from Anthony. Houston will likely have to move Lin and the $8.3 million that his contract counts for on its books to acquire Anthony.

However, the Rockets have potentially created an awkward situation for next season if they fail to sign Anthony and Lin ends up back with the Rockets to fulfill the final season of his contract.

via Houston Rockets dis Jeremy Lin with image of Carmelo Anthony in No. 7 – ESPN.

Half-Vietnamese Mark Tatum succeeded Adam Silver as NBA deputy commissioner and conducted the 2nd round of the Draft

NBA executive president of global marketing partnerships Mark Tatum is in line to become the NBA’s deputy commissioner under incoming commissioner Adam Silver, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly until the announcement is official. NBA spokesman Tim Frank declined comment.

The move needs to be approved by NBA owners, but a decision such as this wouldn’t progress to this point unless Silver, the deputy commissioner who takes over for commissioner David Stern this week, knew Tatum would be approved.STERN: Leaves as ‘No. 1 reason’ for NBA successTatum, who joined the NBA in 1999, would become one of pro sports’ highest-ranking African-American executives. He received his undergraduate degree from Cornell and graduated from Harvard Business in 1998.

He has been instrumental in the game’s global growth but has also been involved in collective bargaining, TV deals and partnerships with major sponsors. He has been on the NBA’s senior management team for about 10 years and also works closely with USA Basketball executives on the organizations marketing and sales.Tatum, 44, is a coveted executive. The United States Olympic Committee and the revamped Big East were interested in hiring Tatum. Prior to the NBA, Tatum worked for Major League Baseball, Pepsi-Cola and Proctor & Gamble, according to his bio on nba.com.

via Mark Tatum will succeed Adam Silver as NBA deputy commissioner.

Larry Tieu played college basketball in California before going pro playing in Vietnam for the Saigon Heat

Sim Bhullar Signed by Sacramento Kings – aims to be first Indian in NBA

The biggest man of the 2014 NBA draft is soon to be the biggest man in Sacramento.

Sim Bhullar, a 7’5″ New Mexico State center who burst onto the scene at this year’s NCAA tournament, wasn’t selected in the draft itself, but the Kings will reportedly sign the big man on Friday.

He was not listed among the top 100 players ranked by ESPN’s Chad Ford (subscription required), while DraftExpress had him 73rdwell out of the 60-player range selected at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Lightly regarded coming out of high school, Bhullar initially committed to Xavier before heading to New Mexico State. Playing near-identical roles in each of his two seasons, he led the Aggies to consecutive NCAA tournament berths and became infamous in college basketball circles for his size.

He’s listed at 7’5″ and 360 pounds, which would make him instantly the league’s biggest player and one of the largest in history.

As a sophomore, Bhullar averaged 10.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game. Factoring in his 64.8 field-goal percentage, it was only fair to be curious about a player who made the Julius Randles of the world look like point guards.

Nevertheless, Bhullar’s decision to forgo his final two years of eligibility was met with mild surprise. Imposing in stature, the Aggies big man still has a long way to go in his NBA development. His movements lack a fluidity and self-confidence that NBA teams look for in their big men; he’s the very definition of the word raw.

Even in the second roundwhere contracts are non-guaranteed and teams are far more willing to take risksBhullar seemed like perhaps a step too far. But the towering big man kept faith.

He trained at the Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas, shedding excess weight and working on bringing more fluidity to his game. In workouts, teams came away impressed with his positive disposition, and he began to creep slightly into the second-round conversation. 

Steve Dykes/Getty Images

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bhullar told CBC News of the draft process. “Not everybody gets to do it…so it’s an honor and a blessing and I just thank God every day for putting me in this situation.”

Now that he’s defied the odds and been selected, the real work starts.

Bhullar is not guaranteed an NBA job, but this is an encouraging sign nonetheless.

He has a long way to go until he joins the Thomases of the world. The Kings will likely put him on their own conditioning program, and then it’d be a mild surprise if he did not start his career in the NBA D-League.

That said, Bhullar’s has accomplished his goal of being an NBA player. He now has to figure out a way to get on the floor.

via Sim Bhullar Signed by Kings: Latest News, Reaction and Analysis | Bleacher Report.

The Japanese-American we don’t know about – was taken in the first round of the NBA draft 21 years ago – Rex Walters

 

In the 1993 NBA draft, Rex Walters was drafted 16th overall.

Rex Andrew Walters (born March 12, 1970) is an American former professional basketball player and current men’s basketball coach at the University of San Francisco. Walters played college basketball at Northwestern University and the University of Kansas and played professionally for ten years, including seven seasons in the NBA, from 1993 to 2003.

In an interview with Rick Quan, Rex Walters responded to the question of feeling that he was a pioneer for Asian-Americans. He responded – “I consider myself Japanese-American. I just don’t look it. People are always surprised. Now we got a guy like Jeremy Lin breaking barriers, I’d like to think I played a small part in that”. He later added, “People ask me who I am? What I am? I am a Japanese-American, I take great pride in that.”

See the interview:

 

 

2014 NBA Draft: Believing in Li Muhao

Believing in Li Muhao

Li Muhao could become the first Chinese basketball player drafted since 2007, and could be the best Chinese player in longer than that. So why does China not believe in him?

Considering that he’s the first Chinese player since 2007 with a chance of getting picked in the NBA Draft, Li Muhao has a pretty dysfunctional relationship with Chinese basketball. When news broke that the 7’2 power-forward/center was flying to America for workouts, one commentator in a popular Chinese basketball forum noted that Li would be little more than Shawn Bradley. Within minutes, another had impishly pointed that unless Li grew a few more inches, he’d only be Hasheem Thabeet. These were not compliments.

It wasn’t just random haters in internet chatrooms that had something to say about Li. A couple of weeks later, the iconic center Wang Zhizhi, who is now settling into a Shaq-ian ‘respected former player with strong opinions’ role, said Li lacked a solid defensive game and needed to improve his technique.

All of this neatly sums up life for Li. Here is a player that has long been spoken of as a highly promising young player — and who is, for all this noise, one of the most promising players to come out of China in recent years — but who still remains oddly maligned in his home country. Game tape and statistics say some very complimentary things about Li. Many others in China say otherwise. NBA teams will have to decide who to believe, about Li Muhao.

***

Part of the issue seems to be that Li Muhao is not Wang Zhelin, the rising superstar (and likely future NBA pick)of the Fujian Sturgeons. This is not Li’s fault, and while both men play together for the national team, otherwise they have very little in common. For starters, Wang’s game is closer to the punishing, back-to-the-basket style that China likes to see from its big men, while Li relies on his uncommon athleticism to give him an edge.

As the two players’ young careers have developed, their teams’ differing fortunes have also played into how local media perceives them. Wang is a critical part of an inept Fujian team; trusting their young dynamo to get his numbers was that team’s only option, and only hope.

Li, on the other hand plays for the Dongguan Leopards, a perennial playoff team that has kept him to a tight minutes restriction and which runs a largely guard-heavy offence that limits the touches for the frontcourt. Last season, Wang played almost forty minutes a game, and averaged 22.7 points and 11.7 rebounds. Li, by comparison, got barely half as many minutes and put up 8.7ppg and 5.2 rpg for the year. Per minute, the two are more or less peers. In the public perception, they’re anything but.

Wang, like Li, will one day target a move to the NBA, but not this year. The CBA has a longstanding rule stopping Chinese players registering for the draft before they turn 22, and Wang is not about to break it. Wang has a couple of years left in China before he can jump, but Li, who turned 22 in early June, filed his papers immediately after his birthday. This may well have been the right choice for his career — everything about Li’s recent CBA work suggests it was — but it did little to help his standing where public opinion was concerned.

Following his registration, the inevitable backlash duly followed, amid talk from various quarters that Li was going too soon. This is a valid argument, as far as it goes. It’s tough to say that Li is ready for regular NBA minutes when he’s only recently received anything like that in China. But in a basketball culture that hews to Big Narratives even more slavishly than the NBA and its attendant media, there is also some predictable pushback against the idea that the runtish Li — if that’s the word for a 7’2 frontcourt player — would get his shot before Wang.

This rivalry has been brewing for years, going back as early as 2011 when China’s best young players took on Duke in a series of exhibition games. With a freshly retired Yao Ming watched courtside, game three of the serieswas probably the first time when the Chinese public realized that both their promising big men had flashes of something special. Li in particular got into a groove, toasting then-freshman Mason Plumlee on a couple of occasions. He earned rave reviews for his overall performance during the series, and found himself on the NBA’s radar for the first time.

The problem was that for all of the plaudits, Li still had to return to Dongguan, and his rigidly defined role with that team. Wang, for his part, would make his professional debut a year later. He did so with Fujian, which had no qualms with giving their teenage star all the shots he wanted so long as his presence kept the turnstiles moving. As Wang filled up the box score, Li faded into the background, even as he continued to produce in his limited minutes. Li has mostly stayed there ever since.

But while China might seem to care about CBA stat lines, onlookers in America evidently did not. Last month, a crowd of roughly 40 NBA personnel, including Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, attended Li’s draft workout in Los Angeles. The photos that ran on Chinese social media caught many by surprise. For the first time, it seemed like the Dongguan player had an outside chance to have his name called in the upcoming draft. They were behind the story, in that regard, but it worked. The jokes about Li, or most of them, stopped after that.

***

As with any non-lottery prospect, there’s no guarantee that Li ever plays a minute in the NBA. He is a project, and not only because of his team-dictated inexperience. But in the right hands, the seven-footer could become something unique, and potentially very valuable for the team with the patience to develop him.

Most notably, there is the athleticism. Li’s herky-jerky back-to-the-basket style looks unusual, and it is. But, because of how well Li inhabits it, this oddball game has become increasingly weaponized; this is thanks in no small part to the big man’s speed and agility. There is also the semblance of a mid-range game, here, and Li is already a solid free-throw shooter for a player of his size. The raw potential is there; for it to be harnessed, Li will require a coaching staff willing to put in the hours. In that way, and maybe only in that way, he’s like many other young big men in this stacked NBA Draft.

In China, though, Li is still just The Tall Guy Who Isn’t Wang Zhelin. Days after his workout in LA, Li was playing for the national team in Australia, starting the first of four games in eight days. His participation in the grueling exhibition series was essentially mandatory given that his place on the national team is not even guaranteed for the upcoming Asian Games, a tournament that China sees as a gold medal opportunity.

It rather summed up life for Li, who had been shown little sympathy from the CBA for jetting off to attend work-outs. The national team is a big deal in China, and players do whatever it takes to get on the roster. In Li’s case it was catching multiple flights and playing with heavy jet lag days after an NBA workout. A prize prospect wouldn’t be treated this way, even in China. But among sections of Chinese basketball, some still stubbornly refuse to understand just how good Li Muhao might become.

***

That Li was out there playing at all in Australia says quite a bit about the determination and toughness that — along with the height and athleticism with which he was blessed — have gotten him to the NBA’s doorstep. Born and raised in Dongguan, Li should have been a target for the neighboring Guangdong Tigers, whose youth teams have been a longstanding breadbasket for the Chinese national team.

That wasn’t how it went down. Li was passed over, signing with his hometown team instead. A popular story goes that having realized their mistake, an official from Guangdong approached Li in an airport when the latter was still with Dongguan’s farm team. The teenager politely but firmly told the older man to shove it.

Given his determination, it might not be a surprise then to discover that the lanky big man idolizes Kevin Garnett; he even wears Garnett’s number 21 with Dongguan. An increasing steeliness has emerged in Li’s game of late, contrasting sharply with skeptics who look at his slender frame and suggest that he must be soft. For all the things that are unfinished and unknown about Li’s game, it seems safe to say that soft is one thing he is not. The evidence is everywhere, ranging from trash talking after a meaty dunk to almost launching former D-League stalwart Mike Efevberha into the stands with a forearm shiver. There is some nasty in Li’s game to go with all that unpolished pogo-stick agility.

It would be somewhat fitting then if Li did hear his name called on Thursday after all the casual doubt and dismissal he’s received at home. The ‘other man’ of Chinese basketball has more than earned his chance at the big time and the recognition that would come with getting a call from the NBA. Li will have to earn everything from here on out, of course, but he’ll have a nice additional incentive in knowing that every bit of success he achieves will prove a great many people wrong..

via Believing in Li Muhao | The Classical.

China’s phenom Zhou Qi shines on international debut, but China lose in OT

PERTH, Australia Sino-Australian Challenge: Young starlet Zhou Qi pic above returned an impressive double-double, but China blew a 15-point lead and went down 95-97 Game Details to Australia in Overtime in Game One of the 2014 Sino-Australian Challenge series on Friday.

The annual series between two the trans-Pacific basketball giants took off with the expected intrigue and intensity and finished with enough twists and turns to satiate the basketball connoisseurs on either side the Pacific.Gong Luming, in his first international game at the head of China’s bench since guiding them to the quarterfinals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, has stitched a roster of players all of them under 25 years of age.

The youthful roster comprising players all of them playing in the CBA did an impressive job of hold their own against the more experienced Boomers, who are in preparation mode for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup to be played in Spain from Aug 30-Sept 14. Zhou Qi, considered by many as the ‘future of Chinese basketball’ more than justified that billing while returning the only double-double of the game, but the inexperience of the squad to handle the pressure situation showed up when push came to shove.China are using the Sino-Australian Challenge to prepare for the 5th FIBA Asia Cup which they will host in Wuhan from July 11-19.

via CHN – Zhou Qi shines on international debut, but China lose in OT.

Do New Yorkers still recognize Jeremy Lin?

Former Knick returns to the city that gave birth to Linsanity, sits on a park bench. Waits.



Remember Linsanity? Ah, February 2012. I remember it well. Sleepless nights of watching game replays, tracking down sports bars that were playing the Knicks games, my Facebook timeline lit up with countless links and comments about Jeremy Lin. That was fun. And New York City was ground zero for all of it.

Of course that eventually came to an end, and Jeremy Lin parted ways with the New York Knicks. This week, the current Houston Rocket guard was back in the city where it all started. Would Linsanity be a distant memory?Sports Illustrated thought it would be fun to set up a hidden camera while Jeremy hung out on a park bench and see if anyone recognized him. Former New York City sensation? Or just a random Asian dude on the street?

Check it out what happens:

via Do New Yorkers still recognize Jeremy Lin?.

Manny Pacquiao to become basketball player in the PBA

96268_20_123_435loMANILA, Philippines – Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao’s plan to serve as the player-coach of incoming expansion team KIA Motors can only be good for the Philippine Basketball Association, according to some of the league’s top stars.

Pacquiao caused a stir last week when he announced his intention of becoming the playing-coach of KIA, one of the three new teams in the PBA, when the squad makes its debut next season.

Some details are still unclear, including whether or not Pacquiao will be allowed to bypass the Rookie Draft, and fans have been divided on the boxer’s plans. But PBA stars Asi Taulava, LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar support his endeavor.

“I think, in a way, it will be good for the league,” Taulava told Dyan Castillejo of ABS-CBN News during a break at a recent 3-on-3 tournament. “(It will bring) more marketing value for the PBA, and especially for Manny.”

Taulava, who helped propel the Air21 Express to a semi-finals stint in the recently concluded PBA Commissioners Cup, also revealed how he would treat Pacquiao if and when they play against each other.

“I’m not trying to make him mad. I just want to let him play basketball, and not make him mad and start throwing punches,” said Taulava.

Tenorio agreed with Taulava, saying Pacquiao’s entry into the league is “a good thing for the PBA.”

“For sure, a lot of people will watch or are looking forward to watching Manny Pacquiao play in the PBA, and at the same time coach the team,” said the Ginebra point guard. “So I think, maganda ‘yun for the PBA.”

Aguilar, meanwhile, is a big fan of the “Pacman” and will thus treat him with respect during their game.

“If we every play against him, I’m gonna respect him by playing hard against him and his team,” said the high-leaping Ginebra forward.

KIA officials have said that Pacquiao will take an active role in forming the team and will have a coaching staff of his choice as well.

“Manny will take a leadership role” in KIA, according to Columbian Autocar Corp. president Ginia Domingo. “We at KIA are just so happy that with our team, Manny is now so close to living his dream of being involved with a professional basketball team as a player and a coach.”

Pacquiao associate Eric Pineda, who will likely be the KIA team manager, said the “Pacman” himself will oversee the team’s workouts and wants his team to be the “best conditioned in the PBA.”

“Manny expects the players to be as disciplined as he is,” Pineda told Joaquin Henson of The Philippine Star. “This means every player will be pushed to the limit, over the norm. He wants a team of no superstars.”

Pineda also said Pacquiao’s abilities as a player should not be underestimated.

“He’s got game. He’s quick and smart,” Pineda said. “Just imagine when he hits a three-pointer. The crowd will go crazy.”

Basketball is clearly a passion for the 35-year-old Pacquiao, who previously owned – and played for – the MP-Gensan Warriors in the semi-professional league Liga Pilipinas.

The “Pacman” also includes basketball in his training activities ahead of fights. Most recently, Pacquiao did some basketball drills as a cross-training activity ahead of his April 12 showdown against American Timothy Bradley Jr., which he won via unanimous decision.

via Asi, Japeth support Pacquiao’s PBA dream | ABS-CBN News.

Chinese big man Li Muhao to test NBA Draft waters

Li Muhao, the Dongguan Leopards’ 7-foot-2 center, is looking to enter the upcoming NBA draft if various reports in the Chinese media are true.

The young big man is preparing to fly to America and meet with a team of U.S. agents, who will help Li test the waters and gauge interest from NBA teams. Should he find enough suitors, Li would then file his entry papers and become the first realistic draft prospect from China in years.

This is not to say that Li’s journey to the NBA is a formality. Although Dongguan made it to the semifinals of the CBA playoffs, Li played a low-key role in the postseason run and finished the year averaging 8.7 points and 4.9 rebounds a game.

Yet in many ways, Li doesn’t have a lot of options. At 22, he is running out of time to be considered a viable project for NBA coaches to work with, and so it makes sense to jump now. Given that this year’s class of centers appears weaker when compared with the 2015 draft, it could be a case of now or never for the Leopards big man.

Another factor for Li is that he probably doesn’t want to be stuck in the same draft class as China’s other young big man, Wang Zhelin. The two big men are seen as China’s frontcourt for the future now that Yao Ming and Wang Zhizhi are retired and Yi Jianlian is shuffling into his 30s. Not only is Wang’s talent far more obvious than Li’s — at least on paper — he is the unquestioned darling of Chinese basketball, and Li and his representatives must be weary of getting overlooked as a result.

Whether Li, a four-year CBA player, could be a viable target for NBA teams still remains to be seen. Barring Yao, Chinese players have struggled to adapt in the NBA, whether due to cultural reasons or because of the intense pressure that comes with being a player from China in the world’s best league. The notable failure of Jianlian, both in terms of his on-the-court ability and also the concerns about the player’s actual age, will be a factor when NBA teams assess Li. In terms of Li’s actual game, some will be worried by his occasional lack of focus and hesitancy when things get physical under the basket. The fact that he has not played starters minutes after four seasons in the CBA might also be a concern.

What Li’s U.S. agents will be stressing will be the significant upside of their Chinese client. At 7-foot-2, Li is incredibly mobile, and his agility and speed for his position will catch many by surprise. If focused, Li can be a productive finisher around the rim and is able to finish with both hands. His raw athleticism and ever improving jump shot and offensive game will also make him an intriguing prospect for an NBA team that has time to let him develop.

If he does indeed make the leap to the NBA, China hopes he will be a high pick. But for Li, the best thing possible would be to go in the end of the first round or even in the second. The latter option seems more likely and it would frankly be for the best. An enigmatic talent who needs time to grow and refine his game, Li is not going to be another Yao Ming. However, if he can make it to the NBA, he has the potential to stay there and emerge as a solid backup.

via ONE World Sports :: Chinese big man to test NBA Draft waters.

Grant Hill, Yao Ming assembling separate ownership groups to buy Los Angeles Clippers

Grant Hill, Yao Ming assembling separate ownership groups to buy Los Angeles Clippers - ESPN Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Clippers are not yet for sale, but two former NBA All-Stars are among the various parties assembling ownership groups to potentially buy the franchise, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com on Friday that Grant Hill and Yao Ming are working separately to line up investors to lodge bids for the Clippers when the team is ultimately made available.

STERLING BANNED FOR LIFE

NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life in the wake of Sterling’s racist comments. Full coverage »

Donald Sterling has agreed to allow his wife, Shelly, to negotiate a forced sale of the Clippers, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com on Friday.

Hill is just completing his first year in retirement after a 19-season career that ended with the Clippers after seven All-Star berths. Sources say Hill has made it known within league circles that he is in the process of putting a consortium together.

Sources say that Yao, meanwhile, also plans to pursue the Clippers hard with a group of Chinese investors. The former Houston Rockets All-Star center owns the Shanghai Sharks in his native country and has maintained close ties to the NBA through the league’s various initiatives in Asia.

Yao was seriously interested in purchasing the Bucks, sources say, but dropped out of the bidding when outgoing Milwaukee owner Herb Kohl made keeping the team in that city mandatory for any new owner. The Bucks were ultimately sold to Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry for a purchase price of $550 million.

The number of bidders for the Clippers is expected to stray well into double digits, assuming the league can force the sale of the team, as NBA commissioner Adam Silver continues to believe.

Other notables said to have interest in purchasing the Clippers include: Larry Ellison, who could partner with David Geffen and Oprah Winfrey; former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; Magic Johnson, along with executives at Guggenheim Partners, who teamed up to buy the Dodgers; and billionaire Antony Ressler.

Grantland’s Bill Simmons first reported Yao’s interest in the Clippers.

via Grant Hill, Yao Ming assembling separate ownership groups to buy Los Angeles Clippers – ESPN Los Angeles.

Could Yao Ming buy the Los Angeles Clippers?

As if we needed another big name thrown into the mix for new Los Angeles Clippers ownership, “Yao Ming is putting together a group of wealthy Chinese investors to make a serious run” at buying the franchise, reports ESPN’s Bill Simmons. Yes, we’ve reached the stage of this process where even international former stars are throwing their hats into the ring.

Why this makes sense

For one, Yao is an extremely wealthy individual. Since retiring from professional basketball in 2011, the Chinese ex-superstar has emerged as a prominent investor in China’s technology industry, and as of two years ago, had amassed a net worth of over $150 million.

Back in 2009, Yao purchased his former Chinese team, the Shanghai Sharks, when the financially struggling franchise was on the brink of shuttering. He’s also taken college classes and started a winery since leaving the NBA, so he has the time to work on his passions.

As for the league, adding a Chinese ownership group backed by arguably the most popular international player in league history is a pretty tasty proposition. Commissioner Adam Silver has touted his desire to expand the NBA beyond North America in the past, and replacing the Sterling ownership with a Yao-based group would contribute to that.

Why this doesn’t make sense

A lot of very wealthy, very connected people want to buy the Clippers.

Just because Yao Ming has the money and group support to purchase the team doesn’t mean it will happen, especially if the Clippers get their way and Shelly Sterling is allowed to dictate the process, which would only complicate matters.

We’ve already seen an incredible number of prominent, respected people tied to the franchise, from Magic Johnson to Oprah, so the bidding process will be extremely competitive.

When folks talk about the Clippers selling for around $2 billion, that’s partially a reflection of demand for the team. There are a lot of people who would love to own an NBA franchise, let alone an NBA franchise in the United States’ second-largest market.

Likelihood

The odds that Yao actually puts together a group, bids for the Clippers and has that bid accepted by the NBA are pretty low. Again, this isn’t because Yao isn’t a respected person in league circles or lacks money. This is about the overwhelming demand that’s likely to result from the sale of the team. There isn’t really a possible owner out there, as of now, who garners particularly high odds.

The possibilities are impressive, though, Yao among them. Whoever does become the new Clippers owner will likely have quite the resume.

via Could Yao Ming buy the Los Angeles Clippers? – SBNation.com.

Donald Sterling, Koreans: What the Clippers owner’s love of Korean-Americans reveals about racism in America.

There’s something insufficiently descriptive about calling Los Angeles Clippers owner and real estate developer Donald Sterling a racist. By now, everyone is familiar with the baffling remarks he made to his girlfriend, admonishing her for featuring photos of black people on her Instagram feed and for bringing her black friends to Clippers games. These weren’t merely the words of a jilted madman. They fit within a broader pattern of behavior, most notably a series of lawsuits in which Sterling was charged with housing discrimination on the basis of race against Latino and black tenants—black people “smell and attract vermin,” he allegedly remarked to his staff.

This is racism in its most recognizable, blatant form: the powerful bigot creating structural obstacles against the advancement of poor minorities. But there’s another piece to Sterling’s warped worldview, one that illustrates the bizarre and incoherent ways in which racism works. As Sterling allegedly schemed to rid his properties of certain racial minorities, he sought to fill his development with Koreans, an ethnic group he valorized as hardworking and reliable.

Sterling did not take a passive approach to attracting Korean tenants. He changed the name of one of his buildings to “Korean World Towers,” adorned his buildings with Korean flags, and explicitly stated a preference for “Koreans” in his housing ads. A group of tenants, who saw this as a thinly disguised attempt to discriminate against black and Latino housing applicants, filed a discrimination case against Sterling in 2002. In 2003, a U.S. district judge issued an injunction barring him from using the word “Korean” in his building names and advertisements.

Why did Donald Sterling love Koreans? At a basic level, he was buying into the myth of the “model minority”: the perception that Asian-Americans, compared with other nonwhite minorities, are innately intelligent and well-behaved. To Sterling, this made them ideal tenants: “[Koreans] will live in whatever conditions [I give] them and still pay the rent without complaint,” he allegedly remarked. His respect for the Asian immigrant’s quiet diligence extended to his own business. According to ESPN’s Peter Keating, in 2003 Sterling’s real estate business “had 74 white employees, four Latinos, zero blacks, and 30 Asians.” Lest you think Sterling’s prejudices begin and end with race, note that 26 of his 30 Asian employees were women, and that he wanted them to fulfill an Orientalist fantasy. One former employee claimed that Sterling would “tell me that I needed to learn the ‘Asian way’ from his younger girls because they knew how to please him.”

Legions of social scientists and historians have debunked the myth of the Asian-American’s “natural” orientation toward economic achievement. They point out that it is more a function of immigration trends in the 1960s, which favored East Asian professionals who often arrived with significant educational and wealth advantages. In the mythical retelling, the minority’s model behavior speaks to an inborn superiority, an almost genetic predisposition to success. This is the flip side of a deeply held, racist worldview: Alongside the “undesirable,” vermin-attracting minority groups, there is another group that does everything right. Why did Donald Sterling idealize Koreans? Because, in his view, they did whatever Donald Sterling wanted them to do, and they did it without complaint.

This will all sound very familiar to Asian-Americans, cast as the put-upon overachievers, whose head-down, by-the-bootstraps stoicism has resulted in remarkable educational and financial attainment. The “model minority” myth persists in part because it is cited as evidence that the system works. It makes for a great story—the plucky, determined Asian-American succeeding where others have failed. But the ultimate beneficiaries of this racial typecasting are the people who invoke the model as a bludgeon against others. Sterling’s admiration for his Korean tenants is actually a kind of scorn. After all, he still subjected Korean tenants to the same degrading treatment as everyone else—the only difference is that the Koreans seemed willing to take it.

For Asian-Americans who eagerly stand with other minorities in denouncing Sterling, this is all very awkward—even more so because Sterling’s history of housing discrimination is filled with small moments of Asian-American complicity. The housing case brought against Sterling in 2003 includes black, Latino, and white plaintiffs but no Korean-Americans. We have not been able to find prominent public complaints against Sterling by any Asian-American individuals or groups. There are also troubling stories of Sterling at one point replacing his security team with “Korean-born guards who were hostile to non-Koreans.”

Of course, focusing exclusively on one minority’s gain when pitted against another risks obscuring the bigger picture. These moments when Korean-Americans enter the Sterling narrative are a reminder of how, on the rare occasions when Asians are invited in to a public conversation about racism, it is to play the role of the middleman. This is how California’s debates around affirmative action, for example, have become framed, with Asian-Americans as the purported victims of policies that benefit their fellow minorities.

We don’t have a good way to talk about any of this publicly. More often than not, observers frame America’s racial dramas according to a black-white binary, one that abides by familiar tropes of hateful bigotry and righteous condemnation. This dynamic is central to American history, yet it feels inadequate in moments like these. While it’s not quite on par with degrading other minorities as lazy or filthy, Sterling’s praise for his hardworking Korean tenants and the “Asian way” reveals how racism can be a collection of contradictory impulses. Love and hate, praise and condescension—they are all engines of exploitation.

Above all, Sterling saw the world in terms of winners and losers (“I like people who are achievers,” he once noted), and he used this logic to categorize racial groups along a sliding scale of desirability. For Sterling, Koreans never merited the decency of being looked upon as individual human beings. Rather, they were a faceless bloc, a group of indistinguishable “achievers” that did nothing more than provide the contrast that enabled his contempt for blacks. This is the lesson of Donald Sterling’s racism: A hierarchy that flatters those at the top and demeans those at the bottom can only serve to distract us from noticing the one shuffling the rankings.

via Donald Sterling, Koreans: What the Clippers owner’s love of Korean-Americans reveals about racism in America..

Jeremy Lin on his season, trade rumors and future in Houston

On Sunday morning, Jeremy Lin’s cell phone alarm went off. He looked at it, and there in his calendar notifications were the words that would ruin his day.

“Game 7.”

The Rockets guard forgot to delete the calendar item when the Rockets lost in Game 6 to Portland on Friday night.

“That kind of sucked,” Lin said. “That’s probably when it really hit me. It’s over. It’s weird. No more film, no more anything, It’s over.”

After the loss on Friday which came on a fadeaway 3-point shot from Trail Blazers’ guard Damian Lillard with 0.9 seconds to play, Lin was in a state of disbelief.

He sat in the locker room motionless, barely reacting when anyone spoke to him.

“It doesn’t feel real,” he repeated over and over.

It was, though, and the roller coaster ride that Lin had been on since training camp came to an abrupt stop. And he wasn’t quite ready to get off.

The season started with Lin back as one of the faces of the “New Age” Rockets squad. He, along with guard James Harden and center Dwight Howard were on every billboard, internet ad and message board having anything to do with the team.

Lin had a new mo

via Jeremy Lin on his season, trade rumors and future in Houston – Ultimate Rockets.

Former Washington High star was first Asian-American to land NBA training camp invite | Prep Sports | San Francisco | San Francisco Examiner

As Linsanity gripped the nation, more than two years ago now, a cluster of Asian-American men who loved basketball came together in San Francisco.

They had a friend who’d starred some 50 years before Jeremy Lin, and they felt that he should be considered as much of a forerunner, at least at the local level, as the former Palo Alto High School and Harvard star.

Soon, a bid for the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame narrowed into focus.

At first, Norman Owyoung Jang, the man in question, was reticent. He’s not too keen on displays of self-promotion, but friends and family convinced him that this would be a chance to show his grandchildren what he’d done. How he was one of the premier prep talents of his age. Jang relented: If it was for his family, he was all in.

He still didn’t expect anything would come of it.

But Steve Nakajo, part of that band of friends that has gathered for the past 25 years to play basketball, led a spirited campaign. He nominated Jang to the Hall of Fame committee, and produced a stirring presentation to the board.

This past February, Jang, who starred at Washington High from 1956-59 and became the first Asian-American to try out with the Warriors in ’64, received a letter declaring that he was set to be inducted into the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame.

The 2014 class also includes Walt Arnold (Sacred Heart, football), Paul Fortier (St. Ignatius, basketball), Dave McCall (Mission, basketball), Michele McMahon (Washington, softball), Steve Sewell (Riordan, football-track and field), Ronald Whitaker (Wilson, track and field), Gene Womack (Polytechnic, basketball-track & field), Jeff Thollander (Portrero Hill, Enola Maxwell, coach) and Anne Heiline (former AAA commissioner).

“I feel honored to do it,” Jang said. With his wife, Betty, he added, “I usually think I’m too old for something like this.”

Since the announcement, Jang’s friends and family have accounted for some 100 reservations for the ceremony, which is scheduled for May 17 at the Spanish Cultural Center. All but two of his grandchildren will be in attendance. A daughter will be making the trip from Georgia.

And to think how it all began.

Jang arrived in San Francisco from China just before he turned 10. He quickly took up the sport of basketball, darting around Chinatown to the recreational center, then to the blacktop.

He’d play pick-up games with friends, imitating the dribbling of Boston Celtics great and personal favorite Bob Cousy until his legs grew too tired to move. He developed an unorthodox shooting motion, his hands jutting past the right side of his head, with his release coming at an angle that made it almost impossible to block.

At Francisco Middle, his coach, Tommy Kim, convinced him to pursue the sport. Since Jang’s father often worked long hours at the family’s grocery business, Kim would invite Jang to have dinner with his family after practice. Jang calls Kim a second father.

Coming out of Francisco Middle, Jang attended Washington, but not after a transcript mix-up meant he would be ineligible to play basketball his freshman year.

When he became eligible, he thrived. Jang helped the Eagles 130s team (the equivalent of JV) win more than 50 games in a row before he was moved to varsity in his junior year. Two losses to Polytechnic in the city championship game stung, but Jang, then 5-foot-4, dazzled audiences with his high-flying, dexterous display.

After Washington, he had an offer from San Jose State, but as a new husband with a baby on the way, he turned it down to enter the workforce. He still starred for the S.F. Saints, a local Chinese team. They played service teams — Army, Air Force, Navy — filled with former collegiate All-Americans.

“That’s how I got my experience,” Jang said. “I played against those big guys.”

Betty Jang remembers those games vividly.

“They’d play these teams that would see this group of small guys and think it wouldn’t even be a game,” she said. “And then, that shocked look on their faces when they saw how well Norman’s team could play.”

In 1964, the Warriors — then based in San Francisco — took note and invited him to training camp. He was the first Chinese-American to do so.

He felt he acquitted himself well but in the end, he was told that at 5-7 (he’d sprouted since high school), he was too short to be a viable option. Owner Frank Mieuli sent a note offering his condolences and noting that Jang would one day become known as a groundbreaker for the Asian community, but that offered little comfort. Jang just wanted to make the team.

So it is with some catharsis that another letter, 50 years later, heralded inclusion into a select group.

Nakajo is a few years younger than Jang, but considers him a hero. “The S.F. Hall of Fame bid felt like unfinished business,” Nakajo said. “I told him, ‘It’s for your children and grandchildren but it’s also for our generation, too.’ Lin showed America what Asian-Americans can do, but Norman was our guy. He was amazing.”

When Jang was honored at the Chinese Historical Society, his granddaughter couldn’t hide her surprise.

“I didn’t know you played basketball!” she said.

He still plays with his friends at any gym with an available court.

Jang turns 75 this August, but he’ll still head to the park with his grandchildren to shoot hoops, or show some dribbling tricks.

“His life is basketball,” Betty said.

via Former Washington High star was first Asian-American to land NBA training camp invite | Prep Sports | San Francisco | San Francisco Examiner.

Jeremy Lin teaches Kevin McHale a lesson in team ball — not Linsanity

In the end, Clutch — the Houston Rockets’ mascot bear — is shooting off a confetti streamers gun, as if the Rockets have won a series or something, not just the first of the three straight elimination games they need. Three different Rocket players are being interviewed on the court — Dwight Howard by TNT, Jeremy Lin by CSN and Chandler Parsons for the in-house feed broadcast on the giant scoreboard.

And the guy who shows up at Toyota Center carrying that “See y’all Sunday” sign is feeling better about himself.

All because Jeremy Lin finally has the Rockets offense in his hands. With Kevin McHale essentially out of other options, Lin’s allowed to play like a true point guard for one of the first times all season.

The result?

Predictably, the Rockets look like more of a team than they have all series and pull out a 108-98 Game 5 brush back of Portland. This is what it looks like when everyone’s involved and James Harden’s not just dominating the ball.

It’s not Linsanity. It’s about his coach finally finding forced sanity.

The forced and tired references to Linsanity returning whenever Lin receives the chance to play a major role are silly and clueless. That storyline completely ignores reality. This isn’t about Jeremy Lin discovering his long-lost A Game.

It’s not Linsanity. It’s about his coach finally finding forced sanity.

Lin’s always been capable of leading the Rockets this way. He’s just usually denied the opportunity.

On this Wednesday night, the near supernova combination of McHale’s beloved Patrick Beverley being completely zapped by a 101-degree fever and Harden looking so lost that not even McHale can ignore it, gives the Rockets coach little choice but to turn to Lin.

“He played better,” McHale says of Lin in his postgame news conference. “Jeremy has had some very good games for us.

“We needed him.”

If that sounds a little like damning with faint praise — particularly the “he played better” qualifier — so be it. Jeremy Lin is used to being underappreciated by his own coach.

The complementary players Lin gets more involved in the game certainly know what playing with a true point guard can do for one’s game. It’s no coincidence that Omer Asik plays his best game of the series by far (10 points, 15 rebounds) with Lin running the show.

Lin knows how to get an offensively limited big man engaged in a game. See Tyson Chandler. In fact, it’s no big wonder that these Rockets almost look like the Knicks of Lin’s heady New York run during stretches of Game 5. The ball’s moving, everyone’s hustling because they know there’s always a chance they’ll get a pass (something not true when it’s all Harden Hero Ball) and the Trail Blazers don’t know who to focus on defensively.

Jeremy Lin’s Passing Ways

Lin’s only credited with four assists, but they all come in the last 6:52 of the first quarter (yes, with Beverley gasping for air, Lin gets into the game at a juncture that must feel unfathomably early to McHale), setting an immediate tone. One of those assists is a drop off to Asik inside for an easy dunk after Lin drives deep into the lane. Another is a fast break pass to Chandler Parsons for a 3-pointer. The other two set up no-stress dunks for Asik and Howard.

With Jeremy Lin attacking, the Rockets are attacking — as a team. And they’ll never stop, racking up a whopping 60 points in the paint and collecting 23 assists to the Blazers’ 14.

For the first time in one of the most entertaining first round NBA playoff series you’ll ever see, the Rockets don’t face final minute angst. They’re actually running out the clock rather than trying to set up a desperate last shot against the fifth seed.

With Jeremy Lin attacking, the Rockets are attacking — as a team. And they’ll never stop.

This is what giving a true point guard control of the team — at least for important stretches — can do.

Jeremy Lin finishes with a playoff career-high 21 points on 9 for 15 shooting in 31 minutes of playing time. But more than his own numbers, it’s about the balance he brings. Four Rockets score between 17 and 22 points. No player takes more than 22 shots and five Rockets get at least 12 shots.

In many ways, it’s a clinic in the power of teamwork. One hopes McHale is taking note, but with Jeremy Lin delivering the lesson that’s highly unlikely. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to imagine the Rockets reverting to their Hero Ball ways under the immense pressure of Game 6 in Portland Friday night.

That game’s likely to decide the series. Home teams don’t lose Game 7s. But the Rockets, still down 3-2 in the series, still need to get to Sunday.

Jeremy Lin gets them to Friday. The Rockets game operations crew break out all the stops for this Game 5. But all those snazzy red Clutch City T-shirts and the timeout skit with the little kid dressed as Clark Kent popping out of a phone booth as Superman can’t do what Lin can. Hit the shots that break the Blazers’ back.

“It seemed like Jeremy Lin hit big shot after big shot,” veteran Blazers guard Wesley Matthews says in his televised postgame dais time.

Lin hits two at the shot clock buzzer, including a double clutch 3-pointer in which he somehow maintains his shooting balance. He shows more emotion that he has all series too, turning back at half court and giving a flying near Tiger Woods-worthy fist pump to the crowd after one of his shots forces a Portland timeout. His game’s finally unchained for at least a night. He’s going to enjoy it.

“God is good,” the religious Lin says in his on-the-court TV interview moments after a Game 6 is guaranteed. “It’s been a rough couple of days. But God’s given me a lot of peace.”

After taking all that criticism for that Game 4 turnover — while others received a free pass for the same — Lin’s given the Blazers a few uneasy nights of wait. He’s given the Rockets a blueprint on how they can control and still win this series.

Is anyone listening?

via Jeremy Lin teaches Kevin McHale a lesson in team ball — not Linsanity – CultureMap Houston.

Jeremy Lin unfairly crucified as Kevin McHale throws him under the bus

The tale of two turnovers tells it all about these Houston Rockets and the sickening double standard that’s haunting this franchise.

Jeremy Lin loses the ball in a crucial moment late in regulation after he’s put in an impossible position by Kevin McHale — and Lin’s absolutely crucified for it. Patrick Beverley loses the ball in the closing seconds of overtime, stopping the Rockets from ever getting off a game-tying shot — and Beverley’s given a complete free pass.

Surprised?

The one-sided venomous reaction in the wake of the Rockets’ 123-120 loss to Portland in Game 4 of a first round playoff series couldn’t be more predictable, telling or sad. The fans — and the segment of reporters acting like they’re waving pom poms at the games — who love to hate Jeremy Lin are almost gleeful in their condemnation. Of one of the turnovers. The other turnover? The Beverley turnover?

Well, that’s understandable. Beverley must have been mugged. He’s a warrior, you know!

It’d all almost be comical. If it wasn’t so clearly bigoted.

On a night when both Rockets point guards commit almost the same exact blunder, a night when TNT commentator Reggie Miller rightfully laces into James Harden for completely giving up on getting back on defense (and giving away a fast break to Nicolas Batum) because he’s pouting about not getting the ball on offense, a night when McHale is once again completely out coached by Terry Stotts, it’s absurd to blame this loss on one player.

Yet, Jeremy Lin is still predictably the lone Rocket being blamed.

It’d all almost be comical. If it wasn’t so clearly bigoted.

Which is laughable considering McHale benches Lin for all but 21 minutes of this 53-minute thriller — only to throw him into a ridiculous situation in the last minute of regulation. Lin’s pulled from the game with 6:41 remaining and then put back in with only 50 seconds left. As cold as can be thanks to the long exile, he’s asked to help save the Rockets on defense as they cling to a slim lead.

Should Lin call a timeout when he corrals the rebound after having more than done his defensive job? Certainly. There’s no need to dribble up court, exposing the ball — which allows Blazers veteran Mo Williams to swoop in from behind for the steal. But it’s hardly the main reason the Rockets lose.

Yes, McHale tells all the Rockets to call a timeout if they get the ball and there’s not a clear fast break opportunity the other way. Lin fails to call the timeout. Just like Beverley fails to pass the ball ahead like McHale instructs him to before the last play of overtime and dribbles right into a double team at half court instead.

Two mental mistakes. Lin’s crucified for his, Beverley’s given a free pass for his. Welcome to Rockets basketball!

The situations are so nearly identical that one can’t help but half wonder for an instant if some wicked basketball god set this up to highlight just how glaring the double standard against Jeremy Lin truly is.

To both Lin and Beverley’s credit, each player insists on taking responsibility and owning up to his own mistake.

“It shouldn’t have been in overtime in the first place,” a stone faced, shoulder slumped Lin says in a locker room interview shown on CSN  Houston. “I should have held onto the ball and called timeout.”

For his part, Beverley refuses to grab onto the lame excuses offered by some of his media defenders — and Lin haters. “He made a good play on the ball,” Beverley says of Wesley Matthews coming in to strip him at half court with the Rockets trying to force double overtime.

Unfortunately, McHale does not show the same grace.

Kevin McHale’s Playoff Panic

In his own postgame news conference, the Rockets coach goes out of his way to point out that he told the players to call a timeout in the situation Lin loses the ball in.

“Jeremy gets the defensive rebound and dribbles it out and we lose the ball,” McHale huffs. “We couldn’t be any clearer, than ‘Clear break or timeout.’ “

Two mental mistakes. Lin’s crucified for his, Beverley’s given a free pass for his. Welcome to Rockets basketball!

Then, almost as if catching himself and realizing Larry Bird would have slapped him across the head if he threw a Celtic teammate like that under the bus back in the day, McHale suddenly adds: “That’s not (Lin’s) fault, he made a basketball play.”

Jeremy Lin is guaranteed to get the hateful scorn, but McHale’s fooling himself if he thinks his own blunders aren’t being noticed by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and owner Leslie Alexander. Lin is not the reason the favored Rockets are in a 3-1 series hole, needing to somehow win three straight elimination games to prevent the season from ending in utter, crushing disaster.

Four games into the series, McHale’s still butchering his bench rotations. He’s finally rightfully giving D-League shooting wonder Troy Daniels some run, getting 17 points and only two missed shots from the rook on Sunday night. But now he’s completely benched Francisco Garcia and cut Lin’s time nearly in half —the game after Lin made the heady play that resulted in the Rockets only series win.

It doesn’t look like McHale’s coaching on feel. It looks like he’s coaching on panic.

The only thing that might possibly give Houston life is the boneheaded, gloating move made by Mo Williams, who walks all the way over to the Rockets bench after the final buzzer to mock Troy Daniels of all players. Harden rightly steps in front of Daniels and goes right back at Williams.

For at least a moment in Rip City, the Rockets are finally standing together rather than yelling at each other. “It’s just hard to play a team and then play ourselves at the same time,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons says in his televised postgame dais moment, hinting at the real discord.

Jeremy Lin’s the one being crucified. But he’s not the Rockets true problem. Not even close. That’s as clear as those two turnovers.

via Jeremy Lin unfairly crucified as Kevin McHale throws him under the bus – CultureMap Houston.

Guard Chris Tang commits to NCAA D1 U.C. Riverside

 The Canarias Basketball Academy is pleased to announce that Chris Tang, originally from Lianyungang City, China, verbally committed to the UC Riverside Highlanders from the strong Big West Conference!

chris_tang_eng

Coach Rob Orellena is very familiar with the conference, having been an assistant at both UC Irvine and Cal Sate Fullerton. “Riverside is getting one the biggest steals in the late signing period in Chris, a 6-4 combo guard who is known for his deep range 3- point shooting and play making. I am very excited for Chris and his family with the great news”.

With this announcement, the Canarias Basketball Academy continues to be the most powerful academy in the world producing Division 1 basketball players.

Chris recently led CBA’s U-18 team to a berth in Spain’s 2014 National Youth Championships in May, averaging a team high 15.5ppg and shooting 44% from behind the 3-point arc. Last year, Chris played his junior season in the United States, playing for the prestigious Oak Hill Academy that finished 33-6 on the season and ended the year ranked 18th in the country.

JOSÉ JUAN MARTÍN

Moreover, Chris played his freshmen and sophomore season in the States at Hampton Roads where he earned 1st All State honors both seasons, averaging 20.2ppg as a sophomore and 17.8ppg as a freshmen.

These are Chris Tang’s thoughts on the exciting news:  “My goal is to help UCR basketball win a Big West Championship, earn my college degree, and one day represent the China Men’s National Team and participate in the Olympic Games”.

Here you are Chris Tang’s highlights during our last CBA USA TOUR in 2014:

via CHRIS TANG COMMITS TO UC RIVERSIDE AND CANARIAS BASKETBALL ACADEMY CONTINUES POWERFUL TRADITION | Canarias Basketball Academy.

 

Filipino-American Jason Brickman lead the nation in assists and became fourth player to 1,000 assists in NCAA Div 1

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Senior point guard Jason Brickman closed out his LIU Brooklyn career by becoming just the fourth player in NCAA history to record 1,000 assists in the Blackbirds’ 81-62 loss to Bryant on Saturday.

Brickman, who had 12 assists in the game, tied his own LIU and Northeast Conference single-season record with 290 assists in 2013-14. In the process, he also became just the second player in men’s college basketball history to average a double-double in points and assists in a year (Avery Johnson — Southern, 1987-88).

Needing only three assists to join an exclusive club that featured just three members, Brickman got things started with a backdoor feed to redshirt junior Troy Joseph at the 16:11 mark of the first half. Less than four minutes later, he found Joseph for a 3-pointer to give him 999 for his four-year career.

The 3-ball from Joseph and a free throw from sophomore E.J. Reed pulled the Blackbirds within four at 15-11 at the 11:51 mark. But a 9-2 spurt by Bryant that was capped by a layup from Alex Francis bumped the margin to double digits, 34-23, with 8:50 remaining in the opening half.

On the ensuing possession, the historic assist came to fruition as Brickman dished to junior Gerrell Martin for a 3-pointer to spark a 7-0 run that brought LIU within 24-20. He finished the half with six assists, and the Blackbirds went into the locker room with the same four-point deficit, 36-32.

The second half was one mired by offensive struggles for LIU Brooklyn, as the team missed its first nine shots and turned the ball over five times in the first 6:34. The Bulldogs built a 19-point lead over the stretch, with Corey Maynard leading the way with 11 points during the span to give his team control.

Brickman finally got the offense going with an assist on another 3-ball from Martin, then assisted on a layup by junior Gilbert Parga to pull LIU within 56-42 near the midway point of the period. That margin is as close as it would get, however, as Bryant built up a comfortable margin the rest of the way.

The only drama down the stretch was whether or not Brickman would secure a double-digit average for the season. Needing three more dimes with 2:40 to go, he threaded the needle with a pass to Reed for a difficult layup down low. On LIU’s next possession, Joseph cut through the middle of the lane for a contested hoop off a pass from Brickman to put him one away.

After a couple missed opportunities, Brickman finally got his 12th assist on a backdoor cut to Martin for a layup with 40 seconds remaining. Brickman, who finishes his career with 1,009 to rank fourth all-time, exited to a standing ovation for the final time in his LIU Brooklyn career.

via LIU Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman becomes fourth player to 1,000 assists | NCAA.com.

Jeremy Lin News: Could Houston Rockets Guard’s Inconsistency Hurt His Playing Time During NBA Playoffs?

It’s been a little more than a week since Beverley went down, possibly for the season, thanks to a meniscus injury, one almost similar to the one that ended Lin’s magical 2012 NBA season in New York, which led to Lin getting a dramatic increase in playing time. Prior to that, Lin’s minutes were largely fluctuating coming off the bench for Houston, with the inconsistency in playing time and some nagging injuries causing his numbers to slip after the All-Star break, his scoring average dipping from 13.3 points prior to the All-Star break to 11.1 points afterwards and his shooting dropping from 46.6 percent to 40 percent during that period.

After Beverley’s ill-timed injury, Lin was expected to get a boost in his offensive categories thanks to more playing time and, by default, more shooting opportunities. So far, Lin’s scoring opportunities have definitely increased over his last five games, his field goal attempts climbing from 9.1 in his last 23 games to 12.8 shots per game within the last week. Yet, that increase in shots has only translated into marginal gains, at best, in key offensive areas…

via Jeremy Lin News: Could Houston Rockets Guard’s Inconsistency Hurt His Playing Time During NBA Playoffs? : Sports : Latino Post.

Jeremy Lin’s spark can light Rockets’ fire

The Rockets look powerful when Dwight Howard is making his presence felt in the low post, grabbing rebounds for put-backs, spinning in the lane to drop in those jump hooks he’s honing in during workouts with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon.

The Rockets look like a tough nut to crack when James Harden is weaving like a wild-eyed taxi driver through traffic in the lane to finish for improbable layups and stepping back to stab in his long 3-pointers with ease.

But the Rockets become positively confounding to defenders when Jeremy Lin is doing all of the things he can do. Which is why Lin’s recent emergence from a slump is worth noting.

“We need Jeremy,” said coach Kevin McHale. “He just makes a lot of things happen and when he is rolling it just gives us more versatility to do different things.”

While there will never be a return to the “Linsanity” days in New York, that ability to strike inside and out, create for his teammates, get all the way to the rim and hit a critical shot from the outside is what can elevate Houston to being the most difficult offense to stop in the Western Conference.

The Rockets don’t need him to be the big hammer in their attack as much as a bowling ball that strikes and send pins…

via Lin’s spark can light Rockets’ fire « Hang Time Blog with Sekou Smith | NBA.com.

Jeremy Lin demands more minutes: Kevin McHale’s blatant misuse stings

News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

Desperate and running out of time, Kevin McHale finally frees his banished star.

This is how it goes for Jeremy Lin. When the Houston Rockets coach has exhausted every other possible way to try and win the game, he might give Lin a chance to make a difference. McHale will throw Lin into an impossible position and see what happens.

More often than it should, more than often than anyone has a right to expect considering how often Lin’s been jerked around, something like Sunday night happens. Lin pops off the bench, receives his first extended playing time in 17 days and goes crazy. He drops in 26 points, hits the go-ahead jumper in overtime, gets to the free throw line 12 times and makes up for starting point guard Patrick Beverley’s hideous zero assist, minus-two, 36-minute game.

Jeremy Lin can still play. He still has moments of pure basketball insanity in him. He just needs a real chance.

It’s the kind of performance that screams out for more playing time. Demands it.

With every fearless drive and pull-up jumper, Jeremy Lin serves notice that the Rockets need him in order to be anything more than another Houston team that goes on a dazzling second half of the season run only to flame out early in the playoffs (remember those 22-game-win-streak, 55-wins-overall 2007-08 Rockets who promptly bowed out to the Utah Jazz in the first round?) When Lin turns and unleashes a full-throat scream after one overtime dagger, he might as well be yelling at all the doubters.

Yes, Jeremy Lin can still play. He still has moments of pure basketball insanity in him. He just needs a real chance. More than once every eight games.

“If you ask me it feels good, yeah it feels good,” Lin tells the TV cameras after the great escape against a Portland team that still fancies itself as one of the Western Conference elite.

Lin’s demise hasn’t just been greatly exaggerated. It’s been completely orchestrated by a coach whose doghouse seems dictated by personal beliefs rather than player performance.

What other player in the NBA has a player whose capable of dropping in 26 points off the bench one night and racking up a triple double as a reserve on another?

It’s like the Rockets have a Jamal Crawford and an Evan Turner coming off their bench — only they’re barely playing him.

The other Rockets are starting to acknowledge Lin’s unmistakable talent.

“Jeremy Lin had an amazing game,,” Dwight Howard tells the CSN cameras after the Portland comeback.

Even the commentators on the the Rockets’ own cable network are beginning to recognize the faulty strategy of continually benching and belittling Lin.

Damon Jones — the former Miami Heat guard turned CSN Rockets analyst — argued on air days before the Portland explosion that Lin is not being given a fair chance to produce or break out of any so-called slump.

“He only played 16 minutes the other night,” Jones says. “You can’t find a rhythm in 16 minutes.”

Jones found himself debating against 610 AM host Nick Wright, who always seems to be on the bully side raging against anyone whose draft status and demeanor don’t fit his definition of what a professional athlete should look like (see Case Keenum).

There’s no denying it now though. Lin’s 26-point throwdown demands that he needs more time.

Oklahoma City Conundrum

On almost any other team in the NBA, with any other coach, Lin’s latest star turn would guarantee him instant increased playing time. This trend of yanking away his starting job for no sound reason, the reducing of him from the sixth man to virtually the eighth man, would end with that fourth quarter. On any other team, with any other coach.

After all, Lin shattered the notion that he and James Harden can’t excel together. They dominate the fourth quarter and overtime as a duo. When Harden — the rightful repeat Western Conference Player of the Week — isn’t hitting a big shot, Lin is knocking one down.

There’s no denying it now though. Lin’s 26-point throwdown demands that he needs more time.

This represents the Rockets at their most offensively dangerous.

Unfortunately, these are also the Rockets of McHale’s senseless and very selective quick hook.

Lin could be reduced to a bit player again as soon as Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. It doesn’t matter how hot he comes into the night. There’s a good chance McHale will try and see if can win the game without him.

Jeremy Lin’s play couldn’t be screaming any louder for a larger role and a real chance.

But does anyone really think Kevin McHale has any interest in listening?

via Jeremy Lin demands more minutes: Kevin McHale’s blatant misuse stings – CultureMap Houston.

Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lin Disappearing in Favor of Harden-Ball & Patrick Beverley

Jeremy Lin e1393856276927 Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lin Disappearing in Favor of Harden Ball & Patrick Beverley

Statistically and analytically, the Houston Rockets play their best lineups when they don’t include Jeremy Lin. However, the decision to pretty much give up on his importance and contribution, while handing the team over completely to James Harden and his sidekick, the overrated Patrick Beverley.

Things change quickly in the NBA, especially when you have a head coach who is out to get you. I’m not saying Kevin McHale made a decision at the beginning of last season to derail Lin’s career, but it’s quite clear that he and his coaching staff don’t hold him in high regard, and prefer to spend as much time as possible with him on the bench or not playing next to key players.

Lin had a very good stretch in late January and early February. Beverley not playing, or Harden not playing, didn’t just make him look very good, but the entire Rockets team play like a completely different team. But the last couple of weeks? Since the loss to the Golden State Warriors, it seems like Lin has been demoted. A team with only him as a viable backup guard (not just point guard) should play him a bit more than 17-to-20 minutes a night, but he’s averaging only 19.5 minutes over the last four games.

And when you get to that point, it’s hard to stand out, especially when it’s a player like Lin. Numbers are nice, but some players aren’t measured by stats. As Stan Van Gundy said during the Sloan Sports Analytics conference, statistics and analytics are very nice but they don’t always mean that much. Some things can only be seen by watching and understanding, and not from looking at box scores and digested stat columns.

Maybe if Lin was different he’d be making it about scoring 10-12 points during the 15-20 minutes he has on the floor; take a page from the James Harden book. But Lin isn’t that kind of player, in term of personality and his abilities. He’s an excellent passer and penetrates as well as Harden, but he doesn’t have that ability to draw fouls and finish near the rim while three bodies are banging at him.

James Harden Patrick Beverley Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lin Disappearing in Favor of Harden Ball & Patrick Beverley

It doens’t make him less of a player, or any less important to the Rockets, but he has fallen into certain perceptions it is hard to shake. A bad defender for example. When Beverley started getting more minutes last season, he was referred to as a good defender. But we’ve seen how badly he’s done this season against quality players. Maybe there’s more of a pesky quality to him Lin doesn’t, but he’s more than slightly overrated as a defender.

When a team wins, it’s hard to argue with a head coach and his decisions. The Rockets have dropped a game to the Clippers because of that hero-ball McHale is so proud of, but Harden isn’t measured by the same rigid standards Lin is. When a player has to be perfect to get minutes and even that doesn’t help, there’s not much left for him to do but actually hope, deep inside, that someone on this team gets injured so his minutes go up and his importance is revealed again.

But Lin isn’t like this; he understands the situation, which isn’t helping him play any better due to the shakiness of his minutes, the lineups he’s with and obviously being affected by the depreciation of his standing in the eyes of his coach for whatever reason McHale has. When the Rockets get knocked out of the playoffs because they didn’t have a confident point guard to help them out, it won’t be surprising if for some reason the fingers will be pointed at Lin, instead of where they really should be directed.

via Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lin Disappearing in Favor of Harden-Ball & Patrick Beverley | Sportige.

Yuta Watanabe opts to go to George Washington University

Japanese basketball phenom Yuta Watanabe will commit to George Washington University next season, he revealed on his Twitter account on Tuesday.

“I’ve decided to go to George Washington University,” Watanabe tweeted. “The school has a good basketball team, too. I’m sure I’ll have hard times both in basketball and academics, but I’ll give it my best shot.”

Watanabe reportedly received an offer from Fordham University as well. According to ESPN’s Adam Finkelstein, Watanabe was torn between George Washington and Fordham until recently.

The 19-year-old has attended St. Thomas More School, a preparatory school in Oakdale, Connecticut, since last fall and has been a core player of its men’s basketball team.

GWU is located in Washington, D.C., and its men’s basketball team belongs to the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Colonials have made the NCAA Tournament 10 times and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 1993.

George Washington has produced several NBA players. In addition, legendary former Boston Celtics head coach Red Auerbach graduated from the school.

Watanabe, a native of Kagawa Prefecture, will become one of very few Japanese-born men to have played at an NCAA Division I school, following in the footsteps of Keijuro “K.J.” Matsui and Taishi Ito, both of whom played for Division I schools in the U.S., Columbia and Portland, respectively, before returning to Japan.

According to Ben Standig of Comcast Sportsnet Washington, Watanabe will become the fifth international player on the Colonials’ 2014-15 roster.

Watanabe, who was listed as 201 cm last year but is presumably taller now, gained recognition by guiding his Jinsei High School team to runnerup finishes in 2011 and 2012 in the All-Japan Tournament.

He has also already played for the Japan national team.

via Watanabe opts to go to George Washington U. | The Japan Times.

‘Linsanity’ Makes a Comeback in China

The morning of Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, was the evening of Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, in the U.S. In New York’s Madison Square Garden, the Knicks were playing the Nets, and at my Shanghai gym, a larger than normal crowd of fit Shanghainese were gathered around a television to watch the live broadcast.

This was the first time I’d seen significant interest in a National Basketball Association game since the retirement of national hero Yao Ming a year earlier, and I found all the excitement curious. It wasn’t until I arrived home and logged onto the then-thriving Sina Weibo service that I found out what the hubbub was all about: a Taiwanese-American, ethnically Chinese reserve point guard by the name of Jeremy Lin had single-handedly sparked a Knicks win with 25 points on 10 for 19 shooting, seven assists and five rebounds.

The game wasn’t over more than two hours before ecstatic Chinese sports fans started driving Lin’s name up trending-topic lists, and Linsanity, the Chinese edition, was underway. Over the next few weeks, Lin put up record-setting numbers (since the 1976-77 season no player had scored more points in his first three starts — not even Larry Bird or Michael Jordan) and catalyzed a Knicks win streak. He inspired tens of millions of tweets, hundreds if not thousands of news stories and blog posts, and the patriotic pride of millions of Chinese and several eager-to-take-credit public officials. If, in the U.S., Lin’s was a rags-to-riches story, in China it was something much more profound.

Why, Chinese microbloggers asked, couldn’t China produce a basketball player as talented as Lin? Was there something wrong with how China trained its athletes or did the problem go deeper? And why, they wondered, did it take so long for Lin’s talents to be noticed in the U.S.? Was race a factor?

Then, just 26 games and one season-ending surgery later, Linsanity was over. Rather than return to New York, Lin signed with Houston for the 2012-13 season, where he was expected to become a face — if not the face — of the franchise. But Lin quickly regressed from the torrid pace he’d set during Linsanity. In the last two years, he’s established himself as a mostly average backup point guard overshadowed by two much bigger and more talented stars.

The drop-off has had an obvious impact in China, where Lin’s name rarely trends outside of sports discussions, which are now often concerned with whether he’s really so great, after all, or just in need of a new team. “Actually, his ability is indeed limited, and not nearly as excellent as some sports commentators say,” tweeted a representative Sina Weibo user back on Jan. 9. “Although I also hope he’ll be great, his ability and strength can’t compare with top players! Can’t we be more objective?”

Not everyone is ready to accept the decline of Lin into an average (overpaid) NBA point guard so easily. Indeed, a strong thread in the Chinese discussion of Lin’s fall from grandeur remains the role that race has played in his journey. This argument was expounded most recently by Pan Jinqin, a veteran Beijing sports reporter, in a Nov. 13 op-ed for Hong Kong-based Phoenix Sports, entitled: “Jeremy Lin will always be discriminated against in the NBA.”

It is, in many respects, an ugly and paranoid piece that impugns the motives of many in the NBA, including Rockets head coach and NBA Hall of Famer Kevin McHale: “McHale said several times last season that Linsanity wouldn’t last, and that Lin should stop pursuing the glory of it. Nonetheless, when an African-American such as [rookie of the year candidate] Michael Carter Williams has the same kinds of performances, why does he receive only praise and no doubts?”

The answer, as Pan sees it, is discrimination against Lin and other ethnically Chinese athletes, quieted only when they perform at a level that exceeds the norm.

For Lin, conveniently, that performance came on Saturday in Houston , days before the second anniversary of Linsanity, when he scored his first career triple-double in a win against Cleveland (a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that he did it coming off the bench). By mid-afternoon on Feb. 2 (the day the game was played in China), Lin was trending strongly on Sina Weibo (a service now much reduced in influence and interest). His performance was generating hundreds of tweets per hour from fans who had apparently been waiting for two years for something about which to cheer.

For those willing to accept the NBA as a league where talent determines playing time, Lin has become a welcome symbol of perseverance. “The first triple double in Lin’s professional career!” tweeted Tian Zhaohui, a popular Chinese basketball commentator, shortly after the game. “Congratulations! Behind his successes are hardships that few people know.”

As praise, this hardly matches the garlands of two years ago. But as a basis upon which to build a career and Chinese fanbase, it’s a far more comfortable place to be.

via ‘Linsanity’ Makes a Comeback in China – Bloomberg.

Jeremy Lin ignores the disses & Tim Tebow treatment to show he’s elite

News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

It’d be easy for Jeremy Lin to lose confidence. It’d be easy for him to retreat into a shell. It’d be easy for him to start tuning out (a la Omer Asik) and just wait and hope against hope for a trade to deliver him a real opportunity.

He’s been dismissed, dissed and marginalized during his second season in Houston, treated like a spare part by his own coach.

Yes, Jeremy Lin could have checked out a long time ago.

Instead when the Houston Rockets need him most, when James Harden is out, when Patrick Beverley wants no part of facing off against Tony Parker, when Chandler Parsons is colder than a winter storm warning, when Kevin McHale has no choice but to use Lin like a real starting NBA player for once, the marginalized man delivers. Jeremy Lin saves the Rockets in that come-from-behind 97-90 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

It’s impossible to deny that. Just like there’s no denying he plays like an elite level point guard when he’s allowed 44 minutes of playing time.

One might think that Lin’s performance against the Spurs will grant him more leeway in the future. Anyone who watches the Rockets knows better.

It’s not just the 18 points and eight assists. It’s not just the tough pull-up jumper — the kind of mid-range shot that Calvin Murphy’s been begging the Rockets to seize for weeks — he fearlessly takes and hits with 48 seconds left to seal the win. The night is a lesson in what a high-level point guard can do for a team when he’s given a real chance to make an impact.

The Rockets look as lost and inept on offense in the first part of the Spurs game as they did in those back-to-back putrid meltdowns againdt the Memphis Grizzlies.

The difference? This time Jeremy Lin gets enough playing time to find a rhythm and he drags the Rockets along with him. His third quarter turns the game around, ensures San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich will be grumpy in sideline interviews for weeks to come.

Jeremy Lin’s Takeover

Lin hits a corner three to open the third and quickly adds two free throws, but it’s his passing that changes everything. He puts up three assists in the quarter, but that barely begins to demonstrate his impact. He makes the rest of the Rockets better, exactly what a point guard is supposed to do.

“He really caught a rhythm in that third quarter and it was really good for our team,” McHale says in his postgame news conference broadcast on CSN.

When Kevin McHale has no choice but to use Lin like a real starting NBA player for once, the marginalized man delivers.

Of course, Lin “caught” a rhythm because McHale actually played him long enough for it to happen — for once. The coach doesn’t just play Lin the first eight minutes of the second half (time he’d be sitting in any other game), he also brings him right back in after a short rest so he can finish the third. Yet rather than acknowledging that this is the major difference in Lin’s play — opportunity — McHale talks like he’s divorced from having anything to do with it.

Earlier in the same news conference, McHale says Lin needs to play “aggressive.” This from the coach who often takes him out at the first sign of a mistake.

It’s almost like the Rockets coach is auditioning for a part in some new age version of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

One might think that Lin’s performance against the Spurs will grant him more leeway in the future, starting with the Wednesday night game in Dallas. But anyone who’s watched the Rockets knows better.

As soon as Harden is back — if not sooner — Jeremy Lin will found himself downgraded and dismissed again as the offense is run through lesser playmakers like Beverley and Parsons.

No modern day athlete outside of Tim Tebow has been this doubted. Only Jeremy Lin has the game tape to back him up that Tebow’s never had. So what?

It will matter little that Lin saved the Rockets against the Spurs. It means zilch that he’s shown he still has the potential to deliver Linsanity level numbers when given a real opportunity (Lin himself is the first to admit he misses several drives against San Antonio that he should hit — that’s what happens when you’ve been kept out of rhythm). It doesn’t even matter that the coaches clearly choose to put Lin rather than that fantasy land “defensive stopper” Patrick Beverley on Tony Parker in the big game (Beverley himself even motions for Lin to take Parker late in the fourth quarter).

Reality has a tenuous hold on these Houston Rockets.

It’s even bled into the stands where the murmurs after a few great, attacking Lin drives that don’t fall against San Antonio are loud and clear. Everyone knows you’re supposed to doubt Jeremy Lin.

Lin will be banished to the bench for endless stretches again soon enough. No matter what he does. No matter how much the Rockets offense continually breaks down without a true point guard. (Houston’s already scored under 90 points three times since Jan. 10 and that doesn’t even include that 19-point second half game against Oklahoma City.)

No matter. Jeremy Lin will be made to wait for another real opportunity. He’ll have his confidence tested, his resolve challenged, his patience probed. Maybe this time he’ll break.

Just don’t count on it.

via Jeremy Lin ignores the disses & Tim Tebow treatment to show he’s elite – CultureMap Houston.

Surprise! Houston Rockets get scared by their mascot

Jeremy Lin keeps his cool. Chandler Parsons, not so much.



Is there anything funnier than watching grown men get the crap scared out of them? You never know what kind of sneaky surprise might be waiting to pounce in the Houston Rockets clubhouse. In this video, a seemingly inanimate Clutch the Bear, the Rockets’ mascot, suddenly comes to life to prank the unsuspecting passing members of the team — including Jeremy Lin. Take a look:




Tough guys on the court… not so tough in the presence of inflatable bears. Let the record show that our man Jeremy did flinch, but at least he didn’t take a flying scaredy leap like teammate Chandler Parsons. 

As for Francisco Garcia, just take a look at that death stare — you do not want to mess with that guy.

via Surprise! Houston Rockets get scared by their mascot.

Sun Yue becomes MVP to lead North win CBA All-Star game

Xinhua photo


BEIJING, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) — In an emotional Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) All-Star game, former Lakers guard Sun Yue became the MVP and helped the North edged the South 118-102.

Sun scored a team-high 28 points, Hudson added 24 points and 7 assists for the North. Gibson finished with a game-high 32 points, Yi Jianlian contributed 18 points and 9 rebounds to the South, his All-star teammates, Wang Zhizhi, grabbed 15 points and 7 rebounds. Tonight’s game was all about saying good-bye to Wang, who is reported to retire after this season.

“It’s a pity that Wang missed some shots, he intended to give more chances to the youth. I wanna share this award with him. This may be his last All-star game, he taught us so many things that we can benefit from for the rest of our lives,” Sun said.

After years of domination in CBA, Wang Zhizhi became the first Chinese player in NBA, playing for Dallas Mavericks. He returned to CBA in 2006-2007 season, and helped Bayi Rockets grabbed its eighth Championship. In the national team, his contribution was always indispensible.

Sun’s Beijing teammate, Stephon Marbury, missed the game due to knee injury.

Zhejiang guard Wang Zirui became the technique champion with 26.7 seconds. He Tianju from Beijing, who collected 16 points in the game, took the three-point title. Johnson of Zhejiang claimed the Slam King with a game-high 96 points in total.

via Sun Yue becomes MVP to lead North win CBA All-Star game – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

Houston Rockets – Jeremy Lin & Offense Suffering From James Harden Syndrome

The signs keep showing everywhere, but the Houston Rockets and their shot callers ignore them. James Harden gets to run almost every possible possession, ignoring the fact that he has Jeremy Lin next to him and others who can make plays, resulting in another unnecessary loss, 80-83 to the Atlanta Hawks.

Credit to the Hawks goes for their defense, but it’s not that difficult with the way the Rockets have been playing this season. James Harden get to run the show for the 38 minutes he’s on the floor. He might end up with pretty numbers: 25 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, but it goes without saying that there’s more to it than just numbers.

Jeremy Lin finished with 11 points and 4 assists, but instead of getting to run the offense a bit more, he’s once again delegated to the times Harden is stuck with the ball for too long and is waiting for a way out, which usually leaves too few seconds on the clock for anyone to do anything with. Dwight Howard is getting the ball down low, but not nearly enough as he should in pick & rolls and in other situations, which would have made things a lot more beneficial and efficient for the Rockets.

This was the worst offensive performance by the Houston Rockets this season: a season-low 80 points, shooting 41.4% from the field, only 15 assists and turning the ball over 16 times. The Hawks did their homework in slowing the game down - The Rockets are now 20-7 when scoring 100 Pts or more, and 3-7 when they don’t. They’re 0-5 when scoring less than 93 points.

The Hawks might not be among the league’s elite, but they’re a smart team, who know where the ball should go. Jeff Teague wasn’t having the best of scoring nights, but he’s the team’s best decision maker, and runs the show without anyone having a problem with it. He creates for others instead for just himself, allowing a lot of open looks for Kyle Korver who might be having his best season after over a decade in the league, scoring 20 points. Paul Millsap had a big night as well while Pero Antic kept Dwight Howard busy, adding 20 points and 7 rebounds.

The Rockets now fall to 23-14; not a disaster considering the Thunder’s slips without Westbrook, the Spurs having nights off, the Clippers playing without Paul and the Blazers coming down to earth. Houston have problems of their own: No Omer Asik or a decent enough backup for Dwight Howard, and yet they should look much better, especially on offense.

But that’s the difference between a team with big-name players but not thinking behind it all on how to run the show and others who are less talented but have the right people running the ship. Jeremy Lin didn’t have the best of games, but it’s impossible for him, Dwight Howard and others to reach their full potential, which also means a better game for the Rockets, when everything is about Harden doing his thing – dribbling, penetrating, shooting, and passing when he’s in a jam.

Daryl Morey assembled a very talented team, with depth and superstars, filling both ends of the spectrum. The Asik situation has hurt them, but there’s no doubt that the coaching and support for James Harden to continue running the show like there’s no one else on the court is ruining what could have been a much better season up to this point.

via Houston Rockets – Jeremy Lin & Offense Suffering From James Harden Syndrome | Sportige.

Why Would adidas Want to Sign Jeremy Lin?

Adidas is on the verge of making another talent acquisition. It’s not another music icon like Kanye West or a highly-regarded fashion designer like Yohji Yamamoto, but a basketball player.

In fact, a pretty average basketball player when compared to adidas’ current roster of stars that includes Dwight Howard, Damian Lillard, John Wall, and (2011) Derrick Rose.

Houston Rocket Jeremy Lin is speculated to be the next NBA pro to join the German sportswear brand. You can argue he’s a decent baller, with season averages of 14.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. But at best, he’s only the third best player on his team behind Dwight Howard and James Harden. Those usually aren’t the type of statistics that get a player to the NBA All-Star Game, let alone signature sneaker deals.

So why would adidas go through the trouble of trying to bring Lin over from Nike? The simple answer is that it’s more than just basketball. Much like how the NBA is becoming more globalized, sneakers are also becoming much more of an international business.

Why would adidas go through the trouble of trying to bring Lin over from Nike?

Lin proved his worldwide appeal in February of 2012, during his short (but memorable) stint with the New York Knicks. The term “Linsanity” became recognized everywhere, as Lin became an improbable sports story that dominated headlines for three weeks. He led the Knicks to a series of unforeseen victories while Carmelo Anthony was out with an injury. Someone even made a documentary about it. More recently, Linsanity struck again in Taiwan when the Rockets played an exhibition game there past October.

What adidas is getting isn’t just another pro athlete to slap its logo on, but an international commodity. And with both Nike and adidas racing to be the top sportswear brand in the China, according to the Wall Street Journal, it also doesn’t hurt to have an endorser that looks the part.

Of course, the elephant in the room when it comes to anything Jeremy Lin-related is his race. Cue the conspiracy theory that Lin is getting this reported sneaker deal because he’s Asian, while dozens of other deserving, talented black, white, and Hispanic ball players don’t get the same opportunity.

First of all, Lin is Asian-American.

Second of all, it’s more than just stats when it comes to brands choosing which personalities to align with.

Third of all, the key word is personality.

Lin isn’t your average NBA star who played one year at an ACC or SEC school. He has an economics degree from Harvard University, which he completed with a 3.1 grade-point average. He’s also very open and devout with his Christian faith. He’s safest bet for a footwear brand as, arguably, anyone in the NBA.

Lin isn’t your average NBA star who played one year at an ACC or SEC school. He has an economics degree from Harvard University.

These selling points for adidas are huge. Sheer athleticism on the basketball court or football field doesn’t always translate into creating a global fan base. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant excluded.

Take this for example: Put Jeremy Lin into a Google search browser and you’ll fetch about 30.5 million results, which is about 10 million more than his NBA All-Star teammate, James Harden.

That’s something an athlete can’t earn at the gym or through hours of practice. No one has a definitive explanation for how Jeremy Lin got this following, but it’s probably something adidas wants to be a part of.

And you can’t blame adidas for wanting a piece of Linsanity. But Nike’s already been there with quickstrike “Jeremy Lin” Air Force 1s and “Linsanity” graphic T-shirts a couple years ago. By the way, who’s thirsting after that type of merchandise now? Exactly.

No one definitively knows what adidas can accomplish with Jeremy Lin on the roster. (We reached out to the brand who would neither confirm or deny the deal was official). What is known is that over the past couple of years, adidas has built a solid group of players to rock the three stripes on court, from the aforementioned Lillard and Wall, to the likes of Ricky Rubio, Iman Shumpert, Darren Collison, Jrue Holliday, and even seven new rookies this NBA season.

It’s also pretty safe to assume that Jeremy Lin isn’t getting a Derrick Rose-sized deal or his own signature shoe. But just like Lin’s pro-basketball career, you never know. This might turn out to be surprising.

via Why Would adidas Want to Sign Jeremy Lin? | Complex.

Teen standout Yuta Watanabe faces major challenges in pursuit of NBA dream

When young athletes leave their home nation for a bigger challenge, nobody can really halt their overflowing passion and hope.

But at times, the athletes ought to be advised or given direction, helping them not get completely get lost or blow their careers.

Take 18-year-old Yuta Watanabe, for instance. He recently announced his plans of going to the United States to further his career goals. He revealed that he plans to go to St. Thomas More Preparatory School in Connecticut, and then enroll at an NCAA Division I school. Ultimately, he wants to be an NBA player.

A 201-cm player with a silky shooting touch and moves, Watanabe is considered a phenom, the first of his kind in Japan basketball. At his age, he’s already made the men’s national team.

Watanabe probably has a rough idea that the competition in the U.S. is much tougher than in Japan.

But does he know how much tougher? Plus, is this the right thing for him to do in order to really develop as a player and become the best he can be?

There have been numerous Japanese-born players who have competed at lower-division schools, including NCAA Division II institutions. But guard Keijuro Matsui, who played at Columbia University (2005-09) and is currently with the Toyota Motors Alvark of the NBL (renamed JBL), is one of only two Japanese men who have competed at the top collegiate division in the United States. Alvark guard Taishi Ito, who went to the University of Portland, is the other.

Former Duke University and NBA player Antonio Lang claims that Japanese-born players have to consider about playing in the U.S. carefully, because he doesn’t think Japanese players fully know how tough it is to succeed in America, the birthplace of the sport.

“I really like Watanabe,” said Lang, who’s the head coach of the Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Dolphins of the NBL. “But the language barrier is tough to overcome. The basketball culture in the States is different also. Americans are aggressive and the
game is more physical.”

Watanabe weighs only 73 kg and resembles a thin stick at the moment.

Lang, who won back-to-back NCAA championships with Duke in 1991 and 1992, recognizes that the competition level is much stronger in U.S. basketball, starting at the youth level, not just in the college and pro ranks.

“The high school players now are doing pro workouts and play games year-round,” Lang said. “The youth basketball programs in the States, such as the AAU programs (Amateur Athletic Union, one of the largest non-profit volunteer sport
organizations in the country), are more advanced than any program in Japan.”

Lang, who played in the NBA for eight years, added that even the level of prep school basketball is higher than top Japanese college leagues.

* * *

Meanwhile, although he’s never seen Watanabe play, Toshiba Brave Thunders star Nick Fazekas, also a former NCAA D-I and NBA player, supported the youngster’s decision to make a leap to the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

“I would definitely say it’s doable,” said Fazekas, who suited up for the University of Nevada and the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers.

“At (6-foot-7), he definitely has a chance. I do think the whole language barrier could be a big obstacle for him as well as the competition level. But you’ve got to remember there are so many different D-I programs and so many leagues that it’s ultimately a lot of different levels at the D-I level.”

There are more than 300 D-I programs in the NCAA.

Lang said that Watanabe would have to show off his skills as a player right away in prep school in order to attract attention from a D-I program.

“Watanabe has to be an alpha male to dominate at the prep school level,” Lang said. “He will definitely get better, but how will he handle all of the other difficulties — language, culture, home sickness, etc.?”

Fazekas appeared slightly more optimistic about the Kagawa Prefecture native than Lang. The 27-year-old center said that it’s possible to “make the NBA dream come true” from a mid-D-I school.” Then he continued, “But I will say D-I can be tough because there are always new recruits coming in and guys that want your spot. (Watanabe) can do it if he decides to put everything into it.”

Despite all of the details cited above, Lang said that he respects the fact that Watanabe is pursuing a path that not many Japanese players would take.

“I am pulling for him and wish him the best,” Lang said.

But, if not for Watanabe personally, Lang offered a more realistic way for Japanese-born players in general if they want to achieve their ultimate goal of making it in the NBA.

Lang said that he wants Japanese players to emulate what Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs), Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks), Yao Ming (former Houston Rocket) and the Gasol brothers, Pau (Los Angeles Lakers) and Mark (Memphis Grizzlies), did,
which is to dominate in their own countries first.

“I think Japanese players should make Japanese basketball stronger. Make the national team stronger. Dominate Asia, dominate college and dominate the Japanese league,” he said. “And then if he is good enough, go to the NBA.”

Lang believes Japanese basketball has improved with more coaches with NBA and Division I experience in Japan today, and if there are outstanding talents, NBA and college teams will spot them no matter where they play.

“We talk to NBA teams and colleges often about Japanese basketball,” Lang said. “There are no sleepers out there now. If you can play, the NBA and colleges will find you.”

That said, Lang suggested that Japanese players would have a better chance to develop in their native country, which may eventually open the door to the NBA.

“I would rather see Japanese kids go to college in Japan,” he said. “There are quality coaches in Japan. If the choice is D-II basketball in America or Japanese college, Japanese college is my choice.”

via Teen standout Watanabe faces major challenges in pursuit of NBA dream | The Japan Times.

Japeth Aguilar now Ginebra Kings’ main man

JAPETH Aguilar’s new-found confidence and scoring sock have made him Ginebra’s most valuable asset, even at crunch time. PBA images

With a new-found confidence, Japeth Aguilar has become Barangay Ginebra’s main guy.

In 10 games, the high-leaping 6-foot-9 emerged as the Gin Kings’ top performer in the ongoing PLDT MyDSL Philippine Cup eliminations by averaging 19.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and a league-best 3.8 blocks.

He recently underscored his worth in a pair of spectacular games against a tough Petron Blaze and Meralco, which dealt the only blemish in Ginebra’s league-leading 9-1 record.

“We’re in this situation now because of Japeth and we’re putting our trust in him until the end,” said Ginebra ace playmaker LA Tenorio, Aguilar’s Gilas Pilipinas teammate.

Aguilar swished a game-clinching three-point shot at the buzzer to cap a Ginebra escape act over the Bolts, 83-82, on Saturday after compiling solid numbers in a colossal victory against the Boosters on Christmas Day.

The former Western Kentucky forward went on to earn the Accel-PBA Player of the Week for the period of Dec. 23 to 29.

Against the Bolts, Aguilar scored seven of his team’s last 10 points capped by that miraculous buzzer-beater that helped the perennial crowd favorites rise from six points down in the final minute.

He finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks as the Gin Kings avenged their 100-87 loss to the Bolts in the first round.

It was a sensational follow-up to an impressive show that saw Aguilar collect 25 points and 11 rebounds in a 97-83 victory over the Boosters.

Now the Gin Kings have moved closer to the twice-to-beat edge heading into the playoffs.

via Aguilar now Ginebra Kings’ main man | Inquirer Sports.