They are all part of the growing contingent of former NBA players in the Chinese Basketball Association. The CBA is definitely a league of its own and well worth following for its American star power.
Defense is not a priority in the CBA, an offensive-minded league which emphasizes transition and the 3-pointer. It is a great place for undersized guards, tweener forwards and big men not quite good enough to stick in the NBA.
If you want to see ludicrous individual performances on a nightly basis, look no further. Here are the top 10 reasons to follow the CBA this season.
1. Bobby Brown scores 74 points in double OT thriller
Two days after Christmas, Bobby Brown and the Dongguan Leopards played the Sichuan Blue Whales. The rest is CBA history.
In a game marred by four player ejections, Brown launched an unbelievable barrage of shots to finish with 74 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. He shot 26-for-52, including 5-of-15 from 3-point range, and 17-for-20 from the charity stripe. The Leopards pulled out a 137-135 win over the Blue Whales in double overtime.
Fittingly, Brown took and made the winning shot – a floater that bounced and bounced with no business going in … until it did.
Yes, defenses are soft in the CBA, but this was just a surreal performance. In case you’re wondering, Brown did not set the all-time CBA record for points in a game; Quincy Douby scored 75 points last season (more on this below). In an ironic twist, both Brown and Douby played briefly in the NBA for the Sacramento Kings.
2. Ridiculous statlines
The CBA is a fan-friendly, offense-friendly league. If you don’t believe me, let’s go through some great individual performances.
You like high scoring games? Four players have broken the 50-point barrier this season.
Bobby Brown. The 74 points that will go down in history. See above.
Michael Efevberha. 50 points, nine boards, two assists in the loss to Brown’s Leopards.
Ivan Johnson. 54 points and 19 rebounds from the ex-Atlanta Hawk in a narrow loss to Tianjin. When you’re this good, you can definitely do the money dance. And you won’t get fined for it, either!
Josh-Emmanuel Akognon. 54 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals in a losing effort. Most recently, Akognon was claimed by the Grizzlies off waivers in July but failed to make the team.
Happened on the same night as Bobby Brown’s 74 and Efevberha’s 50. Must have been something in the air.
You like triple doubles?
Pooh Jeter had the only triple-double of the season with 31 points, 11 boards and 13 assists in a 98-86 win over the Beijing Ducks.
The Shandong Flaming Bulls (10-9) haven’t been playing great basketball, but Jeter has been one of the few bright spots. He’s a wily player, capable of getting any shot he wants in the CBA. Despite being undersized for a point guard at 5-11, Jeter is shooting 46.5 percent from 3-point range. Jeter flirted briefly with the NBA during the 2010-11 season when he played for the Sacramento Kings.
If we want to talk near triple-doubles, we need to talk about Dominique Jones. The 6-4 South Florida product and former Memphis Grizzlies draft pick is averaging 29.2 points (sixth in the league), 6.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists (second) and 3.2 steals (first).
Jones had nine points, nine boards and nine assists against top-ranked Guangdong in November. In December, he had 22-9-9 against Beijing and 33-9-10 against Shanxi. He also has had scoring explosions, going for 48 in one game and 49 in another. Oh yeah, he’s also shooting 56 percent from the field and averaging 7.95 free throws per contest.
Jones’ team, the Liaoning Flying Leopards, are 10-10, and Jones is dominating the offense. But we’re talking about great individual performances, and Jones is supplying the goods.
You like rebounds?
How about Donnell Harvey’s crazy 12-point, 25-rebound, six-assist game?
Harvey, the Florida Gators product, teams with Jeter in Shandong to make a formidable 1-2 punch. He was drafted by the Knicks in 2000 and moved around a number of NBA teams, but never quite found a home until now.
Or Hamed Haddadi’s 28 points, 27 rebounds and five assists?
The 27 boards were a league-high, and he had 10 offensive rebounds!
3. James Singleton and Lester Hudson – the dynamic duo
The Xinjiang Flying Tigers are firing on all cylinders this season, and the reason is the outstanding play of James Singleton and Lester Hudson. The Flying Tigers are 15-5, good for second place in the league.
Singleton is a 6-9 tweener forward and former NBA journeyman who has had shots with the Wizards, Mavericks, Clippers and Kings. He’s a wily player, not dominant in any particular category but doing the little things right. He is averaging 21.2 points, 12.0 boards, 1.6 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.1 steals. Now in his fourth CBA season, Singleton has a deep understanding of the Chinese game.
Hudson is the prototypical CBA point guard – a speedy player who is deadly from 3 point range. The 6-3 guard also is a CBA vet, alternating between CBA and shots at the NBA. Just this October, he was a cut of the Utah Jazz, so he is back in China, averaging 25.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 0.5 blocks and 2.5 steals.
4. Stephon Marbury – leading China to national glory?
“Love is love” — Stephon Marbury
Marbury is the biggest American basketball star in China. He is universally loved for his embrace of Chinese culture, his dedication to the team and willingness to do what it takes to win.
Marbury just signed a three-year deal with the Beijing Ducks and is looking to finish his career in the Middle Kingdom. He isn’t looking to score points so much as help the Ducks win. He has had a profound career renaissance in China and is still fully capable of blowing by CBA players 10 years his junior. Not to mention, the Starbury shoe empire is alive and kickin’ it in China.
That said, it should come as no surprise that as Marbury loves China, China loves him right back. The biggest rumor this season has been whether he is looking to coach Team China.
Marbury already has had some coaching experience, serving as assistant coach for Beijing in the China National Games.
While you’re at it, follow Marbury on Weibo, which is a Twitter-like platform in China. You won’t regret it.
5. The Mighty Ducks are fully loaded
With how good the Beijing Ducks are this season, it almost doesn’t seem fair.
The Ducks are 14-5 this season despite playing 13 games without Marbury. The loss of Marbury, albeit temporary, hasn’t slowed the team at all; they are 9-4 without “Starbury” in the lineup. They average 103.4 points while giving up 97.6 points – a strong plus-5.8 differential.
What’s the secret? Great shooting, excellent team play and of course, star power.
Randolph Morris is the Tim Duncan of the CBA in terms of his fundamentals and approach to the game. He doesn’t jump out of the gym, relying on an assortment of pump fakes, put-backs and mid-range jump shots. The former Kentucky Wildcat and Knicks draft pick has carved out a niche for himself in the Chinese league and has been a paragon of consistency.
Damien Wilkins has recently joined Beijing and is contributing well after playing 10 games. He’s a capable offensive player and more importantly is guarding the other team’s best player on a nightly basis. The NBA journeyman did not get his option picked up by the Sixers and has found a new home.
Remember Sun Yue, he of the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship ring? Sun is a new arrival to the Ducks and is facilitating the offense as a 6-9 point forward. While not putting up great numbers, his NBA experience allows him to be extremely effective in the Chinese game.
6. The Blue (Fail) Whales
“Why are we this bad?”
The Sichuan Blue Whales are the new kid on the block – an expansion team added to the CBA this season. With a new organization and staff, there’s a definite learning curve and adjustment period.
But things shouldn’t be this bad – not with so much talent out on the floor:
- Hamed Haddadi. Yes, that Hamed Haddadi. Anchoring the middle despite being hampered all season by a leg injury. On one foot, Haddadi is averaging 14.9 points, 14.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.1 steals.
- D.J. White, a 6-9 forward drafted by the Pistons in 2008 who suited up for a number of NBA teams. Currently averaging 19.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks while shooting 69.5 percent from the field.
- Michael Efevberha, a 6-4 Nigerian-American lead guard who has bounced around the D-League and international competition. Averaging a respectable 29.8 points with 6.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 steals.
So why are they so bad? The main culprit is defense. The Blue Whales play an atrocious zone and give up 103.2 points per game. To put things in perspective, top-ranked Guangdong is allowing opponents just 85.9 points. The Blue Whales have a minus-10.8 point differential and are 7-13.
It will be interesting to see if they turn things around and if a healthy Haddadi can put up even bigger numbers.
As a fun aside, former NBA first round pick Jonny Flynn started the season suiting up for the Blue Whales, only to be cut a month later due to nagging injuries. Injuries that wouldn’t allow him to play a full season of 34 games … riiiiiiight.
7. Twitter beefs transcend national boundaries
“But jealousy is just love and hate at the same time” – Drake
Brandon Jennings wasn’t happy.
He wasn’t happy that Chris Smith, brother of J.R. Smith, was playing in the NBA while Pooh Jeter and Bobby Brown are not.
And Chris Smith himself keeps it classy.
Twitter – it’s faaaaaaaaantastic!
8. Delonte West is playing? In China?
Delonte West is a bit of a head case. A head case who’s still an NBA-caliber talent, however.
You may recall that West was playing a meaningful role for the Mavericks as recently as the 2011-12 season, averaging a respectable 9.6 points, 3.2 assists and 2.3 boards. Prior to that, he had been a Celtics and Cavaliers mainstay.
So why is Delonte West playing in the CBA?
A player’s reputation is critical in the NBA. West’s last hurrah for the Mavericks ended with a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. Something wasn’t right. And you don’t just stick your finger in another player’s ear unless, well, something was amiss. Not to mention riding a three-wheeler with an arsenal of weapons in a guitar case.
Well, we always knew something wasn’t right. We just couldn’t quite figure it out.
Nonetheless, West is now playing in the CBA for the Fujian Sturgeons because (1) no NBA team wants to give him a shot and (2) China pays good money. He’s been playing solidly at point guard to the tune of 23.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.3 steals. Just recently, West recorded a 40-5-6 game with just one turnover in a loss to Shanxi.
Along with imports Will McDonald and Mohammad Bahrami, not to mention the next Yao Ming, the Sturgeons are getting back into respectability. Here’s hoping that West carves out a nice career in the CBA, because China definitely needs talented players. Good luck, Delonte.
9. Quincy Douby watch
First things first. Quincy Douby‘s 75-point game from last season. You know you’re good when Isaiah Thomas is talking about you on national television!
With that out of the way, Douby is having a tremendous season for the Shanghai Sharks, averaging 29.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.9 steals, helping the Sharks to a 17-5 record. Drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2006, Douby spent a few seasons in Sac-town followed by a brief stop in Toronto. Since then, he’s been back and forth between the D-League and international ball.
10. Marcus Williams – on a tear
“Back against the wall, then shoot your way out” – The Roots
Imagine you’re playing in a CBA fantasy league. Whom do you take?
There’s a strong case to having Marcus Williams on your team. Williams, who had his shot with the Spurs a few years ago, has been a CBA mainstay. He is averaging 30.8 points, 4.8 boards and 3.4 assists while shooting 63 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range. Williams also gets to the line 9.2 times a game.
The second-leading scorer of the CBA is partnered with Charles Gaines, another American player and CBA veteran. Gaines is averaging a solid 24.0 points and 14.2 boards to go with 1.6 dimes.
The problem is that their team – the Shanxi Brave Dragons – are 4-15. They are scoring respectably at 100.2 points but giving up 105.4 points.
Individual performances are great but not at the expense of wins. There is minimal chemistry, and the defense is below-average even by CBA standards.
So go ahead and select Williams for your fantasy team. At least it will be easy to get game-time updates from him through his Weibo feed.
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James Hsu is a Chinese-Canadian writer currently living in Beijing. Follow him on Twitter at @james_hsu.