Good to be back after a holiday break (differently from the league, ironically), sad to say goodbye to Jamaal Franklin, big guard who was dominating in Guangsha and is being replaced by Kevin Murphy. Too soon, however, to understand where and how the Lions will differ (or not) with the former Jazz guard, thus my decision to avoid discussing it in this edition of our weekly “se son rose…”.
1 – Guangdong is cooking.
It’s definitely worth discussing, on the other hand, how big a gap Guangdong is making up for en route to first seed contention. A resounding 18-game winning streak in the midst of an import subbing process (Mudiay’s tenure ended with a loss to Xinjiang, after which Guangdong played just one import in their last losing effort, an overtime defeat to Liaoning) now sees them strive after the first place, just one game away from Liaoning. And we aren’t done yet: only one game hasn’t resulted in a double-digit win for the Southern Tigers – a 7-point win vs Shandong. There’s not much to add to what the stats say: this team is exposing the league and its tendency to rely on import players so much. Guangdong has it all: defense, offense, championship experience. It would easily be time to grab another title, but Liaoning, the only team that could realistically stop them, abides by their same rules. And has Lester Hudson, surefire MVP who was just snubbed by the local audience for the All-Star starting lineups. Talkin’ about lineups…
2 – All-Star lineups, a honest analysis.
I’ve already written about it here, while everything was still up in the air, and my optimism made a believer out of me; maybe this was going to make sense.
The definitive All-Star starting lineups are as follows:
North: Marbury, Guo Ailun, He Tianju, Blatche, Han Dejun.
South: Zeng Lingxu, Zhao Tailong, Gu Quan, Zhu Fangyu, Yi Jianlian.
Now, I don’t have a problem with every selection made. Blatche was obvious, Han played his best season. He Tianju had better season, but hardly more rewarding ones team-wise, and he’s the only real choice, as Ding Yanyuhang has struggled mightily and isn’t going to the playoffs. I’d hae appreciated Makhan being recognized in his first season as an undisputed starter, but Xinjiang isn’t mesmerizing, and it’s good to put winning first. Marbury and Guo Ailun, however, aren’t picks I agree with. Marbury has gladly let his leadership slide to veteran status. He really plays well when it counts the most and still is Beijing’s finest, but his season has been about taking it slow and letting Morris be the driving force. That, of course, is what a smart athlete at 37 does, but smart athletes at 37 don’t start All-Star games anymore. That place should belong to Hudson, who is going to win the MVP race by far now that Blatche doesn’t have the wins anymore, and seeing him out of these lineups should make fans blush. Guo Ailun isn’t a bad choice, being one of the driving force of Liaoning, but as good as the Dinosaurs (are they the Dinosaurs now?) are there’s no need to have too many starters (He gets the nod because there’s nobody else who’d be suitable, remember). I’d gladly reward Li Gen’s most efficient season, conversely, and Beijing deserves at least one starter.
On the other side, the South had very little to choose from in the guard department (Wang Shipeng has just recently regained starter minutes and isn’t scoring in double digits, Chen Jianghua isn’t on the list of candidates for unknown reasons), but overlooking Lin Chih-Chieh is a sin. He has 15,6 ppg, but stats aren’t everything: he is the leader of Guangsha offensively when the import guard (then Franklin, now Murphy) is missing. He can create his shot and fire up his teammates just as much as Holman is leading the charge defensively. Guangsha is playing way better than expected and deserves a starter, furthermore, and it has to be him. Gu Quan, as inconsistent as he is, comes fourth in ppg amongst Chinese players with 17. Talent-wise, that’s a lock. Zhu and Yi, finally, are obvious choices, although it’s sad that behind Yi there are so many players who would’ve deserved a starting spot, from Wang Zheng to Wang Zhelin.
3 – Musical chairs: 8 spots, 9 contenders.
The season has finally turned to a 9-squads race. 8 spots are up for grabs (well, not exactly, as Liaoning and Guangdong are surely in), and the gap between third place, now awarded to Qingdao, and ninth, now occupied by Dongguan, is as wide as the one dividing ninth and tenth spots.
Qingdao relies heavily on Haddadi, Harris and Dentmon, but the Iranian is keen to distribute the ball to whoever is open and local players are slowly heating up. Guangsha has to see where Murphy will get them, Beijing has a good overall cast that needs Sun Yue to come back big time (his first half-season hasn’t been too pretty) to his level. Shanxi is another import-heavy team that features playoff-perennial Zaid Abbas, Xinjiang is the usual mess, Jilin needs to find balance between being a cohesive team and having an incredibly good player in Jones as someone to rely on and Dongguan is thoroughly inconsistent. Who will end up on the outside looking in?
That is all, for now. Have a good week and take care!