Sometimes we get a little bit behind at keeping you up to date here at CST. Sorry about that, but below are a few of the top recent stories:
Huang and QSL never made a formal bid for Liverpool FC
Kenny Huang, Marc Ganis and their company QSL are completely out of the Liverpool FC buying discussion. And accoring to a recent report in the Telegraph, they never made a formal bid. QSL seems to be blaming the deal's evaporation on all the publicity, claiming it caused their key investor to walk away. Hmm… A Chinese investor thought it was going to quietly buy an English Premier League team? Huang's now 0-2 on these big-league bids, and he was confident enough about the first one to name his company after it (QSL stands for Qishi Lianmeng, Cavalier Group, a name chosen while the company was hoping to buy a stake in the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers). With these high-profile fails in two of the globe's biggest sports leagues, he's sure to be viewed more skeptically in the future.
Yi Jianlian eludes NBA China's grasp, again
Every October, two NBA teams come to play exhibition games in a few Chinese cities. Last year, the Denver Nuggets played the Indiana Pacers. In 2008, the Milwaukee Bucks played the Golden State Warriors—a matchup that would have brought Yi Jianlian back home to play, if he hadn't been traded to the New Jersey Nets on the eve of the 2008 NBA Draft.
Yi's slipped through the NBA marketing department's fingers yet again. This spring, the NBA scheduled the Houston Rockets to play the New Jersey Nets, in what would have been an historic opportunity to see China's two current NBA players go head-to-head in Beijing and Guangzhou. But the Nets sent Yi to the Washington Wizards, so Yao Ming, if he's actually back on the court by then, will be the only Chinese national in the game.
Right now, Yi's busy in Turkey, where he's leading the Chinese national team at the FIBA World Championships. China is 1-1 with a loss to Greece and a win over Cote d'Ivoire (who are sponsored by Chinese basketball apparel brand Peak). He's averaging 26 and 11. In the next game, August 31, China faces Puerto Rico and Yi has a chance to avenge his dismal 3-for-15, 11-point performance against them at Madison Square Garden two weeks ago.
MLB still swingin'
Despite its sport being dropped from the Olympics, Major League Baseball has not given up on China. The Washington Post just ran a great update (with some nice photos) on the MLB's China activities, which are largely focused on a training academy in Wuxi, where players learn the game under the direction of Rick Dell, who has been key to MLB's Asia efforts for years now. Interesting takeaway from this piece: It implies that the teenagers training in Wuxi now are being groomed with the hopes not that they will make the big leauges, but that they will train the players from the next generation who will.
Starbury to return, with more shoes
Stephon Marbury's coming back to Taiyuan this year, to play for the CBA's Shanxi Zhongyu, with whom he's signed a two-year contract with an option for a third. This time, Marbury's taking a more strategic approach to marketing his Starbury shoes in China, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Yi Jianlian in a Bullets jersey image: Hi.baidu.com
Tags: English Premier League, FIBA World Championships, Huang Jianhua, Kenny Huang, Liverpool FC, MLB, NBA, QSL, Stephon Marbury, Yi Jianlian
The Lone Wolf in China, along with a photo gallery.
Stephon Marbury just finished his first game in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Here are a few quick observations:
+ According to a journalist friend who was at the game, Shanxi fans were not happy with the referees, and not shy about showing their disgust. They threw lighters and shouted "Hei shao" (black whistle), accusing the officials of taking bribes.
+ Was the refereeing actually bad? I wouldn't know because only the last few minutes of the game were broadcast on CCTV-5. The national sports channel stuck to its regularly scheduled programming, a home game for the Bayi Rockets, the People's Liberation Army team led by Wang Zhizhi (first Chinese player in the NBA). You don't mess with the PLA's airtime.
+ Marbury clearly was not informed of his role on the team. With 22 seconds to go and down one point, he dished the ball from the top of the key to a man just above the baseline who didn't have much of a scoring opportunity. The play ended up in free throws, which the Shanxi shooter split to tie the game. A Marbury foul at the other end, followed by a made free throw, put Dongguan New Century up 102-101. With 5 seconds left and down one point, Marbury brought the ball up and dished to forward Maurice Taylor for... wait for it... the three! Psst: Stephon, your job was just to drive and score or get fouled. And Mr. Taylor, you had no excuse for being so far from the basket.
+ Shanxi team huddles during timeouts looked chaotic. Coaches spent more time talking to, and apparently arguing with, each other than they did talking to the players.
+ I've never seen a CBA gymnasium so packed. Less than 50 percent attendance seems to be the norm, but Taiyuan had a full house for Marbury's debut.
+ Apparently, even with a sellout crowd, Chinese gyms are still uncomfortably cold. Most fans wore heavy winter coats.
+ The bottom line: Marbury played 28 minutes, had 15 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 turnovers and 5 fouls, plus two blown chances to be the savior in a 1-point loss.
Tags: CBA, Maurice Taylor, NBA, Shanxi Zhongyu, Stephon Marbury, Taiyuan
From the looks of this photo, taken at the Taiyuan airport, Marbury is counting up the stacks of cash he can make selling Starbury shoes in China. I wish him the best, but color me skeptical on whether he will stick out the culture shock he'll encounter from the minute he steps outside that airport and gets his first lungful of Shanxi's coal-heavy air. Interviewed for the Wall Street Journal, Bruce O'Neil, president of the U.S. Basketball Academy says: "If he lasts 10 days, I'll be amazed. The culture shock is tremendous." (That WSJ story is a must read if you're interested in this saga, with details about the team, city and arena).
There's no guarantee that Starburys will sell in China, either. He's reportedly putting out a special edition with the characters for Shanxi (山西）and Marbury (马布里）embossed on the side. That's a smart move, and I could see interest in that first edition as a collector's item. But he needs to sell a lot of shoes, and can a Shanxi shoe have staying power in big markets like Beijing and Shanghai? And I have yet to see a distribution plan. Where is he going to sell these shoes? Carrefour? Kiosks outside the Li Ning and Nike stores? There's no Dick's Sporting Goods, no Sports Authority, in China. The sportswear distribution is dominated by brand-name stores, and there are already a handful of homegrown brands that offer shoes near his $15 (100 RMB) price point. And those aren't the shoes that people are wearing to play basketball.
Hopefully Marbury has people working on all this—despite some of his antics, the point guard from Coney Island has shown some business sense in the past. It should at least be fun to watch.
Marbury landing at airport image: CQNews
WSJ: An NBA Problem Child Packs His Baggage for China
Tags: basketball, CBA, NBA, Shanxi Zhongyu, Stephon Marbury
According to this Reuters report, team owner Wang Xingjiang indicates that the team is getting a bargain on the 32-year-old point guard, who wants to sell his sneakers in China. The CBA officially has a salary cap that limits players to $30,000 per month, which would leave a max of 60 grand Marbury could earn this season, if (BIG if) teams actually adhere to the salary cap.
Starbury is sure to get all the minutes he wants in the CBA, but can he put up with the hijinx of the Shanxi Zhongyu club? NBA coach Rick Turner spent some time with the team early in the 2008-09 season, and spoke of rambling motivational speeches from one coach, a 10:30 p.m. curfew, and requests that foreign players indulge the team owner in pre-game one-on-one sessions.
Turner also spoke of epic miscommunication with foreign players, leading to confusion about which of the three or four guys around actually had contracts and would suit up for the team, which, by CBA rules, can only have two foreign players. Looks like that could be a problem again—according to Asia-Basket, Shanxi currently has four foreigners living in Taiyuan, including Maurice Taylor, Lee Benson (picked up from the bankrupt Yunnan team that's been suspended from the league), Dontae Smith (who was unceremoniously given the boot last year when Bonzi showed up) and Kenny Adeleke. Coach Turner says he was let go himself in a pretty awkward way—informed after Christmas, as he was preparing to return to China from visiting his family back in the United States, that his services would no longer be needed.
But this post is about Marbury, and it can't be finished without asking some obvious questions: What is Shanxi's fascination with guys who are notoriously bad teammates best known for bad behavior? Can someone hurry up and create a reality show if this happens? And what is there to do in Taiyuan after 10:30 p.m. anyway?
Maybe Marbury's desire to sell his value-priced Starbury sneakers in China will keep him around once he realizes what he's gotten into, but don't bet on it.
Image: Photoshop genius courtesy of Fred Dintenfass
Tags: basketball, Bonzi Wells, CBA, NBA, Shanxi Zhongyu, Stephon Marbury