The daily temperatures are dropping, the rain has stopped and it’s the beginning of November, which can only mean one thing: the start of the 2014-15 CBA season. Dongguan is arguably the hotbed of basketball here in China, rivaling Shanghai and Beijing. The Pearl River Delta is home to two of the CBA’s premier teams, the Winner Way Guangdong Southern Tigers and the Dongguan New Century Leopards.
GUANGDONG SOUTHERN TIGERS
The Guangdong Tigers look to continue their dominance of the CBA coming off of a season where they went 30-4 and finished in first place in the regular season. The Tigers have played in 12 of the 19 CBA Finals dating back to the 1995-96 inaugural CBA season and an unequaled streak of 11 in a row beginning in the 2002-03 season. The streak ended last year when the Tigers lost to the eventual champion Beijing Ducks in the best of five semi-finals series 3-2.
Poised to make another run, led by former NBA player and CBA All-Star Yi Jianlian, they’d have their ninth overall title. If successful, the Tigers, currently tied with the Bayi Rockets with eight league titles each, would stand alone in the CBA with the most Championships.
The Tigers made one of the biggest off-season acquisitions this summer by adding 18-year-old American import Emmanuel Mudiay to their roster. He is a highly touted point guard who originally signed to play college basketball this fall at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, USA.
Rivals.com rated Mudiay the second-best recruit in the class of 2014. When academic questions surfaced prior to enrolling at SMU, Mudiay decided to forgo his college career and play overseas signing with the Tigers for an unprecedented US$1.2 million dollars for the upcoming 2014-15 season. Contracts of this size are typically reserved for former NBA veterans such as Stephon Marbury or Tracy McGrady. Never before in CBA league history has this amount of money been paid to such a young and unproven player.
The Tigers open their season on November1 versus defending champions Beijing Ducks.
When asked how he thought the league would accept Mudiay and the challenges he would face, fellow point guard and cross town rival Bobby Brown of the Dongguan Leopards said, “Everybody is going to play him like any other import or player on the court. They are going to compete at a high level and try to win the game.” He added, “He’s going to face being away from home, getting homesick, the food, the travel; it’s all going to be difficult at first. But I think he will get use to it and just play ball. He’s a very talented player and I’m looking forward to watching him play.” Mudiay is expected to be a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and some experts have him being selected as high as number one overall.
The Tigers will split their home games this year between the Dongguan Sports Park where they played last year and the new 15,000 seat Dongguan Basketball Center in Liaobu Town. The Tigers open their season on November 1 versus defending Champions Beijing Ducks.
The Dongguan Leopards have been building a championship caliber team over the past six seasons since the arrival of Australian Hall of Fame Coach Brian Goorjian and he believes that this season could be the year that the Leopards break through and reach the finals. Last season the team finished third overall in the regular season with a record of 25-9 before losing in the semi-finals in a best of five series to the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers 3-0.
Point guard Bobby Brown is back to lead the Leopards along with CBA veteran big man Ike Diogu who most recent CBA appearance was with the Guangdong Tigers during the 2012-13 season. Diogu will replace forward Donte Greene who was let go after last season.
When questioned about the difference between Greene and Diogu, Brown commented, “Ike is more of a inside guy who likes to post up along with being able to stretch out to the perimeter. Donte was more of a stretch center that could really shoot and run the floor like a guard at (2.11 meters).”
When asked how he felt about losing in the semi-finals, star point guard Bobby Brown said, “I still have a bad taste in my mouth from that series. I’m looking forward to the start of the season and the playoffs.” Brown who has played for several NBA teams recently signed a three-year extension with the Leopards. “I realize I’m getting older in age and playing ball here in Dongguan feels like home. The team is great, coaching staff and organization is great. The city is nice and warm like Los Angeles, you can’t beat that,” Brown said.
The Leopards rewarded their floor general with the long-term deal after just one season with the team due to his ability to run the offense, get everyone involved, and score in bunches. Brown averaged just over 30 points per game last year while registering a career high 74 points on December 27, 2013 in a 137-135 overtime victory over the Sichuan Blue Whales. He was just one point shy from breaking the all time CBA single game scoring mark set by Quincy Douby. The Leopards will need his scoring and leadership again this year if they expect to make their first appearance in the finals.
The entire coaching staff of the Leopards is back which provides much needed continuity for the program and its development. There will be one change. Head Coach Brian Goorjian changing titles to Assistant Coach, but he will retain all of the in-game coaching duties. Assistant Coach Li Qun will now hold the Head Coach title.
The Leopards play their home games at Dalang Stadium in Dalang and tip-off their season against Shandong Kingston Lions on November 5.
Dongguan is also home to one of the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association (WCBA) teams, the Guangdong Dolphins. Professional women’s teams are only allowed to have one import player per team but that hasn’t deterred the WCBA from attracting some of the top women’s basketball players from around the globe. WNBA superstars include the number one overall draft picks from the 2012 and 2013 drafts Nneka Ogwumike and Brittney Griner respectively. WNBA All-Star Swin Cash and Maya Moore, along with Australia natives Lauren Jackson and Elizabeth Cambage have also played here in China.
Ogwumike, who starred for the Dolphins last season has moved on to play in Moscow and has been replaced this season by Aneika Henry who has spent the past two seasons playing for the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA. The 191-centimeter tall Henry played her college ball at the University of Florida.
Women’s basketball isn’t as popular as the men’s game here in China but if you are a true hoops fan it’s definitely worth checking out some of the Dolphins games this season. The ladies play their home contests at the Dongguan University of Technology Songshan Lake Campus.
Whether you are a casual hoops fan or a basketball junkie, the city of Dongguan definitely offers a variety of great basketball options. Whether its seeing former and future NBA stars or watching current WNBA players all playing alongside the top athletes that China has to offer, your choices are clear. Leopards, Tigers, or Dolphins, oh my!