Chinese basketball returns after five-month absence

Society & Culture

The China Sports Column is a The China Project weekly feature. 

While the NBA continues to ponder a resumption of play at Disney World, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) remains a step ahead: All 20 teams were in action over the weekend, with five games on Saturday and five on Sunday.

The league, which was suspended back on February 1, played all of its games in the cities of Dongguan and Qingdao.

The five-month break has seen the makeup of the league change, as many teams lost their star international players after China closed its borders to foreign nationals back in April.

Twelve of the 20 CBA teams have an all-Chinese roster, including second-place Xinjiang Flying Tigers and third-place Liaoning Flying Leopards. Teams with foreign players that play teams with all-Chinese rosters will face greater restrictions on the number of minutes each non-Chinese player can play.

Leaders Guangdong Southern Tigers — which just clinched a playoff spot — and fourth-place Beijing Ducks will have close to a full squad available. The Ducks are led by the powerful duo of Jeremy Lin and Ekpe Udoh.

However, Guangdong has been left without crucial playmaker and top scorer Marshon Brooks, while the Ducks have lost head coach Yannis Christopoulos to the border closure.

Meanwhile, head coach Stephon Marbury’s Beijing Royal Fighters look primed to succeed, with both of its foreign players, Arnett Moultrie and Kyle Fogg, ready to go.

CBA president Yáo Míng 姚明 described the pressure he has been feeling as the restart approached. “I’m excited because I have seen the hope and possibility of going back to normal,” he said. “But at the same time, I feel nervous because there are many factors beyond our knowledge. We are always concerned about some details that we haven’t paid attention to.”

“But I trust my team and all the clubs. As long as we execute as planned, it will be under control in our competition sites. Some people have concerns. It’s understandable because they take families into consideration, and that’s what we are trying to figure out. We have never experienced it before. But our expectations overshadow anxiety toward some unpredictable challenges.”


CSL to return in July, maybe

The director of the Shanghai Sports Administration has hinted that the Chinese Super League, China’s top domestic soccer league, could return next month.

Xu Bin, the man who makes the decisions around Shanghai sports, told a local radio station that he expected soccer to return in July.

“The Chinese Basketball Association has announced that its league will start on June 20, and if everything goes well, the CSL will resume in July,” Xu said.

Teams have been training and playing friendlies behind closed doors in preparation for a restart.

A source at a CSL club told me that they had been preparing for the team to return to full competitive action this month.

“It’s been tough for us,” the source said. “We’re working towards the new season, but we have no idea when this new season will start. It’s frustrating because we don’t receive all the information we need from the league; the communication from the league has been inconsistent at best. We got told at the start of May that they [the league] wanted to restart now, like the middle of June, but now we’re here in the middle of June, and we still don’t have a new, set in stone date. I wouldn’t be surprised to get to next month and find out the whole thing has been called off.”


Shanghai F1 still not decided

The Formula One Group (FOM), the body that owns and runs Formula One, has proposed that Shanghai host two back-to-back Grands Prix for this current season.

The Shanghai Grand Prix was initially slated for April 19 before COVID-19 devastated the 2020 motorsports calendar.

In reaction to the upheaval and numerous canceled races, FOM released an updated match fixture list for the first half of the season. The new race calendar is currently made up of a reduced list of European Grands Prix, including two races at Silverstone and in Austria.

However, FOM has been keen to nail down the dates and locations for the Asian leg of the 2020 season, which would follow the European series of races.

Shanghai has been picked as one of the locations in Asia that could host two Grands Prix, as FOM makes every attempt to complete the season in the most efficient and safest way possible.

However, Xu Bin, director of the Shanghai Sports Administration, made it clear that Shanghai has yet to make up its mind on whether to go ahead at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“F1 has officially announced the resumption of the eight races in Europe, Asia not included. The Shanghai race has been postponed to the second half of the year. FOM asked us if it is possible for Shanghai to hold two races. We have not made the final decision, depending on the potential changes of the epidemic situation,” Xu was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

“We hold two to three video conferences every week, and we hope our positive communication can lead to satisfactory outcomes.”

The China Sports Column runs every week on The China Project.