China has become the popular destination for NBA stars seeking refuge from the lockout. The potential marketing opportunities in China and some familiarity with Western culture and comforts has tantalized players. Granted, China does not seem so accommodating to the opt out clauses most NBA players want so they can race back across the world and re-join the NBA.
We all know each country has their own basketball culture.
The NBA seems to stress more one-on-one play than most other leagues. European leagues are famous for a bruising style of play that emphasizes physicality, technique and precision. What is Chinese basketball all about?
In a word: scoring.
At least that is what former NBA and Chinese Basketball Association star Laron Profit told Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel last week.
“They’re all about scoring — his stats will look crazy,” Profit said of Earl Clark’s decision to forego NBA free agency and sign in China. “I remember my first game over there, we’re up by like 30 points and I’m expecting the coach to put in the second team. Nope. He keeps starters in and says let’s ramp this thing up even more. I’m trying to run out the clock, everyone’s telling me to shoot it, shoot it. They’re trying to score and score.”
That seems like a simplistic way of looking at the game. But there is also no doubt China loves its basketball. It is arguably the most popular sport in the country (one of the few countries basketball can say that about) and fans go nuts every time Kobe Bryant or LeBron James go walking around Beijing.
This is not to say the CBA does not get the subtleties of basketball. Profit played in China before Yao Ming hit the NBA. He played for the Guangdong Southern Tigers from 2002-04. Profit averaged a lowly 3.3 points per game in 135 games played in four seasons between 1999 and 2006.
To give you an idea though of how high scoring gets in the CBA, the leading scorer in the league was Charles Gaines with 33.7 points per game. All of the top 10 players in scoring in the league averaged at least 25 points per game. The champion Guangdong Tigers averaged about 117.9 points per game and included a 146-88 win over DongGuan in Game One of the league’s semifinals. Scoring upwards of 130 points does not seem to be particularly rare.
The regular season champion Xinjiang Flying Tigers, who finished 31-1, averaged 105.5 points per game. There is a lot of scoring in this league and that is the point.
So for a young player like Earl Clark, who has struggled to find playing time with the Suns and Magic in two years, going to China nad having the opportunity to score and score is a plus. Among other things, that might be what is attractive about playing in China.
Scoring makes highlights and, apparently in China, sells the tickets.