Former NBA players ready to impress audience in Sunday's game, Sun Xiaochen reports
BEIJING - Former NBA backcourt players Stephon Marbury and Quincy Douby will slug it out to wow the local fans at the Chinese Basketball Association's (CBA) All-Star Game on March 20 at the Beijing MasterCard Center (formerly known as Wukesong Arena).
Since top local hoopsters Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian left their homeland to play in the NBA, in 2002 and 2007 respectively, China's All-Star Game has seen a sharp decline in star power and has been struggling to discover more domestic basketball icons.
However, a stream of renowned foreign players, including Foshan Longlions' playmaker Marbury and Xinjiang Flying Tigers' swingman Douby, the league's two best-performing foreigners this season, are ready to rock the weekend - NBA style.
"Honestly, I prefer to play as an all-star here rather than in the United States," said Marbury, an NBA All-Star Game reserve in 2001 and 2003.
"Fans here are so dedicated to the game and more passionate than the Americans who are tired of big shows. That makes me feel more happy and excited," said the 34-year-old who first came to play for the CBA's Shanxi Zhongyu last January and then transferred to Foshan three months ago.
During the North team's 133-121 victory over the South last year, Marbury lit up the packed stadium with an intense barrage of long-range 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished the game with 30 points and 10 assists to win the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.
The former New York Knicks guard has also decided to compete in this year's 3-point shootout on Sunday.
Joining Marbury in the South team's starting lineup will be three-time all-star MVP winner, the Bayi Rockets' veteran, Wang Zhizhi, his teammate and forward Mo Ke, Dongguan Leopards' forward Zhang Kai and Guangdong Southern Tigers' sharpshooter Wang Shipeng, who hit 10 3-pointers to clinch the all-star MVP title four years ago. The team will be guided by Li Chunjiang, the six-time champion coach of Guangdong.
On the North side, Flying Tigers' scoring machine Douby, who averaged 30.7 points and 4.8 assists to lead the team to its first regular season title this year, will take on Marbury in the backcourt.
Douby, the Sacramento King's 19th pick in the 2006 NBA draft, said he is looking forward to play one-on-one against his "old neighbor".
"It's going to be fun to play against him (Marbury) after we played a lot in the NBA years ago. I feel excited about battling against him here. We are both good players with plenty of scoring ability and we will make it fun for the fans," said Douby, who came from Brooklyn (one of New York City's boroughs), as did Marbury.
With solid performances throughout the regular season, low-profile Douby was dubbed the league's No 1 foreign player; ahead of the likes of Marbury, Steve Francis and Rafer Alston.
The 26-year-old said he plans to go back to the NBA after his one-year contract with Xinjiang, worth $1.35 million, expires this summer.
Alongside Douby on the North-starting roster will be two of his teammates, guard Zhang Qingpeng and center Mengke Bateer. Liaoning Panpan's big rebounder, Li Xiaoxu, and Tianjin Ronggang's shooter Zhang Nan will join Xinjiang's big three to face the South. Xinjiang's coach, Jiang Xingquan, will be in charge of the squad.
Apart from the NBA standard backcourt battle, the clash in the paint between national team veterans Wang and Bateer should also draw much attention.
Wang, the 34-year-old Bayi Rockets' backbone, topped the all-star balloting with 209,632 votes while Xinjiang's captain, Bateer, 36, will make a record 14th appearance at the event.
Hailed as the "moving Great Wall" Wang, Bateer and Yao, all landed in the NBA about a decade ago. On the world stage, they joined forces on the 1996 Atlanta Olympic squad which finished eighth - China's best performance at the Games.
Following the NBA's blueprint, the CBA All-Star Weekend's schedule will also include a rookie challenge, which will be held on March 19. Liaoning Panpan's teenage guard Guo Ailun, who became China's youngest representative when he appeared for the country at last year's Worlds at the age of 16, will headline the North's bench. Guo said he would try his best to prevent a fourth consecutive loss to the South.
At halftime of the All-Star Game, a 3-point shootout, skills challenge and slam dunk contest will entertain the spectators.
(China Daily 03/17/2011 page24)