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China Daily takes a look at each of the 17 teams which will be chasing glory in what could be a watershed year for the league
The new CBA season, which starts on Saturday night with a clash between defending champion the Beijing Ducks and the Shanghai Sharks, promises to be the best ever staged in this country. NBA stars continue to look at the league as a viable way to continue their professional careers, a la seven-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady, while the clubs are becoming more and more willing to spend big bucks to attract major talent - and boost their local stocks. Of course, the greater the talent on the court, the more people who will come to watch. The 2012-13 season promises to be vibrant on and off the pines as the country's most popular domestic competition goes from strength to strength.
In order of how they finished last season
Head coach: Min Lulei
Players to watch: Stephon Marbury, Li Gen
Home court: Shougang Gymnasium
Prediction: Being there once doesn't mean you know how to get to the mountain top again, and there will be a big target on the Ducks' backs this season. Last season's title run will motivate the Ducks. However, Marbury has to lead his team in overcoming tougher challenges from other title contenders who have become stronger and hungrier over the summer. Newcomer Li will play a heavy role once he blends in with the team.
Guangdong Southern Tigers
Head coach: Li Chunjiang
Players to watch: Yi Jianlian, Terrence Williams (ex-New Jersey Nets)
Home court: Dongguan Stadium
Prediction: The return of former backbone Yi will boost the confidence of the seven-time league champion that it can regain past glory. New addition Williams will provide athleticism and energy to a versatile roster which includes veteran national players and promising local talents. Making the finals is not out of reach, but the days of easy wins are over.
Shanxi Brave Dragons
Head coach: Jesus Mateo (Spain)
Players to watch: Marcus Williams (ex-Memphis Grizzlies), Charles Gaines
Home court: Taiyuan Binhe Sports Center
Prediction: After enjoying a breakout season in 2011-12, the Brave Dragons can reasonably expect more of the same after retaining the highly-efficient Williams-Gaines tandem - at greater cost. Riding hoop fever in the success-starved city, the team aims to transform last season's momentum into something bigger.
Xinjiang Flying Tigers
Head coach: Cui Wanjun
Players to watch: Von Wafer (ex-Houston Rockets), Mengke Bateer
Home court: Hongshan Gymnasium
Prediction: Disappointed by Kenyon Martin's sub-par performance last season, the three-time league runner-up signed Yao Ming's former Houston teammate Wafer, counting on the scorer to rekindle the team's form with tested ex-NBA forward James Singleton, who played for Guangdong last season. Making the semis seems a realistic goal for this reshuffled force.
Head coach: Brian Goorjian (US/Australia)
Players to watch: Li Muhao, Lester Hudson (ex-Washington Wizards)
Home court: Dalang Gymnasium
Prediction: Although signing Hudson and Marcus Haislip (ex-Milwaukee Bucks), the Leopard will continue to focus on long-term prosperity by nursing local young guns with the help of the NBA Basketball School. Promising forward Li has drawn nationwide interest through his athletic ability and high basketball IQ. He will lead the young force to at least the postseason again.
Head coach: Daniel Panaggio (US)
Player to watch: Gilbert Arenas (ex-Washington Wizards All-Star guard)
Home court: Pudong Yuanshen Stadium
Prediction: By importing "Agent Zero" Arenas, the Sharks expect to add more bite to their game, but will also have to take care of Arenas' sometimes strange behavior and his worn-out body. If everything works out as expected, Arenas will be a candidate to win the scoring title while leading the squad to the playoffs. Ex-NBA coach Panaggio will have to act as the glue to hold it all together.
Head coach: Wang Fei (former national coach)
Players to watch: Al Thornton (ex-Los Angeles Clippers), P.J. Ramos
Home court: Hangzhou Gymnasium
Prediction: Welcoming back their former mentor Wang, the Lions have vowed to fight for a semifinals berth. New piece Thornton proved his ability as a forward with the Clippers and should be a fine complement to dominant center Ramos if the chemistry works between them.
Head coach: Baldwin Anthony (US)
Player to watch: Wang Zhelin
Home court: Jinjiang Zuchang Gymnasium
Prediction: A minor city could make a big noise in the CBA because of one player. Carrying the massive burden of being the next Yao Ming, Wang, 18, will make his debut in the CBA after showing decent potential with the national team this summer. Fujian will hope to rely on the young giant for a long time to come.
Head coach: Kang Jung-soo (South Korea)
Player to watch: Tracy McGrady (ex-Houston Rockets All-Star forward)
Home court: Guoxin Stadium
Prediction: By importing the highest-profile former NBA player, T-Mac, the Eagles expect not only to fly high in the rankings, but also in the market. If the chemistry between McGrady and rest of the team works as well as it appeared to do in the exhibitions, Qingdao's reportedly $800,000 contract will be worth it. Expect a deep playoff run and rocketing ticket sales from Qingdao.
Head coach: Wu Qinglong
Players to watch: Han Dejun, Guo Ailun
Home court: Benxi Stadium
Prediction: After winning all nine preseason games, Liaoning enters the new season full of confidence in its all-round roster, which includes the national center-guard combo of Han and Guo. The young team will aim to return to the postseason with extra fire from Josh Akognon, who played for Dongguan last season.
Zhejiang Golden Bulls
Head coach: Yang Xuezeng
Player to watch: Quincy Douby (ex-Sacramento Kings)
Home court: Meihu Sports Center Gymnasium
Prediction: Landing former CBA scoring champion and All-Star MVP Douby from Xinjiang, Zhejiang has filled the hole left by J.R. Smith both on and off the court. The team will rely on Douby, who steered Xinjiang to the finals almost singlehandedly last year, to at least make the playoffs, but will likely come up short with a less than imposing local roster.
Jilin Northeast Tigers
Head coach: Wang Han
Player to watch: Dewarick Spencer (veteran from Lebanese league)
Home court: Changchun Stadium
Prediction: Losing its only local star, Yu Shulong, to Dongguan has made Jilin's Chinese roster even thinner. Signing low-profile swingman Spencer from the Lebanese league will hardly help the Northeast Tigers roar this season.
Shandong Gold Lions
Head coach: Gong Xiaobin
Player to watch: Zaid Abbas (Jordan's national forward)
Home court: Jinan Olympics Center Stadium
Prediction: Benefiting from the league's last-five-favor rule, Shandong could sign three foreigners with one from an Asian country. The all-rounder Abbas, who's earned plaudits with three different teams in China, will join US shooting guard Pooh Jeter and veteran forward Jackson Vroman to form a solid triangle. Don't be surprised if the Golden Lions rise.
Head coach: Adijiang
Player to watch: Wang Zhizhi
Home court: Youngor Stadium
Prediction: As the only club without foreign assistance, the Army team will continue to rely on its own players and its famous fighting spirit. But that won't be enough to ensure a postseason spot for the league's former powerhouse. Wang, 35, will find it tough to inspire the young guns in his career finale.
Tianjin Gold Lion
Head coach: Zhang Jian
Player to watch: Osama Daghles (Jordan's national guard)
Prediction: Entering its fifth season, the newish CBA team will try hard to forge its own identity while fighting for a better finish with playmaker Daghles' arrival. The league's leading guard in assists last season, Daghles will serve US forward Donnell Harvey and Senegalese center Hamady N'Diaye.
Head coach: Joseph Wilton (US)
Player to watch: Michael Madanly (Syrian national representative)
Home court: Lingnan Gymnasium
Prediction: A new coach and new foreign combination will take a while to build some chemistry. The third team in Guangdong province, the Longlions are keen to cultivate their own young force by riding the popularity of the game in the region.
Head coach: Chiu Da-zong
Player to watch: Yi Li
Home court: Nangang Gymnasium
Prediction: Plagued by management discord, the once title contender has struggled through the loss of on-court talent and financial woes. Its remaining local star, Yi, will face a mission impossible to lift the team any time soon. CBA-tested US swingman Mike Harris and former Phoenix Suns' center Garret Siler will provide some help.
(China Daily 11/22/2012 page22)