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Marbury leads defending champion Beijing in a tricky opening clash with Arenas and Shanghai, writes Sun Xiaochen
You might have to spend double or triple the face-value for a scalped ticket to Saturday's CBA tip-off game, but it could well be worth the price.
A NBA All-Star match-up will thrill the fans in the 6,000-seat Shougang Gymnasium when Stephon Marbury squares off with fellow countryman Gilbert Arenas in the season opener between the Beijing Ducks and Shanghai Sharks.
The Ducks, led by former New York Knicks guard Marbury, improved its roster by importing last season's CBA All-Star MVP Li Gen from Qingdao and vow to defend their title with great vigor.
"We won the championship last season, but the title favorites in my mind are still Guangdong and Xinjiang," Beijing's head coach, Min Lulei, said on Thursday. "We won't carry any burden. We know it will be much tougher this year, but we are still confident."
Most of Beijing's confidence comes from the fact that it has the league's best foreign leader, Marbury, although he had toe surgery over the summer.
The 35-year-old contributed 27 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game to help Beijing claim its first championship.
"This year will be a challenge for us. I believe we have so many teams coming after us. But I think we have prepared for those challenges," said the Brooklyn native.
Yao Ming's Sharks will be the first threat, and a tough one after bringing in Arenas, also known as "Agent Zero", in a last-minute signing.
Arenas, who played for the Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards during his prime in the NBA, nailed down a one-year deal worth about $700,000 with a mutual option for a second year with the Sharks this week. Boasting prolific scoring ability and a younger body, Arenas said he's ready to put pressure on Marbury.
"We played against each other in the NBA we've had that battle. If he tries to stick to me on the court, he's going to get a run for his money because I am younger and faster," the 30-year-old said.
"I know Beijing. I know he's done a great job there and everybody in the States is happy for him. It will be a pretty intense game. We should be up for it."
Despite feeling "proud" Marbury will be awarded his championship ring before the game, Arenas plans to spoil the party.
"I know it's a proud moment for him and the Beijing fans. But it is our time to make a name for ourselves. We will try to steal that victory."
However, Marbury is unperturbed by such rhetoric.
"This is just one player ... it takes a whole team to really beat a team.
"I think having those guys (former NBA players) here is a blessing to the CBA, it's a great addition for other teams. But I don't feel any pressure playing against anyone."
Beijing and Shanghai both recorded home wins against each other last season and have met, in all, 42 times with the Sharks leading the rivalry 25-17.
The encounter at Shougang last season proved to be controversial as only a limited number of tickets were made available to Ducks fans.
According to reports, 1,000 tickets were released to online vendors for public purchase while 5,000 were held for private sale to Shougang Group employees, executives and whoever else the company deemed worthy.
That situation has not changed as online ticket sales for Saturday's game were launched on Tuesday and all 1,000 were purchased within six minutes despite the prices being raised by at least 40 percent.
"We had about 9,000 registered users clicking to fight for a ticket per second at the rush hour and the total number of users after the launch reached 40,000," Chen Tao, the director of online vendor damai.cn, told Beijing Daily on Thursday.
The other first-round matches will be played on Sunday with CCTV-5 broadcasting Fujian SBS versus Qingdao Eagles at 4 pm and Xinjiang Flying Tigers against Guangdong Southern Tigers at 7:35 pm.
(China Daily 11/24/2012 page15)