The newly reshuffled Chinese men's national basketball team, led by 51-year-old Lithuanian Jonas Kauslauskas, trounced the US All-Star Team 92-78 on June 30 in Harbin.
It was the last game of their friendly series, which had lasted 10 days in five cities. China finished 4-1 in the overall standings.
Game one (Zunyi, June 22): a tough opener
Despite one month's hard training, the young Chinese players suffered a seesaw game that stayed close the entire 48 minutes with many turnovers from both sides.
Power forward Mo Ke, who contributed a game-high 16 points and 2 rebounds, was shoved to the ground in the third quarter, causing Kauslauskas to rush on court claiming foul, and casting a shadow over the rest of the game. China finished 76-73 up.
Game two (Guangzhou, June 24): Sun Yue's coming
The second game spotlighted long-awaited Sun Yue, point guard for Beijing club Aoshen, who finally joined the national team in Guangzhou on June 23.
The China Basketball Association (CBA) had called Sun to the national team for a second time but Aoshen Club, suspended from the CBA League, again used him as a bargaining chip for reinstatement.
The 20-year-old was warmly cheered during player introductions, but jeered when he offered nothing but one rebound and one turnover in his 5-minute appearance. His confident performance won applause from both the fans and coach nevertheless.
Game two's glory belonged to center Yi Jianlian of Guangdong, widely deemed successor to Houston Rockets star Yao Ming. Yi scored 17 points to become the MVP of the game and gave China a 70-67 victory.
Game three (Huizhou, June 26): record low score
In spite of a humiliating 53-49 loss to the US, with the lowest ever score for
the Chinese national team, fans didn't feel too disappointed as Kauslauskas used the match to utilize all the bench players.
Guards Liu Wei and Li Nan were on the DNP roster for the whole game. Zhang Yunsong managed nine points in Liu's place – the Chinese team's best – while the other 13 substitutes appeared to lack enough coordination to take advantage of their opportunities.
Game four (Jiyuan, June 28): revenge of the Guangdongers
This game saw the highest shooting percentages for China: 51% from the field and 46.1% from the arc. Guangdong players Zhu Fangyu, Du Feng and Yi Jianlian together collected 51 points, with Zhu, in a reminder of his role as MVP of the 2005 CBA finals, sank five 3-pointers and pocketed 26 points. China beat the US 87-80.
On the same day, Menk Bateer, ex-NBA center and MVP of the 2005 CBA All-Star Game, started for Chicago, chasing his NBA dream for the second time in what may be his last chance. The 30-year-old has a NBA 2003 championship ring on his finger and received a training invitation from the Chicago Bulls in April.
"It's an opportunity that I must grasp. If any other team contacts me during the camp, I would have a try, and I want to stay in the US," said Bateer.
Game 5 (Harbin, June 30): China win, Sun Yue swings
Starting as shooting guard in place of Li Nan, Zhang Jinsong won 10 points, but was outshone by Li, who went on court in the second half to score a game high of 20 points. Centers Yi Jianlian and Tang Zhengdong together collected 11 rebounds and added 18 and 11 points to help China clinch a 92-78 triumph over the US All-Star Team.
For guard Sun Yue, that day was filled with mixed feelings. On court, he proved his strength to the head coach as well as fans by presenting several stunning fast breaks with 11 points for the host. But off court, negotiations between his club and the basketball administration center broke down halfway as Aoshen refused to apply for a place in the 2005-2006 CBA season. They objected to losing the right to sign foreign-related contracts for players on the national team, and their withdrawal hovered like a cloud over Sun's future as he might be excluded from the country's top basketball league for another year.
Kauslauskas will now lead the Chinese team back to Beijing and prepare for the inaugural International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Stankovic Continental Champions Cup scheduled for July 26-31 and the upcoming Asian Championships in September in Qatar.
(China.org.cn by Li Xiao July 1, 2005)