Los Angeles Lakers' Chinese guard Sun Yue is confident he can gain a spot on the team's NBA playoff list with the help of all-star teammates Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
"It's my dream to have a chance to compete in the off-season," said Sun during his first experience of watching an all-star game over the weekend. "I will train even harder because I know the chance is also given to those who are fully prepared.
"I also received lots of help from my teammates and I have seen remarkable improvement since joining the team."
Sun, whose rookie NBA season has been hampered by glandular fever as well as a foot injury, was activated by the Lakers for the first time last December. Despite scoring four points in the Lakers' 105-92 victory over Milwaukee, he has spent plenty of time warming the bench and has only played a total of 28 minutes in 10 matches so far, mostly in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter.
"Everything is going well. I did not play too much but whether it's during the competition or training, I get on well with my teammates. We chat and have dinner together. I can feel I'm a part of the team," he said.
Sun, a six-foot-eight inch (2.06 m) guard, is aware of the gap in quality and experience with teammates like veteran Derek Fisher despite the fact that Sun is considered the strongest guard in China.
"As a guard, your physical condition is not the most important factor," he said. "The key thing is your mind: your ability to control the tempo and then make the right decision.
"I know I still have a way to go. But (becoming the best) has always been my target. The league has so many excellent guards with different styles. But I like those with outstanding leadership and organizational ability."
More hoops to jump through
Sun was originally selected by the Lakers in the second round of the 2007 draft, but was not given a contract or an invitation to training camp that year.
The 23-year-old inked a two-year contract with the Lakers last August after averaging 6.8 points and 2.5 assists a game for the Chinese national team in the Beijing Olympics.
But he still needs time to get accustomed to the ultra-competitive NBA - and Lakers.
"I faced lots of difficulties right from the start. For me, I have to improve as soon as possible. Only by gaining enough court time will I get a chance to show my game."
Asked about speculation that he may be transferred to the 'minor league' National Basketball Development League (NBDL) to build up more experience, Sun said the matter was out of his hands.
"I cannot think about (such rumors) too much. But, hopefully, I can stay with the Lakers, prove myself, and contribute to the team's success."
Sun is the fifth Chinese to enter the NBA and he hopes to see others follow in his footsteps.
"Communication with teammates and coaches is the best way to get involved in a team," he said. "You must be active in the NBA, sharing your ideas with coaches. If you stay passive, you will get isolated and have no chance."
Sun has little problem communicating in English thanks to his three years playing for a Chinese club within the American Basketball Association.
He first joined the privately owned club, the Beijing Olympians, in 2002 at the age of 17 when it was a part of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Yet problems arose in 2004 when Sun was selected to represent China's U-20 team and his club refused to release him. As punishment, the CBA banned the Olympians from the league, a move that compelled it to migrate to the US after a brief tour of Taiwan.
In Sun's first year in the ABA, during the 2005-06 season, he averaged 9.5 points, 7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. He improved his numbers the following year and made the All-ABA First Team with averages of 13.5 points, 10.5 assists and 2 blocks.
(China Daily February 17, 2009)