Marbury outlines vision

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Stephon Marbury greets players during Friday's meet-the-press event hosted by the Beijing Royal Fighters. The CBA club officially announced the former NBA All-Star has signed a three-year contract as head coach, starting with the 2019-20 season. XINHUA

Stephon Marbury sees the challenge of coaching the Beijing Royal Fighters as a fresh start to his turbulent career-and he's vowing to give the CBA's chronic underachievers a champion's mentality.

Known during his NBA playing career for a sometimes rocky relationship with coaches, Marbury has switched roles after Friday's official inauguration as head coach of the Royal Fighters, the last pro team for which he played, in 2017-18.

"Everything is a challenge… it's a fresh start for everyone," Marbury said before meeting his players at the team's training center in a southeastern Beijing suburb.

"When I was first asked about coaching, I was skeptical about doing a job that I didn't know. Learning new things, doing new things and figuring out who is going to play will be a challenge, "said Marbury, who led another capital-based CBA franchise, the Beijing Ducks, to three league titles from 2012-15.

Without any pro coaching experience, Marbury faces a tall task in turning around a young squad that finished dead last in the CBA with an 8-38 record last season.

Formerly known as Beikong Fly Dragon, the team is owned by State-controlled company Beijing Enterprises Group (BG) and has never reached the CBA playoffs since entering the league in 2014.

Still, the 42-year-old New York native exudes a quiet confidence.

"I can't promise anything, like winning the championship or making the playoffs," he said. "But what I can say is if we train like champions, think like champions and move on the court like champions, with that mindset we will have a chance."

The two-time NBA All-Star learned how to be a champion after moving to China in 2010, following 13 bumpy seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics.

His public feud with former coaches Larry Brown and Isaiah Thomas during his stint with the Knicks (2004-09) undermined his reputation in the league.

The three CBA championships Marbury won with the Ducks helped redeem his playing career, making him a hero in Beijing while earning him permanent residency in China. He said his new job with the Royal Fighters is another way to pay back the city that has become his home.

"It's a monumental moment for me," he said. "Beikong gave me the opportunity to finish out my career in the way I wanted it. I am grateful and felt indebted."

Marbury got his first taste of barking instructions from the sideline during the basketball prelims at the 2013 National Games in Chongqing, when Beijing's then head coach Min Lulei, who was also the Ducks' coach, invited him to be an assistant.

"Being with coach Min for quite a few years as his player and assistant, I have an idea of what's needed to win in the CBA," said Marbury.

What the Royal Fighters need now is to bolster their roster with offseason signings of veterans and foreigners.

Former Chinese national forward Sun Yue, who helped the Ducks win back-to-back CBA titles alongside Marbury in 2014 and 2015, has emerged as an appealing option, but between recovering from injuries and being embroiled in a disagreement with the Ducks, the 33-year-old hasn't played over the past two years.

Wang Shaojie, who scored 22 points and 16 rebounds to help Peking University win the Chinese University Basketball Association title over Tsinghua last month and was named MVP of the final, will be a major target for the Royal Fighters at the CBA Draft on July 29.

Marbury also revealed the team is close to signing Memphis Grizzlies' 2010 first-round pick Dominique Jones, who played last season with the CBA's Jilin Northeast Tigers, and that Marbury's former Ducks teammate Randolph Morris will try out for a position in the paint.

"I am trying to put together a balanced team to be able to give us both the presence on defense that I want and the ability to put up points," said Marbury.

"My focus will be mainly on defense, so I am trying to get guys that are definitely able to play that style."

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