Andrew Chin is in Shanghai, so he knows a lot about the CBA…
One of the biggest twists in last summer’s protracted lockout was the way playing in China emerged as one of the player’s strongest threats. From Kobe to a pre-Linsanity Jeremy, virtually every player was linked to a Chinese team at some point during the lockout. Although the Chinese Basketball Association’s decision to prohibit opt-out clauses dried up interest, a few players took the plunge. While the player’s decision and its impact on their careers and the league have been scrutinized, no one’s really looked into how their moves impacted this year’s entertaining CBA season.
Game 3 of the CBA Finals is set for this Sunday in the Southern Chinese city Dongguan as the Aaron Brooks led four-time defending champs Guangdong Southern Tigers try to overcome a 2-0 deficit by the Starbury fueled upstart Beijing Ducks. So far the Finals have been a raging success. The Finals opener in Beijing sold out 18,000 seats in an unprecedented eight minutes and the series has been crazy: the Guangdong coach instructing players to take down Marbury, the raucous Beijing crowd serenading Guangdong players with “sha bi” (translated: “stupid cunt”), a 10-point fourth quarter comeback, and a strong possibility that Beijing becomes only the fourth team to win a CBA title in the league’s 16 year history. In preparation for this pivotal Game 3 we look back at Aaron Brooks, the last NBA player “trapped in China.”
The CBA Final has kicked off and as expected it’s been dominated by the point guards. The twist has been the upstart Beijing Ducks led by two-time NBA All-Star and Chinese vet Stephon Marbury taking a 2-0 lead against four-time defending champs Guangdong Southern Tigers. Guangdong is essentially the CBA’s version of the Bill Russell Celtics, winning seven of the last eight titles. The Southern Tigers have their own point guard with an NBA pedigree in Aaron Brooks who has shone in the Finals averaging over 30 points in the two games.
Eight days after he became the last of the NBA free agents to sign a China deal the NBA lockout ended. It was yet another weird turn of events in what had been a bit of a down year for Brooks. His memorable 2010 season netted him a Most Improved Player award and enough swag to wear this. The next year was the opposite — struggles with injuries, Kyle Lowry’s ascension and a mid-season trade to Phoenix.
His start in China wasn’t much better. While peers like Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith were essentially their teams, Brooks was expected to fit into a championship Guangdong squad. He wasn’t even the biggest NBA star on his team, as native son Yi Jianlian returned to play for his hometown team during the lockout. In his first game, he was held to four points in an early eye-opening loss to Beijing that signaled the Ducks’ contender status. Two games later he was roundly outplayed by Lester Hudson, the point guard he replaced on Guangdong in yet another early season upset.