Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Post Asian Games observation Part I

15th Asian Games Doha 2006 - Previews

Is there anyone surprised at China winning gold in the Doha Asian Games? Guess not. Bottomline is, China has been the only super power in Asia for the past few years and I really don't see any serious challenger down the road for another few years in the future. That is the fact we learnt at Doha.

Which means, South Korea is no longer able to give the Chinese a serious run for the title. Lebanon is a different team without former head coach Paul Coughter, who helped build Lebanese basketball as it is today.

If Qatar manages to keep its current American head coach Joseph Stiebing on board and its devotion on basketball. With more foreign-turned-Qatari players coming in, Qatar should be able to maintain its competition level. But it is still hard for them to challenge China, evidenced by the 58-44 title game score at Doha.

Aside from China, however, the competition level of other Asian countries has been as close as it could be in the history of Asian basketball. Asian basketball will be as exciting as ever in the future.

This is not a fantasy, especially when you saw Jordan and Iran made the semifinal and Taiwan almost made it there if it didn't lose to Qatar in double-overtime. Kazakhstan came out as a Cinderella team as well. The Kazkahs would've play in the semifinal if they didn't squander a 7 point lead in the last 25 seconds in the quarterfinal vs. Jordan.

I'll offer my quick observation for the top ten teams below.


CHINA: China's defense has improved a lot under the guidance of Lithuanian head coach Jonas Kazlauskas. Without the service of Yao Ming, the rise of young players like Yi Jianlian (212cm, 16.6p) and Sun Yue (205cm, 5.1p) gave China big hopes. And Wang Zhizhi (216cm, 19.0p), the tournament MVP, has been playing well consistently since his return to the national team.

Sun Yue will be the best player at the three spot, being able to push the ball upcourt and direct the offense. He is definitely the better choice at small forward -- more like a point forward -- than Zhu Fangyu, but I'm not convinced he can play as a point guard like many claimed.

Zhu Fangyu (200cm, 9.5p) and Wang Shipeng (197cm, 8.8p) will be the shooters China counts on for years to come. Their outside shot will take some loads off China's inside players and will be a big help.

Truth is, China is the team to beat in Asia even without Yao Ming and Wang Zhizhi. But the players need to keep their focus and give all their effort on the court at all times, which was not the case in the Asian Games and why Kazlauskas was unhappy sometimes.

As for Yi Jianlian, his age is constantly questioned by many. Aside from that, he needs to add some post moves to his reportoire in order to make it to the next level. His quickness, coordination and shooting touch are things you rarely see in big men though.


QATAR: The host country survived a scare in the quarterfinal game vs. Taiwan and made it to the title game. I guess that lived up to their pre-tournament expectation.

Over the years, Joseph Stiebing has taken this team to a different level. The team which simply could not make jumpers consistently has now become a team that can play inside and out. Qatar's height advantage makes it a dangerous team for anyone. But it has the same problem as China. Sometimes the players could lose focus and suddenly looked clueless on the court for five or ten minutes, which resulted in momentum changes that could've costed them a win.

The key for Qatar is always their outside shooting because they have no problem scoring over Asian teams inside. In that regard, players like Saad Abdulrahman Ali (194cm, 14.1p), Daoud Musa Daoud (193cm, 7.6p), Ali Turki Ali (200cm, 8.1p) and Erfan Ali Saeed (198cm, 11.6p) are those who can make or break the game for Qatar. But of course, the leadership of veteran Yasseen Ismail Musa (205cm, 11.8p) is critical for the team as well.


IRAN: I like their balance and youth. Same problems here. If these players learn how to gel as a team and gain more exprience, it will be even more dangerous. Plus, the core players on this squad are mostly under 24 years-old, such as B.M. Samad Nikkhah (198cm, 13.9p, ) Hamed Ehdadi (218cm, 10.1p+10rb, ) Mahdi Kamrany (180cm, 9.6p+4s, ) and Aidin Nikkhah Bahrami (200cm, 9.4p). It's why Iran will have a bright future ahead.


JORDAN: Jordan is the real Cinderella team in the tournament by upsetting South Korea in the prelim and erasing a 7-point deficit in 25 seconds in the quarterfinal game vs. Kazakhstan.

Jordan has played exceptionally well inside and out in the Asian Games. Its brusing frontline players are the key, including 204cm Zaid Al Khas (17.3p+8.3rb, 47% 3PT, ) 205cm Ayman Idais (8.3p+7rb, ) and 203cm Islam Abbas (7.6p+7rb).