A wire news story on TB’s CBA plan

Is the trend really inevitable? I don’t know. And I hope it’s not…

Taiwan basketball team’s China bid sparks ‘brawn drain’ fear

by Amber Wang – Sun Nov 21, 1:36 am ET

TAIPEI (AFP) – A leading Taiwanese basketball team’s bid to join China’s professional league has intensified concerns on the island that it is suffering a "brawn drain" to its giant neighbour.

The Taiwan Beer side, championship winners in 2006-7 and 2007-8, recently announced that it wants to play in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) league, adding to an emerging exodus of players heading for the mainland.

"We cannot stop players from making the most of their limited athletic lives but rather than losing one after another to Chinese teams, our team could join the CBA," said head coach Richard Yan.

The team, named after the signature product of its main sponsor, Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp., would attract more backers and offer better deals to players once in the CBA, he said.

The plan raised a few eyebrows, with basketball authorities saying they opposed the team moving its big shots to China while leaving junior players in Taiwan’s Super Basketball League (SBL).

"Of course we hope top players stay in Taiwan… We don’t want the SBL to become a sideshow to the CBA," said Huang Chao-her, secretary-general of the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association.

While the association does not bar individual players from moving to China, it would be difficult for the Taiwan Beer team to get the green light because it has a state-funded sponsor, Huang said.

"Such a move would require the approval of various government agencies in charge of sports, labour, finance and China affairs. It is a very complicated matter," said Huang.

Several top coaches reportedly backed Taiwan Beer, saying it is inevitable for local teams to tap into China’s vast market in the wake of dwindling box office income and funding.

For years Taiwan’s top athletes have gone to powerhouses such as the United States and Japan in the hope of taking their careers to the next level, but increasing they are setting their sights on China.

"The trend of going to China is unstoppable," said Chu Yen-shuo, a Beijing-based Taiwanese sport critic and former chief editor of Hoop Taiwan magazine.

"Just like many European players joined the NBA, it’s only natural that people want to move where there is more money," he said, adding top Chinese players can earn up to five times more than their Taiwanese peers.

Lin Chih-chieh, a former star forward of Taiwan Beer, was among the players and coaches who jumped on the bandwagon when he joined the Guangsha Lions in eastern Zhejiang province last year.

"China’s environment is more competitive. There are more teams and I can vie with top Chinese and foreign players," Lin told AFP in a telephone interview.

"It’s a great opportunity to improve myself and boost my career. At my age it’s now or never for me to take on the challenge," said the 28-year-old.

Basketball — both America’s NBA and the homegrown game — is wildly popular in China, with hundreds of millions of Chinese regularly watching NBA matches on television.

Dozens of US players are playing in China’s professional leagues, with the highest-profile addition being the former NBA All Star Stephon Marbury, who joined the Shanxi Brave Dragons this year.

Lin warned that Taiwanese players need to brace themselves for a major challenge if they want to play in the stressful and physically demanding Chinese league.

Huang, of Taiwan’s basketball association, cited the case of Sina Lions as a warning about the dangers of wishful thinking about China.

The first Taiwanese team to join the CBA quit in 2003 after only two years, blaming adjustment problems, he said.

China is also wooing the island’s top talents in other fields such as baseball and billiards, as a recent improvement in ties between two sides spills over into sports.

But Beijing hit a nerve when it reportedly went after the island’s sport icon, golf queen Yani Tseng, with a five-million-US-dollar annual sponsorship deal. The world’s number two golfer has said she will only play for Taiwan.

The more alarming development for local fans is perhaps in baseball, where Taiwanese coaches have been credited with having played an important part in China’s rise in the sport.

Since splitting from China six decades ago, Taiwan has lost to its giant rival in nearly every sporting arena, but had prided itself over its prowess in baseball.

That confidence has been shattered, with the Taiwanese squad suffering humiliating defeats to China in two international matches since 2008, at a time when the island’s favourite sport was hit by game-rigging scandals.

It is unclear how many Taiwanese are currently coaching in China but local media reported this year that Chinese teams were planning to recruit at least 20 new coaches from the island.

Taiwan’s pro-baseball league reportedly also intends to establish a new team in China, which will consist of players from both sides and could travel to Taiwan to play.

The league’s officials were not immediately available for comment.

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Talk about Taiwan Beer’s seemingly failed attempt exodus

TB

Taiwan Beer made the front page last week when the United Evening News reported that the team has submitted its application to the Chinese Basketball Association in an attempt to become the Chinese leagues’ expansion team.

If TB eventually gets accepted by the 17-team league, it will become the second Taiwanese team to join the CBA after Sina Lions, which played in the CBA from 2002-2003. And of course, it will be a huge story.

Taiwan Beer said that it would not "leave" the seven-team Super Basketball League as most people think. So it’s not exactly an exodus. Instead, it planned to keep its "B-team, " composed of inferior players, in the SBL and bring it’s A-Team to China.

The Chinese Taipei Basketball Association (CTBA), Taiwan’s basketball governing body, and the Sports Affairs Council (SAC), the country’s top sports governing body, both denied that they were supportive of the plan.

The CTBA said that it has not received official document from TB about the move while the SAC said that if TB did submit an application, the final approval will be a decision by an inter-agency meeting between the SAC, the Ministry of Justice, the Council of Labor Affairs and the Mainland Affairs Council, given the complex and unique relations between Taiwan and China.

The situation was even more complex because the Taiwan government is the majority shareholder of TB’s parent company, Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp. Imagine what it’s like and what the political implication will be when a state-controlled Taiwanese team plays in a Chinese league with teams from other provinces.

The CTBA, SAC and Mainland Affairs Council people are not stupid. They know this would be a serious problem and could pose serious ramification in the future.

If TB ends up playing in China, where it chooses its home city will also be a difficult technical issue. It would be easier if it chooses a Chinese city, like what Sina did when it played in Suzhou, as its home court. If it decides to make Taipei its home court, it means that the other 17 Chinese teams will have to fly in Taipei to play their road games against Taiwan Beer. That will make things much more complicated and stir up political debates again.

I talked to CTBA secretary-general Huang Chao-ho about this. Huang said that the CTBA is not happy about TB’s plan to bring its top players to China and leave inferior players in Taiwan, saying that "no association would accept an idea like this."

A basketball official also told me that the CTBA has had conversation with Chinese Basketball Management Center, Chinese authority of basketball, about TB’s plan earlier this year when the plan first surfaced.

The center said, the official recalled, it would be "almost impossible" for the authority to accept TB’s application, basketball management wise, because there are already tons of basketball teams in China, especially in its second division, set their eyes on joining the first division.

"Unless it becomes a political decision that comes down straight from the top, " the Chinese official was quoted as saying, referring to TB’s application bid could possibly become a political decision eventually.

Additionally, the announcement looked like a unilateral decision of TB head coach Yen Chia-hwa, who has been known for his intention to bring the team over to China, thinking that the relocation would be able to boost the team’s popularity and profitability, after TTL President Duan Wei denied that he was aware of the plan.

My friend Robin Chu, who is currently living in China and works as a basketball columnist, wrote down his observation in these two columns (in Mandarin): "It’s not that easy" (沒那麼簡單) and "What’s the hurry?" (台啤急什麼? )

Anyway, looks like the attempt will be blocked for now due to its complexity.

However, this attempt did pose serious concerns in the long run. During the past few years there have been more Taiwanese players, such as Chen Hsin-an, Lin Chih-chieh and Lee Hsueh-lin, signing with Chinese teams individually and Taiwanese basketball is in jeopardy of hollowing out.

Now the CTBA fears that it will bring a domino effect if TB does leave Taiwan. Yulon Luxgen has also mentioned bringing the team to China because it serves the interests of its mother corporation Yulon Motors, which has established auto factories in southeastern China.

Tseng Wen-ting could sign with Shanghai next year

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Tseng Wen-ting could sign with China’s Shanghai Sharks and become the latest of a long line of Taiwanese players who sign with Chinese team to go for higher salary and tougher competitions, local media reported.

Shanghai, which was owned by Chinese NBA All-Star Yao Ming, offered Yulon Luxgen center Tseng a three-year, NT$20 million contract, it was reported.

According to the 204cm-Tseng, his contract with Yulon Luxgen was signed through mid January, 2011. However, the 2010-11 CBA season is scheduled to open on Dec. 10.

The Taiwan NT starting center said he is leaning toward finishing out the current contract before moving to China in the middle of the 2010-11 SBL season. If that can’t be done, Tseng said, he does not rule out playing for Yulon for the entire season on a new short-term contract and join Shanghai before the 2011-12 CBA season.

However, there’s no guarantee that Tseng will become a free agent after his contract expires given the lack of institutionalized regulation in Taiwan. He will not become a free agent until Yulon agrees to issue a letter of clearance.

Taiwanese basketball has lost three star players to the Chinese league this year, including former Yulon forward Chen Hsin-an, Taiwan Beer forward Lin Chih-chieh and former Yulon point guard Lee Hseuh-lin.

Chen, who is playing for Dongguan, and Lin, currently with Zhejiang, have both entered their second year in China while Lee signed with Beijing this past summer.

TB going to CBA?

Laetst news. More to follow…

Taiwanese basketball team denies it is joining Chinese league

Taipei, Nov. 4 (CNA) A Taiwanese basketball team dismissed reports Thursday that it has applied to join the Chinese professional league in 2011.

Taiwan Beer, one of seven teams in Taiwan’s professional Super Basketball League (SBL) , also said that whether it will go to China will be decided only after a full discussion.

The team will "only do so after applying to the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association (CTBA) and the Sports Affairs Council and receiving a green light from them," it added in a news release.

The Chinese-language United Evening News reported that day that Taiwan Beer had submitted an application to join the 17-team Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) after finishing the 2010 season in Taiwan.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) , which is in charge of Taiwan’s China policy, said it checked with the CTBA and learned that the report was false, MAC Vice Chairman Liu Te-shun said.

But an MAC official said that Taiwan Beer players did previously get approval to play in the CBA.

As the government is the majority shareholder of the team’s parent company, Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp., the situation could be even more complex, the official said.

In 2002, Sina Lions became the first Taiwanese basketball team to join the CBA. It chose Suzhou in Jiangsu Province as its home city and played in the league for two years before returning to Taiwan in 2003.

A number of Taiwanese players, most notably Taiwan national team stars Chen Hsin-an and Lin Chih-chieh, have signed with CBA teams in recent years, lured by higher salaries than they can earn in Taiwan.

Weekly tidbits: Nancy Liu, SLAM and Taiwan Beer

— An interview with Nancy Liu
Recently I had an opportunity to interview a special girl who is so hopelessly in love with basketball that she quit her job earier this year and spent 63 days in eight European countries to watch 25 pro teams play in 50 games, including the Eurocups Finals and the Euroleague Final Four because of her passion for the game of basketball.

Her name is Nancy Liu, a Taiwanese girl whose name is probably sort of well-known in some European basketball circles by now. Liu also stayed in Turkey to witness the entire 2010 World Championship and has been featured in a FIBA television interview.

Well, check out the video clip for yourself here and make sure to read her blog at http://abasketballdream.blogspot.com/

Yeah, a crazy girl indeed, but every passion starts with a crazy idea, doesn’t it? I also happened to find out that Nancy is not only a huge Duke fan and a Virgo but also has been following my blog for a while, which is why I have to write this post for her. Haha.

Read my interview below.

Taiwanese basketball junkie lives her dream in Europe
Nancy Liu has often woken up during the past six months not knowing where she was. All she knew was she was somewhere in Europe — and that’s exactly how she wanted it.

Liu is an uncommonly dedicated sports fan, even by basketball junkie standards. She quit her job and visited 33 European cities in in 63 days from March to May this year to watch professional basketball games in person.

"I love the swishing sound of a basketball going through the net. And I’m uncomfortable if I don’t play basketball for two or three days, " said Liu, who started playing basketball in fifth grade when she attended an international school in Beijing, China.

Already familiar with the American basketball scene, including the professional National Basketball Association (NBA) and the college game, Liu said her passion for the sport took her to the other side of the Atlantic to explore an area she was less familiar with the game played.

Liu quit her job at an international trading company and started to map out her plan to visit as many European teams and leagues as possible.

Helped by the many friends she made while volunteering at various local sporting events, including the Jones Cup basketball tournament, the Kaohsiung World Games and the Taipei Deaflympics, Liu set up about 70 percent of her itinerary before departing on what she called, "A Basketball Dream — Ballin’ Europe."

The basketball-loving girl, who majored in applied chemistry at Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University, began her basketball pilgrimage at a Swiss professional league game in Geneva less than 24 hours after arriving there.

In the following two months, the journey took Liu to numerous cities in eight countries — Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Greece.

In all, Liu attended 25 games and watched 50 teams play in various European domestic leagues as well as the Eurocup Finals and the Euroleague Final Four, both top-tier European basketball competitions.

Liu estimated that she slept an average of less than three hours a night during her stay in Europe and visited as many as three cities in one day.

After the two-month trip, she spent three months in Beijing to work as an intern at NBA China and returned to Taiwan for a day before resuming her travels.

This time she visited Turkey for the 2010 FIBA Men’s World Championship and attended all of the tournament’s games, while getting to see her favorite player — Rudy Fernandez of Spain — perform in person.

To save money during her European travels, Liu said she spent all but one night staying at friends’ places, and ended up spending only around NT$200,000 (US$6,377) for the trip.

"Most of my budget was spent on transportation — flight tickets, train tickets and bus fare, " Liu said. She also had to overcome "the unthinkable" in Europe, such as a French railway strike and the disruption of Euro air traffic by the eruption of a volcano in Iceland that left European skies bathed in inpenetrable ash.

Though basketball was at the center of her trip, Liu said it had even greater significance because she used every opportunity to let everyone know she’s from Taiwan.

"This was my way of promoting Taiwan to the world, " she said.

Newspapers in Serbia and Greece gave extensive coverage to her ambitious trip, according to Liu. She was also interviewed by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) during the World Championship.

Liu recalled that her parents expressed concerns about the trip when she first brought up the idea, but her father finally gave the go-ahead because "he didn’t want me to miss the opportunity to realize my dream."

Her European trek has not brought her dream to an end. If anything it was only the beginning of loftier ambitions, including a return to Europe for the 2011 European Championship, which will be held in Lithuania next summer.

Liu’s dream now extends beyond watching basketball games.

"I want to be involved in and initiate basketball-related nongovernment organization (NGO) projects which inspire children and the underprivileged through the sport, " said Liu, who described herself as being "broke" and is looking for a job to support her future plans.

"Basketball has been the inspiration to lift myself out of bed every morning since I was 13. I hope that the sport — and my journey — would be an inspiration for other people as well, " she said.

— SLAM: Jeremy Lin
A while ago I also had a rare chance to be interviewed as a basketball writer by the SLAM magazine writer Ben Sin to talk about Jeremy Lin.

http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2010/09/defying-all-odds/

Whether or not Lin’s signing is driven by an agenda to boost ticket sales and buzz is up for debate, but the move has undoubtedly caused a positive reaction for the NBA in Taiwan. Chris Wang, a veteran sports journalist and current columnist for NBA.com in Taiwan, says Lin’s signing has increased interest in the League, although he isn’t sure if it’s increased enthusiasm for basketball in general, because Wang argues that, “pound for pound, Taiwanese basketball fans love of the game surpasses those in China.”

Lin and his family (parents and two brothers) appeared in an NBA-organized press conference in Taiwan less than 10 days after the signing. Hailed as “the first Taiwan player in the NBA,” Lin received a hero’s welcome at the press conference.

— Taiwan Beer going to China?
There has been talks that Taiwan Beer is mulling to join the Chinese pro league CBA next year. The Chinese basketball authority has flat out rejected the report, saying that the 17-team league isn’t planning for an expansion for now.

TB thought about joining the Chinese league for a couple of reasons. First of all, it figured that it would  benefit the team to be in the Chinese basketball market, which looks like a sponsor-rich and popular territory. Secondly, the relocation will be a part of the expansion plan of the Taiwan Beer Corporation, which has been trying to secure market access to China with warming Taiwan-China relations.

It was reported that TB Chairman Wei Po-tao had said he would spend 20-30 million RMB a year for the team to join the CBA, and the team is considering to make a city in Zhejiang Province as its homecourt.

Conflicting reports stated that TB might stay in Taiwan and choose Taipei as its home, but this is highly unlikely because it will cost Chinese teams a lot more on transportation if they have to play in Taiwan. On the political front, having Chinese teams play in Taiwan will definitely stir up controversy.

Anyway, I tend to look at it as just another rumor for now. It’s possible that Taiwanese teams will join the CBA in the future, but not in another three years due to too many concerns and techinical difficulties, I think.

Nam Wah wins 2010 Strait Cup Basketball Invitational

Nam Wah basketball club from Hong Kong, China emerged as a surprising winner of the 2010 Straits Cup Basketball Invitational after a three-way tie in the four-team tourney.

The Hong Kong club tied with Fujian Xunxin SBS of China’s Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and Taiwan Beer of Taiwan’s Super Basketball League (SBL) at 2-1 after a round robin games. Macau Fukien basketball team was 0-3.

Fujian won three of four titles since the tourney started five years ago. This is the first time the tourney has been held in Taiwan.

In other news, it has been reported several months ago that Yulon PG Lee Hsueh-lin could sign with Beijing Shougang Ducks. TB PG Chen Shih-nian is also in talks with a Chinese basketball club.

TB head coach Yen Chia-hua was quoted by local media as saying that Hsu Hao-cheng could leave TB and join Dacin Tigers, and Dacin’s Huang Bao-tse could sign with his old team Taiwan Beer again.

Taiwanese players finish season in China

Lin Chih-chieh had 8 points and 4 rebounds in Game 3 of the Chinese CBA semifinal between Zhejiang Lions and Xinjiang, a 98-89 Zhejiang loss as the Lions was swept by Xinjiang 3-0 for the second straight year in the playoffs.

Lin is scheduled to return to Taiwan this week but is uncertain to rejoin Tawan Beer for the SBL playoffs. According to the CTBA, citing FIBA regulation, Lin is not allowed to play for teams in different countries in a single season, but TB said it’s going to appeal.

Lin was the best Taiwanese player in China this year. Still, his average was down, averaging 11.7 points, 4 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 34 minutes.

Chen Hsin-an had a disappointing season with Dongguan due to injuries. He averaged only 2.4 points in 19 games and was not a regular starter.

Performance of other players in China:
Yen Hsin-shu (Shanghai): 0.9 points in 24 games.
Hsu Hao-cheng (Shanxi): 2.7 points in 23 games.
Lin Kwan-lun (Shanxi): 3 points in 3 games.

Honestly, I don’t think these players went to China to "challenge a tougher competition level" like they had claimed. They went there to make more money and could care less about their playing time.

Nobody can fault them with making more money. After all, they are professional players who make a living by playing basketball. But seeing their miserable playing time in China is simply unbearable.