Any basketball fans out there? Excited for the upcoming NBA season? I sure am – I’ve been saving my lunch money for one of those huge HDTVs and getting NBA League Pass from Comcast so I can watch every single NBA game from my room. Not that I don’t love the hometown Warriors, it’s just that after our star player Baron Davis decided to jump ship, I haven’t been… meh… the W’s are gonna suck this season. I wanna watch good games with good teams!
Which got me wondering – how many Asian players are currently on an NBA roster? You might have heard of Wang Zhizhi, the first Asian player in the NBA with stints on the Mavericks, Clippers, and Heat, or Yuta Tabuse, Japan’s (shorter) version of Michael Jordan who played sparingly with the Suns. Little-known Sean Chen made it as far as the Sacramento Kings’ preseason roster, but was cut at the end. Remember that huge guy in Rush Hour 3? 7’9” Sun Ming Ming has dabbled with the NBA as well. However, there’s only three currently on an NBA team roster – perennial all-star Yao Ming, second year player Yi Jianlian, and rookie Sun Yue.
Being 7’6” has its perks, unfortunately one of them is not health. Those legs gotta carry his 310 pound body, and in recent years he’s had frequent problems with his legs and feet. A broken left foot in February kept him out for the rest of the season, barely recovering in time to help China to a top-8 finish at the Beijing Olympics. He hasn’t had much time to recover since then, and he likely won’t be at 100% at the start of the season (in about 10 days). The Rockets no longer have Dikembe Mutombo to back Yao up, so he might see more minutes, and with that comes an increased chance of injury. You’d think a guy halfway to 15 feet wouldn’t have to do much on a basketball court except stand there with his arms up, but the NBA isn’t that easy, especially with behemoths like The Big Galactus and Superman getting up in Yao’s business all night. Every year the Rockets are rated highly with one caveat - as long as Yao and TMac stay healthy - and every year, they seem to disappoint.
Yao’s first game on national TV will be against the Dallas Mavericks, Friday Oct 30, 8 pm Eastern on TNT.
Yi was drafted last season by the Milwaukee Bucks, and after a ho-hum rookie season, was traded to the New Jersey Nets. He saw some good minutes during the preseason games, and according to the current rotation, he’ll probably be… a starter?! Besides the outlook that the Nets are probably one of the 5 worst teams in the NBA, getting some good starter minutes will really accelerate his development. Well, as long as Vince Carter passes him the ball. Still, I wouldn’t expect too much out of Yi, yet…
Catch Yi in the Nets’ first national TV game against the Washington Wizards on… Feb 20, 8 pm Eastern, ESPN. Better mark those calendars.
Sun Yue was drafted last summer by the LA Lakers, but stayed in China an extra year to polish his skills. In August of this year, he signed a 2-year contract with the Lakers, but if preseason games are any indication, he has a loooooong way to go before he’s going to see regular minutes. He’s been heralded as the “Chinese Magic Johnson” due to his height and all-around game, but that’s like saying I’m the Taiwanese Lebron cuz I run over everyone on the court with my huge muscles. Figuratively. Anyway, Sun is the very last guy off the Lakers’ bench, so he’ll likely be sent down to the NBDL (the junior varsity of the NBA) where he can get some more playing time.
The Lakers first game is on opening night, Oct 28 Tuesday on TNT, but unless the Lakers are up by 30 points with 2 minutes left, Sun’s probably going leave a pretty deep butt-print on the bench.
Both of Joe’s parents are American, but deserves a special mention since he was born in Taiwan, and lived much of his pre-college life between Taiwan, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He also speaks Mandarin, probably an ace with chopsticks, etc etc… but naw, the real reason I wanted to bring him up is cuz we were teammates in high school! My senior year at HKIS, Joe joined the team as a sophomore. Back then he was a scrawny 6′0″, but apparently after I graduated he decided to start growing, and is now 6′8″ 230 lbs, dunking on everybody in sight. Joe was drafted a very impressive 8th this summer by the Milwaukee Bucks and will probably see around 15-20 minutes a night early on, but if past history is any indication, the dude will get better, and he’ll do it in a hurry. There’s probably a good chance he’ll be in the dunk contest this year, so look out for that!
Milwaukee plays New Orleans Feb 27 at 7 pm Eastern on ESPN.
The 2008-2009 NBA season starts THIS WEEK, Tuesday October 28 - this season is shaping up to be another exciting one, so don’t miss out! I’ll keep you guys updated as the season progresses!