The Chinese National Basketball team is competing in the NBA Summer League, and getting better with each game. CGTN’s Mark Niu takes a look at the team’s rare appearance in an increasingly popular and competitive summer league.
When the Chinese National Team opened their practice to the media for the first time during NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, there was no hiding from what seemed obvious – they looked overmatched.
Team China lost its first game to the Miami Heat by 41 points and a second to the Sacramento Kings by a score of 94-77.
“The Intensity of the games in this summer league is really high,” said Team China’s star guard Guo Ailun. “Every team we face is much stronger than what play against in China. ”
“This is so fast. It’s a different level,” said Chinese National Team Head Coach Li Nan. “For sure, their contact, we’ve never seen this before. Also the rules are different. We’ll try to get used to it but still is hard to play this tournament, but we will play through this.”
The NBA summer league is mainly composed of NBA rookies and relatively inexperienced players hoping to get noticed.
It’s eleven days of basketball that has become big business, with fans from around the world flocking to the event.
This year is different because among the 32 teams, there are two international teams – Croatia and China, which is competing here for the first time since 2007.
Game three pitted Team China against the Charlotte Hornets.
As they warmed up, the Chinese National Team tried not to be discouraged by the losses. After all, each game is a learning experience to help them better prepare to host the FIBA World Cup of Basketball In China, in August.
From the start, the Hornets’ quickness put them out in front.
But China dug deep, taking the lead in the first half off some spectacular plays from center Zhou Qi, who also briefly played in the NBA.
“They’re in this game,” said Warren LeGarle, Executive Director of NBA Summer League. “By having this type of competition, it gives you sort of a measuring stick for the Chinese players where they need to go.”
In the second half, an all-around effort helped the Chinese team take the lead by as much as ten points.
Charlotte stormed back in the closing minutes to pull within two.
But extra effort, especially from Zhou Qi, eventually helped China come through with a surprising 84 to 80 victory.
“For us, we need to gain back our confidence and touch through these kind of games, which have been very helpful,” said Zhou Qi, who led the team with 17 points.
Team China also did enough to impress its opponent.
“It was a fun style to play against. They’re physical, they’re tough,” said Ronald Nored, the Charlotte Hornets Summer League Coach. “Their coaches do a good job, they run some good stuff. It was definitely different than playing your traditional NBA Summer League team.”
After the game I caught up with Team China’s coach Li Nan who simply said, “Very proud of them.”
It’s unlikely China will make it to the final eight teams to play for the championship.
But it has been a journey filled with both struggle and reward –an experience the NBA hopes will have Team China returning to Summer League on a regular basis.