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Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009

BJ-LEAGUE

Five Arrows may skip season over finances


Staff writer

Just days before bj-league teams begin playing preseason games, the Takamatsu Five Arrows' season and future existence are in limbo.

The Western Conference squad lost its main sponsor, Anabuki Construction Inc., in May, and the team has failed to find a replacement during the ongoing global financial crisis. As a result, Takamatsu announced Monday it is ¥80 million short of the necessary ¥190 million it needs for operating expenses this season.

If a sponsor or sponsors cannot be found to secure the necessary cash by mid-September, the team said it will suspend operations for the 2009-10 season, which tips off on Oct. 3.

The team's plan, then, would be to re-enter the league for the 2010-11 season.

Akihiro Ejima, a bj-league spokesman, said it's not wise to think that Anabuki will step in at the last minute and resume its role as the Five Arrows' main sponsor.

"We made it clear through this announcement that this is not realistic anymore and Takamatsu needs the support from local people," Ejima said in a telephone conversation on Tuesday. "We as the league think it's very important for individual teams to have decent support from the local community.

"We'll see the reaction of Takamatsu people and try to help the team continue to (remain in) the league.

"If Takamatsu withdraws from the league, we will go with the other 12 teams this season."

With the addition of the expansion Kyoto Hannaryz, the league was slated to have an unbalanced schedule, featuring 13 teams this season. Now, that plan could change.

Takamatsu hired ex-Rizing Fukuoka coach John Neumann to be its floor boss for the upcoming campaign, but the cash-strapped franchise has a blank roster page on its Web site, though several players made plans to rejoin the team for the upcoming season, and other newcomers expected to play for Neumann in 2009-10.

Neumann declined comment on his team's predicament.

Indeed, this uncertain situation could create a formidable challenge — and last-minute chaos — for the league. In addition to reworking the league schedule, the issue of a dispersal draft for the Takamatsu players would have to be addressed.

"For the players and coaches belonging to Takamatsu, we have to consider how to deal with them, though we have not decided anything yet," Ejima said. "We're currently making every effort to let Takamatsu stay in the league for this season.

"If it turns out that Takamatsu can't play, then we have to make the decision on how to deal with the players and coaches."

Sun's plans: Sun Ming Ming, the 236-cm Chinese center who helped the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix advance to the bj-league's Final Four in May, won't return to Japan for the upcoming season, The Japan Times has learned.

Sun will play for Heilongjiang Daqing, a team in the Chinese Basketball League this season, his agent Harold Woolfalk said on Monday.

The CBL, also sometimes referred to as China's National Basketball League, is a minor league that began play in 2004. The Chinese Basketball Association, established in 1995, is the nation's top-tier league.

Sun, who turned 26 on Sunday, grew up in Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China. Now, back in his hometown of Harbin, he's coping with the death of his mother, who died of cancer within the past two weeks. The diagnosis came only "about one month ago," said Woolfalk, who runs Passing Lane Sports Management.

Last season, Sun earned a spot on the bj-league All-Star Game, suiting up as the Eastern Conference's starting center. In addition, he helped the Phoenix compile a 36-16 record, tops in the Eastern Conference, in the regular season.



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