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Friday, May 7, 2010

BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Tiebreaker could be needed in tight West


Staff writer

It's possible for the Osaka Evessa, Rizing Fukuoka and Ryukyu Golden Kings to all finish with identical 32-20 records.

But in the wacky world of bj-league tiebreakers, head-to-head records wouldn't play a factor in determining which team would be the regular-season Western Conference champion.

Point differential, the difference in a team's scoring average minus its points allowed per game, is the rule of law for the fifth-year league, and so it never hurts to run up the score against an opponent. After all, those points could come in handy in the final mathematical calculations.

The Rizing (30-20) play host to the first-place Evessa (32-20) on Saturday and Sunday. Fukuoka enters this series with a 15-9 home record, but losses in five of six contests against Lynn Washington and Co.

In addition, the Fukuoka-Osaka series will give one of those squads home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs the following weekend.

The reigning champion Ryukyu Golden Kings (31-19), meanwhile, close out the regular season against the host Oita HeatDevils (25-25). Golden Kings coach Dai Oketani's club is 14-10 on the road this season and 5-1 overall against Oita, his former club.

Will the three teams finish with identical records?

It's certainly possible. Stranger things have happened.

This weekend also includes the following two-game series: Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (39-11) vs. Sendai 89ers (35-15), Niigata Albirex BB (24-26) vs. Saitama Broncos (16-34) and Takamatsu Five Arrows (12-38) vs. Kyoto Hannaryz (16-34).

East playoff schedule: The top-seeded Phoenix will play host to the fourth-seeded Apache on May 15-16 at Hamamatsu Arena. The first game is slated for 6 p.m., followed by a 2 p.m. rematch the next day.

The second-seeded 89ers will entertain the Albirex on the same dates at the same times. Those games will be held at Sendai City Gymnasium.

If the teams in either/both series are tied with one win apiece after the second game concludes, they'll play 10 additional minutes — the equivalent of one quarter, or two overtime periods — to determine the winner.

The winners will advance to the Final Four, which will be played May 22-23 at Ariake Colosseum.

Wednesday rewind: The Takamatsu Five Arrows lost their seventh straight game, falling 103-93 to the visiting Rizing Fukuoka.

Michael Parker, the league's leading scorer, led the Rizing with 39 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and made six steals. Marlyn Bryant scored 20 and Sylvester Morgan had 15, while Thiago Cordeiro added 11 points and seven rebounds.

Yu Okada paced the Five Arrows with a team-best 33 points, including 7 of 14 from 3-point range, while Jeffrey Price scored 21 and Satoshi Takeda scored 19. Antoine Broxsie had 13 points, 18 rebounds, six assists and six blocks.

Parker made 15 of 20 2-point shots, including six dunks, but missed all four of his 3-point attempts. In the series opener, he was 9-for-10 from 2-point range and missed both of his 3-point shots.

Weekly honors: Okada is the Circle K Sunkus Player of the Week for games from April 30-May 5, the league announced on Thursday. He scored 19 points in the series opener against Fukuoka a day before putting a season-high 33 points on the board.

He's averaging 18.8 points per game, the 10th-highest average in the league.

Did you know?: Ryukyu small forward Anthony McHenry is 0-for-22 on 3-point shots over the past five games. On the season, he is 44-for-184 (23.9 percent).

Closing commentary: According to an archival search, this is the 101st bj-league notebook this reporter has written, with plenty of motivation for hundreds more.

It's an ongoing assignment designed to, well, report on news about the league and raise awareness about the league's top players, coaches and teams, point out statistical trends, etc.

Unfortunately, there have not been enough instances of the league's public relations office or team P.R. personnel providing news and notes for Japan's media outlets.

This much is certain: The league should place a greater emphasis on this, especially with three more teams making their debuts next season, increasing the total number of teams to 16.

Information such as a player's scoring average in home games and against each opponent should be routinely available.

Other notable stats — double-doubles, consecutive games with 10 or more assists, consecutive free throws made, for instance — should be presented online as part of a weekly league-wide media notes package.

Player quotes, for instance, are never posted online with box scores, though a brief comment from each coach is provided. The league can do more. And this material, of course, would help yours truly write better notebooks. Other journalists would benefit, too.

Fans deserve more opportunities to read about what players think about a particular game and, in a broader context, the season, and getting post-game comments from several players should be a routine habit of all teams' work duties. In fact, it should be a league-wide mandate.

A minimum of three players per team per game should be interviewed for 3-5 minutes, and those comments, whether said in English or Japanese, should be posted online within two hours after each game. This is the age of instant information, and the bj-league has done a less-than-stellar job in providing enough information to the media.

It's the job of professional leagues to provide a wealth of relevant information to media members throughout a nation, not just those who are at a game venue on game day.

Cute mascots and team slogans and halftime cheerleader shows are fan-friendly projects, but they don't educate the fans about players or teams.

And unless the league and all teams play a bigger role in getting information out to the media, fans and potential fans will continue to be treated to mediocre coverage of a sport that deserves better treatment in Japan's mass media.



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