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Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010

Hokkaido JBL team in financial trouble


Staff writer

The Rera Kamuy Hokkaido have the JBL's worst record (4-12) entering December, and as the league resumes after a monthlong break this weekend following the completion of the Asian Games, the cash-strapped Sapporo club has made a major change at the top.

At a recent meeting of the team's shareholders, Kazuko Mizusawa was replaced as the team's chief executive officer, a position she's held since the franchise's establishment in April 2006, by Yosuke Kondo.

Kondo, 37, owns and operates D-Nuggets, a basketball club, and the D-Nuggets Basketball Academy, whose company headquarters are located in Minami-Aoyama in Tokyo's Minato Ward. He had served previously as the team's general manager/president and representative director.

"One of the team's weaknesses was that it did not have someone that knows about the game and can strengthen it.," Mizusawa was quoted as saying in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Monday.

Kondo's Monday appointment as the new chief executive puts immediate pressure on him to solve the team's financial crisis.

The Rera Kamuy, under first-year coach Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, have informed players they will be asked to take a 20 percent pay cut for the remainder of the season, Kondo said, according to online reports.

In addition, the team's next player payday, originally scheduled for Dec. 5, has been delayed, and the date of payment has not yet been determined, Kondo said.

Attempts to reach Bryant and Kondo for comment were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

Kondo has attended bj-league functions over the years, including the 2008-09 and 2009-10 All-Star Games. Kondo also has professional ties with Toshimitsu Kawachi, the bj-league commissioner, fueling speculation that Rera Kamuy will defect from the JBL and join the bj-league in the future.

That's what the OSG Phoenix (now called the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix) did after the JBL's 2007-008 season.

Bryant's club, coming off two losses against the Toyota Motors Alvark on Nov. 5-6, has been one of the JBL's worst teams since joining the league as an expansion franchise.

One current bj-league coach isn't surprised that Rera Kamuy, who have publicly revealed financial problems for the past few seasons, have been a cellar-dwelling team under Bryant. Kobe's father previously coached the Tokyo Apache from 2005-09, including a pair of championship runnerup squads his final two seasons in the bj-league. Hokkaido, on the other hand, was 34-78 in three seasons under Tomoya Higashino, who was fired last spring.

"No offense to Joe Bryant, but the JBL isn't a league where you can bring in two or three Americans and turn everything around, like Brian (Rowson) has done down at Oita," the coach said, referring to the HeatDevils' 25-win campaign last season under then-coach Rowsom after an eight-win, 44-lost season in 2008-09 under Tadaharu Ogawa. "(In the JBL), it's more about the Japanese players, especially with only one American on the court, and since there's no draft, the only way to get Japanese players is to have a relationship with them and their college/high school coaches — and pay more money than other teams."

The source added, "It's not likely to end well for (Bryant)."

In November, the Rera Kamuy released former Loyola Marymount and NBA Development League big man Chris Ayer. Hokkaido replaced Ayer by adding veteran journeyman forward Jai Lewis to its roster last Friday.

Lewis played college ball at George Mason University, including during the team's improbable run to the Final Four in 2006.

Indicative of the team's roster weaknesses and a lack of other go-to guys, Takehiko Orimo, 40, is Rera Kamuy's leading scorer (16.5 points per game). Christian Maraker is the second-leading scorer at 13.6 ppg.



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