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Sunday, March 27, 2011

HOOP SCOOP

Time for JBA to give up charade on merger


Under normal circumstances things move at a snail's pace within the Japan Basketball Association. So it's anyone's guess if talks between JBA officials and their bj-league counterparts will pick up anytime soon and/or if any progress will be made in the months to come for the creation of a new "top league" for 2013.

Ed Odeven

Based on what we already know about the leagues' recent history, there are few indicators that things are progressing in an orderly fashion, or progressing at all.

In fact, quite the opposite appears true.

"At this moment, there is no JBA board member from the bj-league," JBA official Kozue Shoji told The Japan Times in a recent e-mail. "JBA board members consist of JBA directors and special members."

If the bj-league, with 16 current clubs and four more joining the mix next fall, has zero representation at crucial meetings, how can genuine progress be made?

How can the bj-league's ideas, concerns and questions be addressed?

Who speaks on its behalf and offers counterproposals to what the JBA and its cronies from the JBL are saying?

The more important question is this: Why are there no bj-league officials on the JBA board?

Similarly, why are "special members" a part of the board when those running a league that has added teams each year since 2005 — the most significant development in Japanese basketball in a half-century — are not included?

Obviously, a potential new league's planning needs to consist of meetings with all concerned parties, not only those from various old-boy networks.

Sure, progress can be slow in a conservative, hierarchical organization. But common sense needs to be a part of the process — and sorry, folks, but there appears to be none of that within the JBA.

Therefore, why bother holding talks and meetings at all?

It seems like a lot of wasted time to me.

A few weeks ago, the JBA concocted a 36-team proposal — all bj-league, JBL and JBL2 teams — for 2013, but it was rejected. So now, it's back to the drawing board.

But again no legitimate plans appear to be in place. It appears as though JBA officials take turns throwing darts at a wall, so to speak, hoping and praying that one hits the target.

On the other hand, at least in public, the JBA talks a good game.

"We are still in the middle of planning at this moment and have not reached the stage of making a decision yet at a JBA board meeting," Shoji said. "Therefore, we have not decided to have 36-team league. We continue to plan for it to achieve our goal of starting the new league from 2013."

Trying, desperately, to unearth any morsel of evidence that, indeed, some progress has been made, I submitted the following inquiry to Shoji: Sources say JBL clubs Toyota Motors and Toshiba would rather drop their quasi-pro teams than join a so-called "pro league." So have these companies changed their minds and agreed they will join a new league, or are they still among the "thank you, but no thank you crowd?"

"We have not asked any teams of the JBL and bj-league their intention of participation; therefore, there is no agreement whatsoever," Shoji said.

Again: As expected, informal talks have produced zero tangible results.

Regarding the possibility of setting up a draft to distribute players evenly among the teams in the proposed new league, Shoji said, "We are still in the middle of planning, and these matters are still undetermined at this moment."

Without bj-league representatives on the board, a decision by design or by stubbornness by those with power and influence, the question of how to hold a draft will not be tackled anytime soon.

Looking ahead to the months to come, the Japan national team, guided capably by ex-Link Tochigi Brex bench boss Tom Wisman, features a collection of elite JBL players and Shimane Susanoo Magic floor leader Takumi Ishizaki. And for the foreseeable future, the national team's makeup will remain the same.

Have other bj-league players been invited to try out?

"No, they have not," Shoji said, not offering any official reasoning — or organizational propaganda — about the benefit of making national team tryouts a tougher showcase for Japan's players, even those with an outside shot at making the squad.

News photo
Exception to the rule: Shimane Susanoo Magic point guard Takumi Ishizaki (left) is the lone bj-league player on the Japan national team. The Fukui Prefecture native's fellow Japanese in the upstart league have never been offered a chance to try out for the national team. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Wanting more details, of course, I asked Shoji this: Shouldn't there be a requirement that all bj-league teams are asked to have some players participate in national team tryouts and camps and official practices under Wisman's direction?

"Once any players from the bj-league are selected as national team player candidates, we will communicate with their teams and arrange their participation for the official events such as training camps," Shoji said.

But there's no clear process for the above steps to take place. So things stay the same, meaning that ex-JBL player Ishizaki, a special talent, is an exception to the rule.

* * * * *

Players from the Sendai 89ers and Saitama Broncos have found new homes with other bj-league clubs for the remainder of the season.

On Friday, after a flurry of moves the previous day, Broncos forward Gordon Klaiber joined the Kyoto Hannaryz, giving them a boost in their frontcourt. It's unfortunate that, as of press time, nobody from the Tokyo Apache, who also cut short their season after the March 11 natural disasters and Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis, has switched teams for the season's stretch run. Big men Robert Swift and Jeremy Tyler would boost any team's frontcourt. Mike Chappell would add scoring punch and steady defense, while veterans Cohey Aoki, and Jumpei Nakama, who have played for Tokyo since 2005, bring playoff experience that any team could use.

Indeed, Darin Satoshi Maki, Byron Eaton and Kensuke Tanaka, vastly different guards, would also bolster any backcourt.

Players need to keep playing to stay on top of their game. Inactivity at this time of year cuts their season short. For guys like Swift and Tyler, who clearly benefited from coach Bob Hill's NBA-style conditioning drills, they'll face a tough challenge to maintain that superb fitness.

For Japanese hoop fanatics, having to wait nearly seven months to see Aoki, a fan favorite everywhere, in uniform for a regular-season game is a travesty. The league should have found a home — guaranteed it — for the five-time All-Star as soon as possible. The same could be said for relentless rebounder Kazuya Hatano of Saitama.

Here's hoping some of these guys return to action by next weekend. The fans deserve as much, especially those in Kanto who would like to follow players from their local teams in some way for the next few weeks.

* * * * *

A number of quality players — from Sendai, Saitama and Tokyo — will not have an entire 52-game season worth of stats to compare against those that do. In addition, among the league's top 10 scorers, for example, six have left their teams and five of them are not expected to play another bj-league game this season.

• Sendai's Mac Hopson (21.3 points per game).

• Saitama's Kenny Satterfield (19.9). He's now poised to join the Evessa, Hoop Scoop learned on Saturday.

• Kyoto's Wendell White (19.4).

• Toyama's Brian Harper (18.6).

• Sendai's Mike Bell (18.4).

• Miyazaki's Jackie Manuel (18.0).

So the record books will have a different final look than in previous seasons.



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