CBA Season Overview: Guangdong Wins its 10th CBA Championship Title

By securing a 123-115 victory on Saturday night over the Liaoning Flying Leopards, the Guangdong Southern Tigers have officially won the 2020 Chinese Basketball Association championship title. Their dramatic victory in this best-of-three series represents the Guangdong team’s 10th title in the history of the CBA.

Despite Liaoning’s loss, the Flying Leopards remain one of the most competitive teams in the league. With help from O.J. Mayo, this Liaoning team still has a good chance to be in the finals next year. 

SEE ALSO:CBA Weekly Overview: Guangdong Likely to Lose Marshon Brooks for Rest of the Season

Starting from next season, the CBA will undergo some major changes with regards to foreign players and team registration. In this CBA season overview, we will assess media reports on the future of the Bayi Rockets, and on Jeremy Lin’s plans for the upcoming season. 

Guangdong dominating the CBA league

Entering the 2019-2020 season as the defending champion, the Guangdong Southern Tigers dominated the regular season with a 44-2 record in the shortened schedule, and entered the playoffs as the number one seed. However, the CBA playoffs were cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the competition resumed later in the year, the Guangdong Southern Tigers defeated the Beijing Ducks in the semi-finals over three hard fought games, before going on to win the 2020 championship title.

Former NBA player Sonny Weems was named the most valuable player of the 2020 CBA Finals. The 34-year-old dropped 39 points in the final game of the series, propelling the Guangdong Southern Tigers to the title. After Weems joined the Guangdong team in 2018, he has played a vital role in the Southern Tigers’ back-to-back CBA championship titles in 2019 and 2020.

Marshon Brooks, the other foreign player on the Guangdong Southern Tigers’ roster, was unable to attend the 2020 CBA playoffs, due to his testing positive for the coronavirus shortly after arriving in China earlier in July. 

Several other players from the Guangdong Southern Tigers received awards for their performance in the 2019-2020 season. Chinese national team veteran Yi Jianlian was declared the most valuable player for the regular season. In addition, Guangdong’s head coach Du Feng was named the coach of the season. Zhao Rui and Ren Junfei were selected to participate in the all-CBA second team. Finally, Hu Mingxuan earned the title of the CBA’s rookie of the year. 

O.J. Mayo becoming Liaoning’s new key player

This was the fourth CBA Finals appearance over the last six years for the Liaoning Flying Leopards, a stretch which included the team’s first championship title in 2018. Earlier this year, the Flying Leopards got off to a slow start after the resumption of the CBA regular season in late June. Following the departure of former head coach Guo Shiqiang and the arrival of a new foreign recruit O.J. Mayo, Liaoning soon bounced back to finish third overall in the regular season rankings. The Liaoning Flying Leopards swept its opponent, the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, in the semi-finals with two consecutive victories. 

O.J Mayo joined the Liaoning team mid-season as a back-up foreign player and has made significant contributions to the team’s performance. Mayo is one of the leading scorers in the league and, in July, was named the player of the month. Following his suspension from the NBA in 2016, Mayo spent the following years in various overseas basketball leagues, offering inconsistent performances. However, the 3rd overall pick from the 2008 NBA draft has eventually displayed his skills and talent in the Chinese league. Earlier in June, the Liaoning Flying Leopards expressed interest to extend Mayo’s contract if the former NBA player can deliver strong performances. Owing to his impressive statistics in the 2020 CBA playoffs, O.J. Mayo will have a good chance of renewing his contract for the upcoming season.

Major changes in the 2020-2021 CBA season

Like many other sports tournaments around the world, the 2019-2020 CBA season has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following months of suspension, the CBA league became the first professional sports tournament to restart in China, successfully concluding its shortened season in August 2020. Similar to the NBA bubble in Orlando, the CBA was able to continue its games with the assistance of public health authorities from the two Chinese cities of Dongguan and Qingdao. This top-level Chinese basketball tournament is also one of the few leagues that has been accommodating live spectators. 

The 2019-2020 CBA season is now officially in the books. Starting from next season, there will be substantial changes in the Chinese top professional basketball tournament. For instance, the CBA will reform its foreign player regulations starting from the 2020-2021 season. Teams will be allowed to recruit up to four foreign players, without restrictions on the individuals’ nationality, but the total playing time of each foreign athlete will be limited to 48 minutes. These changes follow the expressing of concerns by league stakeholders, arguing that Chinese players have not been receiving sufficient on-court time to be prepared for competitions at the international level. 

Is this the last season for the Bayi Rockets?

Several Chinese media outlets reported that the Bayi Rockets may not return to the CBA in the 2020-2021 season. Meanwhile, a local enterprise called Ningbo Fubang has since 2018 expressed interest in registering a new team to replace the Bayi Rockets in the CBA league. Despite their glorious history in the CBA, the Bayi Rockets are no longer competitive in today’s league, having missed the playoffs altogether for the past nine seasons. 

The Bayi Rockets represents the only team with a military background remaining in China’s professional football and basketball tournaments. As such, the team is not permitted to recruit foreign players as all players on Bayi’s current roster are soldier athletes. If the Bayi team does not return to the 2020-2021 CBA season, players on the team will need to be discharged from the military prior to signing contracts with other CBA teams.

The Bayi Rockets have won eight championship titles throughout the history of the CBA, but the team is now one of the worst teams in today’s CBA league. The Rockets finished last in the 2019-2020 CBA regular season with only 6 wins.

Jeremy Lin yet to renew his contract with the Beijing Ducks

Former NBA player Jeremy Lin is preparing to return to the US following the close of this year’s CBA season. Jeremy Lin and the Beijing Ducks finished 4th in the 2019-2020 regular season and were eliminated in the semi-finals by the Guangdong Southern Tigers, the eventual 2020 champions.

Jeremy Lin scored an average of 22.4 points, with 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists over the course of the past season, and serves as one of the Beijing Ducks’ key contributors. While his statistics are not as impressive as other former NBA players in the league, Lin remains one of the most popular players in the league as a result of his active off-court commitment to promote basketball and give back to the local community. 

Still, the former NBA champion has yet to disclose any details about the possible renewal of his contract with the Beijing Ducks. Following the series against the Guangdong Southern Tigers, Lin complained about what he perceives as an excessively aggressive playing style in the CBA, as well as the inaction of referees to protect players. Lin suffered from multiple injuries in the three-game series. Sina Sports, for instance, reported that Lin was critically injured and suffered temporary hearing loss after playing Game 3 against the Guangdong Southern Tigers.

Lin signed a one-year contract with the Beijing Ducks in 2019. Media reports suggest that the contract amounts to more than three million US dollars. According to the terms, the Beijing Ducks possess the priority to renew Lin’s contract if the team can provide a 10% increase in Lin’s salary for the upcoming season. 

Jeremy Lin also signed a multi-year contract with the Chinese sports fashion brand Xtep in 2019.