Experienced heads put Cinq Reves in playoff contention - Jan 1, 2013
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The Tokyo Cinq Reves have taken their fair share of bumps and bruises during their inaugural season, but coach Motofumi Aoki is guiding the team in the right direction. With an 8-12 record to date, the Cinq Reves (French for "five dreams") are within striking distance of a playoff spot. Never an easy task for an expansion team.
"We're a veteran team," Carr said on Sunday after a home loss to the Iwate Big Bulls. "We have guys that know how to play the game, so right now we are just putting things together.
"We have all the pieces to the puzzle, and right now we are just putting it together piece by piece, and by January 2013 we are definitely hoping to be the team that everybody is afraid to play against."
Jones is the league's leading scorer (22.2 points per game) and Aoki is first among all Japanese players (14.6). Carr is the third-leading rebounder (12.4 per game) and Aoki is second in free-throw shooting accuracy (94.5 percent), while Carter is tied for fifth in blocks (1.8 per game).
Carr recognizes that his relentless rebounding is a big part of Tokyo's overall game plan and he embraces this role.
"Me being the top rebounder, if it's helping the team, that's what I'm going to continue to do," he said.
To be a successful rebounder, hard work is a key trait.
"Several teams I've been on, I've been the only foreigner on the team," Carr said, "so my work ethic has always had to be above average."
Carr, 31, has also played in Austria and Israel in the past decade. Now he wants to help lead the Cinq Reves to the playoffs as a first-year franchise.
"My personal goal is to get this team to the playoffs and hopefully a championship," the Embry Riddle alum said. "Throughout my entire career as a professional athlete, I've always been the go-to (leader), and coming to Tokyo I've accepted that role to do whatever it takes to help this team win and I'm definitely proud to be (near the top) as a rebounder. . ."
Remarkable numbers: Sendai guard Takehiko Shimura has 111 assists this season with only 12 turnovers.
89ers coach Bob Pierce marveled at those staggering numbers, writing in an email, "By the way, Take now leads the WORLD in assist-to-turnover ratio. . ."
"Take has always been pretty good taking care of the ball," Pierce noted. "His assist-to-turnover ratio has been somewhere around 4/1 most of his time in the bj-league.
Here's his totals: 2008-09 (167/43), 2009-10 (144/36), 2010-11 (76/22, "The season Mac Hopson dominated the ball at PG, and of course the earthquake," Pierce said, referring to the end of Sendai's season due to the March 11 disaster) and 2011-12 (269-77).
"Last year we were one of the worst teams in terms of number of turnovers, so reducing them was a priority as we prepared for this year," the coach added. "Take was never the problem last year, but he has really cut down on the number of risky passes, and works even harder to get to spots where he has good passing angles. So while his numbers were very good last year, they are unbelievable so far this season. It also helps that he has great control of the ball, and uses his size, speed, and strength to avoid having the ball taken from him. His most recent game, 12 assists with zero turnovers, is just the latest example of how good he's been."
Change on the horizon: Osaka (2-16) is poised to make a coaching change in January, according to a league insider. The Evessa are on the road for their next two series, including Jan. 5-6 at Toyama before playing host to Shiga the next weekend.
Zoran Kreckovic lasted four games (all losses) as the bench boss before he was replaced by Takao Furuya in October. A foreign coach will replace Furuya, the source said.
League accolade: An abbreviated slate of games is on tap for the final week of 2012: Takamatsu vs. Osaka, Yokohama vs. Tokyo, Iwate vs. Saitama and Niigata vs. Shinshu. Defending champion Ryukyu plays host to Kyoto on Jan. 2 and 3.
Roster move: Akita signed 19-year-old Yuki Togashi, it was announced on Boxing Day.
The 167-cm point guard is the same height as seven-time All-Star Cohey Aoki of the Tokyo Cinq Reves. Togashi participated in the NBA's Basketball Without Borders Asia program this year.
In 2009, the Niigata Prefecture native was a student at Montrose Christian School in Maryland, where K.J. Matsui and Taishi Ito (JBL Toyota Motors teammates) and Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant attended.
Building for the future: At 14-6 overall and 9-3 on the road, Iwate has been a success story during the season's first three months.
Forward Lawrence Blackledge, however, said the team is slowly building itself into the type of team it wants to be.
"I think we've still got a lot of work to do," Blackledge said on Sunday after the Big Bulls had completed a series sweep over Tokyo. "I think we've still got to build chemistry. There's a lot of new guys on this team ... so we're still just learning, so we're still just getting a feel for each other. That's any professional team overseas it' a learning process. It takes time."
Sure, any team consider winning 70 percent of its games to be a good thing, but Blackledge refuses to believe his team is a finished product right now.
"It's a 52-game season, so I think hopefully around May we should be playing our best ball," he said, "and that's when all the good teams want to be playing their best ball because that's playoff time."
Problems in Saitama: Former Broncos forward Antwan Scott, who has known Saitama coach Tracy Williams for many years both are from North Carolina said the Eastern Conference's worst team (2-16) does not have the unity needed to succeed.
In a recent phone conversation, Scott said Williams never made him feel comfortable on the squad.
"From day one, he didn't want me there," Scott said by phone from North Carolina. "I think it's something personal with him."
While coping with a hamstring injury a few weeks ago, Scott said the unspoken message he received from the coach was this: "I don't believe you're hurt. I don't want you here."
As far as staying with the Broncos or collecting his paycheck and leaving a team in the midst of a rocky season (2-16 entering this weekend's series), Scott said Williams told him "If I were you, I'd take the money and leave."
Scott told The Japan Times that he booked a flight home for Thanksgiving and informed the team about it well in advance, and that there was no problem. But then two days before he had planned to leave on Nov. 19, a Monday, the team had informed him a practice would be held on Nov. 21, and he was expected to be there.
Repeated attempts to reach the team were unsuccessful. And Scott never got a reply, he said.
"I'm not going (home) for 1 1/2 days," he said, thinking back to his final days as a Bronco.
He said he wanted to remain on the team, but in the end opted to accept his release. He said the team's fans are loyal and supportive but Williams is not running the team effectively, including at practice.
For instance, Scott said the team would run warmup drills for 15 minutes, then Williams would speak for around 45 minutes. Getting warmed up again was problematic for Scott, he admitted, as his muscles tightened up at a time when he was undergoing extra treatments for his injury.
Scott said he would like to return to Japan and even play for the Broncos again. He averaged 10.6 points in 10 games.
Memorable numbers: Sendai's back-to-back wins on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day over Shinshu improved the team's record to 7-12 after a five-game losing streak. The Christmas triumph also featured a pair of numbers that caught Pierce's attention: 24 and 25.
He explained it this way: By the way, there was a secret Christmas message in the stats today. Yesterday was Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, and today was Dec. 25, Christmas Day. Today, Yasu (Yasuaki Arai) scored 24, and T.J. (Cummings) scored 25, which was our coded way of saying Merry Christmas to all the boosters and fans out there." Courtesy of:http://www.japantimes.co.jp
Akita Happinets welcome back Stephens, ex Chalons-Reims - 7 hours ago
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Akita Northern Happinets (B League) tabbed 27-year old American forward Deshawn Stephens (203-102kg-89, college: San Diego State). It is actually his comeback to Akita Happinets as he has played here before. Stephens played most recently at Chalons-Reims in French ProA. He managed to play in four leagues in two countries last year (!!!). In 19 ProA games he averaged 8.9ppg and 3.8rpg. Stephens also played that season for Banvit in BSL. But in four games he had just 1.3ppg and 1.8rpg. He a... [read more]
Akita Northern Happinets (B League) tabbed 27-year old American forward Deshawn Stephens (203-102kg-89, college: San Diego State). It is actually his comeback to Akita Happinets as he has played here before. Stephens played most recently at Chalons-Reims in French ProA. He managed to play in four leagues in two countries last year (!!!). In 19 ProA games he averaged 8.9ppg and 3.8rpg. Stephens also played that season for Banvit in BSL. But in four games he had just 1.3ppg and 1.8rpg. He also played 5 games in Eurocup where he had 4.2ppg and 3.0rpg. The other team Stephens played shortly was Bandirma Kirmizi in BSL in. In 7 games he had very impressive stats: 15.3ppg, 10.1rpg, 1.4apg, 1.4spg and 1.3bpg. Stephens has played previously for another Japanese team Sanen Neophoenix. He attended San Diego State until 2013 and it will be his fourth season in pro basketball.
According to Japan times, should statistical records from the bj-league, the JBL and its successor (NBL), the JBL2 and its successor (NBDL) be kept handy and recited frequently for the B. League? Or should the accomplishments of players and teams in Japan's men's basketball circuits be stored away and ignored, with the slate wiped clean for the upstart circuit? Statistical accomplishments help fans and the media gain knowledge and appreciation for players and teams, so starting from scr... [read more]
According to Japan times, should statistical records from the bj-league, the JBL and its successor (NBL), the JBL2 and its successor (NBDL) be kept handy and recited frequently for the B. League?
Or should the accomplishments of players and teams in Japan's men's basketball circuits be stored away and ignored, with the slate wiped clean for the upstart circuit?
Statistical accomplishments help fans and the media gain knowledge and appreciation for players and teams, so starting from scratch is not a completely realistic option here.
What the vast majority of the players, coaches and teams have done in years past will help to explain their identity as the 2016-17 season unfolds.
For instance, veteran forward Michael Parker, a newcomer this offseason to the Chiba Jets, was one of the most prolific scorers in both the bj-league with the Rizing Fukuoka and Shimane Susanoo Magic and provided a similar offensive spark for the NBL's Wakayama Trians and Toyota Alvark in past seasons. Parker's 53-point outburst for Fukuoka against the Takamatsu Five Arrows on Nov. 7, 2010, registered as the second-highest point total in bj-league history. Le'Bryan Nash eclipsed Parker's mark with a 54-point game for the Fukushima Firebonds on Feb. 28 against the Shinshu Brave Warriors.
Should those performances - and other similar impressive feats - be a part of the general talk about what teams in the B. League's new first, second and third divisions aim for?
The general view here is that there will be some recollection of past streaks, both good and bad, stats and trends. But inertia will carry the B. League away from broad comparisons to past teams and eras, at least right away in this new era.
One concern, though, would be that league and team officials don't rely on enough historical data to paint a reliable picture of who's who and what teams and individuals have accomplished or failed to do in past seasons in Japan.
Teaming up: Tohoku has been a growing stronghold for pro basketball since the Sendai 89ers set up shop in the bj-league in 2005, and were followed by four new teams - Akita Northern Happinets, Iwate Big Bulls, Aomori Wat's and Fukushima Firebonds - since 2010.
The region's other pro team, the Yamagata Wyverns, will team up with the aforementioned five clubs on July 20 for a planned basketball clinic in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
The events in Ishinomaki will be held at the Aoba Junior High School gymnasium as part of the B. League's efforts to assistant with the Great East Japan Earthquake's reconstruction. Actor Masatoshi Nakamura and Link Tochigi Brex guard Yuta Tabuse are also scheduled to participate in the festivities and planned instruction for local elementary and junior high school students.
Leader returning to Lakestars: Standout power forward Julian Mavunga is back with the Shiga Lakestars for a second season, the team recently announced.
Mavunga, a Miami (Ohio) University alum, averaged 19.5 points in 51 games (49 starts) last season for the Lakestars.
'I'm excited to be returning to the Shiga Lakestars,' Mavunga, 26, said in a statement released by the team. 'I had a lot of fun last year competing at a high level with my teammates and my coach. We will all be excited to be a part of the new B. League and I look forward to competing all season and bringing success to the club.'
Pomare update: The Kanazawa Samuraiz, coming off a playoff appearance in their lone season as a bj-league club, have brought back dependable veteran Gyno Pomare to add continuity to the frontcourt as the team makes the transition to the B3, aka the third division.
Pomare, a University of San Diego product, bounced around the bj-league for more than half a decade with one-season stops with the Sendai 89ers (2009-10), Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (2011-12), Kyoto Hannaryz (2012-13), Iwate (2013-14), Aomori (2014-15), then went to Kanazawa for the team's inaugural season.
In a news release, Pomare said his goal is to help the team earn promotion to the second division and then the first division.
In a follow-up interview with The Japan Times, Pomare said: 'I have a chance to grow with this team, and hopefully see it move up from B3 to B2. That is a positive.
'Head coach (Yukinori) Suzuki is the No. 1 reason to come back. It was very nice to feel wanted. He along with the (team) president met with me after the season in order to try to re-sign me. Other teams have wanted to sign me back, in the past, but Kanazawa really did all they could in order for that to happen.
'Secondly, almost all of our Japanese players are returning. We have proven ourselves already this season in being able to compete in the bj-league. We should be able to be very successful playing in B3.
'Lastly, the city, the fans, and my wife being able to walk back into her work, all made it an easy choice for us to return.'
Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Pomare noted that 'all things pointed to return to Kanazawa and winning in B3 and moving up to B2 is the ultimate goal.'
He added: 'I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead, and know with our team and coaching, we have a great chance to do big things.'
Las Vegas Summer League: Through Wednesday, Nash, the bj-league's leading scorer in its final season (2015-16), had appeared in four Summer League contests for the Milwaukee Bucks, getting limited playing time (averaging 3.0 points and 5.8 minutes).
He saw 10 minutes of court time Wednesday in an 81-64 loss to the Dallas Mavericks and had five points, three rebounds, three assists and a steal.
On Monday, Nash was held scoreless against the Memphis Grizzlies.
New boss in Takamatsu: Joe Navarro, who led the Hiroshima Lightning during their one season in the bj-league, was hired recently as the Takamatsu Five Arrows' new coach.
Navarro also worked as a Concordia University assistant from 2001 to 2012 in Portland, Oregon.
Navarro replaces Hiromichi Tsuda, who was the Takamatsu coach for one season.
The Lightning will not be a part of the B. League during the upstart circuit's inaugural season.
Another stop: Well-traveled mentor Koju Munakata takes over as the next coach of the Yamagata Wyverns, the second-division team recently announced.
Munakata, 49, was an assistant and head coach for Toyota in the old JBL and later served as the first sideline supervisor in Aomori Wat's history (2013-15) before a one-season stint running the show for the Shinshu Brave Warriors concluded in the spring.
Third-division moves: The Rizing Fukuoka have handed the coaching reins to a familiar face, bringing back Atsushi Kanazawa.
Kanazawa directed the team to a championship runner-up finish in the bj-league's 2012-13 campaign. He then left the team and coached the JBL2's TGI D-Rise for a season, followed by two seasons with the relocated franchise, then called the Passlab Yamgata Wyverns in the NBDL (the JBL's successor). Kanazawa also served as Takamatsu coach for the 2010-11 season. . . .
Elsewhere, coming off a 5-47 season in the bj-league, the Saitama Broncos have hired former American Collier St. Clair as their new coach.
St. Clair, 39, has worked as an assistant at both Southern Polytechnic State and Clark Atlanta University before spending the past five years in the United Arab Emirates as both an assistant and head coach.
According to Japan times, veteran coach Bob Nash will remain at the helm as the Toyama Grouses enter a new era. The 2015-16 bj-league championship runner-up squad announced last weekend that Nash would remain in charge for the upcoming season, when Toyama begins play in the new B. League's 18-team first division. The B. League season tips off in late September. The first division also features the Ryukyu Golden Kings, who captured the final bj-league title by beating Toyama on May 15 at... [read more]
According to Japan times, veteran coach Bob Nash will remain at the helm as the Toyama Grouses enter a new era.
The 2015-16 bj-league championship runner-up squad announced last weekend that Nash would remain in charge for the upcoming season, when Toyama begins play in the new B. League's 18-team first division.
The B. League season tips off in late September. The first division also features the Ryukyu Golden Kings, who captured the final bj-league title by beating Toyama on May 15 at Ariake Colosseum.
The Grouses have a .726 regular-season winning percentage (151-57) during Nash's four seasons on the bench. They have advanced to the postseason four times and appeared in two Final Fours.
A former University of Hawaii player, assistant coach and head coach, Nash, 65, was named the bj-league's 2015-16 Coach of the Year and guided the Grouses to the Eastern Conference regular-season title with a 39-13 record and their first appearance in the title game.
During Nash's pro career, he played for the NBA's Detroit Pistons (1972-74) and Kansas City Kings (1977-79), and also saw time with the ABA's San Diego Conquistadors (1974-75) and the Alvik basketball club based in Stockholm, in the Swedish League (1975-77).
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