Sparring leagues ready to bury the hatchet

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2007, 12:00am

NBA commissioner David Stern came to China offering the olive branch of peace this week - and his mainland counterparts are grabbing it with both hands.

After a troubled history, marked by disputes between NBA clubs and the Chinese national team over player availability, both sides say they are committed to co-operation.

'We have both realised it [co-operation] is the only way forward,' said Hu Jiashi, deputy director of the Chinese Basketball Association, courtside at last night's Orlando Magic v Team China All-Stars game.

'We need the NBA to improve the standard of basketball in China and the NBA needs the CBA because of the players who are coming out of China.'

Speaking in Shanghai on Wednesday, Stern said his mission was to establish the CBA as 'the second NBA, the NBA of China,' and Hu said this was welcome news.

'The development of basketball in China is coming along very well,' said Hu. 'That is why the NBA is here. If the NBA wants to achieve anything in China we have to form a friendship. Through primary negotiations we have reached an agreement on how we can develop the game together.'

Speaking before last night's game at the Venetian Arena, Hu said annual visits from the NBA gave national selectors a chance to chart the progress of the Chinese game.

'Obviously the Magic are on another level to us and the absence of Yao Ming does not help,' he said. 'Our players are absorbed with the coming CBA season but the players want to perform for the spectators and test themselves against the best players in the world.'

Magic star forward Dwight Howard was certainly basking in the cordial atmosphere before last night's game, saying he was delighted to be back in the region.

'Ever since my first trip to China, I've been a big fan of the country,' he said. ' To be able to bring my teammates here and share it with them is really special. The fans are so passionate about basketball and it's a really exciting atmosphere.'