Talent development must improve if more Chinese players are to reach elite level, says NBA chief
With Zhou Qi preparing to join the Houston Rockets, league boss Adam Silver questions the lack of mainland players in America
The NBA needs a greater focus on developing Chinese basketball talent to elite levels, league commissioner Adam Silver said this week as a new Chinese player prepares to join the NBA.
Zhou Qi, a 2.18-metre centre who sparked the Xinjiang Flying Tigers to this year’s Chinese Basketball Association crown, is looking to play next season for the Houston Rockets, the same club where Chinese centre Yao Ming became an NBA star.
But Zhou, taken by the Rockets in the second round of last year’s NBA draft, is only the tip of the iceberg in what talent China has to offer the NBA and the world, Silver said in his annual news conference ahead of the NBA Finals opener.
“It frustrates me that there are no Chinese players in the NBA right now,” Silver said. “There’s probably more basketball being played in China than anywhere else in the world. And more NBA basketball is being watched in China than anywhere else in the world.
“It’s something I talked to Yao Ming a lot about and I think ultimately that we all collectively have to do a better job training the best players in China.”
To help boost the level of play in China so players can match the speed, athleticism and high-leaping acrobatics of NBA talent, the NBA has started creating academies in China to keep top young players working against each other to improve them all.
“We can bring together some of the best players at a young age,” Silver said. “They can compete against each other, they can compete internationally in the summer because ultimately that’s what enables them to become NBA players, become the greatest players – by competing against top-notch competition.”
Nations with fewer people but a greater basketball culture have been able to produce more NBA players than China.
“When you look at Lithuania, when you look at Serbia, when you look at Latvia, countries that have populations of less than 10 million, and all three of those countries with several NBA players, how can it be that a country of 1.3 billion people where there’s an enormous amount of basketball being played has no NBA players right now?” Silver asked.
“So we think it’s something we need to focus on. And Yao as head of the Chinese Basketball Association is very interested in working with us on this.”
Yao also hopes better player development would boost China’s standing on the global stage as a power in the Olympics and Basketball World Cup.
“We need to increase the pool of top-notch Chinese players,” Silver said. “I think it will have a great impact on our league and I think it will be good for Chinese basketball as well.”
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And Silver is optimistic that Zhou can be the next big thing for the NBA from China.
“I’ve never seen him play in person, but I’ve seen tape of him playing and he seems like he could be a great player,” Silver said.