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Yokohama’s title defense already in serious trouble

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

It’s been nearly two months since the Yokohama B-Corsairs were crowned champions in their second season. It was a marvelous achievement.

And now it appears the team’s demise may be equally dramatic.

No coach has yet been hired to replace Reggie Geary. What’s more, forward Thomas Kennedy has already signed to play for the Shimane Susanoo Magic. Guard Draelon Burns, an elite star, will join the Akita Northern Happinets. And at some point the team will scramble to fill its roster with imports, too, before the season tips off in early October.

How the mighty have fallen.

By incurring major debts in their first two seasons — reportedly $1 million in 2011-12 — the B-Corsairs put themselves on a risky path. New ownership will be in place for next season, and it remains to be seen if the team will be anything but a shoestring operation.

The fact that Geary doesn’t want to return as head coach is a troubling sign, though not at all surprising. In summing up his decision to not sign a new contract with the team, he told The Japan Times, “The B-Corsairs are just facing too many financial difficulties to make me a competitive offer.”

This newspaper broke that story in a July 3 article. But the team still hasn’t made an announcement that Geary is no longer the bench boss. That’s another disturbing sign.

One prominent agent doesn’t even plan to consider contacting the B-Corsairs to send them players for the upcoming season.

The reason?

“I honestly don’t know what Yokohama is doing and most likely will not send any player to Yokohama this upcoming season because of their budget and my concerns with them financially,” the agent wrote in an recent email.

Kazuo Hirota was the team president during a pair of winning seasons (31-21 and a Final Four appearance in 2011-12; 35-17 and a championship last season), and then opted to sell part of his 100 percent stake in the team.

On June 28, the B-Corsairs announced that a 51 percent ownership stake in the team was sold to Takeshi Suzuki, the J2 soccer club Tokyo Verdy’s majority stockholder. It was also announced Hirota wanted to sell the other 49 percent stock in the team.

With Hirota as team president (he no longer holds that post) and Naoki Ogawa as the general manager, Yokohama made several smart personnel decisions: hiring Geary as head coach, signing standouts Masayuki Kabaya, Kenji Yamada, Burns, 2011-12 MVP Justin Burrell and Kennedy, among others.

Major questions remain:

■ Will the team’s new leadership be as effective and astute in its ability to assemble a winning team?

■ Or is financial survival the only target for the coming season(s)?

Showcase opportunity: Big man Jeremy Tyler, a second-round draft selection in 2011 after suiting up for the now-defunct Tokyo Apache and refining his game under demanding bench boss Bob Hill, is playing for the New York Knicks in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League.

Through Wednesday, Tyler, who turned 22 on June 12, is averaging 11.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 17 minutes in four games. He’s shooting 52.8 percent from the field.

In a 113-66 Wednesday loss to the Miami Heat at Cox Pavillion, Tyler shot 8-for-12 from the field and finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. He had 10 points and 11 boards in his Summer League debut with the Knicks last Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Summer League gives team executives and coaches a chance to evaluate players for the coming season. And Tyler is a free agent after splitting the 2012-13 season between the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks and Golden State’s NBA Development League affiliate (Santa Cruz Warriors).

“Golden State wanted more room for cap space and Atlanta needed the roster spot for a guard, not a big,” Tyler told the New York Post. “If I keep playing hard, things will fall into place.”

Tyson Chandler is the Knicks’ primary anchor in the middle, while Tyler is vying to earn a spot on the team’s 15-man roster as a backup. Receiving an invitation to training camp would be step one.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Tyler has made a solid impression.

“I like him as well as a camp guy,” Woodson told ESPN.com, “because of his body size and the fact he’s so athletic. You might look at him four, five years down the road and say, ‘Wow, he finally figured it out.’ “

New editions: Along with the current Tsukuba Daytrick, an NBDL (formerly JBL2) squad, the Cyberdyne ownership group bought out one of its former partners, according to basketball sources, and the unnamed group with cash in hand will purchase a bj-league expansion club in Ibaraki.

The Ibaraki-based group is expected to have one of the bj-league’s most entertaining dance squads, which will include former pole dancers, a source said.

The Kyoto Hannaryz and Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix will defect after the season, as sources have told this newspaper, to the National Basketball League (renamed JBL). And the bj-league has had nonstop expansion since 2005.

Around the league: Players tryouts and summer clinics for students are keeping teams busy throughout the offseason. For instance, as featured in one Ryukyu Shimpo photograph, forward Yoshiki Yamashiro is seen giving pointers to Okinawa student during a day of hoop-related activities. An estimated 260 students attended events at Okinawa Convention Center on Monday. . . .

The Aomori Wat’s, a first-year squad, held their first official practice on Monday, with eight Japanese players participating in workouts.

Coach Koju Munakata said he was pleased with the players’ efforts. “The (physical) condition of the players is better than I thought,” Munakata told reporters as quoted by the Daily Tohoku Online Service.

Signings confirmed: This week, macho forward Reggie Warren finalized a one-year deal to play for the Rizing Fukuoka for a second season. The move was first reported on Sunday by The Japan Times.

Warren helped the Rizing finish runnerup to the B-Corsairs last season.

“I am very excited about returning back to Japan and to be back on the same team that played in the final game of the 2013 season, finishing in second place,” Warren said in a statement posted on the team website.

“I look forward to being back in Fukuoka with the great boosters that played such a big part in helping us to reach the final.”

Joining Warren is newcomer Seth Tarver, a small forward who also featured in the Sunday report. The Oregon State product starred in the NBA D-League from 2010-13.

“I am excited to play for Fukuoka, and live and learn about the Japanese culture,” Tarver said in a statement. “I am going to work hard and do whatever I can to help the team win games. I am thankful for the Fukuoka management for giving me this opportunity and I will make the most of it.”

On Wednesday, it was confirmed that former league MVP Wendell White would play for Sendai in the upcoming season. White split last season between Oita and Hamamatsu.

More moves: League legend Michael Parker, who spent the past two seasons playing for the Shimane Susanoo Magic, is poised to join the NBL’s Wakayama Trians and reunite with ex-Shimane coach Zeljko Pavlicevic, the Trians’ new mentor, a hoop insider said. Parker, an Evergreen (Washington) State product, suited up for the Rizing from 2007-11. …

Oft-injured guard Takanori Goya will not return to the Shinshu Brave Warriors for a third season, the club announced this week. Goya has also played for the Toyama Grouses, Osaka Evessa, Fukuoka and Tokyo Apache. . . .

Well-traveled forward Shoji Nakanishi has joined the Shinshu Brave Warriors. He played the past two seasons for the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix. Nakanishi averaged 7.5 points in 51 games last season. Now, he will play again for new Shinshu bench boss Ryuji Kawai, the former Phoenix coach who was fired last season. Nakanishi has also played for the Apache (2006-10) and Shimane (2010-11).

International exhibition: The Sendai 89ers will play host to the German club Oettinger Rockets Gotha on Sept. 8 at Xebio Arena. Tipoff is 3 p.m. The game will mark Sendai rookie coach Shuto Kawachi’s debut at the helm.

The Oettinger Rockets play in Germany’s ProA league, the second-tier circuit that former Shimane standout Takumi Ishizaki, a Chemnitz 99ers standout, has played in since 2011.

Other preseason games include: Kyoto Hannaryz vs. NBL squad Hyogo Storks (Aug. 11), Shimane vs. Takamatsu (Sept. 7), Kyoto vs. NBL squad Link Tochigi Brex (Sept. 10) and bj-league Challenge Cup games — tournament host Shiga Lakestars vs. Bambitious Nara; Osaka Evessa vs. Hamamatsu, both on Sept. 14; and Challenge Cup Games on Sept. 15: third-place and title-game matchups TBD. Also scheduled is this Sept. 21 exhibition game: Shimane vs. Oita

Feedback: Got a story idea about the bj-league? Send an email to edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp