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Parker not expecting to win fifth straight scoring title

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Shimane Susanoo Magic forward Michael Parker, the four-time reigning scoring champion, predicted on Monday he won’t win the scoring title this season.

“I would be surprised if I am the top scorer again,” Parker told a news conference in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, where players and league officials gathered for the third annual preseason press event.

“Last year, the team was built around me. But we have more balance and scoring this season,” he added.

Parker, who averaged 23.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game last season, is an excellent all-around athlete who scores points in transition as well as any player in league history.

He turns steals into quick points at the other end to spark his team, which he has done since joining the Rizing Fukuoka in the 2007-08 season before moving on to Shimane.

Susanoo Magic coach Zeljko Pavlicevic, beginning his third season with the club, won’t disagree with Parker’s basic argument that the team strives to have more of a spread-the-wealth offense.

“He is a great player and good scorer, but our target is (to be) a better team, more balance,” Pavlicevic said Tuesday. “But he can be again the top scorer. Why not?

“We have our style, same as last season; we didn’t have a set offense only for him, and he was the top scorer. I respect him, because he is a good rebounder, many steals, athletic, perfect attitude . . . “

Front-office instability in Osaka: After general manger Hirotaro Nomamoto’s ouster last week, the Evessa are quietly working to rebuild the team. The expectations are pretty low for this season’s club, though, several league experts said in recent conversations with The Japan Times.

Former Evessa team manager Takao Furuya will be named the new GM, according to someone familiar with the move. Furuya held his managerial position under ex-coach Kensaku Tennichi, who guided the Evessa to three championships, the last one in 2008.

“Osaka is going in the wrong (direction),” the source commented.

Preseason action: Interestingly enough, the bj-league office wrote a tweet about the Kyoto Hannaryz-Panasonic Trians exhibition contest on Wednesday. Kyoto defeated Panasonic, a rare competition between teams from the bj-league and JBL, 82-80 on a buzzer beater. Both leagues, it seems, go out of their way to avoid even mentioning teams in the other league.

This time, the Hannaryz took on a team getting ready for its final season. The Trians are folding after the 2012-13 campaign due to Panasonic Corp.’s financial losses.

“I guess they can play now that Panasonic doesn’t have to worry about being kicked out of the JBL,” a Japan hoop observer stated facetiously.

Those comments bring back memories of the non-publicized scrimmage between the now-defunct Tokyo Apache, when Bob Hill coached the club, and the Toyota Motors Alvark in the 2010-11 season. (It almost made one believe the team and leagues were pretending the competition never happened.)

In addition, the bj-league office, Takamatsu Five Arrows and JBL2′s Hyogo Storks failed to publicize last Saturday’s “behind-closed-doors” scrimmage between the clubs.

Hyogo handed Takamatsu a 10-point loss.

A JBL insider said, “(The game) was not publicized like our previous games because of the tenuous relationship between the JBL and bj-league. (The Storks) played with one and two foreigners on the court (in alternating quarters), and (the Five Arrows) played with two and three, as new league rules allow.”

The Five Arrows trailed from start to finish.

On Wednesday, the host Five Arrows were back in action against Shimane. The Five Arrows lost 80-54.

Saturday special: Dubbed the “Kanto Derby,” Saturday’s hoop doubleheader gives capital city fans their first opportunity to see the expansion Tokyo Cinq Reves in action in Tokyo. The action gets under way at 1 p.m. at Ota City General Gymnasium, the new facility used for the recent FIBA Asia Cup, as the Saitama Broncos meet the Chiba Jets.

Tokyo, led by six-time All-Star guard Cohey Aoki, plays host to the Gunma Crane Thunders, another first-year club, in the 4 p.m. game.

Broncos talk: Saitama, the Eastern Conference’s worst team last season, routed Tokyo by 25 points in their preseason opener on Sept. 15, and won a four-point contest two days later.

On Sunday, the Broncos lost 90-68 to the host Niigata Albirex BB. Those games do not provide a real measuring stick for new coach Tracy Williams’ squad, but from what a league insider said the Broncos appear to be on the verge of extending their non-playoff streak to eight consecutive seasons.

“I talked to someone who has seen the Broncos,” the source told The Japan Times. “He can’t figure out what they are doing. (He told me), ‘It looks like John (Humphrey) just brought over all his friends.’ “

Predictions: Here’s one bj-league coach’s predictions on the East’s order of finish: 1. Niigata; 2. Sendai; 3. Akita; 4. Iwate; 5. Yokohama; 6. Toyama; 7. Chiba; 8. Tokyo; 9. Shinshu; 10. Saitama; 11. Gunma.

The top six teams in each conference will qualify for postseason play, and the top two teams in each conference will get an automatic bye into the second round of the playoffs.

(The coach called the list “biased, unscientific, and to be revised many times before the season even starts.”)

The coach said he believes the Crane Thunders have not built a roster that will be competitive for their inaugural season.

“I’m also worried about Gunma,” he said. “It doesn’t look like they’re taking this seriously, just by looking at the their roster to date. Maybe some surprise signings yet to come.”

Meanwhile, in the West, using the preseason as a point of reference, here’s one league insider’s predicted order of finish:

1. Ryukyu (the defending champion); 2. Hamamatsu Higashimikawa (the 2011-12 championship runnerup); 3. Kyoto; 4. Shimane; 5. Shiga; 6. Oita; 7. Osaka; 8. Fukuoka; 9. Takamastu; 10. Miyazaki.

Coming off a two-win, 50-loss season, the Takamatsu Five Arrows can only improve, but by how much will the team do so?

“When all you have to do is win three games to improve upon last season … I wonder what the standard really will be this season,” said someone who keeps close tabs on the Western Conference.

Around the league: The Yokohama B-Corsairs fell 93-89 to Taiwan’s Pure-Youth Construction in the ABA Championship in Taiwan on Monday, and dropped an 85-75 decision to South Korea’s Changwon LG Sakers a day later.

On Wednesday, the Guangdong Tigers of China beat Yokohama 80-69.

The B-Corsairs return to the court in the third- and fourth-place game on Friday.

The tournament features one apiece from Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan.

Lost opportunity: When Bob Hill coached the Tokyo Apache in 2010-11, there could’ve been opportunities for him to hold valuable coaching clinics around Japan.

So, this reporter wondered, was Hill ever contacted by the Japan Basketball Association, the sport’s governing body here, to give pointers, especially for big men.

“Bob Hill is one of the best big man coaches I know,” one hoop insider Tuesday. “In the NBA, he coached Rik Smits, Patrick Ewing, Shaq (O’Neal), David Robinson . . . and he was here in Japan for a season, without anyone ever asking him to do anything. . .”

Would the JBA shell out the cash to pay Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon, whose work with a number of current stars has paid off in recent years, to work with Japan’s bigs on the national team, in the JBL or bj-league or in various camps here? After all, Olajuwon’s foot work set the standard of excellence over the past few decades.

“It doesn’t help that there are so few big men to coach in Japan,” the hoop insider said. “Even most of the ‘bigs’ would small forwards in any real basketball country.”

The last word: “I just feel quality is more important than quantity. That will bring the Japanese guys level of play up. It will bring in more fans. It will make the sport more popular. And also bring in more sponsors. Continuing to add teams dilutes the product.

“The competition level doesn’t increase, therefore it’s hard for Japanese basketball to get better on the global scene.” — Shiga Lakestars guard Wayne Arnold, analyzing the state of basketball in Japan, particularly in the bj-league, which has expanded every year since 2005.

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Do you have a story idea about the bj-league? Send an email to edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp