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Yokohama needs to set new course after capturing title

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

More than two weeks have passed since the Yokohama B-Corsairs captured a championship in their second season. It was a remarkable achievement in a 21-team league.

Sure, there have been congratulatory messages, parties and lots of smiles in Kanagawa Prefecture and beyond. A feel-good story.

But there’s been nary a peep about the team’s plans for the 2013-14 season.

What exactly does that mean?

Is there a plan in place for the B-Corsairs to do everything in their power to commit all of their resources to contend for multiple championships in the future?

Will there be major roster turnover before the league’s ninth season tips off in October?

Already, this has become an offseason of uncertainty.

There have been zero widely publicized comments by general manager Naoki Ogawa or team president Kazuto Hirota indicating there’s a big, bold plan to contend for another title next season.

Head coach Reggie Geary, as much — arguably more so — an architect of the team as the front-office executives cited above, boarded an airplane on Wednesday to return to the United States with his family for the summer.

From his home in Sahuarita, Arizona, on the outskirts of Tucson, Geary will weigh his options for the upcoming season. He has expressed interest in joining an NBA team as an assistant coach in the future and also wants to explore other job openings here and abroad.

Of course, Geary’s return to the B-Corsairs for a third season in charge is a possibility.

But the fact that Ogawa, Hirota and the organization didn’t issue a statement to the media that stated, “Our top priority is to re-sign Geary and the team’s championship core,” is not surprising.

For every success story in the bj-league, there are missed golden opportunities to grow the sport and create deeper ties with the local community and nation as a whole — striking the iron while it’s hot, so to speak.

It takes long-term investment for teams to establish themselves as top entertainment options for ordinary citizens and a region’s residents.

And so, it appears, Yokohama is at a crossroads. The team will either commit to defending its title with its championship core (Geary, its Big Three in guards Draelon Burns and Masayuki Kabaya and forward Thomas Kennedy, plus big men Shawn Malloy and Faye Pape Mour and guards Kenji Yamada, Satoshi Hisayama and Seiji Kono) intact, or it could rapidly become another run-of-the-mill club.

Burns, in his prime at age 28, will likely receive more lucrative offers elsewhere, including from other bj-league teams. But the B-Corsairs ought to recognize that their quantum leap to title contender coincided with Burns’ arrival in Japan midway through Yokohama’s first season.

Getting Burns, a great player in this league, under contract should be the team’s top roster priority.

To raise the franchise’s profile, capitalize on its championship prestige and convince deep-pocket sponsors to jump on board, the B-Corsairs have a few weeks to piece together a plan.

Rumor mill: The Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix will defect to the NBL (renamed JBL) after the 2013-14 season, a longtime basketball observer told The Japan Times. That would be a major blow for the league; after all, the two-time champion Phoenix have been a perennial playoff team with a strong fan base since leaving the JBL in 2008.

Contacted by this newspaper, league spokesman Akihiro Ejima said he’s heard nothing about Hamamatsu’s future plans.

Around the league: Toyama Grouses guard Masashi Joho is among the high-profile free agents now on the market. Joho has played for two seasons at each of his four stops in the league (Osaka, 2005-07), Tokyo (2007-09), Shiga (2009-11) and Toyama (2011-13).

He’s been vacationing with his wife in Italy in recent days, including a stop at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Teamed up with shifty, fleet-footed point guard Takeshi Mito in the Grouses backcourt, Joho was a potent scorer for the Hokuriku-based club last season. . . . Sendai 89ers guard Takehiko Shimura, who led the league with 6.3 assists per game, is also a free agent. Players have standard one-year deals, though. . . .

Former Phoenix center Sun Ming Ming, a 236-cm giant, got married recently in China.

Here’s the report from a Chinese news website: sports.qq.com/a/20130604/003232.htm#p=1

In the spotlight . . . Bill Cartwright: Hall of Fame basketball writer Sam Smith, who pens the NBA Report for The Japan Times, noted in a Monday column for bulls.com that big man Bill Cartwright “was in many respects the final piece for the champion Bulls of the early 1990s.”

Before the Bulls grabbed their first title, Cartwright was acquired from the New York Knicks in a trade that sent macho forward Charles Oakley out of Chi-town.

Smith wrote in his column, which kicked off with an analysis of Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert’s emergence, that Cartwright “is looking for an NBA hookup for next season.”

Cartwright led the Osaka Evessa turnaround, with the Kansai club winning 15 of 26 games with the ex-Bulls head coach on the sideline. The Evessa have not announced if Cartwright will guide the club next season.

Always stressing fundamentals, Cartwright offered his thoughts to Smith about why the NBA’s lack of solid post play irritates him.

“That’s what’s wrong with our league today,” Cartwright was quoted as saying. “A team has success with the screen and roll and everyone runs it. But they don’t really know how to get the ball into the post.

“Don’t get me wrong, in certain situations, it’s very good. But that’s not all there should be. I’d rather have a bad shot from eight feet (2.4 meters) than a shot from 25 feet (7.6 meters).”

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