FIBA warns JBA about problems

by Kaz Nagatsuka and Ed Odeven

Staff Writers

FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann has advised the Japan Basketball Association to resolve issues that exist inside the nation’s basketball circles or face greater problems in the future, according to Japanese media reports.

Baumann asked JBA executives during a Tuesday meeting in Tokyo to work on mending the status quo between the National Basketball League (the rebranded Japan Basketball League) and the bj-league, according to news accounts of that meeting, and to clarify which league is officially Japan’s legitimate top hoops circuit.

The now-21-team bj-league, which was launched in 2005 as Japan’s first professional league, became recognized by the JBA in 2010. But Baumann took exception to bj-league rules, such as a ball-carrying player being able to call a timeout, citing this violates FIBA rules.

Baumann, an IOC member, reportedly said that the game in Japan has not made progress since the nation hosted the 2006 FIBA World Championship. What’s more, he even stated that Japan’s national teams might not earn automatic berths for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a sign of FIBA’s growing frustrations with the JBA.

Japan, which used to be one of Asia’s top basketball nations, has had poor results in recent men’s international events. The men’s squad has finished eighth, 10th, seventh and ninth in the last four Asia Championships.

But the Japan women’s team captured its first Asia Championship title in 43 years last month.

Baumann’s stern message this week wasn’t the first time that the JBA received similar warnings from basketball’s world governing body. In February 2009, then-FIBA president Bob Elphinston and Baumann visited Japan and told the JBA that they were concerned about the two-league situation that many view as a mind-numbing impasse.

Then there was a JBA-led move to launch a new league for 2013, seeking to unite the two as one.

Those efforts failed. The JBL then changed its name to the NBL, which currently has 12 teams, four more than last season.

Reacting to Baumann’s statements, JBA deputy chairman Yasuhiko Fukatsu told reporters, “We need to work on the homework we were given from FIBA.”

In Tokyo, Baumann also promoted the 3×3 game, which FIBA is seeking to get included into the Olympic program in the future.