Joining his hometown Shiga Lakestars after four strong seasons with the Takamatsu Five Arrows, shooting guard Yu Okada appeared ready to elevate his game to the next level this season.
Okada’s nearly non-existent impact through four games, however, might be the biggest surprise of this young bj-league season.
The three-time All-Star had scoring performances of five points, two, nine and three in the season’s first four games. What’s more, he’s 3-for-18 from 3-point range and has played less than 14 minutes in three of Shiga’s first four games. He was on the court for 21:17 in the season opener. Okada’s playing time has not been limited due to foul trouble (three in four games).
Okada was the league’s 10th-leading scorer last season at 19.0 points per game. He became the first Japanese to finish a season in the top 10 in scoring. In addition, he was second in steals (2.26 per game) and among the league’s most durable players (1,897 minutes in 51 games).
Under first-year coach Takatoshi Ishibashi, Okada could have a much smaller role than he had for the Five Arrows. It might be too early to draw a firm conclusion about the team’s plans for Okada, but there could be signs, though, that problems are simmering below the surface.
“Talking to someone who knows Yu Okada very well, and talks to him on the phone regularly, it sounds like the situation in Shiga isn’t very good,” a league insider told The Japan Times on Wednesday.
“All the other Japanese players were there last season, and it sounds like guys have been more interested in protecting their position and playing time, rather than figuring out how to use Yu Okada’s talents.”
On a positive note, the Lakestars (2-2) do feature four double-digit scorers: Lamar Rice (21.0 ppg), Mikey Marshall (20.0), Masashi Joho (19.5) and Gary Hamilton (13.5).
To avid observers of the league, it’s somewhat stunning that Okada and Joho haven’t been paired in tandem, capitalizing on both of their unique talents — they are among the league’s top 10 Japanese players — for extended minutes.
“It’s kind of a strange situation in Shiga,” the source said. “Joho and Okada never play together. . . . Why two guys that no one can guard one-on-one can’t play at the same time is a mystery to me. Plus, the simplified, faster offense they’re using actually seems like a good fit for Joho, Mikey and Yu Okada to play together.”
Besides his noted shooting skills, Okada’s defense and passing improved under the tutelage of ex-coach John Neumann last season in Takamatsu. This season, he’s had one steal and one assist — indeed, surprisingly low totals.
Nickname chosen: The expansion franchise from Kanagawa, set to join the league next season, along with teams from Iwate, Chiba and Nagano prefectures, will be called the Yokohama B-Corsairs, the league has announced.
There were 455 submitted ideas for the team’s name, according to a news release.
Wikipedia includes the following passage in its historical description of corsairs: “Because corsairs gained a swashbuckling reputation, the word ‘corsair’ is also used generically as a more romantic or flamboyant way of referring to privateers, or even to pirates. The Barbary pirates of north Africa were sometimes called ‘Turkish corsairs.’ “
Weekly accolade: Rizing forward Michael Parker, the league’s leading scorer at 28.8 ppg, had 40- and 20-point performances last weekend against the visiting Broncos.
Parker, who also had 17 rebounds and six assists in the series finale, is the Lawson/Ponta Player of the Week, the league announced.
Instant impact: Evessa veteran Billy Knight is averaging 21.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in four games. The smooth-shooting lefty drained 18 of 19 free throws to help Osaka coach Ryan Blackwell’s club begin the season with three wins in its first four games, putting it in a four-way tie for first place with Shimane, Kyoto and Fukuoka. (Their lone loss to date was a two-point setback against Takamatsu on Sunday.)
Apache update: Center Robert Swift, who played parts of four seasons in the NBA, had mixed success in his first weekend in the bj-league.
He had 14 points, seven rebounds and one assists in 19:57 before fouling out against Sendai on Saturday, when the Apache lost by 14 points. A day later, Swift had 15 points and nine boards in 27:12.
Power forward Jeremy Tyler, meanwhile, had a three-point, six-rebound, one-block, three-turnover debut, followed by nine points (three dunks), four rebounds and one turnover in the rematch, a 12-point Tokyo victory.