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Gap between good and bad teams evident early on


Staff Writer

There’s a lot of basketball to be played this season, and a lot of teams’ fortunes will rise and fall. But there’s plenty of evidence that there will be many bad teams this season in the bj-league.

Nine of the 21 clubs — more than 40 percent — have losing records, and six have two or less victories to date: Sendai 89ers (2-6), Kyoto Hannaryz (2-8), Saitama Broncos (1-7), Osaka Evessa (1-5), Miyazaki Shining Suns (1-9) and Gunma Crane Thunders (0-12).

In the Western Conference, the Takamatsu Five Arrows are 3-5 and the Shiga Lakestars are 4-6.

Shifting to the Eastern Conference, the Chiba Jets are 3-5 and the Tokyo Cinq Reves have a 4-6 record.

Gunma’s opponents have scored a whopping 1,206 points, an average of nearly 92.2 per game.

Miyazaki, which is waiting for prized acquisition Ricky Woods’ season debut this month, is giving up 98.4 points a contest.

Interestingly enough, both the Crane Thunders and Shining Suns have been outscored by 247 points through Sunday.

The stark contrast between quality teams and those struggling to reach a level of respectability is large.

Sure, the league holds tryouts that any aspiring Japanese player can attend and adds NBA Development League-caliber talent each season, but the general structure of many teams’ basketball operations is flawed, league insiders have pointed out in conversations with The Japan Times.

On several teams, for instance, a certifiable basketball expert does not exist in the team’s front office.

Due to this lack of proven leadership, poor decisions lead to bad signings and rosters with obvious flaws. And the process can be repeated year after year.

The lack of big-time sponsors at the team and league levels and a proven formula for increasing revenue keeps many teams in a constant budget-cutting mentality. And this leads to more problems, especially in the overall product: a team with limited opportunities to be successful.

Look for some of the teams listed above to find ways to improve in the weeks and months to come.

In many instances in years past, a key signing or perhaps a couple new players to replace under-performing regulars or adjustments in the team’s rotation can give a team the spark it needs to string together several wins to make up for past failures.

It will be interesting to see which teams are able to recover from slow starts and become playoff contenders.

Each of the team’s with sub-.500 records has between 40 and 46 games remaining, so its up to each of their bosses to orchestrate a plan to improve — or push the panic button.

Crisis on the horizon?: According to a league source, the Oita HeatDevils are on the verge of a severe shortage of cash.

The HeatDevils’ top sponsor, O-Rid Co., Ltd, which was established in 2001 and whose products include digital business card supplies and related products, “may not pay the team their sponsorship money and their players’ salaries, etc. are in serious jeopardy,” the source said.

O-Rid’s headquarters are based in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, just like the HeatDevils, who at 8-2 are in second place in the Western Conference.

Player of the Week: Ryukyu guard Morihisa Yamauchi, who scored a career-best 30 points and buried 7 of 13 3-pointers on Sunday against Miyazaki is the Lawson Ponta MVP, it was announced on Tuesday. He also had four steals in 33 electrifying minutes in the series finale.

The Okinawan had 10 points and two steals in 20 minutes of court time in a win on Saturday.

Yamauchi, 22, is in his second season with the Golden Kings.

Balanced scoring: Undefeated Ryukyu has eight players averaging more than 6 ppg, led by Terrance Woodbury’s 19.0, Anthony McHenry’s 18.3 and Narito Namizato’s 13.2. Namizato is the league’s No. 2 passer, averaging 5.2 assists per game.

Chairman of the boards: Oita post player Wendell White, a UNLV product, leads all players in rebounds (14.2 per game). In addition, he’s the team leader in scoring (17.6) and assists.

Making an impact: Tokyo guard Hirohisa Takada is shooting a league-best 51.4 percent from 3-point range, and is also converting 48.6 percent of his shots from inside the arc.

Takada, a former Osaka Evessa player, is averaging 10.5 points per game for the expansion squad. He has scored in double digits in six of the past seven games.

Upcoming games: The Tokyo-Gunma series was held on Wednesday and Thursday at Higashikurume Sports Center in Tokyo.

Starting Friday, Takamatsu plays host to Hamamatsu Higashimikawa. The rest of the weekend’s action tips off on Saturday: Akita vs. Shinshu, Sendai vs. Yokohama, Saitama vs. Toyama, Chiba vs. Niigata, Shimane vs. Shiga, Fukuoka vs. Osaka, Miyazaki vs. Kyoto and Ryukyu vs. Oita, a showdown of the top teams in the West.

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Send an email to: edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp