Two weeks is a small sample size, but it provides some clues about the potential of players and teams since the new season tipped off on Oct. 3.
We’re already seeing the emergence of some new impact players and the continued excellence of key performers who made their mark in past seasons.
And 16 teams were in action on Wednesday to provide further documentation of the league’s deep talent pool.
Among the early standouts this season is Kyoto Hannaryz center David Simon, who’s in his second season with the club. The 37-year-old journeyman pivot is averaging a league-best 25.8 points per game, including 34 points on 14-for-19 shooting in Wednesday’s 90-59 victory over the Osaka Evessa, which improved Kyoto’s record to 5-0.
While his scoring is an integral part of the Hannaryz’s early success this season, Simon takes pride in his defensive play to date.
“I’m very happy that we’ve won (five) consecutive games, and I’d like to aim to (continue) that,” Simon told reporters after Wednesday’s game. “I’m always playing as a major pillar, so my main job is to defend inside and I’m glad I did that.”
The rest of the top five in scoring are San-en newcomer Devin Ebanks (24.6), Toyama’s Leo Lyons (24.2), Niigata newcomer Nick Perkins (23.8) and Chiba’s Gavin Edwards (23.6).
Perkins, a University of Buffalo product who turned 23 on Tuesday, had two 29-point games against the Alvark Tokyo on Oct. 5 and 6. Perkins then scored 27 and 23 points in contests against the Kawasaki Brave Thunders on Sunday and Monday, before being held to 11 points on Wednesday against the
Perkins competed for the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Summer League. Before that, he thrived as a backup for the Buffalo Bulls. He was named the Mid-American Conference Sixth Man of the Year three times during his four-year college career. This season, however, he’s started all five Niigata games while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor.
The rebounding leaders include three players in their first season in Japan. Yokohama newcomer Reginald Becton tops the chart with 14.5 boards per game, followed by Utsunomiya’s Ryan Rossiter (13.2), Ryukyu’s Josh Scott (12.8), Shimane newcomer Robert Carter (11.8) and Osaka first-year player Richard Hendrix (11.8).
Among assist leaders, Chiba’s Yuki Togashi is No. 1 at 8.8. Rounding out the top five are Yokohama’s Ryo Tawatari (8.3), Mikawa newcomer Davante Gardner (8.2), Toyama’s Naoki Uto (7.0) and Shiga first-year guard Takumi Saito (6.0).
Simon is No. 1 in blocks (2.4), followed by Becton (2.3), Nagoya’s Hilton Armstrong (2.2) and Hokkaido’s Sean Ichioka, Rossiter and Mikawa newcomer Chris Otule (1.6 apiece).
In the steals department, Kawasaki newcomer Mathias Calfani is No. 1 (2.4 per game, with Tokyo’s Daiki Tanaka (2.3) and Rossiter and Lyons (2.2) closest on the chart. Completing the top five, six players are averaging 2.0 steals: Hendrix, Hokkaido newcomer Ryoma Hashimoto, Carter, Ryukyu’s Naoki Tashiro, Shimane first-year player Yasuhiro Yamashita, Ryukyu newcomer Jack Cooley and Shibuya’s Leo Vendrame.
NBA’s future plans
Speaking to a large gathering of reporters last Tuesday at Saitama Super Arena during a news conference before the Toronto Raptors-Houston Rockets game, NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed the league is interested in scheduling competition with the B. League in the near future.
“We’d love to see a B. League team competing in the preseason,” Silver said before the opening contest of the NBA Japan Games. “That has become a regular feature of NBA preseason competition in the United States, and that is teams from other countries and other leagues traveling to play our teams. That is something we will look into doing going forward.”
Veteran forward Jeff Ayres, 32, was placed on the injury list last Thursday with tendinitis and bursitis in his left Achilles tendon. Ayres has yet to play a regular-season game.
Players on the injury list can be reactivated by their teams after 30 days.
To bolster their lineup, the Alvark signed power forward Kevin Jones in a deal announced on Wednesday.
The 203-cm Jones suited up for Ryukyu last season, which gives him familiarity with the league already. He contributed 13.1 points and 9.1 rebounds in 27 games for the Golden Kings in 2018-19.
“I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to play for a great club called Alvark Tokyo and I am pleased to have joined the team that became the champion for the second consecutive season,” Jones said in a statement. “I will adjust to the team as soon as possible, and contribute to victory by playing with energy every game to achieve the goal.”
Jones, 30, appeared in 32 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2012-13 NBA season. Earlier in his career, the West Virginia University alum also suited up for teams in the NBA Development League. His extensive overseas career includes stints in France, the Philippines, Serbia, Russia and Spain.
Pavlicevic lands in Bahrain
After a season cut short by civil war in Libya, where he coached the Tripoli-based Al-Ittihad earlier this year, former Japan national team bench boss Zeljko Pavlicevic has returned to the sidelines with a new team.
Pavlicevic took the reins at Muharraq, one of the top teams in the Bahrain Premier League, on Oct. 4.
According to the latest standings posted on asia-basket.com, the club is in third place in the 12-team league with an 8-2 record through Monday.
“The club has a very good organization, (its) own gym, young selections, etc.,” Pavlicevic told The Japan Times via email on Thursday. “And today I am very happy to be part of his club.
“The Bahrain competition is hard with four top teams: Manama, Al-Muharraq, Al-Ahli and Al-Riffa.
“The surprise for me was big, big interest for basketball (in Bahrain). Derbies are always full and all the teams play in two gyms, one about 3,000 (seats) and a big one with 5,000 fans. All the games are on TV.
“We will try to fight for the championship again.”
In addition to leading the Japan national team in a productive stint that concluded with the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan, Pavlicevic directed the Shimane Susanoo Magic, Wakayama Trians, Chiba Jets and Bambitious Nara since 2010. Pavlicevic mentored Dino Radja, Drazen Petrovic and other marquee names from the former Yugoslavia early in his coaching career.
On the move
Former Yokohama center Hasheem Thabeet, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, has signed an NBA G League contract this week, according to published reports.
The 221-cm Thabeet is a native of Tanzania. The University of Connecticut product, now 32, last played for the B-Corsairs in the 2017-18 B. League campaign.
“As no NBA team currently holds his rights, he will be assigned to a G League team before the season starts,” cbssports.com reported.
Departure from Shimane
Former NBA forward Ike Diogu, who signed a contract with Shimane this summer has been released after not being medically cleared by the team. A news release this week didn’t provide other specifics.
Diogu served as the Nigeria national team’s captain at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
The Saga Ballooners, a B3 expansion team, have won five of their first six games in their inaugural season. The Ballooners, guided by sideline supervisor Luis Guil are tied for second place in the 12-team circuit. Guil served as an assistant coach on Spain’s FIBA World Cup-winning squad in September.
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