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Yao Ming seeing double for national team

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-13 07:12

Yao Ming knows that twice as many options can generate twice as many opportunities.

It's a little like switching your offense from man-to-man to zone.

Yao Ming seeing double for national team

Yao Ming is elected as the chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association during the association's national congress on Feb 23, 2017. [Photo by Wei Xiaohao/China Daily]

NBA legend Yao, new chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association, on Wednesday unveiled a major management reform by doubling the national team program.

Two national teams will be built, each with an independent coaching staff and roster, to alternately represent China in international competition through 2018.

The teams will merge in 2019 to continue preparing for the FIBA World Cup in China later that year, and for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The CBA has started the selection procedure for the two coaching staffs, headed by Chinese with foreign assistants. After a qualification review through Sunday, final decisions will be announced by April 23.

"To motivate all the coaches and players to the utmost through a competition mechanism and to expand the access for as many coaches and players as possible to be evaluated and recruited, we hereby adopt the new national program," the CBA said in a statement on its official website.

Yao, who was elected CBA chairman in February, wasn't available for further comment on Wednesday afternoon, but his ambition to overhaul the game's outmoded State-run management system is no secret.

"The most urgent need now is to continue deepening the reform on the game's management and operation so we can attract more investment and attention while enhancing the game's influence," he said during his acceptance speech.

Yao is the CBA's first chief drawn from outside the government. The association was formerly run by officials promoted from the General Administration of Sport, China's sports ministry, who retained all major decision-making powers for the game's development.

China's only Basketball Hall of Famer and a perennial All-Star during his 9-year NBA career with the Houston Rockets, Yao is tasked with overseeing reform of every aspect of the game through-out the country, including operation of professional leagues and national team development.

Yao's first step on the road to reforming the national program was to change the traditional procedure for player recruitment. Instead of issuing administrative orders, elite players now receive invitations to participate in the program - and they have the right to decline.

"To invite the players rather than ordering them to join shows more respect and works better to inspire greater enthusiasm to fight for the country," Yao said of the invitation mechanism, which is how USA Basketball assembles its Olympic teams.

Earlier this month, all players on the women's national team were invited to prepare for the Asian Championship in July.

"I think it's a necessary change that helps us recruit the players who genuinely want to come up and work hard for their country, rather than accepting it as a compulsory duty," said Xu Limin, head coach of the women's squad.

Reaction to Yao's two-team approach to the men's national program has been mixed.

"The initial intention of using head-to-head competition to improve is understandable, but issues like how to distribute players fairly to the two squads, a potential reshuffle of coaching staff and readapting to each others' tactical styles when the two teams merge in 2019 are headaches," said a commentary on sohu.com.

Tan Jianxiang, a sports sociologist at South China Normal University, supports the CBA's reform proposals under Yao's leadership.

"It's good to take action rather than standing still. The national team's performance on the international stage has been slumping since 2008. China has nothing to lose so why not encouraging more younger players to stand up?" said Tan.

Team China, which finished eighth in the men's tournament at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, lost all five group matches at the 2016 Rio Olympics to finish 12th, an all-time low.


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