I arrived at Binhe Sports Stadium at noon in order to avoid security. I set up at press row and worked, mostly in the dark, and waited.
At about 5:30 I was nearly escorted out.
Gonna switch to present tense now, if that's okay.
A stern looking man starts going down the row demanding to see press passes. I, of course, have no press pass, as I’m not a CBA beat reporter (I'd also been told a pass wasn't strictly necessary). I’m sitting at the end of the table and hoping this guy, surname Yang, isn’t meticulous. He is. He’s going down the row of journalists and scrutinizing every pass. When he gets to me I try my best to explain my situation, that I’m an American journalist, etc.
There will be others from the U.S. who come later, I say.
“Let me see your credentials then,” he demands. He talks fast and sharply.
I’m not sure what to say. Credentials?
“Where’re your papers? As a journalist you have to have papers, right?”
I try to explain we don’t have do in the States, i.e. issue certificates of journalism. I offer to give him my business card.
“Who let you come here then?”
Wang, I say.
I search my wallet and pull out Wang Jianguang’s business card. He looks at it and returns it.
“Let me see your business card. Is it English or Chinese?”
It’s in both languages, and I hand it to him and tell him to keep it. When he hands it back to me I see how long and ugly his fingernails are.
He asks me to call Wang, and I oblige.
“Wang Jianguang, hello,” I say. “There’s a sir here who wants to talk to you.”
And on the phone things are sorted out, I think.
I explain again that I called the CBA a few days earlier and they told me to talk to Shanxi’s people (absolutely true, by the way), which is how I got in touch with Wang, who told me he'd escort me in the stadium if it came to that. (I should add here that Wang has been incredibly helpful and has gone above and beyond the call of duty; lots of people in his position would have given up or bowed to authority.) I say I was here on Sunday. Yang seems pacified, a little.
Wang appears shortly after. Yang starts to criticize him. "You know in China our law is if you want to interview someone you have to have papers.”
Wang explains that these journalists are here for Marbury only, and that there’s no way they’re going to have press passes. He is asked how many other foreign journalists are coming. “The Associated Press…”
“They have three.”
“We can’t let them in. They have to have credentials.”
Some other cop asks, “Are they Chinese?”
“Yes,” says Wang.
Some agreement is worked out so that the AP journalists have to meet with Yang at a side door.
Not really sure what these people have against foreign journalists. Some colliery boss going to be in the house?
And then the police ask everyone on press row to leave the premises and then come back in. Christ, I think. The journalists protest, saying their equipment is all here. A bit of back-and-forth, civil enough. A CBA beat writer for Sohu.com ends up going to bat for me: he says, "Well you're going to have to let us keep someone behind to watch our stuff." The cops agree.
I am chosen.
A cop next to me says, "Okay, you stay behind."
As everyone is leaving yet another cop, some woman, looks my way and says, "Who is that?" She is informed.
The police presence today is pretty ridiculous. They're everywhere. Now I'm afraid of leaving my seat to use the bathroom in case someone asks to see a press pass.
6:24 p.m. A cop comes by and asks me to hand him a newspaper. He slaps at the front page and says, "Fucking Wu Qinglong" (the coach), and grumbles about something else. I smile and nod.
6:50 p.m. Question: what's Shanxi's Maurice Taylor doing shooting by himself while the rest of his team stretches?
As promised, Harrison and Parker:
7:20 p.m. 10 minutes to game time. Both teams on court warming up, Shanxi in yellow, Guangdong in white.
7:32: Let there be no doubt: Marbury is a different player today. The first two possessions he has taken it hard to the hoop, converting an and-one the second time. He is being face-guarded (by a taller player) yet still just got the ball in possession No. 3, and immediately fouled.
4th possession: Marbury is stripped by Smush Parker, who converts a layup on the other end to give Guangdong an early 4-3 lead.
6:39 left in 1st: Marbury is called for an intentional foul. There's no question he was trying to foul the driver intentionally, but in the NBA it would've been merely a "hard" foul, just a slap on the wrist.
Next possession, he issues a truly pretty pass -- the kind that has to be called a dime -- and his teammate converts the bucket with a foul.
3:36 left in first: Marbury just hit the first 3-pointer of his CBA career.
2:24: Guangdong calls a timeout because they're down eight after Marbury's no-look pass resulted in a fast-break bucket that has the crowd roaring its approval.
1:50: Marbury reaches in and commits a silly foul. He immediately goes to the ref and complains about a non-call on the other end, when he got mugged at the basket.
The crowd begins getting angry, and we've seen what happens when they get angry.
"Calm down, please calm down," the PA announcer says.
Marbury subs out.
About a minute left: Guangdong's big man just hit the deck, drawing a foul call. The fans next to me scream, "Faker!" Man they're brutal.
33 seconds: Maurice Taylor missed from under the basket. There's a reason the Shanxi fans have said the team's selection of foreign players at the beginning of the year was "disastrous." Between him and Benson Lee (you should be asking "Who?") and all the youngsters, I'm surprised they've won four.
Shanxi nails a three-pointer at the buzzer. They lead 30-26 after an exciting first quarter.
And now, the Shanxi cheerleaders dance to Pitbull's "I Know You Want Me."
10:10 left in 2nd: Seriously, CBA refs are AWFUL. Smush Parker looked like he wanted to punch the ref after the latest blown call. (Two blown calls in one: Parker was victim of an over-the-back, and then the other guy knocked the ball out of bounds.)
Now Taylor is barking at a ref, cursing. He just got whistled for a flagrant after getting tangled up with a Guangdong player.
Something might go down tonight. Stay tuned.
PA: "Fans, please, don't disrupt the opposing players when they're trying to shoot free throws."
The sarcasm is not lost on the fans. They cheer louder.
6:56 left in 2nd: The sad reality is, Marbury's teammates are really awful, and they're playing a team where they are outclassed in every position except point guard. And Smush Parker is no slouch.
Twice this quarter I've seen Marbury make great passes, putting the ball exactly where it needs to go, just to see his teammates hesitate and tiptoe towards the basket, pump-fakes and all. It is now 40-33 Guangdong.
David Harrison just got whistled for a flagrant on Marbury. There was nothing overly aggressive about it, but the way fans were foaming at the mouth...
Someone always gets mugged when the ball goes down low. Refereeing CBA games must be impossible, because fouls happen ALL the time. What do you allow and what don't you? I think it's the arbitrariness of the process that pisses so many people off.
Marbury way off mark on 3-pointer...
4:02 left: Timeout Shanxi.
Okay, I have officially never seen players miss layups as badly as Shanxi's players. They aren't close on their shots. They close their eyes, I think. After the breakaway layup Guangdong just converted, Marbury slammed the ball on the ground (a slam-dribble, you can say).
A problem on the offensive end: Marbury is talking in English, his teammates no none of it.
David Harrison just two-hand dunked it. That's embarrassing.
Offensive rebound Guangdong. Two foul shots later, it's 53-39.
2:35 let in 2nd: Guangdong on the free throw line again, and I think something is setting in among these fans here: reality.
I can't get used to how short the halftimes are here.
The third quarter has started well for Shanxi. Marbury tipped a loose ball to a teammate, who dunked, and then he assisted on a three-pointer.
Guangdong just answered though, and Maurice Taylor missed another short jump-hook.
8:16 left in 3rd: Shanxi making a run...
Marbury brings a different energy level to the court, and every one of his passes is oohed and aah'ed over, and when it results in a bucket the crowd goes wild.
On an unrelated note, the cop just tried, not for the first time, to tell a group of people sitting on the stairs next to me to move up to their seats. They're not budging.
Taylor just missed a layup.
Just under seven minutes left in third, and Marbury just put Parker on his butt with a drive-stop. He then missed the jumper.
Taylor is awful. I'm sorry. I just have to get that on the record.
David Harrison skied high for a rebound over Taylor and after the put-back, backpedaling, he jawed over at someone or other. "Yeah!" This was after rejecting a Marbury shot earlier.
Marbury just went right by a defender for a layup. You won't believe this -- well, I don't believe it -- but it's 77-74.
I think Marbury just talked the ref into calling a foul on him and not one of his teammates.
He just missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game.
David Harrison is having himself a good game. Shanxi has no one who can match up with him.
79-74, nice offensive rebound by Shanxi...
What a prosaic update.
With Marbury on the bench at the end of the third quarter, Guangdong scored a layup at the buzzer to go ahead 84-76.
Marbury back in the game. He has 11 assists through three quarters.
Fast-break three cuts the deficit to 5 with 11 minutes left.
Guangdong answers. They're tough in the paint.
Another three by No. 24. 86-82, fans like it.
6:57 left in fourth quarter: 95-87 Guangdong...
Stoppage in play because fans started throwing stuff onto the floor again. It started with a pack of matches and escalated. Guangdong players left the court, and that got the fans even more stirred up.
No ejections, though a guy almost got into a fight with a cop. Video later.
UPDATE: Video here. You can feel the tension building as Shanxi closes within one point...
I should mention here that Shanxi got fined 40,000 yuan by the CBA after Sunday's debacle.
What's the point of inviting in cops when they do jack shit? If you're going to bring in police -- who aren't exactly respected in this town -- you should at least bring ENOUGH so that they're helpful.
Guangdong's a tough team, and as tough teams do they play all 48 minutes, coming at their opponents relentlessly. Marbury just assisted on another three-pointer, but Shanxi's down 10.
On the lighter side of things, Harrison air-balled a free throw and laughed about it. Walking back, he mock shot himself in the head, and Smush wouldn't give him any love, retracting his hand as Harrison was looking for a low-five.
Marbury's talking to the refs in English, saying, "Same thing..." Just talking...
With three minutes to go, it's 109-96 Guangdong.
Question: If Steve Nash went to the New Jersey Nets, how many more games would they win?
Taylor three-pointer makes it 109-101 with 2 minutes to go. They're making an announcement about Anta, the shoe company, giving Taylor some money for charity or something, I'm not sure. There's a game going on...
Marbury just picked up his 15th assist. Shanxi's three-pointers have kept them in the game, but they're down by a bit too much. Guangdong runs out the clock at the other end. A physical, emotion, high-strung game comes to an end, 113-104.
Marbury's final stat line: 43 minutes (rather, 42 minutes and a few seconds -- I think we round up?), 15 points, 4 for 18 shooting*, 1 for 7 3PT, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 3 steals, 15 assists, drew 8 fouls, committed 3 fouls and 3 turnovers.
*CORRECTION APPENDED. He went 3 for 11 from two-point range, not 3 for 11 from the field (he is now 1 for 13 from beyond the arc; if he'd had his shooting touch the last two games, Shanxi would be 2-0 with him).
10:27 p.m.: One last update. Apparently a group of angry fans surrounded the referees' locker room after the game, and the refs were too scared to leave. The cops were called in to shoo away the crowd, at which point the refs made their getaway from a back door.
If the Shanxi team were any good at all, I don't know how any opposing team could win in this place. Such hostility.