The Ryukyu Golden Kings use the backboard very effectively when taking shots - layups, jumpers, leaners, turnaround moves, etc. - and this is an advantage other teams could do a better job of emulating.
*Here's what a die-hard Golden Kings fans told me after his team rallied from 18 points down in the fourth quarter and defeated the Rizing Fukuoka 68-65 on Narito Namizato's buzzer-beating 3 on Tuesday in Naha, Okinawa.
"It was just a beautiful comeback, and a more beautiful shot to win it. When you hold that opponent to seven points in the final quarter, you are playin' your heart out. I know those dudes are tired," he said, noting Ryukyu, now a league-best 19-5, only dressed eight players due to injuries.
*Golden Kings backup guard Yasufumi Takushi is a bona-fide specialist, a 3-point shooter who gets the job done game after game, week after week. Case in point: Takushi has made 25 3-pointers in 170 minutes. He isn't afraid to take a shot, and often comes up with two or three in quick succession to give his team a boost.
*Niigata center Chris Holm, the league's rebounding king at 14.5 rebounds per game, has to be in the discussion for MVP at this stage of the season. After his 22-point, 20-rebound effort on Tuesday, the Albirex moved into first place by beating the two-time defending champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, who had occupied the spot atop the Eastern Conference standings.
On this rainy morning in South Tokyo, three thoughts are swirling through my head:
1. It's great for the bj-league whenever Osaka and Ryukyu square off, as they will today in the first truly meaningful rivalry series of the season.
Between them, Evessa star Lynn Washington and Golden Kings franchise player Jeff Newton, or both, have appeared in all six bj-league title games, three as teammates of Osaka when the powerhouse won titles in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
When Newton left Osaka and headed for the Ryukyu islands, he helped transformed the second-year team into a title contender in 2008, and a natural rivalry formed between the two teams. It's been terrific to follow.
Players on both teams have kept this rivalry interesting, fresh and highly competitive since then, too. Now, with five-time All-Star Cohey Aoki on Washington's side and Narito Namizato on Newton's, new pieces have been added to both team's championship aspirations.
2. Michael Katsuhisa and Geoffrey Katsuhisa will be on the sidelines as assistant coaches for the first time today on opposite teams, as Michael's Yokohama B-Corsairs and Geoffrey's Chiba Jets -- two expansion teams -- square off. Both guys know their Xs and Os and provide fast, thorough, accurate translations for head coaches Reggie Geary and Eric Gardow, respectively.
In the future, their sibling rivalry could grow into something bigger if both young men become bench bosses in this league. Stay tuned.
3. Iwate Big Bulls coach Vlasios Vlaikidis leads his team into action this weekend against the Akita Northern Happinets. The games will be only the third and fourth in Iwate team history, and coming off a bye week Vlaikidis noted “we need games.”
He said earlier this week that after eight games he’d start to be able to make measured analysis of his players and the team as a whole.
Yes, it takes time to know if a brand new team is progressing along the path its leader has mapped out.
Friday's weekly notebook in The Japan Times will highlight a number of topics as the league gets ready for 18 games this weekend.
Among the items planned are a look at Yokohama coach Reggie Geary's thoughts on his team after winning two of its first four games. Also, included will be an examination of the way Saitama forward John Flowers has started his pro career, especially on the defensive end.
"We just have to realize that night in and night out in this league, it’s very competitive and that you have to come out with a focused effort,” Geary said, describing his team’s outlook as an expansion team.
In addition, look for insight on Ryukyu guard Narito Namizato's role with the team and the challenges he'll face this season.
I'm a sports writer, columnist and editor for The Japan Times.
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