Zhou Qi scored in an NBA playoff game (!), and ‘The Process’ is coming to China

Joel Embiid and Dirk Nowitzki

The China Sports Column is a SupChina weekly feature in which China Sports Insider Mark Dreyer looks at the week that was in the China sports world.

The Process is coming to China.

No, it’s not a rock band on tour, but Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid — nicknamed “The Process” in reference to a former executive’s mantra about “trusting the process” — who will face Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks in two preseason fixtures this October in China.

Embiid and Nowitzki — both listed at 7 feet — are the two headline stars, though their teams have been going in very different directions this season. The 76ers are back in the playoffs after their best regular season record in almost 20 years. Embiid, who missed the first two games of the team’s series against the Miami Heat after suffering a nasty orbital bone fracture and concussion in March, returned for Game 3 yesterday wearing a custom-built mask. He 24 points as the 76ers took a 2-1 series lead.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks have just finished their worst season in two decades. They have some fresh talent, such as the flashy rookie Dennis Smith Jr., though it is Nowitzki — who will be 40 when the Mavs come to China — who remains the team’s biggest global name. Nowitzki has all the big honors — championship ring, league MVP, Finals MVP — to go with 13 All-Star appearances. He also has fond memories of China, having carried the German flag at the 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing.

Despite their poor season, it’s perhaps no surprise the Mavs will come to Shanghai (October 5) and Shenzhen (October 8), considering their clever fan engagement campaign last year, where they solicited suggestions from fans for a new Chinese name and held a public vote before finally settling on 独行侠队 (dúxíng xiá duì) — which translates as “Lone Ranger Heroes” — as their official Chinese moniker. It will be interesting to see if fans have truly adopted the new name or still use the old 小牛 (xiǎo niú — little cow) — the misnomer that sparked the campaign in the first place. The Mavs will also be looking to milk their connection to former players Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlian to get the crowd on their side.

Nowitzki and Embiid — who have previously dueled on Twitter over their respective European soccer teams — will get the chance to impress Chinese fans, as will 76ers guard J.J. Redick, who made news here for all the wrong reasons recently after appearing to trip over his words and utter a racial slur in a Chinese New Year video greeting. Chinese sports fans can have pretty long memories, so Redick may cop some abuse, even though Jeremy Lin, among others, came to his defense after the video went viral.

Meanwhile, China’s lone NBA player, Zhou Qi 周琦, scored his first postseason points this week, posting the final basket of the game as his Houston Rockets crushed the Minnesota Timberwolves 102-82. Zhou played 3:14 of garbage time in the blowout loss, but was clearly proud of his performance, scoring on the only shot he took and racking up more than 40,000 views on Instagram after he put out the clip online.


The Rockets racked up the best regular season record in the NBA, though that has likely hindered Zhou’s playing time in the big league, appearing in just 18 games for the Rockets this year and spending much of his season in the developmental G League instead. But if the 22-year-old can continue to fill out his 7-foot-2 frame, he still has the potential to turn into an NBA starter, even if he’ll never reach the unprecedented heights of countryman Yao Ming.


Back in China, Hungarian defender Richárd Guzmics has been given a 10-game ban for appearing to stamp on Hao Qiang 郝强 during a recent game between Yanbian Fude and Zhejiang Yiteng last weekend. To this correspondent’s mind, while there was clearly significant contact, Guzmics looks like he was trying to hurdle Hao, but caught his leg as he went over the top. However, an emotional post by his Chinese opponent, in which Hao showed off his injuries and accused Hao of violence, may well have swayed authorities into giving the Hungarian a stiffer penalty.

Meanwhile, the intent of Guangzhou Evergrande’s Wang Junhui 王军辉 and Situ Haolong 司徒华龙 could not be questioned as the pair fought each other in a reserve team game against Shandong Luneng and were promptly banned for 10 months. The players have also been fined a total of 400,000 RMB from the club and the league. Worst yet, they have to turn up every day and write self-criticism essays.

In other news:

  • A Uighur player on Jiangsu Suning’s books has been detained by Xinjiang authorities for “visiting foreign countries” — even those he was reportedly in Spain and Dubai for training camps.
  • Basketball fans in Hong Kong will get a chance to see Sherman Su — known as Asia’s best dunker — at the city’s inaugural “Dunk Kong” next month.
  • The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup has announced its official mascot — a human/animal hybrid with horns.
  • Former Scottish national champion diver Tom Chambers now performs for audiences in Wuhan — but from a much greater height.
  • You may have heard the Olympics are coming (back) to Beijing, but start taking pictures of your favorite Chinglish signs now, because another clean-up campaign is underway.

The China Sports Column runs every Friday on SupChina. Follow Mark Dreyer @DreyerChina