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Olympic Preview: China

The team is on a steep decline but the guards could make China fun to watch.

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China v United States - USA Basketball Showcase
OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26: Guo Ailun #6 of the China Men's National Team drives on Jimmy Butler #4 of the United States Men's National Team during the second half of a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

For a long time, the rap on China was that they could come up with plenty of big men but couldn’t seem to develop guards.

One theory held there were two reasons for this: one, Chinese focus on education so intensely that kids don’t have time to play and develop the creative skills that kids in other countries (especially the U.S.) do and two, the national system stifles individualism.

There could be some truth to both arguments, but it’s worth remembering that a) there are neglected kids in every country who raise themselves and b) no sport is more regimented than Japanese baseball, and Japanese baseball has produced some notable rebels.

We’d guess whoever came up with that hasn’t spent a lot of time in China.

And guess what? Suddenly China’s big men are lame by international standards, but they’ve come up with not one but two pretty nifty point guards: Guo Ailun and Zhao Jiwei.

Guo put a great move on Carmelo Anthony the other night - it was really impressive.

And Zhao did a number on Kevin Durant too.

These guys are legit and they’ll have stories to tell their grandkids.

They might not talk much about the rest of the game though - China had four turnovers in the first three minutes and got absolutely hammered, losing 106-57.

UNC has a fairly new tradition where guys on the team play pickup games with students.

It was about like that. Seriously.

China hasn’t gone anywhere since Yao Ming retired and most of this team lacks athleticism. They’re also fairly young and that won’t help either.

China will do well to escape last place, but it won’ surprise us at all if Zhao or Guo has a freak game during the Olympics. Guo is bound to be getting NBA nibbles. He’s a pretty nifty guard. He reminds us vaguely of Mark Price in that he’s daring and does things you don’t expect.

Otherwise, their best player is probably Yi Jianlian, who had five years in the NBA but was nothing special. He’s played in China since 2011-12 (we’re not sure about this, but China may be the only country, other than the U.S., where everyone plays at home. Not a single Chinese Olympic team member plays abroad).

China’s best finish since 2010 in international competition is 10th. Finishing higher than 10th in Rio would be an accomplishment.