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March 21, 2019

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Liu’s tearful adieu as Sharks exit

The Shanghai Sharks were eliminated from the preliminary round of the 2018-19 CBA playoffs after losing 103-117 to the Beijing Ducks at Pudong’s Yuanshen Stadium on Tuesday.

It was also an emotional evening for veteran Liu Wei, as it was the 39-year-old guard’s last game as a Sharks player.

It was the sixth meeting between the two teams this season. Due to adjustments to the Chinese Basketball Association regulations from this year, the two sides have played against each other six times this season — four in the regular season and twice in the best-of-three playoffs preliminary round. Shanghai only won one match — in the regular season — against the three-time CBA champions, bowing out of the playoffs after losing 0-2.

The Sharks’ star player Jimmer Fredette was heavily marked by Beijing players on Tuesday. He scored 13 points and grabbed 5 rebounds but only got his first point through a free throw with one minute left on the clock during the second quarter.

“They played very well,” Fredette said after the match. “We fought hard all year. We had a lot of injuries and had players missing some parts of the season. We were able to attain our goal of reaching the postseason, but we met a strong team and that’s what happened.”

Asked about his future with the club, the 30-year-old American simply said: “We will see.” Fredette left Shanghai on Wednesday, heading home to welcome the birth of his second child.

Argentina international Luis Scola had a game-high 33 points on Tuesday. He was the only player who played in all 48 games for the Sharks this season. However, the 38-year-old’s performances through the year were not enough to lift the team to an upper level. He averaged 19.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.

Fredette averaged 36 points in his 45 appearances for the Sharks this season — the fifth highest in the league for now. Both players’ future remains uncertain.

Tuesday was former Sharks captain Liu’s last match as a player for the club he served for nearly 20 years.

Liu played for the Sharks from 1997 to 2014, during which he partnered national team icon Yao Ming, who is now the CBA chief, to help the Sharks win its only league title in the 2001-2002 season. Liu then joined the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in 2014 and the Sichuan Blue Whales in 2016 before making a return to Shanghai this season. In November, he became the third player in the CBA to score 10,000 points in his career. Liu will become a member of the Sharks coaching team next season.

“I have said on many occasions that being able to play for Shanghai in my last year (as a player) is something I am grateful for,” a tearful Liu said as he greeted fans at Yuanshen at the end of Tuesday’s match. “I thank everybody for their support and company all these years.”

The Sharks started the season very well, winning six of their seven opening matches. But the team paid for its uneven form in the latter part of the season, and eventually finished 12th in the 20-team league to clinch the last ticket for the playoffs. Over-reliance on Fredette, who arrived in 2016, was one of the problems for the team as rivals became familiar with his playing style.

Despite making the playoffs, the Sharks didn’t meet manager Li Qiuping’s expectation of becoming a top-eight team this season, while the club has set a target of becoming a title competitor in four to five years.

Meanwhile, CBA officials were investigating yesterday after reports that former Houston Rockets player Aaron Jackson was racially abused by Sharks fans during the game.

Broadcast footage of the game showed an agitated Jackson, 32, being ushered along the sidelines of the court by a Ducks teammate and an official instructing the crowd to sit down.

A reporter at the game posted on social media that a fan near the Beijing bench shouted a racial slur at the American who had a stint last year with the NBA’s Rockets but has spent most of his career overseas. “We are investigating. The spectators did say something to Jackson, but we have to ascertain what was said,” a CBA spokesman said.

The Sharks said they were unaware of any incident and had not received a complaint from the Ducks.


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