Star forward Lynn Washington scored his 5,000th point in an Osaka Evessa uniform on Saturday, leading the hosts to a 79-60 season-opening victory over the Takamatsu Five Arrows at Sumiyoshi Sports Center. The Chiba Jets, meanwhile, collected a win in their first game in the bj-league.
Washington entered the game with 4,996 points. When it was over, he had an 18-point, 12-rebound performance, a reminder that he remains a model of consistency in a rapidly changing league.
“The game was good, not great,” said Washington, the league’s all-time leading scorer. “We were playing Takamatsu so it is quite understandable that we took some things for granted. However, at the end of the day we played hard and our talent took us over the top. We are very talented and anything short of a championship is unheard of.”
The Evessa led 26-7 after the first quarter and held off the Five Arrows, who are led by Kenzo Maeda, one of seven coaches making debuts with their respective bj-league teams on the day.
Lawrence Blackledge added 14 points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and two assists for Osaka, while Satoshi Takeda scored 12 points and Lavell Payne had 11 points and seven boards. Wayne Marshall scored 10 points. Cohey Aoki, the longtime Tokyo Apache star, had two points in his first regular-season game with Osaka.
“The team looked good for the first game, especially the 1st quarter, Evessa coach Ryan Blackwell told The Japan Times on Saturday night.
“Our energy on both ends was really good for the most part. We turned the ball over 11 times in the second half, which is too much but we shared the ball well and got out into our fast break by causing some turnovers.”
Michael Nunnally paced the Five Arrows with 13 points and 11 boards. Teammate Paul Butorac finished with 11 points.
Takamatsu shot 23-for-69 from the field, including 1-for-14 from 3-point range. The Five Arrows were 13-for-23 at the free-throw line.
Jets 77, Phoenix 74
In Hamamatsu, Maurice Hargrow scored a game-high 22 points and dished out six assists, and Chiba out-rebounded the two-time defending champions 69-45 to record a victory in its regular-season debut.
Coach Eric Gardow’s expansion club hauled in 32 offensive boards. Jamel Staten contributed 19 points and 11 rebounds, George Leach had 14 points and 10 boards and Kensuke Tanaka scored six points with five rebounds.
For Hamamatsu Higashimikawa (1-2), Wayne Arnold was the leading scorer with 15 points. Jeffrey Palmer had 13 points and Shoji Nakanishi scored 12.
After the game, Gardow summed up the team’s performance this way: “Great team effort.”
“I’m extremely proud of my team, my coaching staff and our entire Chiba Jets organization,” he told The Japan Times. “The players left their hearts and souls on the floor. (I give) a lot of credit to (assistant coach) Geoffrey (Katsuhisa) and the players for managing the game.”
As an expansion team, Chiba brings the element of surprise into the season, but once the game started, it took shots like any other club. The Jets missed too many of them, Gardow said. Chiba was 18-for-42 at the charity stripe and 27-for-71 from the field.
That said, the Jets’ rebounding effort pleased Gardow.
“We controlled the boards with four guys in or near double digits,” he said.
“Defensively, the whole team was solid, however Hiroki (Sato) and (Shota) Isshiki played the hard-nosed defense that I have been teaching,” Gardow added.
So what does it feel like to be 1-0 after months of preparation?
“We are excited, but it is only one game,” Gardow said. “It is a long year and this is a sweet start. Enjoy it for a minute, but it’s back to the grind tomorrow.”
B-Corsairs 81, Broncos 71
In Saitama, Justin Burrell scored 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and Marcus Simmons and Masayuki Kabaya each had 14 points as Yokohama improved to 2-1 by beating the hosts.
Simmons added six assists, five rebounds and five steals for coach Reggie Geary’s expansion club. Kabaya also had five assists. Kenji Yamada chipped in with 13 points.
Yokohama outscored Saitama 24-10 in the third quarter to take control of the game.
For the Broncos, playing their season opener under new coach Dean Murray, rookie John Flowers was the leading scorer with 22 points. Former Tokyo standout John “Helicopter” Humphrey had 17 points and center Gabriel Hughes added nine points and nine boards. Former NBA point guard Kenny Satterfield had eight points, six rebounds and six assists.
Saitama missed 25 of its 30 3-point shots.
“We were not patient in our offense in the beginning of the game and took quick shots,” Murray said. “As a result, we got down 15-4 and it seemed like we were trying to dig ourselves out of a hole all night.”
“But we did fight all the way to the end and we just have to play with that type of effort the whole game. We did not shoot the ball well either tonight and Yokohama played well. Give them credit. They did what they had to do at the end to win the game.”
Susanoo Magic 75, Shining Suns 66
In Miyazaki, Michael Parker scored 29 points in his Shimane debut and Edward Yamamoto had 11 assists as the visitors fired on all cylinders in their 2011-12 opener.
Parker grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds, while Tatushiro Yokoo scored 13 points and Jumpei Nakama, who spent his first six seasons in the league in a Tokyo uniform, had 10 points and six boards. Reggie Golson added nine points and eight rebounds for the Magic.
For Miyazaki, swingman Dexter Lyons scored 19 points.
Golden Kings 105, Rizing 97
In Fukuoka, newcomer Narito Namizato, a 22-year-old guard, scored 24 points on 8-for-9 shooting in his first bj-league game as Ryukyu topped the hosts.
Namizato was 7-for-8 at the free-throw line and dished out nine assists in 23 electrifying minutes. Teammate Reggie Okosa scored 23 points and made five steals and Morihisa Yamauchi had a 13-point outing. Anthony McHenry and Naoto Kosuge each scored 10. The Golden Kings were 26-for-31 at the line.
Newcomer Kevin Palmer finished with 28 points for the Rizing, while ex-Ryukyu forward Carlos Dixon had 22 points in his first Fukuoka debut.
Happinets 90, HeatDevils 67
In Akita, Michael Gardener scored 26 points and had eight assists and Kenny Taylor contributed 25 points as veteran mentor Kazuo Nakamura won his first game with his hometown team.
The Northern Happinets scored 51 of their points on 3-point shots (17-for-46) while Oita, led by rookie head coach Yukinori Suzuki, was 3-for-23 in its season opener.
Former league MVP Wendell White paced the HeatDevils with 23 points and 14 rebounds and Matt Lottich scored 14. Former NBA player Terry Cummings’ son, T.J., had 10 points, nine boards, four steals and three assists in his first game in Japan.
Grouses 81, Albirex BB 79
In Niigata, Haakim Johnson led Toyama with 20 points and big man Devin Searcy added 19 on 9-for-10 season in a victory over the hosts.
Ira Brown finished with 14 points and the well-traveled Masashi Joho had 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals for the Grouses.
For Niigata, Kimitake Sato scored 18 points and Nile Murry had 13.
Hannaryz 72, Lakestars 70
In Yasu, Shiga Prefecture, former NBA center Lance Allred notched a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds) in his first game for Kyoto, leading the visitors to a two-point win over their Kansai rival.
Taizo Kawabe scored 16 points and Rick Rickert, who was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves several years ago but never played a regular-season game for the NBA club, had 15 points and 11 rebounds, making a winner of Honoo Hamaguchi, the longtime Sendai 89ers coach, in his Hannaryz debut.
For Shiga, playing its first game under Alan Westover, Ray Nixon was the No. 1 scorer, finishing with 17 points. Josh Peppers had 12 points and Dionisio Gomez and Takamichi Fujiwara scored eight apiece.