Patriots vs Slingers commentary: It is time for new blood

By Ian Chew

No team can remain unbeaten indefinitely and so it was that the Singapore Slingers finally lost their first game 70-53 to the Philippine Patriots last weekend in Manila.

Yet a defeat can sometimes be instructive. If anything, it can provide a springboard for going to the next level.

Missing the services of Wong Wei Long due to chicken pox, and to a lesser extent Al Vergara, in the match against the Patriots, the Slingers slumped to an early 8-22 first quarter deficit and never recovered.

Unfamiliar in the point guard positions, first Slinger Marcus Ng and then Michael Wong tried to fill the gaps but were unable to execute the plays designed for the team. Slinger head coach Frank Arsego had to forego his original game plan and risk a less than hundred per cent fit Al Vergara before some semblance of normality returned to the Slingers play.

The game, however, was as good as over by that time with the Patriots holding on to an unassailable lead.

Looking at his bench, Arsego must have been hard pressed to find a spark for an implausible revival. Local centre Pathman Matialakan came off for four points while guard Hong Wei Jian added four rebounds.

In contrast, the Patriots had Robert Wainwright and Elmer Espiritu come off the bench for eight and seven points respectively to allow their starters some valuable rest.

In the end, the Patriots won the return match comfortably, but that was not the main story. It was the fact that all 12 players on the Patriots bench got a chance to run out in court and ten of the players contributed points, with three of them in double figures.

On the other hand, key Slinger signings like Al Vergara, Michael LeBlanc and Kyle Jeffers accounted for 39 of the team's output.

The Slingers may be unfortunate to lose point guard Wong Wei Long for the short term but their potential major flaw lies elsewhere.

Co-captain 2.06m centre Kyle Jeffers has proved to be a revelation in his role at the middle of the Slingers team. Averaging double digit scoring and rebounding in each game, he has brought a stability in defense that the team can build from.

If the losses of Al Vergara and Wong Wei Long prove an inconvenience for the Slingers, any prolonged loss of Jeffers either through injury or foul trouble would prove a catastrophe.

Astute and experienced he might be, yet Arsego would still be hard pressed to find a suitable replacement.

Pathman may deputize effectively as shown in the match against the Indonesian Sadria Muda team, yet he can hardly be counted on to last for an entire match. Local back-up Steven Khoo may add some steel in defense but he is still inexperienced on the larger stage.

A last resort would be to play Michael LeBlanc in the middle, but that would greatly reduce the team's perimeter offensive threat which LeBlanc excels in.

This means there are no viable replacements for the nightmare scenario of a long-term Jeffers injury.

In the face of such limitations, it is time for the Slingers organization to sign a big man for their final ASEAN player slot.

This will definitely provide the impetus for the team to step up to the next level and become more competitive.

Some may argue that the ASEAN Basketball League ought to be the grounds for blooding new local players to raise the local scene.

I beg to differ.

Results ultimately are the measure of the success of any professional team and the Slingers can ill afford a run of poor results. Any fledgling support earned from the local population can easily be dissipated once the Slingers are identified as no-hopers in the league.

Furthermore, any local member of the Slingers team will hardly learn from being at the end of a huge beating in a game.

It is no secret that teams in the ABL are stepping up their intensity after the first round of matches and the thorough pre-season preparation of the Slingers will be nullified in the next few rounds.

The Slingers need to sign a big man now.

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11 comments

  1. moh

    If I remember correctly, in addition to the 1 million dollar team salary cap, there is another cap on import salaries – it is USD 10,000 per month for an import. So, assuming that the player contract runs for 6 months in the season, thats a cap of USD 60,000 for the season. Don’t think a NBA player will come over for that.

  2. Slingerrocks

    ABL’s salary cap (1 million US) is high enough for Slingers to sign a ex-nba player i.e Sun Yue, the only worry is whether he wants to come down.

    If Slingers to cut a deal, be assured, there will be high returns.

  3. Slingerrocks

    @kelvin, agree totally with you. Slingers play fast-pace running offense, so they are like playing 1 power forward, 1 SF and 3 guards. But it would be nice to have a player with hype on the team roster. Someone who can attract fans out of star power.

  4. Kelvin

    I beg to differ, Ian my old adversary.

    I do not think that we need a big man in the classical definition. The modern game favours atheletic perimeter players. KJ by this definition is NOT a big man either. he is a mean rebounder but his game is also about his mobility and his vertical leap.

    Moreover the current Slinger game is build around mobility, perimeter offense and intense extended defense. A Big Man will not help.

    If we are to recruit….we should look for a good sized 2 guard who can help handle the ball. Al V…is clearly a key man in our current setup, and we could use another option if he is tactically taken out of a game or injured (like now). Having said that Wei Long has been a very pleasant surprise with his confidence and his performances to date.

    Anyway the ABL clearly was designed such that local players will be a big factor. thats why 2 full imports and 2 ethnic imports. this means the 5th man must be local…and locals coming off the bench in the rotation will be key to a team’s capabilities.

    Speaking for myself…and other bball fraternity fans…..I think we would get more excited seeing our local players contribute meaningfully to the team playing with good spirit…rather than a team full of imports winning…but with no emotional attachments.

    If the latter…than better off watching the nba and supporting team whatever.

  5. nameless

    Slingerrock-bro, you still don’t get me.

    1. Why would the Chinese want to come, when they have CBA and NBL, both more established than ABL, when they are that good?

    2. Even if they come and proved to be as good or even better than KJ or MLB, we still only have 2 import slots. Meaning one of KJ or MLB have to leave. And we have to replace them with an Asean or local player. Where do we go to find someone as good as KJ or MLB in Asean, let alone Singapore, who wants to come? PBA?

  6. Slingerrocks

    Pointless to get chinese point guards unless its Sun Yue (6’9) cos we need the height. Shooting guards in China can be quite tall i.e Huo Nan from Beijing Aoshen 6’6, scored 16 points against slingers last year. A Chinese player that has been to the NBA summer league should be good enough to match KJ and MLB’s skills. So far, there has been Li Yi(LA Lakers) and Zhang Songtao (Minnesota Timberwolves). Zhang may be really good for the Slingers cos he is 7’0 tall.

  7. nameless

    No offense, Slingerrocks, but the trio deos sound a bit off.

    Sun Ming Ming is last known to be in bj League in Japan, but not sure he is still active.

    Sun Yue is a starter in the Chinese National Team, and even if he does not return to NBA, he is probably good to be a star in Aoshen or CBA. Just can’t see him joining the ABL, which is a few tier behind the CBA currently.

    As for Mengke Bateer, I think he is more than happy to see out his career in Xinjiang playing in the CBA, as he is now.

    But the suggestion for Chinese player to be signed is good. But they must be at least as good if not better than KJ or MLB, since they are imports. The problem though, is that can we get a player as good or better than KJ or MLB should one of them needs to make way from Asean?

  8. Slingerrocks

    Nice article and analysis, Ian. I do see the problem of Slingers lacking a quality big man apart from KJ. But it wouldn’t be feasible at all right now as Slingers have saturated their international import space and their heritage player space. The only spot left is our ASEAN player spot. In ASEAN, there is currently no big men that can match the likes of the Big American imports from other teams. So it would be almost pointless to sign a big man from ASEAN. He would be more of a liability trying to re-learn the Slingers set plays rather than of a help. Pathman can be considered a big man in ASEAN at 6’7. What he needs to do is to step up his gear and contribute more.

    Next year Slingers should sign Sun Ming Ming 7’9 and it will make world headlines and give SIS a full house. That guy is equal to 2 big men. That will solve the problem. Slingers do have enough money to sign him. That will be a really good move because he has star power in attracting fans as the TALLEST basketball player in the entire world.

    Another signing that Slingers could make is Sun Yue, who played for Beijing Aoshen in Singapore here. Many local fans could already identify with him. Though he has moved on to play in the NBA for one season, he is getting a pay of $400,000. That is something Slingers can match, considering we don’t play 82 games.

    Slingers can also consider Mengke Bateer, 7’0 300lbs Centre from China. He came to Singapore a few years back and we got a 5000 strong crowd who came to see him. That proves that he has star power.

    How do we make the Slingers popular? We need to win, yes! But we need star power in our players and Sun Yue, Mengke Bateer or Sun Ming Ming can really give Slingers just that.

  9. nameless

    This is a difficult question. Ultimately, I believe most of us here wants to see a Slingers team to have just 2 foreign imports and be competitive in the ABL. That will be a real sign of progress in the standard of basketball here. Right now though, this is not realistic.

    But having to sign another big man overseas would probably mean one from overseas, and the quality of him could also be questionable (no disrespect though).

    So having identify this problem, why not try to solve it “internally”, which is to get a big guy from Singapore. Probably a developmental player, but let’s slowly blood in more locals, first in training, then in matches. This is how I see the Slingers should work.

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