It's just one game in a 22-game season, right?¬†You can‚Äôt draw any conclusions on how the whole season will play out based on the first game when all the teams are rusty, right?¬†Much better to wait a month or so before deciding, right?¬†¬†
Hell, no.¬†It's much more fun to be presumptuous and use a ridiculously small sample size to decide right now which teams are hot, and which teams are in trouble.¬†So here are some takeaways from the opening weekend of the 2013 ABL season.
The Dragons Can Score‚Ä¶In A Hurry
Saigon Heat fans at Tan Binh Stadium had barely settled into their seats before looking up to discover the visiting Westports Malaysia Dragons had run out to a 20-5 first quarter lead.¬†The Dragons were paced by new import Cedric Bozeman, who shook up the ABL with a 25-point (on 11 of 16 shooting), 14-rebound, 5-assist, 5-steal, 1-turnover scoreline.¬†Fellow American Gavin Edwards, also in his Malaysian debut, finished with 14-points and 13-rebounds.¬†
But they‚Äôre called the Malaysia Dragons for good reason.¬†Local Guganeswaran (better known as Guga) was clutch from beyond the arc, nailing 3 of 4 3-pointers.¬†And Ban Sin Ooi, who wasn‚Äôt even in a Dragons uniform last season, chipped in with 9 points.¬†All up, the Malaysians totalled 27 valuable points, in a game that saw Saigon get within one late, before the Dragons pulled away to win 80-70.
Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia has a balanced offense with options beyond Bozeman and Edwards.¬†Good shooters will draw defenders away from Bozeman and Edwards, creating space for all, and havoc for Malaysia‚Äôs opponents.¬†Dragons can go 2-0 on the road with a win over the Chang Thailand Slammers in Bangkok on Friday and (time for a shameless promo) that game is LIVE on ESPN at 8:00 PM Hong Kong time.
Having Two Quality Imports Guarantees You Absolutely Nothing
In the first two seasons of the ABL, having two solid imports guaranteed you a playoff spot.¬†But with improved locals and teams becoming more selective over the imports they bring in, it is now all but impossible for two imports to take over a game.
The Heat found this out to their chagrin Saturday night.¬†David Palmer and Dior Lowhorn, in their Heat debut, combined for 57 points.¬†This accounted for over 80% of the Heat offense.¬†By contrast, the Vietnamese players combined for just 1 point.¬†In a league that values depth more with each passing season, that will not get it done.¬†
Coach Jason Rabedeaux watched what happened to the Heat last year when one player was asked to handle the entire offense.¬†The Heat ended up going 0-7 to start the season.¬†How long with they wait in 2013 before getting more players involved on the offensive end?¬†We‚Äôll know more after the Heat‚Äôs game against the Slammers on Wednesday.
The Warriors Will Be Fine Without Stanley Pringle
The Beermen-Warriors clash on Friday night in Jakarta was anything but a classic.¬†Both teams missed open shots, clanged jumpers off the rim, bricked at the free-throw and handled the ball like it was a wet bar of soap.¬†The Beermen ultimately prevailed 64-53 in an ugly one at Mahaka Square.
But the Warriors, who announced last week that star guard Stanley Pringle will miss up to 12 weeks with a meniscus injury, answered the question as to how they would handle Pringle‚Äôs absence: They are doing it by committee. Veteran Mario Wuysang, fast-improving Jerick Canada and Heat transplant John Smith split time at the point, and managed to battle the Beermen guards to a draw.¬†Those three should be steady enough to give Steve Thomas and Chris Daniels room to roam down low.¬†
Meanwhile, note the announcement said Stanley Pringle will miss up to 12 weeks.¬†He could be back much sooner.¬†And without a doubt, he provides a dimension Warriors do not have right now.
A quirk in the schedule gives the Warriors a game this coming Saturday in Saigon before heading straight back to Jakarta to meet the Dragons on Tuesday. It‚Äôs a key early season test for the defending champs.¬† ¬†
The Slingers May End Having A Point Differential of Zero - Again
In one of the oddest stats from the 2012 season, the Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers scored 1,536 points and allowed 1,536 points, for a point differential of zero.¬† That‚Äôs weird.¬†I¬†mean really weird.¬†Unheard of, in fact.
Anyway, the Slingers win on Sunday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium opens up the possibility of Singapore repeating the statistically improbable again in 2013.¬†The Slingers shot a combined 32% from the floor.¬†But they allowed the Slammers to shoot a near-identical 33%.¬†Singapore had 21 field goals; Thailand had 23.¬†The Slingers grabbed 42 rebounds; the Slammers pulled down 43.¬†Assists, you ask?¬†6 for the Slingers and‚Ä¶6 for the Slammers.¬†These numbers are scaring me.¬†Let‚Äôs move on‚Ä¶
The Slingers pulled out a 6-pt win by going 8 of 12 at the free throw line (Slammers:¬†4 of 7) and watching Thailand go 0-for-7 from 3-pt land.¬†Singapore lived dangerously in getting a home-opener win and now has a couple of weeks to reset offensively before a rematch with the Slammers on January 25th in Bangkok.¬†And hey!¬†That game is LIVE on ESPN at 8:00 PM Hong Kong time.
Did The Slammers Keep the Receipt for Their Imports?
Justin Howard:¬† 13 pts, 6-of-15 from the floor, 1-of-3 from the free throw line
Michael Earl:¬† 10 pts, 5-of-16 from the floor, 0-of-0 from the free throw line
Don‚Äôt Buy Stock in San Miguel Just Yet¬†
Yes, they have revamped their roster, getting bigger and more experienced.¬†Yes, they have a new coach in Leo Austria who has them playing solid D.¬†And yes, they went into Jakarta and beat the defending league champions.¬†
But how do you figure‚Ä¶
Brian Williams, in a post-game interview, said the ABL have yet to see the Beermen at their best.¬† After their unconvincing win on Friday, I agree.