Six weeks into the season, patterns are emerging.Â Breaking them down:Â
Depth At The Point Helps
When the Indonesia Warriorsâ€™ Stanley Pringle went down with an injury, the first thought was how would Indonesia cope without their floor general?Â But eight games in, the Warriors sit atop the ABL standings largely because of their depth at the 1 spot.Â John Smith, brought in on an emergency basis, has gotten better with every game, and is now averaging 11.5 ppg.Â Jerick Canada has terrorized opposing defenses this season with his dribble penetration.Â And Mario Wuysang (42% 3-PT FG) has been hitting big shots in the 4th quarter.Â
Â [All of which sets up an intriguing problem for the Warriors when Pringle returns to action in the next month or so.Â They already have 3 ASEAN players on the roster - John Smith, Richard Smith and Jerick Canada.Â Pringle would be a fourth and put them over the limit.Â Whoâ€™s the odd man out?]
Now look at the teams in the ABL cellar.Â The Westports Malaysia Dragons lost 4 straight games without a true point guard.Â The addition of Justin Melton (along with Sammy Monroe) changed their fortunes immediately, as they beat the San Miguel Beermen last weekend.Â And the Chang Thailand Slammers have Froilan Baguion (#1 in the ABL with 11 apg) but very little else in the backcourt.Â They are floundering at 2-5.
The Season is Long, Injuries Happen, Seek Help Immediately
The Warriors wasted no time replacing Stanley Pringle.Â Result? 6 straight wins.Â The Dragons lost Cedric Bozeman due to a lateral collateral ligament injury and got Sammy Monroe.Â His first game?Â 32 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast, 8 stls.Â The Slammers saw Justin Howard go out with a knee injury and pulled Chris Charles in.Â Heâ€™s giving them 21 ppg and 16 rpg.Â The Saigon Heat also went without Dior Lowhorn because of a knee injury and lost to... ok, itâ€™s a soft trend, admittedly.
Point being, teams need to have a Plan B ready if and when one of their key players is lost.Â
Referees Arenâ€™t Afraid To Pull Out The Big Gun
ABL Coaches, say hello to our long lost friend, the Technical Foul!Â Unlike seasons past, when coaches got away with nonstop whining and yelling, with some making their way halfway out onto the court to berate a referee, this year referees have calmly Tâ€™d up coaches who went over the line.Â I donâ€™t have numbers on how many technical fouls have been called but its greater than zero, and thus already an improvement over 2012. And while there will always be a place in the game for a dialogue between coaches and officials, selective use of the t-foul hammer has kept the games on an even keel and earned the referees the respect that was lacking in the first three seasons.Â Long may it continue.
The ABL Regular Season Schedule isâ€¦ Funky
Here is the Saigon Heatâ€™s game dates thus far:
Jan 12: at home vs Dragons
Jan 16: on road vs Slammers
Jan 19: at home vs Warriors
Jan 26: at home vs Beermen
Feb 1:on road vs Beermen
Feb 17: on road vs Slingers
So to recap, thatâ€™s three games in 7 days, followed by one game 7 days later, and then no games for 16 days.Â Thatâ€™s a schedule in search of some balance.
Hereâ€™s another oddity.Â The Indonesia Warriors played against Thailand on Feb 15.Â They donâ€™t play again until Mar 6th.Â Thatâ€™s a 19-day break.Â This is why you see pictures of the Warriors visiting a zoo on the ABL website right now.Â Hell, in 19 days they could start building a zoo.
Iâ€™d list some other teams with similar schedules but you get the point.Â The regular season schedule isâ€¦ odd.Â It has to be hard for the players and coaches to get into any sort of rhythm.Â
I am sure there are lots of good reasons for this:Â venue availability, team commitments to other games or tournaments, television, etc.Â But stillâ€¦a 19 day break?
To this weekendâ€™s gamesâ€¦
Saigon Heat vs Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers, Fri Feb 22nd
The second half of a back-to-back set between the Slingers and the Heat.Â Singaporeâ€™s Rashad Jones-Jennings had his breakout game of the season against Saigon, racking up 24 pts and 23 reb.Â He was aided, in part, by the absence of the Heatâ€™s power forward Dior Lowhorn.Â That wonâ€™t be the case Friday, as Lowhorn will be back in action (credit to FOX SPORTS' Marcus Chhan, who first reported this on Twitter).Â Tan Binh Stadium promises to be an unfriendly cauldron for the Slingers, who have yet to win on the road this season.
(Live on FOX SPORTS Asia, 8:00 PM HKT and via ABL Livestream)
Westports Malaysia Dragons vs Chang Thailand Slammers, Sat Feb 23rd
Youâ€™ll recall the first time these two teams met at MABA Stadium earlier this month.Â Chris Charles terrorized the Dragons in the low post, ending up with 29 pts and 27 reb.Â But that was the small version of the Dragons.Â Now Malaysia has Sammy Monroe to pair with Gavin Edwards in the frontcourt, giving the Slammers more beef and height to contend with.Â To have any chance, the Slammers need to get production from the Dubs â€“ Wutipong Dasom and Wacharapong Tongsri.
(Live on FOX SPORTS Malaysia, 3:00 PM HKT and via ABL Livestream)
Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers vs San Miguel Beermen, Sun Feb 24
The Slingers will be playing their 2nd game in 3 days while the Beermen will be coming off an 8-day break.Â (Did I mention the schedule was funky?)
These are two of the three teams in a 3-3 log jam in the middle of the ABL standings.Â San Miguel poses matchup problems for Singapore.Â The Slingers bigs, Jennings and Kyle Jeffers, are playing well but can they handle the more athletic Gabe Freeman and Brian Williams?Â Chris Banchero is a tough cover for Don Dulay.Â And who will account for Asi Taulava?Â Â
Any game involving a Philippines team in Singapore is a hoot because the expat Filipinos come out in full force to support their country.Â I guarantee at least a 50:50 split between Singapore and San Miguel fans.Â Itâ€™s not quite a road game for the Slingers, but its awfully close.Â If they served Shakeyâ€™s at the Indoor Stadium, thereâ€™d be a riot.
(Live on SuperSports Arena at 4:00 PM HKG and via ABL Livestream)