One of the adages commonly heard around the ABL is â€śthe imports will cancel each other out, so it always comes down to who has the best localsâ€ť.Â I am not sure this is entirely true â€“ plenty of games have been won in this league because one team simply had the better imports â€“ but there is some evidence locals are making a bigger impact on the outcome of each game.
Take a look at the homegrown talent that is averaging 10 ppg or more:
Mario Wuysang, Indonesia Warriors, 13 ppg
Wong Wei Long, JobStreet.com Singapore Slingers, 12 ppg
Wutipong Dasom, Chang Thailand Slammers, 10 ppg
Wuysang is a veteran and itâ€™s no surprise to see him have another standout season (42% 3-pt FG on 45 attempts).Â
But Wong Wei Long is new to the list.Â In 5 games this season, he has knocked down 15 3-ptrs, registering a tidy 41% from beyond the arc.Â He can create his own shot and demands a defender to come outside and challenge.Â Â And this for a Slingers team that often struggles to find offense from outside.Â Not to mention his defensive work is solid.
Wong is pursuing an education (how dare he!) and that prevents him from travelling with the Slingers to road games.Â Itâ€™s their loss, as the Slingers need a knockdown shooter to complement their strong inside game.Â Wong is the right man for the job.
Dasom is new to the Slammers and is part of an infusion of local talent that is being nurtured by Joe Bryant and his staff.Â The commitment of the Slammers to developing young Thais is slowly showing results, even if they arenâ€™t coming in the win column.Â Dasom is shooting 45% with a good portion of those mid-range jumpers.Â I can see Dasom becoming an integral part of the Slammers offense, as Bryant has demonstrated he will go to his local talent more and more, trading short-term results for long-term gain.Â And thatâ€™s part of what the ABL is all about. Â Â Â Â
To the games aheadâ€¦
Saigon Heat vs Chang Thailand Slammers, Fri March 1st
Both clubs had a February they would prefer to forget.Â The Heat lost 3 straight games â€“ they were blown out by the Beermen and then lost a back-to-back set to the Slingers.Â Â The problem?Â Rebounding.Â Over that trio of games, the Heat were outboarded 145-87.Â And rebounds will be at a real premium at Tan Binh Stadium tonight, as Saigon will be without big man David Palmer.Â His injury brings Ben Wisniewski out of coaching duty once again, after previously playing substitute for Dior Lowhorn.
Thailand went 1-3 in February and alternated between looking sensational in beating the Dragons at MABA Stadium to begin the month and looking lethargic in losses to Indonesia and the Dragons in the return date in KL last week.Â The Slammers shot a collective 37% in the three games they dropped, and are the type of team that needs 9 guys to bring it to have any chance.Â Chris Charles wasnâ€™t a Slammer when they lost to the Heat in January.Â His presence, plus the absence of Palmer, sets up an intriguing contest between two teams desperate for a win.
(Available on FOX SPORTS Asia and via ABL Livestream, 8:00 PM HKT)
San Miguel Beermen vs Westports Malaysia Dragons, Sat March 2nd
This game shapes up like a Transformers movie (the first one I mean, not the two crappy sequels)Â â€“ a battle of bigs with plenty of fireworks.Â Â The Dragons will bring Gavin Edwards and Sammy Monroe (lots of experience playing in the Philippines) to Ynares Sports Arena.Â The Beermen will counter with Asi Taulava (rounding into peak form) and Matt Rogers (a shooting guard trapped in a centreâ€™s body). San Miguelâ€™s Chris Banchero is now playing better than any guard in the ABL.Â Assuming Justin Melton chases Banchero around all night, can Leo Avenido regain his shooting touch (36% FG) that seems to have deserted him this season?Â Coming off the bench, Malaysia can play Moala Tautuaa (10 pts, 12 reb including 7 off reb in win over Slammers) at two positions, while Pat Cabahug can score in bunches.Â
Plus, there is always the backstory with these two clubs.Â The Beermen narrowly edged the Dragons in last seasonâ€™s playoffs, then snatched the Dragons centre Brian Williams.Â The Dragons beat the Beermen two weeks ago at MABA, spoiling the return of Williams.Â This is a bona fide rivalry, folks.Â
The Beermen will miss Eric Menk (out due to a fractured nose) and Gabe Freeman (serving a one-game suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct in the win over Singapore).Â The latter is a huge loss for this game, as Freemanâ€™s dribble penetration would have opened up space for the Beermen to attack from the perimeter.
This game features two teams on the rise.Â Both look like they have their rosters and rotations set.Â Beermen are not content to be in 2nd place.Â The Dragons still want payback for last season.Â Make sure you have a good wifi connection for this one.
(Delayed telecast on FOX SPORTS Philippines and live via ABL Livestream, 4:00 PM HKT)
Indonesia Warriors vs Chang Thailand Slammers, Wed March 6th
This is the second of three games Thailand plays within a 9-day span to begin March.Â Itâ€™s a crucial stretch for the leagueâ€™s last placed team.Â They really need to go 2-1 to get back into the playoff chase.Â This is a tough test as they face a Warriors team that has won 6 straight and will just be returning from an 18-day break where, if Iâ€™ve read the ABL website correctly, the players have had the monstrous task of sitting on the beaches of Bali. (In their defense, the Warriors did hold a coaching clinic but... still...)
The Warriorsâ€™ Chris Daniels has been a metronome of consistency, registering a double-double in 8 straight games.Â The Slammers will hope Froilan Baguion gets untracked early, after struggling (9 pts, 3 ast, 6 turnovers) in his last game.Â A huge individual battle between Baguion and fellow pinoy Jerick Canada looms.Â
The rest of the ABL must be freaking, knowing that the Warriors have roared into first place while their best player, Stanley Pringle, is still out with an injury.Â How good will they be when he comes back?
This game is being played in an indoor tennis stadium.Â Imagine if basketball players could challenge a call and go to video review the way tennis players do?Â Basketball games would immediately last 6 hours long and fans would want to strangle any player who called for a challenge on a dumb out-of-bounds play.
(Available on JakTV in Indonesia and via ABL Livestream, 8:00 PM HKT)Â