There’s a lot of new stuff going on besides the change of the number on the calendar.
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Happy New Years to all ABL fans! We’re finally going to be back in action as the Singapore Slingers take on the Mono Vampires on their home court at OCBC Arena.
For a quick recap from last year:
- The Singapore Slingers are first in the table with 8 wins and 2 losses (with 8 road games) and the head-to0-head point differential advantage over Hitech Bangkok City. Justin Howard seems to be on his way to a World Import Of the Year award, and if he doesn’t, Xavier Alexander is well up there in consideration as well. They are the best offensive team in the ABL (in terms of Field Goal Percentage) even if they seem to be allergic to three point shots. Wei Long has lost some of the buzz after getting the ASEAN MVP last season, but he’s doing pretty much exactly what he was doing last year and a bit more. To round it all up, Kris Rosales has been one of the most clutch players in the ABL. Coming off a solid win against the Dragons at MABA Stadium, the Slingers assured are the team to beat this year.
- The Mono Vampires would be dead last in the ABL if it weren’t for the miserable Pilipinas MX3 Kings. They have 2 wins (both over the MX3 Kings) and 9 losses. Throughout the first 5 games, they looked like a team that was just going through bad luck with losses of no more than 6 points. Then they grabbed their first win and all hell broke loose. The last six games of the first half of the ABL have been a complete defensive disaster. They were able to grab one more win, but lost two crucial ones against the Saigon Heat. Anthony McClain has been doing a lot on both sides of the floor, but he needs more help and fast.
So that’s what we know from last year about these teams.
But let’s check on with the situation after the long ABL break:
- After the incident after the KL Dragons-Singapore Slingers game, Wong Wei Long will be suspended for 2 games, starting with this one. This might not seem like much news at first, but then you realize how much firepower is gone from the Slingers perimeter scoring. Imagine that the Slingers had been shooting 14.2 three point shot per game before this. Wei Long takes away 6.1 of those long bombs or 43% in total. Wei Long might only be hitting at a 23.6% rate, but take him out of the equation, and the Mono Vampires can feel more comfortable about packing it tight in the zone.
- During the break, there was a lot of rumble within the Thai Basketball scene about a coaching change for the Mono Vampires. The details are blurry, as I have not been able to attend a Mono Vampires practice in person to confirm, but it seems to be that the Mono Vampires will be going with two Co-Coaches: Coach “Tong” Tongkiate Singhaseni (Coach of the Chang Thai Slammers Championship squad in Season 2) and Coach “Joe” Sunthoraphong Mawinthorn (Recently coached Mono-Thewphaingarm to TBL2015 Finals and coached TBL2014 Champions, Nakornpathom Madgoats). That there is pretty solid coaching, if the news is true. It is possible that all teams might have to throw away their scouting reports on the Mono Vampires if this move goes down.
- News also broke that Paul Butorac has been sent back after his duties as a stand in import for Quincy Okolie, who had been placed on the injured list. It seems that the Vampires will be using Quincy Okolie once again, after we got to see some pictures of him dunking in a recent practice. However, there was also some news going around about the Vampires considering to replace Okolie with another import that is very familiar with Coach Joe from Mono-Thewphaingarm and Nakhonpathom Mad Goats.
- THE ABL IS BACK GUYS. GET EXCITED.
UPDATE: It seems like the Mono Vampires will be using the services of Michael Fey from the very start of 2016, amidst all the rumors. He is travelling to Singapore with the team.
With Wong Wei Long out, somebody has got to help pick up the scoring load he left behind. That someone might be Kris Rosales or Leon Kwek, but I expect a veteran like Oh to step up. Oh will spend plenty of minutes on the floor being their lockdown defender (marking Apiromvilaichai/Kruatiwa) so with those Wei Long shots gone, it’s possible Oh will pick them up. If he makes them, Singapore should be just fine.
At this point, I’m not really sure what to expect from the Mono Vampires. But if we’re sticking with what we know…the Singapore Slingers are a really, really, good team and I don’t expect that a long break or missing out on Wong Wei Long in this game is going to change much of that fact. Even though it’s only been two games at OCBC Arena for the Slingers, they’ve shown good performances on their home turf, especially with a win over the KL Dragons headed by a monster game from Justin Howard.
Based solely on the confirmed information I have on hand, the Slingers should win this game by 9 points.
Feature Picture from Mono Vampire Basketball Club