TBL Preview: Frequently Asked Questions

The TBL is about to start in a couple of days, but before we can dive in an appreciate the TBL, we must understand what exactly this TBL is.

Let us begin.

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Q: “What is the TBL?”

Thailand_Basketball_League_Logo

A: TBL stands for (T)hailand (B)asketball (L)eague. That is pretty easy to explain and understand. It’s a basketball league that is held in Thailand. But of course, that wasn’t pretty hard to figure out.

Let’s dig a bit deeper.

The Thailand Basketball League started in 2012, somewhere along the basketball boom of Thailand when the Chang Thai Slammers won the ASEAN Basketball League Championship. That would make this season the 5th season of the TBL.

Personally, this will be the third season I have been following and I have to say that the scenery changes every year. You have to pay a lot of attention to the changes. For starters, back in 2014, the league had a total of 10 teams. Last year, the league was downsized to only 6. This year, the TBL has grown up back to 8. Here are the participating teams this year.

Credit: Mono Vampires Basketball Club
Credit: Mono Vampires Basketball Club
  • Mono Vampires
  • Mono-Thewphaingarm
  • Hitech
  • Provincial Electric Authority (PEA)
  • Thai General Equiment (TGE)
  • Dunkin’ Raptors
  • Madgoats
  • OSK R Airlines

We’ll be going through each team in the Team Previews in another set of blog entries. The first 6 teams are carried on from the past season (with Mono Vampires being the defending champs) while the Madgoats and OSK R Airlines will be added to the field.

Teams will be playing double-round robin to determine the top 4 spots in the standings. In the case of a tie, the two-way tiebreaker will be determined by Head-to-Head results while a three-way tiebreaker will use points scored between those teams. From there, the top four teams will play in the TBL Semifinals in a best of three series. The winners of the the semifinals matchup will then play in a best of five TBL Finals showdown to determine the champions of this year. Last year’s champions were the Mono Vampires.

Credit: Kuk Onvisa Thewphaingarm
Credit: Kuk Onvisa Thewphaingarm

In addition to all of this, as a little push to avoid having teams tank throughout the whole season, the bottom two teams at the end of the season will not be able to play in the TBL in the following season unless the league grants them an invitation. This clause practically is the TBL saying that if you don’t show the effort in putting in a competitive team, we might not allow you back in the league anymore. We’ll see how this goes.


Q: “When is the TBL?”

A: The TBL is scheduled to start 18th of June and should go on to about late August.

Here’s the schedule for the first half of the season:

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That was pretty easy.


Q: “As a basketball fan in Thailand, I am very interested. How do I follow the TBL?”

A: Good question. It would be quite a shame if you would have set up a league and your fans didn’t know where to follow the events.

IMG_2384

This year, all the games will be played at Stadium29, which was also the venue for the SEABA Stankovic Cup 2016. This is a change from the past two years where teams would change venues every week.

Games will be played during weekends where each team will play 2 games a week. That is 8 games per week on Saturday and Sunday. That is a lot of basketball.

Stadium29 might not be entirely convenient to commute to, but I think it’s a fair tradeoff to the experience that you will be getting. Tickets for one game is 100 THB, but you can also but a full day pass for 200 THB.

In the case that you aren’t a complete basketball freak and can’t spend 8 hours a day to watch all of the games live at the court, you can also watch the games from a computer or a TV set. All games will be available at the mThai website, while select games will be shown on TV channels Mono29 and Mono Plus.

And even then, if you don’t really have the time to watch at Stadium29 or from your Monitors, you can follow the news of the TBL at these outlets:

If you are a basketball fan and want to start following the Thailand Basketball League’s, that’s your starter kit. But judging by the fact that you are here already…you probably already know that.


Q: “I want to play in the TBL. What requirements do I need to fulfill?

A: This is actually a very good question and it has been answered very vaguely in the past. Let’s slowly break this down.

  • All registered players on a team must have a legitimate professional basketball contract with their teams. Team must have at least 12 players and no more than 17 players on their rosters.

This rule makes sure that the Thailand Basketball League is (techinically) a professional basketball league. All of the players on the rosters are all bounded by a professional contract. Now, whether or not those contracts are large enough to provide a player financially to serve as a career is another question, but we’re on the right track here.

The number of players is reasonable and logical. A professional team should be able to have 12 players at the very least and the maximum amount prevents teams from hoarding players. Moving on…

  • Rostered players and staffs maybe of any nationality

WAIT WHAT? Does that mean that the Dunkin’ Raptors could collaborate with the Toronto Raptors and bring the likes of Kyle Lowry or Demar Derozan (should he resign) to play in the TBL? WHY ARE THEY NOT DOING THIS?

Well, this rule will be bounded by other restrictions to be mentioned further but the purpose of the wording is most likely directed at the “staff” part more than the “player” part. Teams are allowed 5 staff members to be registered on each game day in addition to the Head Coach and the assistant coaches. This rule will mostly like give teams more freedom to get international staff (mainly head coaches, as we will be seeing at least 4 foreign coaches in the TBL this year).

So moving on with the player restrictions…

  • Teams are allowed no more than 2 “World Imports” on the roster, but only one can be on the court at a time.

The term “world import” isn’t directly defined in the documents I have in hand, but out of context, it simply means that any player that doesn’t have a Thai ID will only be able to play in the TBL as a “World Import” (unless they are bound by another rule I will mention later). It is typical of basketball leagues in Asia to have these sort of rules to add some excitement to the game with athleticism that Asian just aren’t naturally gifted with. The Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) has two periods of their season which they will allow one import per team as well, but the top teams will be bounded with height limits. The ASEAN Basketball League allows two world imports, but both can be on the court at the same time.

This is not new and the “sign-2-play-1” rule in the TBL has been going on since 2014, when it was changed from straight up “sign-2-play-2”.

It is a bit of an interesting rule. There are no complications with teams that signed only 1 world import, as they would be able to fully utilize the 40 available minutes that that player can play. But for teams that elect to sign two imports, that ultimately means that you will have to be juggling minutes of two elite players. Play one too much and you will risk playing another too little. All of this while paying the price of two individuals.

I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just saying it weird.

The benefits in terms of basketball is that it gives teams a chance to have a pace changing substitution on the bench at all time. You could have two world imports of contrasting styles and switch them in and out to keep the defenses honest. The most important part might be in practices. If you have two signed imports, you could have them go back and forth at each other to keep each other motivated.

Asian Basketball Leagues might not need imports (like in Indonesia and in the Philippines during the Philippine Cup), but they sure do help with the entertainment factor.

  • Teams that finished 4th-6th in TBL 2015 and new teams in the league are allowed to sign and play one ASEAN Import. The ASEAN Imports can be signed and replaced at anytime during the first half of the season, but cannot be changed once the second half of the season starts.

Well, this changes things.

Thailand has been one of the biggest participants in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL). They are the only team to have had a representative in every season and have sent multiple teams in one season. It was only natural that they would take a leaf out of the ABL’s book at some point.

The TBL however only allows one ASEAN import per team, and even then the three top teams from last year are not allowed to have one. This does spice up the competition a bit. In the past, the top players of Thailand have been grouped in the camps of Hitech, Mono Vampires, and Thewphaingarm in some sort of varience. With this rule, teams that don’t have the local talent resources can get an extra talented player to add to their team to boost their chances of winning.

I love it. The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and the PBA all have their own different rule sets for Asian Imports as well. Not only does this boost the level of talent and competition in the league, but it also draws in international interest. Fans from ASEAN countries will want to follow the league to see their homegrown talent play. Players from ASEAN Countries will want to follow the league to gauge their chances at a professional career ehere.

It’ll be interesting to see how the team limitations to ASEAN imports will change from year to year. If the same rule stands, that means that the difference between 3rd and 4th place will have much more meaning than it has been in the past. We’ll get to see how big of a role this plays out near the season’s end.

For these two nationality restrictions above, this means that while that even though players can be of any nationality, you are only allowed to have 2 World Imports and 1 ASEAN Imports (if the team gets one). Other players will have to be able to present a Thai ID Card in order to not be restricted by the World/ASEAN restriction.

  • Teams are allowed to roster only 5 players who participated in the 28th SEA Games Men’s Basketball team and can play only 3 at one time.

This one might look harmful, but let’s look at that SEA Games roster again:

Attaporn Lertmalaiporn (Hitech)
Sukdave Ghogar (Hitech)
Wattana Suttisin (TGE)
Wuttipong Dasom (Hitech)
Darongphun Apiromwilaichai (Mono Vampires)
Darunphong Apiromwilaichai (Mono-Thewphaingarm)
Ratdech Kruatiwa (Mono Vampires)
Chanachon Klahan (Mono Vampires)
Kannut Samerjai (Mono Vampires)
Danai Kongkum (Madgoats)
Theerawat Chantajon (Mono Vampires)
Nattakarn Meungboon (Mono-Thewphaingarm)

So, doing a quick head count, we have:

5 players from Mono Vampires
3 players from Hitech
2 players from Mono-Thewphaingarm
1 player from TGE
1 player from Madgoats

So, in reality, this rule is only to buffer the Mono Vampires who will have to watch how they field Klahan, Samerjai, Kruatiwa, Chantachon, and Apiromwilaichai.

Again, this rule will be interesting to see how it plays on in the future and which National Team squads will be limited. Just for fun, let’s take a lot at this past SEABA Stankovic Cup team:

Attaporn Lertmalaiporn (Hitech)
Bandit Lakhan (Hitech)
Chanachon Klahan (Mono Vampires)
Chitchai Ananti (Mono Vampires)
Darongpan Apiromwilaichai (Mono Vampires)
Jittaphon Towaeroj (Mono Vampires)
Kannut Samerjai (Mono Vampires)
Nakorn Jaisanuk (Hitech)
Pairach Sekteera (Mono Vampires)
Patiphan Klahan (TGE)
Sukdave Ghogar (Hitech)
Teerawat Chantachon (Mono Vampires)

7 players from Mono Vampires
4 players from Hitech
1 player from TGE

Just putting that out there for consideration.


Q: “Okay. So I got to play for this TBL team, but now I don’t want to play for them anymore. How do I switch teams? Can I just get my bags and go already?

A: We see this in the NBA all the time, so it would be pretty ignorant to believe that it doesn’t happen in the TBL. Players are all different. They have different demands. They have different perspectives. Same goes with team management. We all see things differently. Sometimes, someone just thinks they want to be somewhere else or they think someone should be somewhere else.

It’s all natural. So how do TBL teams move TBL players?

First thing that I have to throw out there is:

  • Staff and Players are only allowed to be registered to one team.

…well, duh. Now that we have the obvious issues settled out:

  • If a player that has an existing contract with a certain team desires to transfer while their contract is still valid, they must have authorization from a current team official or someone appointed with that authority.
  • Under any circumstances, all players that desire to play for a team they transfer to, must have secured a legitimate contract with their new team first.
  • The window for transfers, loans, or roster changes can only be done during the midseason break (after the first round robin ends). All documents concerning transfers, loans, or roster changes must be submitted 3 days before the start of the second half of the season.

Midseason transfers between unaffiliated teams are quite rare. The only occassion in recent memory was last season when “Ken” Phusit Opamuratawong transfered from Thai General Equipment to Dunkin’ Raptors. Other than that, it has mostly the Hitech affiliates (Hitech & Thai General Equipment) and the Mono affiliates (Mono Vampires & Mono-Thewphaingarm) swapping players among themselves. This shouldn’t really do much to stop those two powers from doing so, but at least the movements will be monitored.


Q: “Who are the players on each team?

A: Well, you can find some basic information form the links I shared above. If you can wait though, I’ll be posting a pretty detailed preview of each team soon.


Q: “Wow! The TBL sounds so cool and so fun! What can I do, as a fan, to help the TBL grow?

A: It’s actually pretty easy. Watch the games. Root for your favorite players. Root for your favorite teams. Tell you friends about it. Tell your parents about it. Tell the random guy you meet at McDonald’s about it. Post on all social media platforms about your TBL experience.

It’s not that hard, and if we all do our part as a fan, we can make this league grow bigger and bigger.


Q: “Is this Q&A over yet?

A: Yes. Yes it is. See you next time. Stay tuned.


 

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