I’ll be honest, I had no knowledge whatsoever about the basketball scene in Hong Kong. In retrospect, maybe I should have paid more attention.
“Season’s Greeting” is a six-part article where I took a brief look at each ABL team in the 2016 while also taking a shot at projecting their fate in 2017. I’ll try to keep it as lightheaded as I can.
All this time, I figured that Hong Kong was just this small island in East Asia that cared a little about basketball. I was so wrong.
Not only did the Long Lions draw one of the most impressive crowds so far, they have also been one of the most professionally ran teams. On court, they’ve been a well-oiled machine that has only one loss to their record.
What we know from 2016: Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions
- Marcus Elliott is a stud
I had my doubts on Marcus Elliott as a world import for the Long Lions. It’s not common for a team to get a guard as a World Import since everyone else is getting big tall giants.
Turns out that it’s been one of the best signings ever. Elliott has been an unsolvable mismatch. He’s too quick and agile to put a normal big world import (like Lenny Daniel/Marcus Melvin) but he’s also too strong to defend with a local guard (like Desmond Oh) or even a Heritage Import (like Freddie Goldstein). Elliott has a legit chance of completing the first 20-5-5 season in the ABL (currently 25.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists).
- Tyler Lamb is a stud
I knew Lamb was good. He had a whole season with Hitech Bangkok City to show he was good. This season, it seems like he’s turned it up another notch.
Lamb seems like he’s been determined from the very first game and he’s cut a lot of nonesense out of his game. A hand injury kept him out for almost 2 games, but he’s been tearing it up with 16.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 4.3 steals per game.
I’d be surprised if he doesn’t end up with at least one triple-double at the end of this season.
- Siu Wing Chan is a stud
I barely knew who the hell Siu Wing Chan was. Then he lit the Kaohsiung Truth up with 19 points which was followed by a clutch last second three point shot to push the game to overtime against the Singapore Slingers in the very next game.
Chan is making 40.0% of his three point shots on 20 attempts for 9.6 points per game.
- Role Players
In my honest opinion, the main core of the Long Lions is that they have players who fits well in their role. Chan and Ki Lee are the shooters. Chi Hang Tang is a bruiser down low. Recently recovered Shing Yee Fong is big enough to be a problem on both sides of the court. Heritage Import Steven Guinchard has filled in nicely as the sixth man energizer as well.
Hong Kong is just a very well-oiled and well-programmed machine.
The full-court press and perimeter defense rotation of Siu Wing Chan, Lee Ki, Marcus Elliott, and Tyler Lamb have been terrorizing opposing teams by leading the league with 12.4 steals per game. It should be tough to maintain that average through out the entire season, but it would be the highest ever single season steals average ever if they do it. Chan and Ki are energetic and loves to pressure early, forcing weak passes into the arms of the athletic Elliott and Lamb. It’s a perfect set up.
- Trouble in Traffic
That early pressure is what masks a problem they have down low though. Patrick Sullivan is a solid inside player, but he’s not a true Center and he’s not BIG. He’s a good fit for the Long Lions purpose of being lean, agile, and quick but they did ran into some trouble trying to seal the much larger Justin Howard in both times the teams played.
In all of the games that Howard has payed this season, he shot over 60% twice and both of those games were against the Long Lions.
What we can expect for in 2017: Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions
- Off Game
Because they are such a perimeter oriented team, a lot of their fate depends so much on how well they shoot.
They had their worst shooting game so far with 18.8% from long range and lost that game to the Singapore Slingers. At this point, they need to figure out which aspect of their offense to focus on when Chan/Ki aren’t connecting their shots.
- Swarming the Paint
Because of the aforementioned issues on defense, I do expect Coach Edu Torres to find some around it. Expect more of Lamb/Elliott swarming in the paint to make things difficult.
- Kam Hing Cheng
Aside from Shing Yee Fong, the Long Lions have another local who has been waiting to return from an injury which is Kam Hing Cheng.
Cheng is a national team player and though he might not score in bunches like Ki or Chan, he should be a nice veteran piece to add more depth to this already deep team.
Wishlist: Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions
- Patrick Sullivan sudden growth spurt
- No one else tries to maul Tyler Lamb’s hand
New Years Resolution: Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions
- More set play for Siu Wing Chan three point shots
- Tyler Lamb triple-double
- A legit mascot of a Long Lion
Conclusion: Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions
I didn’t really see the Long Lions as a contender when I first saw their roster. But it took only their first quarter against the Kaohsiung Truth to change my mind. The Long Lions were organized and well-trained, not only as a basketball team but as a basketball organization.
However, I still have an instinctive concern that the Long Lions are peaking (or peaked) a bit too early. There is still plenty of action left in the ABL season, but I already feel like the Long Lions are already playing close to their potential. It would be great if they can maintain this form, but past history and case studies all over the world have proven that teams will most likely have their ups and downs throughout the course of a season. We’ll just have to wait and see what the case will be for the Long Lions.
Check out the articles for the other teams here: