Season’s Greetings: Saigon Heat

The offseason made it look like a promising season for the Saigon Heat. They resigned Lenny Daniel, David Arnold, and Stefan Nguyen. They snapped Chris Charles. They got an exciting athletic wing in Joshua Munzon. They had a load of well-performing locals in the VBA to choose from. This was supposed to be championship-contending season. Which makes their three-game losing streak to start the season a bit surprising.

“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.

By now, we know some parts of the story. Chris Charles was injured even before the season (forcing the Heat to play in a preseason game with Will Creekmore). Munzon has been electrifying, but has yet to be consistent enough.

The situation of the Saigon Heat signing the locals has seemed like a mess so far, with GM Connor Nguyen stating himself in interviews about the organization and players being unable to find middle grounds on the numbers.

It’s been quite a mess so far and it’s shown in their performance on the court.

What we know from 2016: Saigon Heat

  • Tough Luck
    Luck has never been on the Saigon Heat’s side. Two seasons ago, they had to go through a carousel of imports after Dustin Scott was rumoured to have issues with his passport. That was also crammed in between the sudden loss of the late Coach Jason Rabedeux. Last year they were heartbroken when Stefan Nguyen got injured in the preseason and they had to fly in Will Creekmore at the last minute as a World Import. When they were about to replace Creekmore, his replacement (Paul Williams) got injured merely days after his arrival.
    Luck is not something the Heat should count on.
    Major signing Chris Charles has been injured since the preseason, and the Heat had to go through one game short of an import and two games with temporary replacement Herbert Hill.
    Even more concerning is the fact that the Heat being unable to sign any of the top local players aside from Stefan Nguyen. Familiar names like Hanh Minh Trieu, Tuan Trung Ngo, or To Quang Trung are nowhere to be seen. Household names from the VBA like Tam Dinh, Le Ngoc Tu, and Justin Young have gone missing.
    It’s been another rough start for the Saigon Heat and it’s going to be an uphill climb from here on out.
  • Foul Magnet
    Here’s some good news for the Heat though. Lenny Daniel has been back, and he might possibly be just better than last year. His scoring and rebounding has been on par (23 and 13) and in addtional to that he’s almost doubled his trips to the free throw line (12.3) to league the league.

    Photo Credit: Onvisa Thewphaingarm, ABL
    Photo Credit: Onvisa Thewphaingarm, ABL

    Imagine how crazy his numbers would be if he made more than 54.1%.

  • Junior Year Wall?
    Here’s a scary thought for the Saigon Heat faithful: Is David Viet Arnold… regressing?
    It’s a harsh prediction just based on three games, but his body language has been speaking loudly and his numbers don’t exactly deny the accusation completely.
    Most alarmingly is the dip in his three point shooting. Arnold shot 43.1% from long range in his rookie season, dropped to 31.0% in his sophomore season, and currently stands at 14.3% now.
    Arnold is known to go through cold streaks (he went through a 4 games stretch of 11 consecutive missed threes) so maybe this is just one of them. Coach Garbelotto is wishing he warms up soon.

What we can expect for in 2017: Saigon Heat

  • Reinforcements
    The new year will probably bring some good news to the Saigon Heat.
    Chris Charles temporary injury replacement, Herbert Hill, was reportedly on a two-game deal so he should be done with the team. Chris Charles is still with the team and no other replacement is in sight, so that can only mean that… Chris Charles is ready to come back! Charles should immediately clean up the defensive mess that the Heat have been suffering and will take some of the offensive load off of Lenny Daniel’s shoulders.
    Horace Nguyen also seems to be ready to join the Heat. He’s been practicing with the team for quite a while and is sharing a room with Stefan Nguyen already. Horace Nguyen also goes by “Nguyen Tam Phuc” and paired up with Stefan Nguyen to win a VBA title with the Danang Dragons earlier this summer.
  • Who the hell is Horace?

    Photo Credit: Saigon Heat
    Photo Credit: Saigon Heat


    As mentioned, Nguyen is the other half of the backcourt of the VBA Champions, Danang Dragons. He’s small and not exactly what you might call bulky, but he does make that up by out-hustling other people. He has decent solid ball-handling skills and was one of the top shooters in the VBA.
    It might be too optimistic to expect him to star immediately, but at least he’ll be something new off the bench which is something the Heat desperately need.
    I guess the BIGGEST question is… WILL HE PLAY? With one day left before their game, the team has yet to announce the signing.

  • Three point shooting?
    This season so far for the Heat has been weird for one glaring reason. They don’t have a spot-up three point shooter.
    David Arnold is a good shooter and it’s not his poor start that worries me. Arnold has always been more of a shooter of the dribble or someone who creates his own shots than a spot-up guy like say Leo Avenido and Moses Morgan of the past two seasons. The difference so far is that Joshua Munzon is a different kind of player. He’s more of a slasher at heart and so the Heat’s three point shooting has taken a horrendous dip at 15.0% on 13.3 attempts.
    Will Horace Nguyen fill in that spot up shooter role? Will Coach Tony Garbelotto find a way to derive from former patterns?

Wishlist: Saigon Heat

  • Tam Dinh
  • Justin Young
  • Nguyen Thanh Dat
  • Nguyen Doc Dat
  • Le Ngoc Tu
  • Hanh Minh Trieu
  • Tuan Trung Ngo
  • ANY other capable local player that is able to stay on the court for lengths of time

New Years Resolution: Saigon Heat

  • Is “Make more three point shots” a legit resolution?
  • Check the Feng Shui of CIS Arena because a lot of bad luck has been involved in the Heat’s misfortunes over the years
  • Get the best medial team you can get to keep Chris Charles healthy
  • …get David Arnold out of whatever slump he’s in
  • Find a nickname for the Stefan and Horace Nguyen tandem who are not actually brothers but have the same common last name

Conclusion: Saigon Heat

It’s hard to conclude anything with the Charles injury and the lack of complete roster the Heat have been playing with. Still, what we’ve seen from the Heat so far hasn’t been promising. Arnold hasn’t been himself. Stefan doesn’t look comfortable taking a larger scoring load. Munzon still looks like he’s trying to find his niche.

But at least it looks like everything should be getting better! Charles is going to be back. While Munzon still looks raw, the progress he’s shown is satisfying. Horace should provide a punch off the bench every now and then.

The biggest issue is if and/or when the pride of the Heat, David Viet Arnold, gets his groove back. Only then can they truly put their name back in contention for the title this year.


Check out the articles for the other teams here:

Alab Pilipinas
Kaohsiung Truth
Singapore Slingers
KL Dragons
Saigon Heat
Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions

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