Slingers Woes? What’s the problem?

The Singapore Slingers have lost 3 straight games. With a dismal record of 5 wins and 7 losses, the Slingers are in the position of losing their playoff spot to Satria Muda BritAma, which is only a 1/2 game behind, with an additional loss. The Slingers would face the Westports KL Dragons in their next matchup. Considering that the Slingers have only won 1 away game this season, it looks bleak that the Slingers can still keep their playoff spot after the next game. The Slingers started off their season with high hopes of winning a championship, and ironically, they now stand possibly as the 2nd worst team in the league.

What are the reasons for the recent Slingers woes this season? Instead of putting the blame on any particular player or the coach, the fundamental problem, surprisingly, is a simple one.

Forget the argument that other teams have “upgraded” their players, while the Slingers hasn’t. There is no denying that other teams have better imports as compared to the Slingers, and each team is consistently making import upgrades to counter the imports of another team. Take for instance the KL Dragons, they started the season with 2 unknown Irish guys and then later replaced one with Alex Hartman, then after some time, the other with Nakiea Miller. Even right till the last game, Hartman was axed, and replaced with Justin Leith (who probably is better than Hartman). The Patriots? Anthony Johnson and Donald Little, replaced by Rashiem Wright and Steve Thomas. And after a few games, Wright was axed for Gabe Freeman. The Slingers stand as the only proud team that hasn’t made a single player change since the start of the season, and I commend the team for sticking through thick and thin together.

Well, simply put it. The other teams chose the easy way out, but the Slingers chose the tough way. The other teams wanted to go  a championship this season, the Slingers wanted to groom a team for the long term.

Don’t get me wrong. Because, I’m not saying that this is an excuse for the Slingers multiple losses. On the contrary, the change of players from other team had become a key reason for Slingers mutliple losses.

Firstly, and most obviously, the Slingers can’t stick to their original game plan and have to take a leap into the dark when they face a team with a new import. For instance, in the next game, Coach Neo would have to figure out whilst the game is being played how to guard the new guy Justin Leith, who in my opinion, is a rather stiff, immobile player unlike Alex Hartman. It takes in-game decisions and adjustments for the team each time a new player is on the opposing team, preventing the Slingers from having a solid game plan before each game. This is something, I’m afraid, the players would have to get use to.

Secondly, and most importantly, and also the point I want to drive home, is that the change in players have detrimentally affected the Slingers psyche. It has indirectly contributed to the Slingers woes, in the team fearing the unknown and fearing the opposing teams players. Each change seems like an “upgrade”, each change seems like the other team has improved and only the Slingers have not. For the next game, it seems like the Slingers would be facing an “improved” KL Dragons. Considering that the Slingers can’t beat the previous Dragon team with Miller and Hartman, what more this “improved” team? Such psyche, which I believed has affected the Slingers team, especially the locals, is BS!

The local players, before the start of last season, had the mentality that Singapore’s basketball is always not as good as their neighbours. It’s always about how fewer points you lose, and not about winning. It always happens when Singapore plays strong teams like the Philippines. It’s about losing 30 points, and not 70 points. It has never been about – yes, we can beat this team, Let’s go for the win! With the imports in the Slingers team, there tend to be an over-reliance on the imports to perform and lift the Slingers, all because of the mentality of the locals that they can’t hold a candle to the local players from the rest of the region.

Last season, one guy on the team thought differently. His name was WeiJian, the Flyboy. Unfortunately, he is out for this season. Let me present you a photo to jolt your memories of last season:

Down 10 points in 3 minutes, Flyboy, not any import, took over the game and led Slingers to a win. You see that Miller guy there? That game was when Satria Muda made a player change for Miller and we took that game from them. Nakiea Miller, arguably the best player in the ABL right now, was there, with that look on his face. We want to see that look on his face for the next game.

Here’s a recent interview by ABL with Wei Jian:

We were the underdogs, but we played our hearts out. We went against the odds and emerged victorious. This is what the Slingers is about.

What is missing this season was THIS from last season. Grit, passion and a NEVER SAY DIE attitude. Treating every game as a last game. Playing to prove something – that Singaporeans can play basketball.

To be fair to the rest of the team, Flyboy wasn’t the only player who could performed well.

We have the Yakuza! Steven Khoo. Highest scoring local player in any one game. 23 points! Come on, he can repeat that.

We have Desmond Oh! Our defensive demon who says he is going to shut down his man and he will.

We have Wong Wei Long! Our long range bomber. One spark plug! He needs to get the hot hand and he will explode for double-digit scoring

We have Pathman, our 17 foot assassin. Where are his trademark jumpers this season? I’m sure it would return.

Not to mention, Han Bin, Chin Hong, Sheng Yu, Chun Hoe….the ABL is yours, waiting for anyone of you to shine.

Come on, guys! This is your team! This is our team! This is Singapore’s team. We need each and every player to contribute along with our imports. We face a tall task of keeping our playoff spot in the next game against the Dragons!

But not to worry. I’m awaiting the repeat of this:

IN YOUR FACE, DRAGONS!

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