Sport in Saigon Dec. 2016: Heat shooting goes cold against visiting Slingers



By Harry Hodge
The Saigon Heat hoped to open their fifth season at home with a bang, but it came off as more of a thud on Saturday.
The Singapore Slingers head to 3-0 in the early going of this ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) season, with a 90-65 decision over the Heat at CIS Stadium in District 7. Former Heat big man Justin Howard was unstoppable for Singapore, dropping in 35 points and a walloping 25 rebounds despite sitting a good chunk of the fourth quarter. Teammate Leon Kwek added another 23 points, while Xavier Alexander registered a double double with 13 point and 14 boards. All but one player for Singapore scored during the game, with the entire lineup getting minutes against the outmatched Saigon squad.
“In my mind, Singapore is the most complete team in the league,” Heat coach Tony Garbelotto said yesterday, and it showed.
The Slingers led early and never looked back, more than doubling the Vietnamese ballers by the half with a 43-19 score. It didn’t get any prettier after that, keeping the normally raucous home crowd subdued. Vietnamese-American playmaker David Arnold brought it in the fourth quarter, but it’s worth pointing out Singapore was resting many of its starters by then. Arnold had 25 points, with an impressive 14-for-14 display from the free throw line. Teammate Lenny Daniel added a double double with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
“This is not our team,” said a dejected Daniel after the game. “We didn’t have our starting center, we only all practised together for a days.
“It’s a process. We just have to keep fighting until we get our team together.”
Missing newly signed Christien Charles suited up but didn’t take the court, with a dicey ankle to blame. Several Heat veterans from last year’s squad as well as the recently completed Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) remain unsigned, with only Nguyen Thanh Nhan returning from last year’s roster as far as local talent goes. One interesting addition to the roster is Nguyen Van Hung, who scored four points and threw his broad frame around in 24 minutes of court time.
The 6-foot-5 forward is known to Vietnamese sports fans more for his contributions in tae kwon do, with the Thanh Hoa native representing his country in elite competitions including the Olympics and winning gold at the SEA Games. Can Tho Catfish Le Van Day also enjoyed significant court time, although if some missing stars like longtime Heat sharpshooter Trieu Han Minh resolve their contract issues, this could be a much different looking team after Christmas.
For now, the best the Heat can do is prepare for a new opponent next week, facing the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions at home. Catch the action at CIS Stadium in District 7 on Saturday, Dec. 10.


About hodgedude

I'm a Canadian journalist and teacher, most recently living in Edmonton and Toronto, now located in Ho Chi Minh City. Graduate of Concordia University in Montreal. I've taught English in S. Korea, pulled rickshaws in Canada, taught at a Taiwanese language boot camp, edited newspapers in China and played a French-speaking Spanish colonel on Vietnamese TV. I also play Australian football. Pick up a copy of issue one of my independent comic, "Getting Lucky," at Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton, the Comic Hunter in Moncton, New Brunswick, and the Spotted Cow Pub, 111 Bui Vien, District 1, Saigon.
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