Singapore Slingers get double boost
Singapore side target strong finish following return of star Howard and arrival of new signing Urbiztondo
|Singapore Slingers||Saigon Heat|
The Singapore Slingers have been handed a double boost ahead of their Asean Basketball League (ABL) match against the Saigon Heat at the OCBC Arena today.
First, big centre Justin Howard will return after missing the last two games due to a curved toe.
In addition to the 2.11m-tall American, Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang will also have the services of new signing Josh Urbiztondo, who replaces Rolando Gardner as the team's Asean import.
Said Neo: "Justin started training on Friday, so he is good to go on Sunday.
"Without his presence, I feel we are too small as a team, so him being back will help us a lot.
"As for Josh, we picked him up because Rolando had to fly back to his family because of a family issue.
"Josh jumped into practice straight away, we are happy with what we saw.
Without his presence, I feel we are too small as a team, so him being back will help us a lot.Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang, on 2.11m-tall centre Justin Howard
"He is exactly the type of player we wanted at the start of the season."
The Slingers had wanted to sign 34-year-old Filipino-American Urbiztondo at the start of the season, but could not because he was contracted to GlobalPort in the Philippines Basketball Association.
Urbiztondo's arrival and Howard's outstanding averages of 23.8 points and 17.6 rebounds per game have given Neo confidence his charges can finish the regular season strongly.
The Slingers beat Kaohsiung Truth 84-76 at the OCBC Arena last Sunday, after losing three of their previous four games.
Despite that, Neo feels his team were far from their best.
"Building up to the play-offs, we really need to build up good performances," he said.
"Against Truth, we kept emphasising to the players we need to come out with energy, but we weren't ready in the second half.
"We lacked communication while defending, and in the third quarter we were almost in trouble when they led 8-0, but we got there in the end."
Still, Neo believes the win has helped the team turn the corner, and he is targeting four wins from their final four games.
After Sunday, the Slingers have another two home games - Truth (March 12) and Heat (March 19) - before ending the regular season in Vietnam against Heat again.
In an earlier meeting withHeat this season, on Dec 3, Neo's men won 90-65 in Saigon.
"There were a few reasons for the (recent) bad results - we were not shooting well in offence, and defensively we did not play well as a team," said the coach.
"Morale was low, but the win against Truth is big.
"We've learnt from the mistakes we made in the games we lost, and we are looking forward to winning all our four remaining games in the regular season, and secure the No. 2 spot."
Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions currently lead the ABL table.