Slingers coach: 'We need local players to perform'
Slingers coach Neo challenges players to bounce back from last weekend's defeat and go on a winning run
|WESTPORTS MALAYSIA DRAGONS||SINGAPORE SLINGERS|
Three times the Singapore Slingers have lost this season, twice to Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions and once to Alab Pilipinas, and three times they were beaten by just two points.
Such slim defeats hurt all the more, considering they have slipped to second behind Eastern in the Asean Basketball League standings in terms of win percentage (0.778 to 0.75).
The good news for Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang is that his team have always responded to such setbacks with a win.
If they are to finish top at the end of the regular season for top seeding and home court advantage for the play-offs, they have to get back to winning ways immediately away at the Westports Malaysia Dragons tonight, and then go on a winning streak.
And Neo wants his local players to pick up the mantle.
The 55-year-old said: "We never know who will step up, and that's the problem. The consistency is not there."
The Singaporean cagers had a breakthrough in a 82-72 home win over Eastern on Jan 15, when they outscored their American teammates Justin Howard and Xavier Alexander for the first time by 50-32.
Small forward Leon Kwek scored a team-high 19 points, while captain Desmond Oh pulled off four three-pointers from seven attempts.
In their next game, forward Ng Han Bin was seven-of-nine from the three-point line in the 84-66 away win over Kaohsiung Truth.
However, they could not keep up the momentum when they suffered their first home defeat, blowing a 20-point lead to lose 73-71 to Eastern last Sunday.
Kwek contributed 13 points but shot just 38 per cent from field-goal attempts, point guard Wong Wei Long's eight points and 30 per cent conversion rate was far from his local MVP credentials, while small forward Mitchell Folkoff and Ng failed to make a single basket.
"We struggle when our local players perform up and down," said Neo.
"We mostly start with two imports when other teams may start with four, so we really need our local players to perform.
"At the end of the day, we have to stick to our plan at the defensive end and play as a team.
"We have worked on what we are lacking in this area and we aim to bounce back right away against the Dragons."
The Slingers have also traded the underperforming Filipino point guard Alexander Stanley Austria for 25-year-old American Rolando Gardner, who plays in the same position.
Neo said: "I expect him to control the tempo and organise the offence."
Meanwhile, the Dragons have also surprisingly replaced forward Marcus Melvin, who is in the ABL's top five in rebounds average and three-point percentage, with 23-year-old American point guard Kiwi Gardner.
On Sunday, the Slingers will complete their three-day double-headers against Alab Pilipinas at the OCBC Arena.
Their remaining six regular-season games are against bottom-half sides Kaohsiung Truth and Saigon Heat.