New NBL club, the Singapore Slingers, suffered an 18 point loss to the Wollongong Hawks last night but it still leaves them with a 2-3 record, which is a pretty commendable result for a new club and proof that they are more than just an avenue for generating Asian interest and much needed revenue for the league.

Although still early in the season, it seems as if the two men in charge, chief executive Bob Turner and coach Gordon McLeod, who have both been in the NBL system for years, are doing a good job on and off the court. They have a deal with cable TV network StarHub that telecasts games into the homes of 470,000 local viewers, and a well-balanced team that has proven competitive.

Also in a smart move, they have drafted two local players in Koh Meng Koon and Pathman Matialakan who are proving especially popular. When they made their home court debut to a rapturous reception earlier in the week, Pathman made a jump shot after coming off the bench and became the first ever Singaporean to score in the NBL. “I felt so proud to play in front of the fans,” he said. “I have never experienced such a welcome. It was like hitting the game-winning shot.”

But while the Slingers have adapted well into the league, there are still minor issues that need to be remedied, or perhaps Singapore Airlines are just doing their part for the team. The Sydney Razorbacks were given cramped economy seats on their flight back after Monday’s 37-point loss and the coach, Mark Watkins, wasn’t happy. “You’ve got all these little people and average sized people sitting in exit rows and my boys are all squashed in together,” he said. “If the NBL want us to play in Asia then they have to look after us a little bit better.”

Minor setbacks aside, if the Slingers can remain competitive and gain further local interest, the future looks bright for the NBL for the first time in years.

Peter Fray

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