The long-awaited Super Basketball League (SBL) season is set to begin this weekend with the Dacin Tigers taking on Taiwan Beer at the National Taiwan University of Sports Gymnasium in Taichung this afternoon.
The seven clubs will be looking to make their hard work during the off-season pay off, with Pure Youth Construction’s quest for an unprecedented fourth straight league title leading a slew of headlines that have fans across the nation brimming with anticipation.
“There is no doubt that we will do everything we can to try to make basketball history this season,” Pure Youth skipper Hsu Chin-che said during the season-opening press conference in Taipei earlier this week.
His troops have the services of four members of the national squad, headed by team captain Tsai Wen-cheng, all-star center Quincy Davis and backcourt duo Chen Shih-chieh and Keh Chi-hao.
As loaded as the Builders are with depth and experience, they will lose the on-court presence of forward Chien Chia-hung and James Mao, who announced his retirement during the off-season.
Pure Youth also face the dilemma of not having a well-rested lineup, as the players on the national team played throughout the summer months instead of taking a much-needed break.
Also dealing with the departure of an iconic player are the Tigers, who lose the service of three-time league MVP Tien Lei to China’s Chinese Basketball Association.
“Those are big shoes to fill, but we will definitely give it a try,” Dacin head coach Hsu Chih-chao said in Taipei earlier in the week.
His Cats did have one impressive off-season acquisition in center Norvel Pelle, who can play with anyone in the league inside the paint with an explosive first step and tremendous leaping ability.
Another major topic of discussion for the upcoming season is the former Taiwan Mobile Cloud Leopards, who are to take the name the Braves following a transfer of ownership to Fubon Financial.
The Braves will be looking to build on their second-place finish last season, with newcomer Darian Townes and Wu Dai-hao championing a frontcourt matchup better than most teams in the league.
The Braves will look to veteran Ho Sho-cheng for leadership and versatility, with the addition of point guard Su Yi-chieh and second-year man Chung Sho-nie to boost their bench depth, while foreign skipper Otis Hughley and his lieutenant Yang Chih-hao work out their plans to avenge Pure Youth for ending their title run last year.
No season preview of the SBL is complete without mentioning Taiwan Beer, as the men in green get set to swarm ahead with a trio of top picks in Liu Chan, Chou Po-hsun, and Lu Chi-min.
This is a critical year for the Brew Crew, who have finally stepped out of the shadow of Lin “the Beast” Chih-chieh with a solid campaign last year under head man Yen Chia-hua and top scorer Patrick O’Bryant, and they are ready to make another strong outing this year.
Rounding out the rest of the league are the Yulon Luxgens, Kinmen Kaoliang and Bank of Taiwan, who will take advantage of a new playoff format that will admit the top six teams into the post-season with the fifth and sixth-place finishers in the regular season playing the fourth and third-place finishers respectively, in a best-of-five playoff series.
The higher seeds will enjoy an automatic one-game lead before the winners of the two series take on the top two finishers from the regular season.
The 24-second shooting clock will also be reset to 14 seconds after a foul in the new season, to speed up the games.
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