With the start of the 2016-2017 ABL (ASEAN Basketball League) season, there are some familiar faces that seem to be missing from the picture. The ABL is a multinational basketball league which features teams from all over Southeast Asia with the likes of the Saigon Heat from Vietnam, the Slingers from Singapore, and the Dragons from Malaysia just to name a few. Last season, the league included two teams from Thailand in Hi-Tech and Mono Vampire Basketball Club heralding from Bangkok. In fact, there has been a team from Thailand playing in the league since its inaugural season back in 2009.

As of right now, the TBL is still in its offseason, with the 2016 season finishing back in August. We suspect that there must be some correlation between the start of the ABL season and the omission of a Thai team from it. Perhaps a conflict of scheduling and involvement in two separate leagues simultaneously may have something to do with it. Last season, the TBL started up in mid-June, however, it’s plausible that the upcoming season may have an earlier beginning date, shortening the offseason. An overlapping schedule would definitely be a means as to why there is no Thailand participant in the ABL.

The VBA (Vietnam Basketball Association) just finished its inaugural season in November, leaving us with a question: What will the teams and players do until the start of the 2017 season, which we presume should be slated for a July start including the preseason? We do know that the Saigon Heat are playing in the current ABL season, along with the majority of their 2016 VBA roster, and with the addition of some new faces (Joshua Munzon, Christien Charles) and old faces(Lenny Daniel, Stefan Nguyen). The Heat also feature David Singleton (head coach of the Can Tho Catfish) as an assistant coach.

In what could come as a disadvantage for other clubs in Vietnam, the Heat have more opportunities to build team cohesion and chemistry as they play year-round, while the other teams from the VBA go into hibernation. The speculation is that a team from the VBA will be participating in the upcoming TBL season. The logistics and proximity between Thailand and Vietnam seem ideal for the basketball pairing amongst the two countries. So I’m sure those of you reading this are probably wondering, what team(s) from the VBA would be participating in a Thailand domestic league?

Our source says that a team donning orange and blue from Vietnam’s capital is going to be the team to join the ranks. Not only would it give another VBA team an opportunity for more professional experience and in building team cohesion, but it would also give basketball-starved fans of the VBA that are experiencing withdrawals another chance to see one of their teams play, rather than waiting a whole eighth months for the 2017 VBA season.

This does cause some issues though. Currently, if the team makeup of the 2016 TBL season is any indication of who will be playing in the upcoming season, the addition of the Buffaloes would bring the team total to nine, causing the league to have an odd number of teams. An easy solution to this dilemma would be for either a Thai team to drop out of the league, or we may see the addition of another team, possibly a second team from the VBA. So for those of you who are looking for a team to root for from the VBA, not named the Heat, you may not have to wait much longer.

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