News sure does travel quickly in this day and age doesn’t it? By now, many of you are aware that the newest VBA team, the Thang Long Warriors, would be signing the first world import player of the 2017 season. As an outlet that strives to be a voice for the players and in providing the latest news and updates, we have been in constant contact with American guard, Ken Smith, as he progresses through his journey to play in the VBA.
The six foot five inch guard who previously played in the 2017 TBSL for Singaporean side, Adroit, wasn’t shy about expressing his desire to play in Vietnam and helping the sport grow. “I’m happy to be a part of that. When I was playing in Thailand, other than the league itself, no one was shedding light on locals and imports, so therefore, the fan base was low out there. And what is basketball without fans?” says Smith. Based on the reception amongst fans revolving around news that Smith would be signing with the Warriors, it’s safe to say that they were just as excited to have him playing in the VBA.
“So when I seen how crazy the fans were in the VBA and the coverage you guys had on players, I wanted to be a part of that,” he would continue to say. Receiving the official contract from the Warriors Saturday morning, Smith had plans to “get with my agent, maybe Monday or maybe Sunday and do a formal signing.” When asked if it was a foregone conclusion that he would be playing in Vietnam during the 2017 VBA season, Ken replied, “100 percent.” With his spot on the Warriors secured, barring a few swooshes of a pen along a dotted line, an excited Smith took to Twitter to tweet out the news, which was followed up with a post by ASEANSports.
Turns out, the Thang Long Warriors were also made aware of the news and weren’t particularly fond of the announcement as we were contacted by Warriors head coach Lee Tao Dana. In a vague and relatively unexplained conversation with the coach, he stated that “No news about potential signings should be going out yet.” He would go on further to say, “I just wished you had checked with our team before you posted it as confirmed.”
Within hours, we received news from Ken Smith that the Thang Long Warriors were pressuring to take away the offered contract due to the post, which has since been taken down for Smith’s sake. As of now, the deal has fallen through and even though Smith and Lee have a relationship from past experiences, it wasn’t enough from severing ties between the Warriors and Smith.
We reached out to Ken for a statement and he had this to say: “I turned down their offer once they threatened my contract for your post. For the integrity of you as a media outlet source and me as a player, I declined and suggested that we part ways if my contract is going to be in jeopardy because ASEANSports made a post about me that was true.”
Following the disappointing update, when asked for a statement of confirmation, a suddenly tongue-bitten Lee responded with, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know who you are to be making statements to you. I will speak to our organization about you and other outlets.” Coach Lee’s change of heart from requesting a confirmation of news from the team, to no acknowledgement, recognition, or explanation of the situation has us just as bewildered as many of you.
With the trajectory of basketball in Vietnam trending upward, a lot of the credit, if not all, can be attributed to the players and fans of the game. The VBA took a step in the right direction with its introduction of a professional league and along with that, it has also received attention from fans of the sport from outside the borders of Vietnam as well.
Winding towards the end of a long offseason, fans deserve to hear about the latest news regarding players, whether it be a rumor that could end up being true or false, or a verbal agreement between player and team. Ultimately, it’s the players that fans come to see, competing in a sport they love or want to fall in love with, and a mere post with the intention of generating excitement ahead of the upcoming season has no place in influencing the livelihood of an excited and committed professional playing overseas to help grow the game.