Hoop team needs to re­build af­ter poor FIBA fin­ish

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Tai­wan’s men’s na­tional bas­ket­ball team ended its jour­ney pre­ma­turely in the 2015 FIBA Asian Cham­pi­onship with a 99-69 tri­umph over Kuwait on Mon­day. The large-mar­gin vic­tory, how­ever, was def­i­nitely not some­thing worth cel­e­brat­ing for Team Tai­wan, com­pet­ing un­der the name of Chi­nese Taipei, since the win only meant the team fin­ished in 13th place in the bian­nual event, its worst record in history.

The em­bar­rass­ing fin­ish was some­thing un­ex­pected to not just lo­cal fans but to bas­ket­ball com­men­ta­tors in Asia as well, who could hardly rec­og­nize it as the same team that had topped their much taller and stronger ri­vals, namely, China and the Philip­pines, in the 2013 FIBA Asian Cham­pi­onship.

Tai­wan clinched the No.4 fin­ish in the 2013 event, the best record for any na­tional men’s team in over a decade.

What ex­actly went wrong dur­ing the squad’s FIBA Asian Cham­pi­onship trip this year so that the same team with al­most ex­actly the same ros­ter could end up with a huge dif­fer­ence in rank­ing?

To be­gin, the un­sat­is­fac­tory re­sult def­i­nitely had some­thing to do with Tai­wan’s hard luck as it had been put in the same bracket with Le­banon, Kaza­khstan and Qatar when all four teams had fin­ished in the top nine in the 2013 tour­ney.

Yet Tai­wan has only it­self to blame due to a poor per­for­mance dur­ing the Asian Cham­pi­onship.

Look­ing back at the tour­na­ment, the dev­as­tat­ing 87-92 loss to Le­banon in its tour­ney opener was def­i­nitely a turn­ing point for Tai­wan that fore­shad­owed the team’s mis­for­tune.

Team Tai­wan lost the cru­cial match not just be­cause its op­po­nent out­per­formed it from the long-range shoot­ing but also be­cause the team failed to take ad­van­tage from the free throw line it­self.

Tai­wanese play­ers missed eight con­sec­u­tive free throws in the third quar­ter of the game just when they needed it the most. The team ul­ti­mately fin­ished an em­bar­rass­ing 45 per­cent suc­cess rate from the free throw line as it made only 10 out of a to­tal 22 at­tempts.

The team made some im­prove­ment from the line in its sec­ond and all-im­por­tant matchup against Kaza­khstan.

How­ever, a 7-25 first quar­ter set the tune early in the matchup — a huge deficit — and Tai­wan failed to catch up through­out the whole game.

This ul­ti­mately led to another heart­break­ing de­feat for Tai­wan in a fi­nal 73 to 84 score to of­fi­cially kiss good­bye to its dream of ad­vanc­ing to the next round.

De­spite al­ready be­ing elim­i­nated from the next round, Team Tai­wan gave out its most im­pres­sive per­for­mance dur­ing its fi­nal match against the un­beaten Qatar, a team that had al­ready clinched first place in Group D.

Show­ing great re­solve, the team trailed by eight points at half-time but emerged from the chang­ing room full of de­ter­mi­na­tion and even­tu­ally took the win, even though it would not change the fact of Tai­wan’s elim­i­na­tion.

The be­lated good per­for­mance, how­ever, only showed what Tai­wan could have achieved in the tour­na­ment.

As rightly put by lo­cal com­men­ta­tors, the Tai­wan coach­ing staff’s de­lays in mak­ing timely ad­just­ments was one thing that con­trib­uted to the team’s un­sat­is­fac­tory fin­ish.

Some also blamed the team’s ap­par­ent fa­tigue af­ter play­ing too many ex­hi­bi­tion matches be­fore the of­fi­cial tour­ney. Let by­gones be by­gones. A worst fin­ish in history also means lo­cal bas­ket­ball author­i­ties will have noth­ing to lose in mak­ing some ma­jor ad­just­ments to the na­tional team’s lineup in prepa­ra­tion for in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions ahead, es­pe­cially when most of the back­bones of the squad are ag­ing and will soon re­tire.

For in­stance, Lin Chih-chieh ( ), Tai­wan’s team leader and one of Asia’s top play­ers named to the All-Star Five at the 2013 FIBA Asia Cham­pi­onship, had al­ready an­nounced that this tour­na­ment would be his last rep­re­sent­ing Tai­wan on the in­ter­na­tional stage.

Also, nat­u­ral­ized for­eign im­port Quincy Davis, who av­er­aged 12 points and 9 re­bounds for Tai­wan dur­ing the tour­na­ment will turn 34 at the 2017 FIBA Asian Cham­pi­onship.

It is now up to bas­ket­ball author­i­ties in Tai­wan to in­tro­duc­ing new blood or pos­si­bly re­cruit new nat­u­ral­ized play­ers to make sure Tai­wan’s hoops team can main­tain its in­ter­na­tional com­pet­i­tive­ness in years to come.

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