Thoughts: Christian Standhardinger to the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions

 

He could have been the first pick overall of the 2017 PBA Draft. Christian Standhardinger has been working his ass to provide the offensive load inside the paint as well as dictate the pace with his rebounding at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup.

 

Instead, Christian Standhardinger will play for the ASEAN Basketball League’s Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions.

 

Wow.

 

First up, why is Hong Kong in the ABL? Isn’t this league situated in Southeast Asia? Just kidding… I know the answer to my question. The lack of interest from the ASEAN nations pushed the league to extend its doors to other Asian countries. I mean… this is a better alternative than folding its doors. Last season, ABL only had six teams. The Singapore Slingers and the Westports Malaysia Dragons are the only original teams left with Saigon Heat and Alab Pilipinas as the only other Southeast Asian squads. “Outsiders” Hong Kong and the Kaohsiung Truth complete the six-man cast.

 

By the way, Kaohsiung has decided to disband their squad.

 

Hong Kong is the reigning and defending ABL champion. They didn’t field a Filipino import on their roster and Chan Siu Wing and Fong Shing Yee are the only Long Lions to make the Hong Kong National Team playing in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup. I get why they went after Standhardinger. Duncan Reid is part of the Chinese Basketball Association and they need a play-alike to defend their crown. In some ways, Standhardinger is a better player than Reid.

 

Perhaps Hong Kong showered him with righteous financial gain to acquire his services?

 

I can’t speak for the Fil-German but maybe he’s not interested in the season-long wear and tear of the PBA. Maybe the ABL stint could be his chance to shuttle between his home in Germany and Hong Kong. The ABL schedule has also an easier calendar with regards to Gilas Pilipinas duties.

 

But if you think about it – Standhardinger got the chance to play in the Jones Cup because it is not a FIBA-sanctioned tournament. He got the chance to play in the FIBA Asia Cup because of Andray Blatche’s absence and it’s not like Gilas Pilipinas will exert a lot of effort for the SEABA or the SEA Games. Sure, the Asian Games could be a possibility as well as the Jones Cup… but I can also see Chot Reyes and Manny Pangilinan devising a ploy to re-acquire the services of Blatche or some American with a better resume than Standhardinger.

 

If you think the ABL is a better avenue to pimp oneself in the NBA, then you’re probably high. I am sorry ABL execs but it virtually coincides on as to why the league has dwindling participation.

 

If Standhardinger had that dream, then he should have stayed in Europe. His age may be an issue but perhaps a good season could land him a NBA gig a la Milos Teodosic and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

 

The CBA is a better league compared to the ABL because aside from Reid, the league houses a lot of former NBA all-stars as well as Asian stars like Hamed Haddadi, Zaid Abbas, and Fadi El-Khatib. But then, the PBA can provide the same opportunity.

 

Elijah Millsap and Henry Walker are examples of PBA imports that turn out to be successful NBA pickups.

 

And if this is about hardcourt domination, then he has another thing coming. A typical ABL team has two American imports. These reinforcements are usually frontliners to answer the other team’s big men. June Mar Fajardo used the ABL as training ground that could have been the reason why he’s probably the fastest player to reach four MVP awards in the PBA. Ditto for Moala Tautuaa. Asi Taulava is the only player to rack MVP awards in the PBA and ABL and he would use the league to re-ignite his basketball passion.

 

Right now the PBA is in the middle of the Governors’ Cup. They just started the rookie draft invitations and as a rookie, it’s impossible for a team to talk to Standhardinger as if he’s a high profile free agent.

 

And as far as Alab Pilipinas… what is there to talk about anyway? Unlike in other countries, we see the ABL as a stepping stone for players to reach the PBA. For a basketball crazy country, they can’t even fill the 6,500-seater Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna. With the exception of Bobby Ray Parks and Kiefer Ravena, the team has an assortment of PBA journeymen. I am not trying to be mean but if Chooks To Go would insist on funding for a full-time national squad, then the ABL could be the league to cultivate their competitive fire.

 

But all that talk had fizzed out.

 

So it’s either money or the lighter schedule.

 

For years, we have heard of this awesome specimen playing in some Euro league that for some reason is snubbing the PBA. Standhardinger could have applied for the draft as early as three years ago. He’s already 28 and the window of opportunity is slowly closing. Even if he plays for a team like Kia, he could become their posterboy for their vehicles. While we can say the same for Bobby Ray Parks and Kiefer Ravena, those are still 25 years and under.

 

But who are we to judge Standhardinger’s decision? For all we know, this could be the best deal for him. It’s just a shame that we’re about to wait for another year to dream of a Standhardinger entry on the grandest Philippine basketball stage.

 

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