Weekly reviewOrions climb up to share the top rank with the Phoebus
While the Ulsan Mobis Phoebus struggled to extend their lead after the All-Star Game, the Goyang Orion Orions have finally caught up.
The Orions on Sunday beat the Seoul Samsung Thunders 87-68 and regained the top spot for the first time since Dec. 10. The Orions have been dominant in the beginning of the season, going 12-1, but with forward Aaron Haynes sidelined due to knee injury, they were having a hard time. However, foreign guard Joe Jackson recently stepped up to fill up the offensive void left by Haynes.
The Orions will play three games this week, but the most critical will be on Saturday when they face the Phoebus at home. Before Saturday, the Orions meet Busan KT Sonicboom, while the Phoebus host the Incheon ET Land Elephants. The Orions and the Phoebus are tied 2-2 this season.
The Thunders last week slipped from third place after three straight losses last week. The team will first face the Sonicboom before meeting Jeonju KCC Egis on Saturday. The Egis is tied for third with Anyang KGC after a two-game winning streak.
The Changwon LG Sakers were without top scorer Troy Gillenwater on Sunday after he received 2-game suspension for misconduct, but they managed to win against the Elephants. The Sakers will be without Gillenwater again in a game against Seoul SK Knights on Wednesday, but even if he returns, the team faces tough opponents like the KGC on Friday and the Orions on Sunday.
The Promy, which is ranked sixth, is also desperate to join the third place race. But the team has two away games this week, one with the Egis on Thursday and another with the Sonicboom on Saturday.
The Knights have a good chance to win this week, as they meet the Sakers on Wednesday, the Elephants on Friday and the Egis on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the KBL announced Monday that six-team playoffs will start from Feb. 25.
The semifinals, which will be a best of five series, is set for Mar. 7, while the best-of-seven championship series will be held from Mar. 19.
Player in focus: Troy Gillenwater (LG Sakers)
Troy Gillenwater is the best scorer this season in the Korean Basketball League (KBL), averaging 26.5 points per game. But there is also one other thing the 27-year-old American is better at than any other player: getting fined.
Gillenwater has accumulated a total 14.2 million won in penalties ($11,900) so far this season.
He was first charged 2 million won fine after cursing at the referee in a game against Ulsan Mobis Phoebus in November.
On Dec. 5, Gillenwater had to pay 3 million won for mocking a referee. In a game against the Seoul SK Knights, he pretended to count money in front of a referee, implying he had been bribed.
The heaviest penalty came on Dec. 26 when Gillenwater threw a water bottle onto the court after being ejected. The former Goyang Orions player was fined 6 million won fine.
On Jan. 20, Gillenwater was ejected again in a game against the Seoul Samsung Thunders, and the KBL fined him 2 million won for giving the “thumbs up” sign to the referee afterwards.
But Gillenwater doesn’t seem to be learning his lesson. On Jan. 22 against the Jeonju KCC Egis, Gillenwater threw a towel at the broadcasting camera filming the bench during a time out. The live broadcasting was interrupted by Gillenwater’s towel and KBL later suspended him for two games.
After a series of incidents in which referees were mocked, KBL’s discipline committee recommended the league pay more attention to attitude when selecting foreign players.
Players return to the KBL after their military service
As the trade deadline has passed and finding foreign players has proved difficult, it is tough for teams to boost their squads at the moment. But one factor remains: players returning from military service on Wednesday.
Among players who will be released from their national duty, forward Choi Jin-soo will be the most recognizable name for fans.
Choi, who is the first Korean to play in the NCAA Division I after joining the University of Maryland, will return to the Goyang Orions.
The 26-year-old has been keeping his form with military club Sangmu which is in the second division KBL D-League. In the season’s first D-League final against Ulsan Mobis Phoebus’ minor team, Choi scored 26 points and seven rebounds for the team’s 91-86 victory.
Though he isn’t core player, shooter Byun Ki-hoon is also set to return to Seoul SK Knights and will give more room for the team to utilize players in the guard position. The Seoul Samsung Thunders are hoping returning guard Lee Kwan-hee will upgrade their speed in the court.
Changwon LG Sakers will also see guard Park Rae-hoon return to the club.