Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sina pulls out of SBL

Sina shockingly announced this afternoon that it will pull out of the SBL (Super Basketball League) and start looking for corporations to take over the team. SBL, which is entering its third season, will have only six teams left after Sina dropping out.

Team delegate Tien Zen-jun announced the news in the press conference. Sina owner Daniel Chiang, who took over Sina five years ago from Hong-kuo, is in China now but made the decision after a long talk with Tien on the phone.

Tien cited several reasons about Sina's decision, including CTBA's inability to improve Taiwanese basketball environment and ETSN damaged market balance by signing Chen Hsin-an to a three-year, 15 million contract.

He said Sina will be glad to see interested corporation take over the team. If no company is interested, Sina will then look for place its players and transfer contratcs to other SBL teams. It will try to send players to weaker teams first in order to create parity in the league. If all fails, Sina will probably keep the team intact and opt to play in the second division.

12 of 18 Sina players are currently under contract, including veterans Lo Shin-liang who has one year left and Liu Yi-hsiang with two years left. Meanwhile, Sina just signed two incoming college freshmen -- Chien Jia-hong and Zuo Tsun-kai (both graduated from Tsai-shin HS) -- this summer to four-year contracts.

Daniel Chiang took over Hong-kuo Elephants, which won three consecutive CBA (Taiwanese pro league, folded in 1999) champions, and changed its name to Sina Lions. Sina played in China's CBA during 2001-2003.

According to Sina management, Chiang spent more than 200 million NTD on the team in five years. Sina tried to cut down team salaries before the start of last season by releasing a couple veterans -- Chou Jun-san, Huang Chun-hsiung and Hsiung Jen-jen -- and entered the so-called "rebuilding phase" by signing rookies.

Suddenly, Sina turned itself from the oldest team in the league to almost the youngest within a couple months. It paid a price by going young, finishing dead last in the league with a 3-27 record. It's hard to imagine just one year ago Sina met Yulon in the SBL Finals.

Obviously Daniel Chiang doesn't want to invest his money on a Taiwanese basketball team anymore. He is interested in Chinese basketball more since his business , (Chiang is ex-president of and still a minority owner), is based in China and is arguably the biggest protal site in China. Observers think his reasoning on pulling out of Taiwanese basketball is just an excuse.