SINGAPORE - Xavier Alexander did not want to talk about it, Delvin Goh said he was pissed off.
Seven months on, last season's 3-2 Finals loss, their third in the last four Asean Basketball League (ABL) campaigns, still hurts.
But a new season brings new hope for the Singapore Slingers, as well as new signings they hope can help take them over the final hurdle, with ABL Import MVP Alexander playing scout-in-chief in the recruitment of 2017 champion and MVP Marcus Elliott and former Mono Vampire big man Anthony McClain.
Swingman Alexander, who is back for a fifth season with the Slingers, told The Straits Times: "Battling Marcus in the last three years, I could see similarities in terms of our fight, relentless attitude and leadership.
"Biggie (McClain) and I won the 2018 Thailand Basketball League with Hi-Tech during the ABL off-season. He has size and skills in one, he is a good rim protector and just a good character to be around with.
"So, when I knew they were available, I had to recommend them, and the Slingers management and coaches like what they saw in them.
"And I'm back because of the relationship I have with everyone on the team. The fact that we don't have foreign-born local players but are still always near the top of the league shows the fight in the team.
"As much as we take it one game at a time, I want that title not just for myself, but for my brothers, the fans, and the organisation."
The current 10-team ABL season tipped off on Nov 16, but due to the SEA Games, the Slingers start their campaign only on Sunday (Dec 15) at Alab Pilipinas away at Santa Rosa.
Their first home game will be against Macau Wolf Warriors at OCBC Arena on Dec 22.
However, with the 26-game regular season ending on March 29, the late start means the Slingers will play an average of eight games a month from January to March.
This includes a challenging road trip in Taiwan next month, where they will face debutants Fubon Braves' notable names such as 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year runner-up O. J. Mayo, 2.26m centre Sim Bhullar, and Joseph Lin, younger brother of NBA champion Jeremy Lin on Jan 4.
Right after the game, they will take a two-hour bus ride to Changhua for a match against Foromsa Dreamers, and a reunion with former teammate Jerran Young, the next day.
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang said: "If everyone is healthy and on form, this could be a good thing because we won't face an extended break like in previous seasons that can disrupt our momentum.
"The SEA Games was a disruption to our preparations, but we are happy to help with the national programme.
"The players are fit as they have trained with the national team since June, while our imports came in in October, but we still have to step up to the ABL standard, especially with our running game.
"Winning our first game will help with confidence and set a marker for the season. There is no need to set a target because we all know we are going for the championship."
While the Slingers have strengthened in terms of imports, their local roster has taken a hit with the retirement of Ng Han Bin and the departure of Russel Low to focus on his banking career.
They are, however, able to welcome back forward Leon Kwek, 23, after he completed his National Service.
Kwek averaged 10.6 points per game in his breakout 2016/17 season. He said: "I was still following the Slingers even when I was not in the team. It was painful to see the championship slip away, which will now turn to added motivation for us.
"In my previous two seasons, I was affected by dengue fever and a quadricep injury, so my personal aim is to play my heart out in every game and see how far I can go now as a full-time player."
Another local hoping to make an impact in his eighth ABL season is 2m forward Goh, who went on a eight-day exchange programme with the Adelaide 36rs in September.
The 24-year-old said: "I learnt a lot from an environment where the basketball IQ is way higher. They are fast and aggressive, but calm and systematic. They work really hard even while training, and these are the things I can share with my team-mates.
"Last season was the most painful. I'm not even sad, I'm just really angry because we had such a good year and should have won. We are all eager to go and right the wrongs."
While they did not win the championship last season, the Slingers did win over the fans with their wholehearted displays, as home attendances surged 14 per cent to 1,600 and season ticket sales have doubled to 410.
Ticketing details for the Slingers' home games are available at www.apactix.com/events/detail/abl-2019-20.
SINGAPORE SLINGERS HOME GAMES
Dec 22 (4pm) v Macau Wolf Warriors
Jan 8 (8pm) v Saigon Heat
Jan 12 (4pm) v Alab Pilipinas
Jan 19 (4pm) v Mono Vampire
Jan 29 (8pm) v Saigon Heat
Feb 9 (4pm) v Fubon Braves
Feb 14 (8pm) v Malaysia Dragons
Feb 23 (4pm) v Malaysia Dragons
March 1 (4pm) v Formosa Dreamers
March 8 (4pm) v Alab Pilipinas
March 15 (4pm) v Macau Black Bears
March 27 (8pm) v Hong Kong Eastern
March 29 (4pm) v Mono Vampire