New Singapore Slingers recruit Christien Charles' debut got off to a rocky start yesterday after the American picked up two early fouls against Alab Pilipinas and found himself headed to the bench after just one minute and 20 seconds.
The 36-year-old big man's absence in the early going eventually proved decisive, with the Slingers succumbing 80-89 to Alab after overtime at the OCBC Arena.
"That's what killed us in the end and cost us the game so I'm quite disappointed with the start," said Slingers head coach Neo Beng Siang, who had counted on the 2.16m centre's size against the relatively smaller Alab front-court comprising imports Renaldo Balkman (2.03m) and Justin Brownlee (2.01m).
"Of course he is a bit rusty because he just got back from injury, but at least he's got the height there. So he has to keep himself out there on defence rather than being too aggressive."
A back injury limited Charles, the Asean Basketball League's all-time blocks leader (259), to just four games with the Saigon Heat last term.
The two-time ABL Defensive Player of the Year (2013 and 2016) found his groove in the second half, scoring 14 points in the third quarter to finish with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, but was muted in overtime like the rest of his team-mates as Alab outscored the Slingers 11-2.
"I definitely came out rusty today so going forward, I just have to stay sharp and out of foul trouble," said the Milwaukee native, who arrived in Singapore on Friday and replaced Canadian Ryan Wright as the Slingers' second world import.
"My job is to be a rim protector, but I also have to do a better job on the perimeter defensively."
The Slingers could not find a way to contain Balkman and Brownlee, who scored 26 and 17 points respectively. The pair accounted for six of Alab's nine steals and had two blocks each, playing stifling defence on Slingers swingman Xavier Alexander (10 points) who shot a wretched two-of-19 from the field.
With Alexander struggling, local forward Ng Han Bin (15 points) helped fill the void offensively by draining four three-pointers.
The Slingers (3-5) play Alab (3-3), on a three-win streak, again on Wednesday in an away game at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Said Neo: "Alab may be a bit small (in terms of size) but, offensively, everyone on the team is a scorer so it's pretty tough (to stop them).
"Of course I'm pleased our locals stepped up but, in the end, a loss is a loss and I have to go back and look at the game, and see what we can do better because we're playing them again this week."