KAWASAKI – A pair of runner-up finishes isn’t a bad accomplishment for most teams.
But Kawasaki Brave Thunders don’t see it that way.
The team notched a league-best 49-11 record in the regular season of the B. League’s inaugural campaign last year. But it failed to capture any titles as it lost in the finals of both January’s All-Japan Championship and the league championship in May, falling to the Chiba Jets and Tochigi Brex, respectively.
“We watched the championship ceremonies ‘from the special seats,’ ” Kawasaki point guard and captain Ryusei Shinoyama said with a bitter smile at a news conference at the team’s practice facility on Thursday, in preparation for the start of the league’s sophomore season later this month. “No one has forgotten the frustration, and our players and staff will become one in order to achieve something this year.”
The Brave Thunders acquired three players over the summer, while four, including American Ryan Spangler, left the team. The three additions are forward Josh Davis (Shimane Susanoo Magic), forward Bamba Diouf (Takushoku University) and guard Tomomasa Ozawa (Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka).
“I’m just here to do whatever I can to help the team win and playing hard, whether it’s defense, rebounding, or any way coach (Takuya Kita) asks me to do,” Davis said. “I’m very excited to be here, and ready to work hard and help the team win the championship.”
The team also revealed its slogan for the upcoming season: “Chase.”
Because two clubs in the Tohoku region have been demoted to the second division, the league reshuffled the divisional allocations during the offseason. Along with the Sunrockers Shibuya, Kawasaki has moved from the Central Division to the East Division, which is loaded with top clubs.
Some say it’s almost unfair, but Shinoyama puts a positive spin on it.
“You can play championship-level games every week, so I’m personally excited about it because it’ll lead to our team’s growth,” said the 29-year-old national team player. “Because we’ve moved to a tougher division, probably we’re not going to improve our winning percentage this year, but competing in that situation will only make us better as a team.”
Meanwhile, the club has drawn attention off the court over the last few weeks, as Sankei Sports reported in mid-August that a group led by ex-Yokohama BayStars president Jun Ikeda was going to acquire the club. The club currently is run by a subsidiary of Toshiba Corporation, which has been in financial crisis since an accounting scandal in 2015.
Brave Thunders president Masami Araki denied the report, saying he had not been notified on the matter.
The club was directly owned by Toshiba before the B. League started and did not have to worry too much about making money through its basketball operations. But in the new league, where every team has to operate through its basketball activities, the Brave Thunders are now required to make a greater effort to make a profit, selling more tickets and attracting more sponsors.
Citing popular teams that have not had major corporate backing like the Jets and the Ryukyu Golden Kings, Araki said there is no shortcut to becoming like those clubs and that the Brave Thunders will just have to keep working hard as a professional ballclub.
“We would like people to know our team first and foremost,” Araki said. “We are going to put emphasis our public relations activities.”
The Brave Thunders drew 2,449 fans per home game last year, up by 244 percent from the previous campaign when they played in the NBL. Yet they still ranked 13th in the 18-team first division.