Posted : 2013-03-12 19:04
Updated : 2013-03-12 19:04

KBL issues apology, promises changes

Commissioner Han Sun-kyo speaks during a press conference at the Korea Basketball League (KBL) headquarters in Seoul, Tuesday. He promised a package of reforms to restore the integrity of the beleagured KBL by adjusting league rules on drafting rookies and signing free-agent players. / Yonhap

By Kim Tong-hyung

Korea's professional basketball league was forced to issue a public apology Tuesday after prosecutors arrested basketball legend and Wonju Dongbu Promy head coach Kang Dong-hee the previous night on charges of manipulating games.

In a news conference at Korea Basketball League (KBL) headquarters, a shaky Han Sun-kyo, league commissioner and a lawmaker of the governing Saenuri Party, promised a package of reforms to restore the integrity of the competition. This includes adjusting league rules on drafting rookies and signing free-agent players to reduce teams' motivation for "tanking," or losing on purpose for advantages in picking and signing new players.

However, Han also stressed that the postseason will progress as scheduled, despite suggestions by some teams to suspend it. If the accusations against him are confirmed to be true, Kang will face a lifetime ban from the league, Han said.

"We fully recognize that this is the biggest crisis for professional basketball since the league was launched in 1997,'' Han said.

Dongbu Promy has been in playoff contention, competing with Busan-based KT for the sixth and final spot. However, since Kang's arrest, the team has been in freefall, with a 30-point loss to the Seoul Samsung Thunders on Sunday representing its fourth-consecutive defeat.

While Kang had never been openly accused of game rigging before the investigation, KT head coach Jeon Chang-jin recently accused him of tanking to seek a better position for next season's rookie draft.

In the KBL, the four non-playoff teams each have about a 24-percent chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick. The league recently lowered that percentage to 15 percent, effective starting in the 2014-2015 season, but Han said the league is now considering applying the new rules earlier, possibly by the upcoming rookie draft in October.

Prosecutors have so far arrested two fixers ― one a longtime acquaintance of Kang and the other a former baseball player ― on charges of paying Kang 40 million won to manipulate four games during the 2010-2011 season.

After Dongbu Promy secured a playoff spot that season, Kang frequently rested his starters for the rest of the regular season and gave his secondary players playtime, which was responsible for the team taking on some extra losses along the way.

Kang had a memorable career as a player, leading the Kia Motors dynasty in the old corporate league, which preceded the KBL. Kang was also named the league MVP in the KBL's first season in 1997, and won the league's assists title four times before retiring in 2004.

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