The BBL off-season so far (kinda)
Usually by this point in the BBL off-season Cheshire would have signed their team, subsequently fired half of this team and then gone and signed a few more, practice for the regular season I suppose. The Plymouth Raiders on the other hand, would have signed two thirds of the Australian C team, fired their coach and hired brought in a replacement who has no real right to be anywhere near a basketball team: Jay Marriott and Johnny White.
Needless to say, both clubs this year appear to have realised that they are in fact professional organisations and should probably act as such. Firstly, this is extremely boring; there was some kind of enjoyment in watching three different Cheshire teams get announced and subsequently binned before the season started. Furthermore, the delight in watching the BBC cover our boys in green and their Australian leader’s dubious coaching history is indescribable and, quite frankly, made me spit out my cherry coke with laughter. Excellent.
In all seriousness though, it is encouraging to see the strides both clubs are taking to get themselves on the right track for the regular season. I can see the logic in sticking with Coach Ben Thomas at Cheshire, it is always good to see young British coaches being given a chance in big roles. In a similar light, the Raiders being taken into new ownership is another positive and, as a more affluent club, it will be interesting to see where they take the team as the season comes around.
On the flip-side, the top two teams of last season, Newcastle and Leicester, have been oddly quiet in their post-season ventures with neither club making any announcement on new singings. It seems that a multitude of Leicester’s 2 year deal players will in fact not be seeing out the full length of their contract with Taylor King, Brandon Clark, Conner Washington and Drew Sullivan all departing for various reasons. Will we see others follow in their steps? Will Leicester’s best statistical player, Pierre Hampton, return and continue to flourish in a centrepiece role that fans hoped he would? It’s all on the table at the moment and to be honest, I’m unsure of who they can bring in to replace the players they’ve lost so far. One thing is for certain though: the two year contracts that were so highly acclaimed by British Basketball ‘people’ everywhere is this: bollocks.
Newcastle: the most successful club in British Basketball history. What’s happened? Why have they given no word of any signed players, this deep into the season? Glasgow have. Glasgow look dangerous. London have announced an import and their head coach; and Bristol have announced their whole team and the juniors it seems. Ever since the departure of club legend Charles Smith, I always suspected the Eagles would be disrupted because he was such a fundamental part of their core and how they operated (a fact I’d like to mention that not enough people appreciate). Filling that spot was going to be like the Bulls trying to replace Michael after he left and subsequently retired. Quite difficult. I’m assuming that the Eagles saw potential in Orlan Jackman to make up for what was lost in the departure of Smith, if not to the full extent that Smith brought to the team, then just to soften the blow a little.
The Eagles we saw last year were good, for sure; there’s no questioning their dominance, I mean they did win the BBL Cup and finish second in the League overall. However they were a completely different side to the one we’d seen in previous years. The Eagles’ depth was not there, Coach Flournoy seemed reluctant to play young Christian Beherens more than a few sparing minutes a game even when it was evident they lacked inside presence. This was made even more obvious in the games that Darius Defoe was absent or was under restricted minutes -of which there were a fair few- and Coach Flournoy resorted to playing himself and going somewhat small. No discredit at all to Flournoy, he is obviously doing something right to be so impressively successful, but in the grand scheme of things there is no way that the Eagles team of 16/17 could soundly beat the Riders. Let’s look at the benches: Lasker, Flournoy (depending on the health of Defoe), Hart, Beherens and Horta. Now compare this to the bench of the Riders: Washington, Sullivan, Robertson, Thomson and Bernandini. You could create a starting line up with the latter’s bench and it be a playoff contending team already. Speaks for itself doesn’t it?
So here are my questions: where do the Eagles go from here? How do they fill the chasm left by the departure of Charles Smith? The answer is obviously not Orlan Jackman and Joe Hart when he feels like putting the ball in the hoop. Anyways, the two top teams from last season have a tall order on their hands for rebuilding and I have a strong feeling this coming season is going to be a lot more open in terms of the top spot and I am stoked to see how it will pan out.
-Rings and Things