Here’s 8 things to look out for as the new BBL season tips off.

Rather than dissecting every team which, let’s face it, would be rather futile exercise given that a) their pre-season games aren’t televised, b) pre-season games are rubbish, c) the turnover of players is so high that someone who looks rubbish after less than ten practices might be decent – and vice versa, and d) pre-season is so short, and unstructured, under some coaches that you can tell nothing concrete so far, let’s just sit back, gaze at the eight months ahead and see what might lie over the British Basketball League’s horizon.

Leicester can juggle

There’s two school of thoughts on teams playing in Europe (this applies to any sport © rocket scientists).

One is that taking on continental competition makes you better domestically – a view espoused by Riders coach Rob Paternostro, speaking in Episode 2 of the MVP Cast. The other is that it can be a distraction, because some players will find a Friday night trip to, say, a shopping mall outside Chester, a little, ahem, humdrum after a decent Saturday night in Aarhus, a threat suggested by Kieron Achara in Episode 1 of the MVP Cast (did we mention we have a new podcast?).

The reality is the only folk who can stop Leicester from repeating again as the BBL’s dominant team is the Riders. They’re too deep. Too well-coached, too well-prepared and the late injury to Niem Stevenson might even have brought an upgrade by adding extra scoring through DeAndre Burnett.

And that’s before we mention Jamell Anderson and Conner Washington coming back to come off the bench. No balls getting dropped here. Except through a hoop.

Fab’s farewell tour

Fab Flournoy said back in April that there was no way he would countenance missing out on playing at the club’s new arena. (As an aside, it can’t end up with the name it has now – it needs to be something catchy like the Eagles Nest or Fab’s Palace or Brown Ale House). So at 45, he figures to be the oldest active player since Oscar Schmidt threatened to retire as soon as he could draw a pension.

But while he’ll (deservedly) get a fond farewell at every venue, especially on the back side of the season, has the group put in place now got the potential to be better than last year’s dysfunctional crew?

The Eagles have gone back for their future by re-signing Rahmon Fletcher and handed Victor Moses a lifeline after a period out of the game. The age of stability ended abruptly last season. And with Darius Defoe now officially only semi-French, we ask if the Flournoy era will end with some joie de vivre or stagnant quietly in a cul de sac?

TV or no TV

As we revealed, the BBL starts the season without a television deal. Not for the first time in recent memory but what eventually transpires will be a bellwether for the league’s gradual re-build. The sticking point is an unwillingness on behalf of teams to keep stumping up for production costs, with some burned by other’s prior failures to pay a fair share (RIP Leeds Force).

Yet there is a good product that looks decent on TV in the majority of venues and an audience for basketball which, while wholly niche, dips into a demographic which TV bosses are having to work hard to attract. A bit like Brexit, no deal would be a disaster. A semi-decent one would be a positive portent indeed.

By Royal appointment

Despite their bafflingly uncool / unoriginal nickname, it’s actually quite exciting that the London City aristocats are coming into the league on the back of pulling together some fine home-grown talent.

Crystal Palace remains a perfectly viable home. Ownership has got some finance. Nhamo Shire is an accomplished organiser. People shouldn’t under-estimate the basketball brain of Junior Williams.

But will a team that would be spectacular to watch at Quai 54 or Midnight Madness cope with even the rudimentary tactical switches of the BBL? And it’s right to wonder if everyone is locked down for the whole season or still available for the right offer elsewhere. Whatever happens, F-U-N.


The Royal Family

Capital profit

… and, isn’t it good to have a rivalry in London again? Much better than the pseudo Lions vs Surrey Suburbans that was thrown out there with minimal conviction. It’s a boon in Stratford that they’ve got an opponent who will matter more than the rest, even if to cause a tiny murmur above the din of the capital.

On top, London actually look pretty good and with a core back for the first time in a while, including reigning MVP Justin Robinson, and the momentum from the second half of last season, it won’t just all be about the regal upstarts.

Leap or languish

Bristol Flyers unveiled plans for their flashy new arena this week. Sheffield Sharks have had theirs on the drawing board for a while – nearly over the line, but not quite. Soon.

They’re also two sides filed under unpredictable. Small cores. New Americans. High expectations, long-term ambitions. But can they deliver in the here and now?

Mike Tuck hinted this might be his last season but even with that as a potential spur, Sharks look a little lighter than last year’s hard-to-beat-on-a-given-night grouping. As for Flyers, they usually recruit well but at a certain level – will this class get top marks or remain just below elite.

Also partly falling into this category are Surrey Scorchers whose build-up has been unusually muddled and with just eight players on their roster. Quincy Taylor comes back after a season out – a risk when basketball is littered with those who stop and can’t subsequently back to speed.

A coach trip into the unknown

If Glasgow Rocks wanted to flee from the ill-starred and shockingly-brief regnum of Tony Garbelotto, then Darryl Wood was a shining beacon at the other end of the spectrum. His players speak highly of his organisation, planning and recruitment (and an all-time coaching beard). Excelling in-game when your future relies upon it is, though, a new ball game.

The left-field appointment at Worcester Wolves of Ty Shaw is worth a regular peek. Decent CV, past pedigree. But a roster he did not recruit. Standard practice in many leagues, of course, yet a roll of the dice here. They will miss the acumen of former assistant Alex Radu.

We all love a good parity

Toodle-pip Leeds. By eck, you were as unappetising as three-day-old Yorkshire Pudding towards the end. So who now becomes the BBL’s whipping boys? The answer is no longer obvious, which is an entirely beneficial state of affairs.

Manchester Giants have actual real live Americans for the second straight season – and a modicum of depth (plus in Vlatko Granic, the first guy in a while who sounds like he could actually be a Bond villain).

Cheshire Phoenix may toil but they’ll still beat some teams. And Plymouth Raiders have lured Paul James south to engineer a removal from mediocrity (although let’s be fair, even as the league’s greatest under-achievers last term, at least they weren’t being coached by a nightclub bouncer better suited to an Australian theme pub – again).

Leicester may be hard to crack over a season (over/under: four league losses). However for the rest, it should be truly competitive. At least until this forecast falls apart when someone wins by 40 on opening weekend.

Just wait and see.

Main photo: Mansoor Ahmed

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login