After frantic comings and goings on the roster during December, the remade Storm showed off their new dudes in a three-game holiday set at home over the past week.
The major acquisitions are small forward Brandon Robinson – the National Basketball League of Canada’s all-time leading scorer – and power forward Omari Johnson, who is also on the league’s all-time lists for rebounds, blocked shots, and scoring.
Time began for the NBL of Canada only about 15 months ago, so “all time” encompasses just a season and a half. Even so, these two make a huge difference when they wander through the locker room door.
The Storm won two of their three home games over the holidays, to move into first place in the league`s Atlantic Division. Even that statement, while true, is a bit gaudier than the reality. There is all of a game and a half separating first from last place in the four-team division, so it`s a total dogfight.
During the three games at home, the Storm seemed to have moved to an offensive emphasis after playing most of the season with primarily a defensive commitment. After weeks of holding the vast majority of opponents under the 100-point mark, the Storm yielded triple digits in three of the last four.
Of course, they`ve been scoring much more, too. On Monday night against Montreal they started Robinson, Greg Plummer, and Johnson together. Al Stewart was one of the beneficiaries (and a catalyst), as he had a great assist night with 13.
With Robinson, Plummer, and Chris Cayole, the Storm has three of the best long-range shooters in the league, and Stewart is one of the premier point guards. Hard working Antonio Ballard leads the league in rebounding, and post man Brandon Hassell is becoming more consistent with every game.
The future looks promising for this new incarnation of the Storm, particularly if they can recommit to the defense with which they began the season, and combine that with the fire power they now have. They play this week in Saint John Friday night and Moncton on Sunday.
Of the league’s two divisions, the Atlantic (Summerside, Moncton, Saint John, and Halifax) is the toughest top to bottom, but the Central (Montreal, Windsor, Oshawa and London) boasts the league’s top two squads in London and Oshawa.
Defending champion London would appear to be the league’s strongest team once again, and Montreal certainly is the weakest.
The two division winners, along with the three next best winning percentages regardless of division, make the playoffs, with seeds four and five playing off to join the final four. Every game from now on is crucial for the closely bunched Atlantic teams.
The Montreal Jazz, who made their Summerside debut on New Year`s Eve, have had a miserable start to their NBL career – going 0-17 so far, and sometimes – like on New Year`s Eve – looking for all the world like the Washington Generals (the eternal foils of the Harlem Globetrotters).
Some other league concerns are the continuing attendance difficulties in Oshawa (drawing just three to four hundred per game), and a danger signal went off two weeks ago when Moncton peddled one of their top players for cash.