Lightning Watch: Lightning strike in different ways

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: METRO LONDON
Has Londons style of play changed due to the late additions of players like Jermaine Johnson?

Many hands make light work.

The London Lightning proved that last season.

With some incredible team cohesion, the Lightning routinely passed the ball around other teams. Their 24 assists per game average in the 2012/3 National Basketball League of Canada season is still a league-wide record.

This year they have 21 apg, good enough for fifth in the league. Those are (obviously) middle-of-the- road numbers, but when you look back the last dozen games or so, London has only notched more than their 21-assist average twice. In their game one loss to Brampton in the quarterfinals, they only notched eight assists — a franchise low. London was a possession team, so what happened?

A possession system will look to move into the offensive half calmly, then run set plays. The opposite of this would be more of an individual game, where players would try to out-run guys or play lots of one-on-one post game (with the ball, back to a defender right in front of the net). Now, one thing that has changed with the London Lightning this past month is the addition of Stephen McDowell, Dwight McCombs and Jermaine Johnson.

The latter two have been described as “black holes.” That term is attached to players who tend to shoot over passing the ball — especially when in the post. Don't get that term wrong, Johnson and McCombs can play in the post pretty well. Both are pretty big for this league (6 ft. 7 in. and 6 ft. 8 in.) as they tend to overpower players as they back into them. The point is; they didn't have a “big” (big player) last year that was described as a black hole. Marvin Phillips was their only sizeable guy, and he very rarely played in the post.

So what has happened? The coaching staff has brought in a number of players who are good at taking guys on one-on-one. So that has taken away, somewhat, from how London played before.

In that first game in the five game series with Brampton, Stephen McDowell took 20 shots, and only sunk seven of them. We've never seen those types of numbers from the Lightning, because they shared the wealth so well in their old system. McDowell has been described as a “microwave,” someone who can heat up quick. He's a speedy guard who is (usually) pretty good from three-point range. Too often in that Brampton game did we see McDowell take a shot after an offensive rebound or after one pass. Whether the coaching staff wants the ball to be taken to him or not, it wasn't working.

Most teams in the NBLC can play this type of run-and-gun style of play because players are so athletic in this league. Can London adjust? Or will they have time, as they move through a busy playoff season.

Marty Thompson is the play-by-play voice of the London Lightning for their livestream, SportsLive24.net.