Round and round Micheal Ray Richardson’s mood goes, how the London Lightning head coach will react nobody knows.
“We need to get focused. We’re going to do it my way, not your way,” barked Richardson at the end of Wednesday’s (Jan. 30) practice. “You want to stay on this team, do your job.”
You might think players on a team with a 24-4 record wouldn’t be threatened with a spot on the roster, but after a four-day stretch (Jan. 25 to 27) where London doubled their season’s losses, the high expectations of the Lightning bench boss is no joke.
To prove his seriousness, Richardson brought in two players.
“Each guy has to be accountable for his job and win games,” Richardson said of the requirements for a player to stay on his team. “We have to be smarter, we got to take care of the basketball and we got to play much, much better defence.”
As one of the smaller teams in the league, and the only club without a player taller than 6-foot-8 after releasing DeAndre Thomas, the Lightning have brought in my some more depth in the paint in Karron Clarke, 27, coming out of DePaul College.
The forward is also 6-foot-7 and if he's added to the team he’ll be fourth player at that height.
“From my what my agent told me, from what the coach said, they want me to come in and be a defensive stopper,” Clarke said, notified about the Lightning tryout Monday, arriving in London Tuesday and practicing Wednesday with the team. “Everything else I do is extra. They have guys in double figures, so they do a lot of scoring, they just need the intangibles. I’m just going to come in and do whatever they need me to do.”
Maybe the only people who know they’re safe — at least for now — are the Lightning’s Canadian players (Antwi Atuahene, Tyler Murray and Dane Smith) with guard Derrio Green also being brought in to possibly fill in the backcourt.
“Whatever coach needs me to do I’ll do it. I have too, it’s a job. If he wants me to play defence or bring energy, that’s what I’m going to do,” Green, 24, said, coming from UNC-Charlotte.
But there’s nobody with more energy than the Lightning coach.
“”I’ve never seen anything like it,” Green said. “It’s intense the whole time, but I like it. It pushes me and there’s no room for error.”
Now that fans of the black and yellow know of the potential players to possibly make the roster before the team’s next game, Feb. 7 in Moncton against the Miracles, the question becomes who’s leaving the team.
Richardson is fan-friendly, but his decisions regarding the Lightning’s players are always strictly personal to the team.
The Lightning have struggled as of late, but it’s tough to say who’s to blame.
The scoring from opponents has come from everywhere on the court and what used to be London’s most proficient quarter, the fourth frame finish has been nothing but nightmares for the Lightning having not outscored their competitors in the final 12 minutes in the last six games for a total tally of 143 for (23.8 average) and 182 against (30.3 average).
The Lightning forwards could be bigger, but there’s no stand out that has stood down.
Elvin Mims could easily be the team’s MVP, Jeremy Williams has started every game, Marvin Phillips is a beast under the boards, Jermaine Blackburn has shown consistency, Rodney Buford is a possible sixth man of the year candidate and elder statesmen Tim Ellis seems to be staple in Richardson’s regime.
On the guards end there’s less players, which means even less room.
Adrian Moss has recently cracked the starting lineup, Morgan Lewis was possibly London’s best player on the floor before his knee injury (which still has him sidelined after more than a month) and DeAnthony Bowden was a 2011-12 All-Star that could probably start the game for any team — just not recently for the Lightning.
“The whole thing about the season is that you have ups and downs,” Williams said.
It might not be known whom Green and Clarke would replace on the Lightning, but one thing for sure is that they’re both viable choices.
“This is an option, that’s why they’re hear,” Richardson said. “We’re not trying to put no spark plugs on. We’re trying to make our team better.”