What We Learned About the Rainmen

So after a tough four game home series we learneda whole lot about Halifax.  Chad Lucas has his own version of this on his blog, but here are some of the things that really stood out to me over the course of the week:

– Halifax are best when a real point guard is running the show. This is a no brainer, but Halifax sometimes got away from giving Hammack or Twyman the ball early in the offense and they paid the price with turnovers and sloppy passes, particularly in transition.  This is obviously something that is true for all teams, but even more so for Halifax since they lack ball handlers.

The offense looks much better than last year. There is better flow to the offense and you can really see that Lewis has drilled the team on the offensive end.  I’d still like to see a handful of set plays (a pick and roll, a play to get Silverhorn or Dandridge open in the corner off a couple of screens, a UCLA downscreen type play, and a set passing play out of the high post ideally) but the offense has motion and communication to it and Halifax has three very good passers in Hammack, Crookshank and Sanders.  Sanders and Crookshank are really gifted passers and in situations where a natural point guard isn’t in the game I think it makes sense to have the offense run through one of them.

The lack of a slasher is no longer a problem. The traditional view of a slasher who gets to the hoop and the line is a 6’4 to 6’6 slashing wing player who is an incredible athlete – a guy like Mayes or what LeBoise Gladden was supposed to be.  Halifax doesn’t have a player like that but Jeanty, Sanders and Hammack all have that sort of ability.  Jeanty and Sanders in particular can get to the line whenever they want and should be good at getting opposing powerforwards in foul trouble.

– Halifax are at least one player away from serious contention. With McNeal injured and obviously out of game shape less than a week from the first regular season game Halifax need another big body.  McGriff would have been perfect, but there are still options out there.  They need a good interior defender who can keep guards from getting easy buckets inside and shore up the defensive rebounding.  Mayes also may be gone sooner rather than later.  He is a good player but he is being asked to do things he’s not good at – namely handling the ball and shooting deep shots on catch and shoot plays.  He is a great athlete and rebounder, but Halifax has slashers and rebounding forwards.  A good defensive guard who can handle the ball and has a reliable outside shot is what Halifax need at that last guard spot.

– Halifax is excited about the Rainmen. When Halifax announced that they’d be playing 4 games at the tower in 4 days during th every busy Christmas period I thought it could be a disaster when it comes to attendance.  Look at what happend in Vermont: only 200 people showed up for the final of their pre-season tournament against their mortal enemies the Manchester Millrats.  But Halifax probably averaged about 700 fans over four games and did a great job selling the team to fans by playing an attractive brand of high scoring basketball.  The team is full of compelling basketball personalities and the team can impress both fans of high schoring, athletic ball and old school basketball purists.

– The defence still needs work. There were moments where Halifax looked phenomenal on the defensive side of the ball but most times it was not great.  Unlike last year it was rarely terrible, but they need to prevent guards from getting inside on them.  They just lack the outside quickness to stay infront of slashing guards and they don’t have a big guy who can consistently block and alter shots.  I think it will come as guys like Eric and Bailey step up and communication improves on the defensive end.

– Dandridge is good at some things, but not everything. So I will admit that I was both wrong, and right about Dandridge.  I was wrong in the sense that he’s a legit starter in the PBL and is a great contributor to the team.  I was right in the sense that he can’t do all the things Halifax need – he is a below average defender and is not a creative passer or ball handler.  He gives another deep threat, but I really thought that the team looked much worse with him running the point.

– Sanders is a jerk and I couldn’t be happier. The guy has a mean streak which I love.  He mixes it up under the net, sets hard screens, talks trash after big dunks and blocks and dives for loose balls.  The team on a whole is grittier than last year, but I don’t think Halifax win tough games without his bad attitude.  I love it.

– Hammack is as good as I had hoped. He showed improvement over the course of the week and does things that no Halifax really, really need: he is the team’s best ball handler, he is a good perimeter slasher and runs the offense both in the half court and transition.

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Halifax Lose to Chicago, 112-108

Halifax’s outside shooting remained stone cold and the lack of horses really showed tonight.  The game was a bit chippy and having Sanders there knocking people around and Twyman to provide another shooter and ballhandler would certainly have helped – but sports are always about winning despite all the if-onlys and Halifax just didn’t pull it out tonight.  Some other things I noticed:

–  The tickets given to season ticket holders said the game was at 7:00, as did all the media around the games.  The website said 8:00 but I figured it was a typo.  It was not.  Most people showed up for 7:00 which was awkward and unfortunate.  There was a huge and very loud crowd at the Tower with about 900 fans showing up and really getting into it.

– Before I even saw Kevin Hammack play I thought he was going to be great and I have not been disappointed.  The guy just played out of his mind tonight, getting to the hoop, dropping some big threes, shaking off defenders and creating tons of turn overs.  Of the new Rainmen he is certainly my favourite.  I think Halifax take that game if he has the ball in his hand on three plays down the stretch: Halifax forced a turnover and Crookshank ran up the floor, drove to the net, dished and ran into a defender after the pass off – ref calls an obvious charge; Halifax deflect a pass, Bailey runs up the floor with it, turns it over; Halifax score, Chicago throw a football pass across half on the inbound, Jeanty picks it off and passes to Dandridge on the wing who holds onto it until Halifax get in their halfcourt set, he throws a bad pass to Jeanty in the post who loses position trying to collect it and can’t get a good shot off.  On all three plays Hammack is demanding the ball and open but he didn’t get it.  He’s there to run the offense, give him the damn ball.  This may be shocking, but Halifax looks better when their point guards are running the team.  Who would have guessed?

– Look – if Halifax is going to insist on playing Dandridge at point guard then he sure as hell had better start posting players up.  He was guarded by two guys under six feet when he was playing the point, and if you ever have a half a foot advantage over somone then I expect you to back them down and shoot over them from in close.  While we’re at it I’d just like to point out that while Dandridge is an amazing jump shooter he’s not as amazing as he thinks he is.  Sometimes he needs to not take that deep three ball.

– Does anyone know if the PBL plays international rules? i.e. is it legal to interfere with the ball when it is over the rim so long as it has already made contact with the rim?

–  Halifax’s inability to lock down big time players on the other team showed again tonight as #5 (sg/sf who was bombing threes all night) just ruined Halifax.

– SirVal warmed up but did not play.  McNeal, Twyman and Sanders were all in street clothes on the bench.

– All the other Rainmen got significant time with Mayes playing the least (probably about 20 minutes) and looking a bit better.  He had one monster put back.  Unfortunately he’s not a very good shooter, and the way this team works I don’t know if you can be a sub-par shooter if you’re a wing.  He also lacks a great handle.  He’s being asked to do the things he does not excel at (shoot deep shots of catch and shoots and serve as a primary ball handler in the half court) and not getting the looks he needs cutting to the hoop where he can use his talents.  I think he’s a good player, but I don’t think he’s a good fit for Halifax, to be honest.

Halifax Lose to Augusta, 117-112

So Halifax played another close game, but unlike Augusta they did not have a day off – making this their 3rd game in as many days taking to the court just 16 hours after their last game ended.  Fatigue and injuries showed as Halifax started slow and didn’t really recover until the fourth quarter.

– Halifax dressed only eight seven guys with McNeal, Sanders, Twyman and SirVal all resting.

–  I don’t know the scoring stats, but AJ Millien was definetely contained much better this game.  They did a good job denying him position inside and making it hard to even get an entry pass into him.  I liked what Rick Lewis did for most of the game – he had Crookshank playing D on him.  If Crookshank is going to get a shot at top European clubs it is going to be by becoming an absolute lock-down defender.  He has the lenth and athleticism to do it and getting tough assignments like Millien is a good start.  As always, Eric did a good job disrupting passing lanes as well.  Halifax experimented with a zone and some full court man to man as well.

– Mayes started and played the first quarter and a half but continues to struggle.  He had some great dunks and rebounded well but his jump shot just will not go down.  I think he needs to work on his defence.  Being able to contain opposing guards will ensure he gets some minutes, and if he can pick off some passes for easy points then it can get him going.

– As you can guess from my last two comments, I love defense.  Particularly full court defense, traps and people jamming up the passing lanes.  Well in the fourth quarter Halifax showed the best defence I have seen out of the franchise.  There was great hussle, smart scrambles, perfectly timed traps, and plenty of forced turn overs.  It was really nice to see.

– Unfortunately at least three times they forced turnovers and tried to get out and run but then turned the ball over in their own backcourt leading to easy baskets for Augusta.  Part of the problem was the lack of guards on the floor.  If you want to be able to run you need to have a true point guard on the floor.  I trust the ability of Dandridge to dump the ball in the post and hit guys coming off of screens, but I want a guy like Hammack charging the ball up court.

– I really, really like Mayes Hammack.  I thought that he played really well today.  He’s a great full court defender who can force lots of turnovers and has the ability to hit from the outside and get to the hoop.  He’s got an unreal handle and never struggled to get the ball into the half court set.  He’s also a smart guy – he demanded players clear out for him so he could post up the smaller Augusta guards and he reads the play really well on defense.  Between him and Twyman the team are looking good at point guard.

–  Jeanty had a beast of a game.  He is such a tough banger, it’s unreal.  Between him, Sanders and Bailey this team has the ability to really knock guys around and jam the ball down low for points in the paint.  Jeanty is also for good at getting guys in foul trouble.  He spent a lot of time guarding the opposing point guard down the stretch and did okay, but wasn’t quite quick enough at times.  I think he can definately match up against bigger guards of average or slower quickness.  His only negative was poor three point shooting even though he got a ton of open looks.

– The crowd looked good with about 700 people.  The crowd was more into it then in the other two games with the place getting really loud during the Rainmen’s fourth quarter almost-comeback.

–  Halifax started Hammack, Mayes, Dandridge, Silverhorn and Bailey.  I think that come opening day Halifax will probably start Hammack, Dandridge, Silverhorn, Sanders and Bailey.  I expect Crookshank, Jeanty and Twyman to be in the rotation with SirVal if he’s healthy.  Mayes and McNeal probably won’t be getting a ton of burn, at least initially.

– These three games so far have been some of the most exciting Rainmen games that the franchise has played.  It’s a great way to start of what will hopefully be a great season.

– In other news: Quebec defeated Montreal 90-89 and Manchester beat Vermont 94-90.  Quebec played without both Larry House and Charles Fortier – arguably their two best players.

Halifax Defeat Chicago 127-125

Halifax pulled out a tight win in a close game despite starting off terrible (they were down 16 at one point in the first quarter, I think).

– Halifax were very sloppy at times of offense with too many turn overs, particularly in transition.

– Halifax went into half time down by three and should have been down by even more.  They played horribly and were out rebounded 43-25 in that half (this is from memory) but a a big huge third quarter by Silverhorn pushed them ahead – he knocked down five three pointers in the quarter.  I sat next to Chad Lucas for the game and we came to the conclusion that no matter how bad Halifax play they are still in games because of Dandridge and Silverhorn’s ability to not just hit three points, but to hit contested three pointers.  Silverhorn also looked great getting to the basket tonight and came up with a huge steal at the end of the game to seal it.

– Jimmy Twyman say on the bench in street clothes.  SirVal did not play at all today despite dressing and warming up and Mayes and McNeal both started but played only the first five minutes or so and never returned.  Mayes looked a bit uncomfortable and McNeal looked pretty bad.  I really think McNeal just needs some confidence.   Lewis needs to tell him that he’s starting the next game next to one of the point guards and playing the first eight minutes no matter what.  They need to open up the game by running a couple of plays for him to get his confidence up and just see how he does.  If he doesn’t improve then they need to go looking for another guard.

– Speaking of which – Halifax need a two guard who can defend fast peremeter shooting guards.  Chicago’s two guards got inside way too much this game, and Halifax don’t have the option of playing small.  Halifax are really missing JB Murray for his versatility in the backcourt and McGriff for his ability to actually start at centre.

– With Jimmy out, Hammack started.  He looked much better in this game and hit a few big threes.  He’s got an unbelievable handle on the ball and is incredible at forcing turnovers.  I would love to see Halifax run an honest full court press just to see him and Crookshank picking off passes.  Crookshank’s defending looked really good tonight at times when he got in the lane and tipped a lot of passes and slapped loose a lot of balls.  In general though, Halifax’s defense looked suspect with too many uncontested shots and too many easy drives to the hoop.

–  Sanders is still a jerk and I love it.  He came up with a huge block and then got in the guy’s face and he had a few big dunks and pushed some guys around.  He also set a really hard screen that got Hammack open for a three down the stretch.

–  In the single most unlikely event I could imagine, James Booyer was playing for Chicago.  I hardly recognized him because he wasn’t in street clothes.  Believe it or not but this is the first time that we have seen him in a uniform in Halifax.  Who would have guessed that guy would show up?

–  The coaches for Chicago were losing their minds at the refs and particluarly at the scoring table.  Their objections to the scoring table were dumb:  they simply didn’t get the media time out rule, nor did they keep track of their own player’s fouls or their own time outs.  Their objections to the refs were more than fair:  it was just a terribly reffed game and I am not sure what the result would have been had the refs been more on the ball.  They missed things both ways, but I think Halifax got a bit more help than Chicago did.

– Chicago traveled with eight players plus two coaches and had the new PBL uniforms on which looked pretty good.  They had more size than I expected and their roster clearly did not match up with the roster on the PBL website or the Throwbacks website.

– In other PBL pre-season news: Vermont defeated Quebec 96-85 and Manchester beat Montreal 104-96 in Vermont and it was 101-99 home win for Battle Creek over Mid-Michigan.

Preview: Chicago vs. Halifax

So this one will be shorter than the pre-game post on the Augusta game for two reasons:

1)  I covered most of the “series in general” stuff in that post.

2)  There is almost no infortation out there on Chicago.

With that said, Halifax need to do a better job containing the other team on defense.  The three players who played the four and five for Augusta combined for 82 points yesterday.  No player should be putting up 47 on you and Halifax need to find a way to lock down elite scorers on other teams – they struggled last year when both Tommy Mitchell and Izzy Caro both lit up Halifax on a consistent basis.  It’s hard to win games when you can’t even slow down elite scorers.  There is no way that Halifax beats Manchester if Ferguson or Kinsey put up 35+ points.

Chicago are a very guard heavy team with only three players on their roster above 6’6 – I would expect to see them play with three guards at almost all times and look to push the pace.  In this way they’re a pretty good warm up for those four games against Montreal who will be another guard heavy team.  While an up-tempo game plays into Halifax’s strength, a team loaded with quick perimeter guys and deep shooters does not.  Halifax need to do a better job of staying in front of players slashing to the basket and contesting three point attempts.  Halifax have a decisive size advantage and Lewis needs to make sure that they take advantage of it.  The Rainmen did a great job against Augusta of starting almost every half court posession by looking inside, and that needs to continue.  McNeal will have at least 4 inches and many, many pounds on whoever is guarding him so he can’t settle for outside shots.

Their key guys will be Thomas Stanley a 6’5 small forward, Jimmy Miles a 6’3 shooting guard who is an excellent outside shooter, and Imari Sawyer who is a 6’2 playmaker who is incredibly fast by all accounts.

Rainmen Defeat Augusta 135-129

I can’t for the life of my remember the exact score but it was a three to six point win for the Rainmen in what was a surprisingly close game.  Someone comment if they can remember the exact score. Halifax won 135-129 today.

Thoughts in point form:

– Halifax opened on an 11-0 run but after a time out Augusta came back started doing some damage with some excellent three point shooting and some inside play from AJ Millien.

– Seriously, Rick Lewis needs to start reading my blog before every game (or do some legitimate scouting).  Augusta played exactly like I said they would with strong front court play, guards shooting from outside and AJ Millien trying to dunk every time down the floor.  Millien played well all game but when Lewis put Bailey on him he was at least slowed down considerably.

–  Glen Dandridge is as good, if not better, from the outside than Silverhorn.  The two of them can shoot the lights out.  Dandridge had 22 points and was 5/7 from beyond the arc in the first half.  Unfortunately he got burnt on defense a lot.

–  The rotation were sloppy, slow and just terrible on D.  The lack of a shot blocker showed and guys lost their men consistently when other teams were driving and when outside shots went up.  Too many offensive rebounds were given up (geez… that sounds familiar).  Man to man all game and the press looked terrible.

– The starting line up was Jimmy, Dandridge, Silverhorn, Jeanty and Bailey.  I would not expect to see the same thing in the season opener.

– SirVal didn’t play and Mayes and McNeal saw fewer than five minutes each.  McNeal’s ankles are wrapped up super high, but I have no idea what is going on with Mayes right now.

– Dandridge looked great on offense, and Bailey was impressive on both ends of the floor.  Sanders got a bit lazy on defense at times but he can get to the line any time he wants.  Jeanty played all three of his potential positions – two guard, small forward and power forward – and looked great when he got inside near the baseline.

–  I get that this is a pre-season tune up, but Lewis worries me.  It took him a quarter and a half to realize that the centre for Augusta, Kenneth Curtis, had no functioning knees.  Seriously – his knee braces weren’t supporting those knees, they were holding them together.  The game turned when he started getting Sanders to face him up and taking it at him.  He also had no answer for Millien until the fourth quarter (even though it was obvious from the get-go what was going to happen) and called the worst time out I have ever seen with 4 minutes left in the game.  The game was tied and then Halifax scored two transition baskets (the final one on a huge dunk), they then forced Augusta to turn it over out of bounds, Augusta were this close to being broken and Halifax were ready to go… and he called a time out which slowed down the momentum.  These moments – when the game is close in the fourth and you need to bust it open – are exactly where Halifax struggled last year and time outs like this are the reason why.

– McNeal only played a few minutes so Sanders and Bailey got most of the minutes at centre.  Only having nine healthy guys kepy Halifax to a pretty tight rotation of eight guys with Silverhorn, Dandridge and even Jeanty spending time at two guard.  Dandridge looked the best there and will probably start.

–  The offense flowed fairly well at times.  There weren’t a lot of set plays but they’re getting used to their half court movements.  Augusta created some trouble by trapping the pick and role which was what Atlanta and Vermont did a lot last year.

– I am terrible at estimating crowd size, but I think it was about 350 700ish people including tons of kids.

edit:  Chad Lucas has a list of all the scorers in his article from today.  He estimated the crowd at 800 which is probably more accurate than my initial guess of 350 and modified guess of 700.  Go check out the article.

D-League Update

Nothing major but it looks like Portland, Maine are putting a serious push on for that coveted Celtics D-League affiliation.  A few article have popped up and they all talk about the D-league planning more north eastern expansion.  This one has a quote from Rainmen PR director Nancy Sheppard:

Manchester and Halifax are already home to teams in the Premier Basketball League, and only one of them, the Halifax Rainmen, is interested in switching leagues. Halifax applied for an expansion franchise and met with D-League officials earlier this year.

Nancy Sheppard, a spokeswoman for the Rainmen, said the team is still interested, but D-League officials said Halifax’s location is a hurdle. “We’re on the back burner until we get more teams in the Northeast,” Sheppard said.

Preview: Augusta vs. Halifax

I hope everyone had a good Christmas and other holidays, I’m full of turkey right now, but I figured I’d throw some thoughts out there before tomorrow’s game.  After months of anticipation, guessing and criticizing we finally get to see the team in action.  I was actually more excited about these four games than about Christmas – how sad is that?

Generally there’s a few things I’ll be looking at in these four games – and the score line isn’t really on the top of that list.  The organization obviously didn’t want to bring in teams that it will be playing during the regular season, but that led to a problem – of Halifax’s six regular season opponents, five of them are in the top two thirds of the league (there are 13 teams in the PBL).  So of the top nine teams in the league six either are Halifax, or are team Halifax will be playing  Wilmington and Rochester would have provided major challenges to Halifax but virtually all the other possible pre-season opponents would have been bottom feeders.  Augusta and Chicago certainly are.  Chicago finished last in the PBL last year at 5-15, and Augusta (then known as the Atlanta Krunk) finished an astounding 9-41 in the CBA last year.  All of that is to say that Halifax should beat both teams, although the last two games could be harder when Halifax are exhausted from 4 games in 4 days while their opponents have days off.  The pre-season is also a crap-shoot so I won’t take a blow out win or a close loss as portending to some sort of regular season success or failure, I also think that under close examination Augusta are not a terrible team.

With all that said I think we will learn a lot from these games including who Lewis plans on playing at two guard, which front court players work well together, what sort of tempo the team will play at, what sort of defensive looks the team will be using, if the offense has more than just one lame pick and roll, and just as importantly I think it’s worth paying attention to the body language on the bench.  As has been talked about a lot, there are a lot of players used to being the go to guy on this team, let’s see how players adjust to reduced minutes and fewer shots.

Expect Augusta to look to AJ Millien to try to score inside on Halifax.

Expect Augusta to look to AJ Millien to try to score inside on Halifax.

There are nine pre-season games featuring nine PBL teams happening in the four days after Christmas, so we can expect to have at least a vague idea of where teams stack up after this week, so it’s a pretty exciting time for minor league basketball fans.

As for the game itself I would expect Halifax win.  They have a pre-season game under their bet and are playing at home instead of getting in the evening of Christmas day and suiting up the next afternoon.  I do think that Augusta are the better of the two teams and they will provide a few neat challenges, particularly in the front court.  If either team will have a shot at beating Halifax it will be Augusta, and I do expect them to at least keep it respectable.

Expect AJ Millien to be their go to scorer.  A 6’7 streetballer from Brooklyn, he averaged 22/6 last year in the CBA playing powerforward for the Groove who were at the time known as the Atlanta Krunk.  He played his college ball at Idaho State (NCAA D1) where he put up an impressive 15.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg in his 05/06 senior year,  He’s an athletic scorer and loves to dunk and Augusta are hyping him up as their go to guy.  I wouldn’t expect to see him taking many deep shots – he took exactly zero three point attempts in his senior year of college.  It will be interesting to see how Eric, Sanders and Bailey contain him, but his athleticism should be neutralised by our front line’s freakish quickness and jumping ability.  Augusta’s strength will be in it’s forward spots with Millien, Calvin Roland (6’10 centre from Virginia Union) and Kenneth Curtis a 6’8 centre/powerforward who played D1 ball at North Carolina Central provide a legitimate challenge to Halifax’s bigs.

Their back court is small with shooting guards who are 6’4 and 6’2, so we will see how Dandridge and Mayes line up against smaller, presumably quicker two-guards.  Demetrius Howard, a 6’5 Augusta State grad played SG in college but is likely to see most of his time as small forward.  He’s a well rounded player with a good outside shot and he’ll probably be their main offensive threat on the wing.  Shooting guard Kenny Thomas is a reliable outside shooter so watch for him if the Rainmen try to double-team one of the post players.

All-in-all I am exctied as hell for this game, and although Halifax are certainly the favourites, in any basketball game either team can win.  Augusta have a strong front three in Roland-Millien-Howard and if Halifax underestimate them or lose focus on defense and on the boards there could be trouble.

I don’t know if there will be programs available at the games (and if there are if they’ll be less that $2), but I used info online to format a simple list of players from all three teams playing in Halifax in an easily printable form and I figured I’d make it available here as a PDF to download and print off if anyone is interested:  Downloadable preseason-rosters.

Halifax Defeat Kebs in QC

According to the Metro, the Rainmen pulled out what can only be described as a gutsy win over the Kebs.  Despite traveling with only eight players the Rainmen managed to pull out a 101-95 victory over a very good Quebec team which was playing it’s fourth pre-season game.  The core of the front line didn’t travel – Eric, Sanders and McNeal were all nursing injuries.

The Metro article also says that SirVal tweaked his ankle and decided played it safe by not going back in in the second half (who can blame him?) and David Bailey fouling out in the first half (not surprising since he was the only player who traveled who was over 6’6).  This means that for the second half the 6’5 Cordell Jeanty and 6’6 Brian Silverhorn probably logged most of their minutes at centre and powerforward… good god.  Silverhorn led the team with 29 points and 12 rebounds and shot 4/9 from three point territory.

Since no one  I know was there we can’t say much about the game, but it sounds like the Rick Lewis training program paid off since eight guys were able to take on a full roster on the road.  It’s super exciting that Halifax won a game like this, but it’s also super disapointing that the whole team didn’t travel.  It kind of makes it hard to see how the pieces will fit together when 28ish% of your pieces are in another province.  It does demonstrate two things: 1) Halifax look like they’re deep.  Really deep.  2) Halifax need to find another centre ASAP.

This is a great result, and a wonderful Christmas present from the Rainmen.  I can’t wait for the pre-season games in the city.

Preview: Halifax vs. Quebec

So after way too much speculation and guessing on the part of myself and others we will finally get to see (or at least hear) about how Halifax stacks up against other teams as the Rainmen take on the Quebec Kebs tonight in Quebec City.

I would not be shocked if Halifax lose this game even though I think they’re the better team.  Quebec have had an active pre-season playing three games already, all against Manchester.  Including tonight’s game they will play six pre-season games total.  They had a pretty solid loss in their first game against an absolutely stacked Millrats team, then they won the next game, and finally lost in over time in the rubber match of the series.  They’re not only Halifax’s first pre-season opponent, they’re likely to be their best.  Playing your first real game against a team who have played three games already is a tough proposition, so we’ll see how it goes.

They are one of the few PBL teams with serious size with Jonas Pierre and Simplice Njoya both legit 6’10+ centres and a number of good sized power forwards, as a result they should test the Halifax front court which I think is the team’s strong point.  Last year Quebec were a gritty team who grinded out hard wins, and it appears that they’re the same way this year.  I expect it to be close no matter whar and the physicality of guys like Bailey and Sanders to be key to the Rainmen having a chance to pull this one out.

Halifax’s front line is in a bit of a weird spot since there is only one centre in the line up and he may not be in the best physical shape at the moment.  Glenn Dandridge has only been with the team for a week, so how he plays will also be a bit of a question mark. (on a side note:  you have to think that Dandridge wasn’t brought in because they thoughts that he was the best available guy who could play shooting guard, but because they really think they need another 6’6 guy who has questionable defence who can shoot threes.  First they sign Sam Mack, then they try to get Nathan Clark, then they get Dandridge.  They’re all basically the same player… seems like an odd need to go after when you have Silverhorn)

Charles Fortier is the heart and soul of the Kebs, but I would actually expect him to be kept in check tonight.  He gets most of his point by just overpowering opposing two guards and with the platoon of small forwards likely to see time at shooting guard I can’t see him pushing our guys out of the way for offensive boards and post ups.

Due to it being the first game I am not sure just how good this will be at telling us how good a team Halifax is, but hopefully we will get some idea about some of the question marks like who will start, if SirVal is as good as advertised, where Jeanty is going to get minutes, etc.  I would expect Lewis to go 11 deep as he tries to figure out how good everyone is and what combinations work together, so I won’t hold that against him. (If he does five on five off then you’d better believe I will hold that against him.)

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