How Do The Rainmen Continue Without Crookshank?

Halifax’s newest player is a buddy of Jay-Z and gets mentioned at the 30 second point of this song: “My homey Strict told me, “Dude finish your Breakfast.”  Strict always finishes his breakfast… and his lunch, dinner, second lunch, afternoon tea, dessert, midnight snack…

So now that the suspension of the Rainmen’s franchise player has sunk in, it’s worth discussing just what the Rainmen need to do to move on past this and keep their season on track.  The loss of Eric really hits the team hard in two distinct places: off the court, and on the court.  It’s a bit long so you’ll have to read it after the jump.

I’ll start with off the court because I think that what he brings when it comes to branding, community work, on court highlights, and personality is much harder to replace than what he does on the court.  In part this is a result of him already being here for a year, but he is far and away the most popular player on the team.  This established “star power” is virtually impossible to build for another player during a three month season.  So who actually steps up and becomes the new fan favourite and public face of the team?  Brian Silverhorn is a good player and in his second year with the team but he’s quiet and seems shy.  Rob Sanders is arguably the most effective player on the team but he has a bit too much of a mean streak to play the family friendly angle that the Rainmen so desperately try to use, even though I find the guy likable on and off the court.  David Bailey certainly seems like the guy who is the best with kids and in some ways replicates many of the on court things that made Eric popular – athleticism, put back dunks, the kind of size you don’t normally see walking down the street – but he may be a bit too Lunch Bucket, hussle guy to be a bonafide star.  He’s more JYD than Vince Carter (I mean pre-everything Carter did to become hated Vince Carter).

Two of the biggest personalities on the team are now SirValiant Brown and John Strickland (who hasn’t even shown up yet), but both guys are in a lot of ways players well past their primes and there is no hope in them which is one thing that made Eric so popular.  People rooted for Eric because some thought he could be the Halifax player who cracked an NBA roster (personally I set my hopes on him getting a good contract in Germany or another solid European league) no matter how far fetched that hope was given his age and height.  Strickland will no doubt entertain us, and SirVal has an incredibly interesting history, but neither of them embody that (perhaps self delusional) hope that there is even a chance we will turn on the TV one day and see him on it.

I actually think on the court Halifax have the personnel to adjust.  Don’t get me wrong – I think Eric is a phenomenal player who is impossible to replace.  He’s athletic in a way that you rarely see in the minors and is one of the best back to the basket scorers you’ll see in the PBL.  His passing in the half-court is incredible and he plays well above his size.  But Halifax do have three powerforwards who are good enough to start (Sanders, Jeanty, Bailey) and are bringing in a crafty powerforward who will likely give us 15 minutes per game.  If there is a team who can cope with losing their starting power forward it is the Rainmen.

It’s actually a big of a conundrum to replace a star player (shocking) so here’s how I am going to proceed:

  1. List what Eric brought to the team to establish what actually needs to be replaced
  2. See where the Rainmen are likely going to try to get those things
  3. List how this affects the team as a whole

What Halifax Need to Replace: Eric is a great minor league player.  Realistically, despite the significant jump in talent from the ABA to the PBL, he’s still undoubtedly a top 20 player in the league.  He only played eight minutes in Montreal so if you just count his other three games his numbers are great: 15.3ppg, 9rpg and 2.7 bpg.  So what exactly does he bring to the team that they will need to replace?

  • Scoring – 15.3 points is a lot.  Period.  More importantly he gets his points in two ways that are difficult to replace:  put back dunks and offensive rebounds, and post ups.  Unless McNeal is hiding something Halifax do not have a consistent post threat without Eric.
  • Rebounding – he has been Halifax’s best rebounder when healthy.
  • Defending the paint.  When he is active and focused on defense Eric is a good off the ball defender.  He can block shots from the weakside and has the length to pick off passes and clog the lane.
  • Versatlity – He was playing as Halifax’s starting centre, with him gone it means that Bailey, Sanders and Strickland will all have to play out of position.  He moves up and down the court very well for a guy at his position at this level, so the team won’t have the same ability to run with a McNeal, Sanders or Strickland in the middle.
  • Momentum Changer – Eric’s ability to put up highlight dunks is great for the fans, but it also really helped to energize his teammates when Halifax needed to try to get back in the game, or demoralize an opponent.
  • 25 minutes per game at centre and power forward.
  • 12.3 shots per game.

How Do Halifax Replace These Lost Contributions? As I said earlier, they have lots of big men who are high calibre players and would not be out of place starting in the PBL.  They’ve also added John Strickland who should give them some post scoring and 10-15 minutes per game.  This means that they’re looking at giving 10-15 minutes and probably 5-7 shots per game to players already on the roster.  I think most of the minutes need to go to Bailey and most of the shots to Sanders.  Bailey is the obvious person to come in and replace Eric in the starting line up – finding people to take his shots and make up for the lost scoring is easy on this team, but finding someone to grab boards, block shots, and get second chance opportunities is major hole.  Strickland is out of shape so starting him is a no go, and McNeal has shown little evidence that he’s ready to start.  Halifax should also move Sanders into the starting line up to give them a bit more intensity and defensive rebounding, as well as to have a go to scorer in the starting line up.  The loss of Crookshank also means that they will need the guards to step up, particularly Hammack and SirVal.  The easy look inside won’t be there so the guards will need to penetrate more nad look to exploit other mis-matches for easy buckets.

How Does This Alter the Team as a Whole? I don’t think the team runs as much as they did earlier in the season.  The addition of Strickland essentially means that the team now has three bigs who do not thrive in a full court style (Strick, McNeal and Sanders) and only two who can play that way (Bailey and Jeanty).  The Rainmen used to have to guys who could play centre and run the floor in an undersized line up (Bailey and Eric) but now will end up seing more than 50% of the game with a half court guy at that position.  Eric also created at least a few turnovers a game from the other team and was good at pushing the pace off of rebounds (even though sometimes he turned the ball over as a result).

The team also loses a focal point of its offense with Eric gone.  It means someone else will have to emerge as a crunch time scorer and we’ll see if anyone decides to step up as a result.  I am hoping that Sanders is given more touches and opportunities since I think that when he’s motivated he’s near unstoppable as we saw when he was guarded by Kevin Dulude on Sunday.  As much as it’s nice to see shots evenly distributed we need someone to stop it up and post-up or drive to the net to constitantly force double teams or get easy scores.  The obvious places to get this is Sanders, but I actually think the easy post up opportunity is with Dandridge when he’s play shooting guard – he is often guarded by 6’2-6’3 guards and he needs to take them into the post instead of settling for long jumpers.   He’s the same height as Eric and being guarded by players six to eight inches shorter, he needs to work on some post moves.

The combination of Eric gone and Silverhorn injured means that other guys will have the chance to prove their worth.  In particular McNeal and Mayes have a real chance here to grab some more minutes.  Mayes is an athletic rebounder who should be able to steal some small forward minutes now that Silverhorn is out and Jeanty is going to need to play more powerforward.  If he can show some defense and rebounding then he should be able to crack the rotation, at least for few games.  McNeal has not done the things we had hoped, but with Eric gone we need him to show a willingness to mix it up down low.  If he can play five more minutes a game and post guys up, play tough on post defense, and grab a couple more defensive rebounds per game then I will be happy.

The short version:  I don’t think replacing Eric is impossible but other guys are going to have to step up.  In some ways this actually opens up the opportunities for the team, and I am not so pessimistic as to say that this means Halifax will have a losing season.  In the short term it makes winning both upcoming road games a real challenge, but in the long term it means that the log jam on the front line is at least loosened up a bit.

Just to keep everything in one place I’d prefer if comments on this post be about this post and the topic of what the Rainemn do now, not if their actions were just.  If you want to discuss the actual suspension try to do so in this post.

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31 thoughts on “How Do The Rainmen Continue Without Crookshank?

  1. Starting line up for next game:

    C: Bailey
    PF: Sanders
    SF: Dandridge
    SG: Ramey
    PG: Hammack

    We need to get a good start against Vermont. this lineup gives us size, outside shooting, rebounding and defence. It also allows us to bring shooting off the bench in Twyman, and allows Jeanty to provide his game off the bench. He would get more touches coming in off the bench and he should dominate the other team’s second unit.

    Strick is supposedly a guy who posts people up, which is good because only Eric and Jeanty had that game (and Jeanty is usually matched up against bigger guys).

    Thoughts?

  2. I think they start SirVal over Ramey, but I would agree with you that that line up is best. Ramey has been surprisingly effective and it gives the team another ball handler which will be vitally important given Manchester and Vermont’s propensity to play a tight pressure defense. It also lets Hammack handle the ball more with Ramey playing more of a catch and shoot guy which is better for Hammack. My only concern is that Manchester have some bigger guys at shooting guard so I don’t know how well Twyman and Brown will match up on the defensive end.

  3. Good points about the team, I think they will have a hard time in the short run but in the long run I think the team will be totally fine. More shots for Sanders can only be a good thing.

  4. I would still give Dandridge some minutes at the two, and I can see the team starting SirVal at the two. But I still think that my lineup would work best. Ramey is a good playmaker. I like his game (except for random ugly air balls). SirVal can work on getting his own shot more if he is coming off the bench, rather than playing with a bunch of stars.

  5. I don’t think you can just replace Crook with Sanders And Bailey if they were as good as him then they would be starting when ever you lose a starter you are going to get worse. McNeal is a huge dis-apointment.

  6. Is McNeal the 7′?? he looked horrible in the home opener, and contributes zilch to the team.

    Rob Sanders was a starter and all star in the ABA last season, so I don’t think you lose a lot offensively with him as a starter.

  7. How can Tyronne be a disappointment if Lewis has only played him 2 minutes a game because of injuries? He’s raw and rather inexperienced (he just came out of prep school two years ago!), but I think his size will benefit the team rather well once he adjusts to playing on the pro level.

  8. Yes, McNeal is the 7′ centre who has looked awful. The guy is afraid of contact and hates going inside, which is a bit of a limitation when you’re a centre.

    As I said – I think Sanders can play powerforward as well as Eric, but he gives you a different look (he’s not as good in transition, is not as athletic, likes to work facing a guy instead of going in back to the basket) and this opens up depth issues since everyone is moving up the depth chart as a result of losing Eric. It always hurts to lose a starter for any reason but I am not at the point where I think that the Rainmen blew their season as a result of this suspension. Eric is a good player who brings a lot to the table, but he was not the Halifax Rainmen, he was just part of the team. I think the team will survive, I just hope that fans aren’t dumb about this (i.e. refusing to show up, or starting chants about it. Yelling isolated things is always fine, though).

    On another note: Sanders should have been starting anyway.

  9. Brian – there are only 16 games left in the season, I am not sure how much improvement we can hope for. I would be okay with McNeal if he was raw but showed that the things he needs to improve on are at least there, but the reality is that he’s not battling for boards, getting blown by him by 310 centres and showing no intensity or willingness to go down low. He won’t get the minutes he needs to develop unless he starts mixing it up in the post instead of settling for jumpers and trying to front his man on the defensive end. As it stands he’s not getting minutes because he’s a liability on both ends of the floor. If he was raw and physical I’d love him.

  10. Hilarious facts about John Strickland I have found so far:

    – When he played for Albany they couldn’t find a pair of shorts that actually fit him… until someone had the idea to see if the shorts that went with the mascot Lid (a giant panda bear) fit him… and they did so the Mascot had to wear an alternate paid of shorts. He was also a teammate of Jamario Moon that year.
    – He wears velcro shoes.
    – He played a year with the globetrotters as well as summer league ball for the knicks (that was a long, long time ago)
    – On the not so funny side: the reason he was released mid-season from the Skyrockets last year was because of an altercation with his coach. Perfect!

  11. This Is BS!!!!!! Straight Up BS!!!!!!!!!!!! You Can’t Replace Crook With No One and For Sure Not Guys Already On the Team!!!!!!!!!!! If Sanders Was So Good Than He Would Be Starting Already Wouldn’t He? Thats Right He Would But He Ain’t!!!!! No Way The Rain Men Win Now The Blew It!!!!!

  12. Alright, I’m gonna come out and say it: I think the guy with Crooks in his name MIGHT be a little biased.

    That being said this is bad. Losing Silverhorn has bad enough, but as much as I love him we’re much deeper at guard. I like all your points Chris, but the problem with the team so far this year has been consistency: there hasn’t been one player game-in game-out that has brought it. With Crookshanks out that means none of their bigs can get away with an off-game. If they can do that then the way you outlined it would be fine, but I think we’re gonna end up with players stuck on the court that shouldn’t be there.

  13. The Crookshanks suspension sure has brought out the partisans. This is more comments than I have ever seen on this blog. Have these been your busiest days ever Chris? It is good to see fans actually talking about the team even if it is over something so negative.

    I think Halifax are deeper at forward than they are at guard but as Chris said the real problem is at centre. They were already playing Crookshank out of position at centre now I do not know what they are going to do. Bailey cannot play 35 minutes a game at centre and McNeal has shown no ability to step up his game so John Strickland better be better than any of us imagine or this team might be in trouble.

  14. This has been my busiest day ever in terms of hits, yesterday was the second busiest. It’s pretty incredible how busy the site has been.

  15. How we played Sunday’s game while Eric was benched is probably the best indication of how our season will go, unless substantial changes are made.

  16. I agree with Joe’s starting lineup, though I wish McNeal could be a stronger presence at centre to free Bailey to play PF.

    So much for Lewis being able to develop young players. Remember that was the selling point for choosing him as coach before last season?

    History has shown that if a player cannot fall into the Lewis program immediately, he rides the pines and/or is booted. Also, Strickland will make McNeal redundant, so Tyronne will be gone (if he isn’t already on the plane for home).

    “Like sands through the hourglass… so are the Players of Our Team.” Sorry, I thought this was Days of Our Lives, not professional basketball.

    BDP Out!

  17. A couple of amusing sidenotes:

    I wonder how Zach Ramey feels about being listed on the Rainmen website as being 0’0″ tall?

    Also, I saw today Rainmen T-shirts from last year being sold at Dartmouth Crossing Mark’s Work Wearhouse for $5. How about selling this year’s T-shirts instead? What is the demand for T-shirts with a 2007 date on them?

    Not feeling a lot of love for the Rainmen right now. And that’s coming from me… imagine how the average layperson/new fan is taking this Crookshank news.

  18. OK, one last thing. With Strickland playing for us, what are the chances of getting Jay-Z and Beyonce to do the anthems and half-time show? Now that would be cool.

    Obviously, Jay-Z is no snob, since he hangs with both LeBron and Strickland. We might have a chance!

  19. I think that the Rainmen ordered an ungodly number of those “The Beginning” t-shirts with the 15-11-07 line on them and have just been desperate to get rid of them. It’s an important lesson: never order merch which is time sensitive. It’s the same as all those ABA basketballs they had to get rid of last year.

  20. Anthony Washington, formerly of the Yakima Sun Kings and just released by the Patroons, might look good for the Rainmen. He is a 6’10 centre out of Portland State. He is not a star, but he is big and can match up with any centre in the PBL.

  21. Anthony Washington actually looks really good: 6’10, CBA rookie of the year, solid D1 stats, and you can market him as a former D-League champion. I think he’d be solid on the defensive end just due to size, but I don’t know enough about his offensive game to know if he would be a contributor on that end.

    But it means you need to either cut McNeal or Mayes… at which point you’re basically admitting panic. It also hinges on if Silverhorn is good to go. If he will be out for awhile then cutting Mayes basically leaves you with Dandridge who they want to play two guard, and Jeanty who has no outside shot, to play small forward. You cut McNeal and you’re in more or less the same boat as before – only one centre on the roster, albeit one with who is an improvement and ostensibly healthy.
    I think the Rainmen need to look at the team and ask themselves if they are comfortable with the team as presently constructed or if they feel like they need to do more than just tweak to make up for the loss of Crookshank. I personally think that the reason they had four power forwards on the roster was precisely for a situation like this – only I think they assumed it’d be injury that caused the problem.

    I’d take Washington, but only if they cut McNeal, not Mayes, to do it. Man, I wish McGriff would have showed up.

  22. I’m totally bummed out today regarding the team.

    It has been an up and down couple of days.

    Part of me hopes they go 0 and 2 over the weekend. The only way the Crookshank think will look like a big mistake is if they : Start LOSING alot!

    But I have to be positive. There are 12 guys with Rainmen uniforms on that want to give us a good show. Why not support them? It’s not their fault what went down.

    Maybe these guys will grow on me.

    Chris902: Thanks for cheering me up. John Strickland having to wear the panda’s short cuz he is so fat made me laugh 😛

  23. I like how in minor ball you can be anywhere from 6’7 – 7′ depending on the source.

    How big is this Strickland character, anyway?

    I’m taking the 6’7″ 1/2 high road, seem fair?

  24. At this point, I would cut McNeal. He has shown me no signs of being able to play at this level. I would love to have a guy like Washington. If we only have one legit centre who can play, that’s fine by me. I don’t really think that would be a problem. Bailey and Sanders could make up the rest of the minutes. The problem is, we currently have no centre.

    One move like this would not signal a panic. They have been looking for a big guy since training camp.

  25. Joe, you’re right. If you cut McNeal and sign Washington it means you have one serviceable centre. If you keep McNeal it means you have zero serviceable centres. Rick Lewis should give him 10-15 minutes per game this weekend and if he doesn’t prove he can do something they need to cut him loose and move on.

  26. Pingback: Rainmen Still Need a Centre « SECTION 23

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