4 players signed, two drafted and a whole lot of question marks

Yesterday marked the signing of Halifax’s first four players so it’s probably a good time to reflect on the current and potential roster.

Just to get it out of the way: I have absolutely no idea where the Dennis Rodman rumour came from, but I got a few hundred hits yesterday from people who seemed to have believed it. Rodman’s playing days, even in the minors, are long over. Last season he managed to convince the owner of the now defunct Elmira Bull Dogs of the EBL to fork over $80k for the privilege of having him coach two games mid-season. The publicity stunt bankrupted the upper NY state team. (The owner, James Schutz, once owned the Corning Bulldogs in the ABA, a team which no showed on Halifax after folding mid-ABA season just like so many other teams. Schutz now owns and runs the ACPBL, a fourth rate American regional minor league) The Rodman rumour seemed to have come from some clueless internet folk making shit up and everyone believing them.

So now that we’ve established who Halifax didn’t sign, it might be worth mentioning who they did sign.

Andre had hyped these signings up and I had no illusions that we were going to see an NBA starter show up in Halifax, but I imagined a player along the lines of Morris Peterson (a former business partner of Andre’s)  might be a viable option, so when the announcement was Eddie Robinson and Rodney Buford I was a bit underwhelmed. It’s a good example of over selling and under delivering. Had Andre just held the press conference without any hype then the media likely would have been excited about two NBA journeymen joining the team and fans would have followed suit. It also would have helped reduce the chances of fan disappointment when at least one of these guys (probably Robinson) turns out to be a huge bust.

I actually think that Buford could potentially contribute here. Yes he’s had at least six separate substance abuse related disciplinary issues, but they’ve all only involved marijuana for the most part so I think he’s more of a “problematic character guy” than “a head case” or “dangerous criminal.” He’s also played at a very high level since leaving the NBA and has the size and tools to be an elite scorer at this level. I think he will produce, but I am unsure if he’ll produce enough to justify the huge salary he will no doubt be drawing. Given the fact that he will likely take up much more cap space, I am not sure he’s a totally justifiable upgrade over a guy like Mike Mercer. I am also curious to see if they decide to try to play him at the off-guard spot or move him over to small forward.
Eddie Robinson will likely not stick around. The guy hasn’t even been playing pro-ball on a regular basis since bouncing from the bulls and is now a 35 year old. Time is never kind to wing players who rely entirely on athleticism and that’s exactly what Robinson was. His stats for the 2006-07 D-league season with Idaho aren’t terrible: 15.6 ppg, 3.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals a game. But keep two things in mind: first, that was when the D-league was still a disorganized mess of a league with a low level of talent. Second, that was five years ago and it was the last time Robinson played any level of pro-ball.  Maybe he’ll surprise me, but I doubt it.

Largely overlooked has been the re-signing of two players from last year’s team. Taliek Brown was last year’s starting PG and is in many ways a player with a much better pedigree than either of the former NBAers announced yesterday.  He’s a former NCAA champion with UConn, and he wasn’t a bench player on that team. He was the starting point guard. I thought he was one of the best guards in the PBL last year and he is a legitimate high level professional floor general. He can run a team, get to the rim and play D against most point guards (although he did struggle staying in front of very quick guards last season his experience and strength let him push a lot of smaller guys around). His major flaw is that he has absolutely no jump shot, but the reality is that if a player that good could also shoot the ball he would never be available to play in the NBL. Of the four players signed yesterday he is far and away the safest bet to be a contributor to the team this season.

Finally,t he team announced that DeAndre Thomas will be joining the team for a third time. He’s a giant ball of basketball talent who was notorious for eating big macs as a pre-game meal during his brief sting with the University of Indiana. He’s 6’7″ish but throws his considerable weight around well. He has incredible hands and amazing footwork but he has been a constant headcase everywhere he’s gone (including Halifax) and is incredibly foul prone and lazy on the defensive end of the floor. (or rather, he’s so lazy he often doesn’t bother to go to the defensive end of the floor). He’s another guy who likely won’t last to the playoffs, if he even gets out of training camp.

On the whole I feel like there were two signings today that are likely to be good moves (Brown and Buford) and two that I don’t think will pan out (Robinson and Thomas). If two of Halifax’s starting five are a former NCAA Champion and a former NBA player then I think the team is positioned well.

The problem is that with camp opening the first week of October the team’s signed, drafted and otherwise likely list of players is short. As of now it looks like this:

PG: Taliek Brown (signed), Jerrell Thomson (sort of drafted, unsigned), Christian Upshaw (unsigned camp invite)

SG: Pappa Oppong (drafted, unsigned), Rodney Buford (signed)

SF: Eddie Robinson (signed)

PF: Eric Crookshank (unsigned but likely to return), Danny Friend (drafted, unsigned), DeAndre Thomas (signed)

So basically they have no one locked at the centre and powerforward spots except for DeAndre Thomas and a glut of old guys and unproven, undersized guards. I know it is early but they need to get some proven minor league vets into camp and try to bring in some athletic wing players. I expect yet another season of musical chairs at the centre spot while Andre hunts for the non-existent affordable, versatile and athletic minor league centre.

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Les Berry to Return as Head Coach

The Metro is reporting that Les Berry will be back as the head coach of the Rainmen next year.  Great move.  I’m happy.  If he has the freedom to build this team from the ground up on his own, go through a proper training camp, play some exhibition games and make all the personnel decisions then I see no reason why the Rainmen can’t be a contender next year.  He did great coming into an absolutely terrible situation this year and if he is allowed to do his job unhindered then I think we’re in for a great season.

On the PR front, it is great to have the coach return and even better that it’s a local guy who people are already familiar with.

I can’t find many details, but I don’t imagine there will be many more released.  I sort of feel like this was a bad time to announce it – the NBA finals are happening, we have a new government and tomorow’s sports coverage dominated by the Stanley Cup finals which are happening tonight.

Eric, Twyman, Strick Go Winless in Black Basketball Tournament

The annual black basketball tournament happened last week and due to some pretty terrible PR work and a never updated website no one really knew it was happening.  Only three teams played in the A-division this year, but shockingly a team which included Eric Crookshank, Jimmy Twyman and Strick managed to go winless and finish at the bottom of the heap.  I couldn’t make it out to any games because of work, which is sort of unfortunate.

Despite being a smaller field than in previous years the tournament actually included a few players I think the Rainmen should be seriously looking at: Sheron Edwards (former all-Canadian with UPEI), Garry Gallimore (the former X player who was recently at the centre of a silly controversy as an assistant coach), and Tyler Richardson (star guard for the X men).

““It’s not just coming in and you already have a team in place and you coach it. “

There was an article in today’s Metro (I think it’s the first since the day after the season ended) in which Andre Levingston talks about his expectations of the role of coach for next year.  He says that the coach will have to be more involved in scouting and selecting the players for the team.  Which I think is a very, very good thing and a step in the right direction.  On the downside, lots of involvement may reduce the chances of Berry returning.  If you look at what he said after the season ended as well as his body language in the finals weeks of the season you’ve got to think that the odds are that he’s not coming back.  Here are my picks for who the Rainmen should pursue to coach the team next year in no particular order:

Les Berry: The Rainmen got noticably better defensively under him and his offense would work if he had a pre-season training camp to actually put it in place.  He’s a local guy and the players seemed to like him.  If you can bring back a quality coach you need to do it for numerous reasons.

Jan van Breda Kolff: The current coach of the Nashville Broncs in the ABA.  He’s spent a lot of time in the NCAA DI ranks coaching Cornell, Vanderbilt, St. Bonaventure and Pepperdine.  He got embroiled in an eligibility scandal which was not his fault in 2003 and has bounced around a number of assistant coaching gigs before landing with the Broncs.  He has the pedigree and the experience (he played briefly in the NBA in addition to his coaching credentials) and he seems very unhappy with the Nashville situation.  If he’s going to be in the minors you’ve got to think he’d want to be with a team with full-time players.

Paul Afif: He coached the Dallas PBL team and the ABA’s Texas Tycoons last year and he has a keen eye for talent.  He was supposed to be coaching Buffalo’s PBL entry this year but he just sort of disapeared.  He’s a young guy with lots of coaching upside who seems to know what he’s doing.  He has an excellent reputation and success at this level both in the wins column and in the quest to get guys to “the next level.”

I think Tim Kendricks should also get a look, and they should at least consider offering Strick an assistant coaching position.  That guy can’t play forever and he’s loved by teammates and fans.

The article also mentions that both Eric and Tyronne McNeal will be in Halifax for the summer working on the Rainmen camps.  It’s good to know that both guys are still with the organization and after his flashes of potential at the end of the season I really want McNeal back.  Eric would have been staying in shape and playing summer ball no matter what, but this allows the team to make sure McNeal continues making progress over the summer.

Season Wrap Up Part I: On Court Report Card

It’s report card time.  I will also be making an off-court report card as well as a post trying to analyze exactly where things went wrong with the team.  But for now let’s take a look at how the individual parts of this team performed over the last few months.  Some notes before you look at my rankings after the jump:

  • I am only counting games played for Halifax so guys like Anderson and Millien only get credit for work done for the Rainmen.  Sorry Slim.
  • Players who were not on the team at the end of the season do not count for the final over all mark.
  • This looks at individual players, not how things actually fit together as a whole.
  • It’s a mark based on how well players fulfilled the role that was asked of them.  If you’re getting 15 minutes off the bench then I don’t expect the same from you as I do if you were a starter.
  • Everyone’s mark is added up the same and then averaged at the end.  So Tyrone McNeal’s mark affects the team just as much Tony Bennett’s.

Continue reading

Best All Time Five? Worst All Time Five?

So after two seasons in the books (Halifax have two games left… but they’ll be terrible games against an undermanned Montreal team) it’s probably a good time to evaluate who the best players the Rainmen’s history as well as to look back at some of the worst.  People should post their own lists, but mine are after the jump. Continue reading

Preview: Rainmen vs. Manchester

This is just  quick post to remind everyone that the Rainmen face the Manchester Millrats tomorrow at 2pm.  It is the last actually competetive game of the season for Halifax so I highly recomend attendance.
Manchester have already clinched the Atlantic division, but rested some key players in their last (exhibition) game against Vermont.  I’d expect the ‘Rats to play all their guys tomorrow, but take players out at the first sign of injury.  They want to go into the play offs on a winning streak, but at the same time they don’t want any injuries.

For Halifax this is a must win game, but even a win doesn’t mean they’re in the play offs. They’re still counting on an unlikely meltdown by Wilmington.  So it likely won’t matter if Halifax do win this, but it would be absolutely excruciating if Detroit did somehow beat the Sea Dawgs three times and Halifax didn’t get in because they lost tomorrow.  Unlikely scenerio, but enough to drive me insane.

Look for a physical game, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it got chippy with the Rainmen playing out an ultimately disapointing season.

On another note:  There is a season ticket holders brunch before the game.  Another excellent step towards adding value to season tickets and a good chance to see people and get our eat on before the game.

Vermont Clinch Wildcard, Halifax Almost Certainly Out of Play Offs

Vermont, unsurprisingly, thrashed the Buffalo Stampede today in Barre, VT.  As a result Halifax are almost certainly out of the play offs.  This means that Halifax cannot overtake Vermont for one of the wildcard spots, but there is a very, very slim chance that Halifax could finish with a better record than one of the Eastern conference teams:

  • If Halifax win all their remaining games they will finish 13-7
  • If Rochester (11-3) lose at least four of their five last games (3 against Buffalo, one against Wilmington, one against Chicago) they would finish 12-7, and Halifax would win.  If Rochester lose three games and finish 13-6, Rochester technically win the tie break by virtue of having a higher win percentage, but that would be pure chaos since they’re playing one less game due to a rival folding.
  • If Wilmington (12-4) lose their last 4 games (3 to Detroit, one to Rochester) they would finish 12-8, and Halifax would make the play offs.  If they lose 3 games, including one to Rochester Halifax are still out of the play offs since the Sea Dawgs have a better record against Divisional opponents at 8-1.  (The tie break system is a bit complicated)

So Halifax fans are either relying on Buffalo to suddenly turn it around in a huge way, or else we’re sitting around hoping that our favourite player, Randy “White Chocolate” Gill, has three insane games in a row against Wilmington.

Things aren’t looking good but the Rainmen have only themselves to blame.  They lost two games that they had no business losing at the MetroCentre against Quebec and Montreal, and had a good opportunity to defeat Vermont in Nova Scotia.   The MetroCentre should be a fortess for the Rainmen, but that really hasn’t been ths case this year.

Halifax Sign AJ Millien

Sunday’s Game is Family Night (2 for 1 Tickets)

The Rainmen are now advertising this Sunday’s game as Family Night – you buy one ticket and get another ticket free:

Buy one ticket at regular price, get the 2nd ticket FREE!
WIN a weekend SUV rental or an XM Radio.

Ticket offer available at Ticket Atlantic’s Metro Centre
Box Office only. Free ticket of equal or lesser value.

For tickets 451-1221

I think it’s a good idea – anything that gets folks in the door is great.  But I do have a major problem:  This is yet again another thing that diminishes the value of season tickets compared to single tickets since season ticket holders are not included.

Nevermind, let it be known that the Rainmen listen to fans:

Good afternoon
Season ticket holders,
We have a BOGO (buy one get one special this Sunday and would like to make sure all season ticket holders could also take advantage of this offer.  When you show your ticket stub at the metro center box office you will be entitled to a free ticket that is equal or lesser value than your ticket (it can only be done at the Metro center Box office) .  Please note the seat location depends on availability.  Please see attached for more details. Please contact me if you have any questions.
Thanks again for your support!

Jad Crnogorac
VP Community /Player Relations
Halifax Rainmen
(902) 444 RAIN (7246)
This is a great step in the right direction.  No word yet on if this means that we can bring our tickets in advance and get the addition tickets or if we have to do it day of.
Edit:
On a slightly unrelated note, the Rainmen really need to improve their design skills or something.  Here is the image they’re using on the website to promote Family Day (I don’t know what is going in print ads, but they ran a similar image last time they had a promotion).
In contrast, here is a poster I made today in about 45 minutes for my job.  I did it in i’Work Pages which is a word processor, not a design program:
I am not saying that this is great – I have never taken a design class in my life, used a word processor, am generally bad at design and I used an image I found through a google image search… but that’s the point!  I am not a designer and I did this in a rush using a word processor and it at least looks semi-professional.  The Rainmen’s graphic design this year has just looked sloppy and childish (seriously: Just use Helvetica.  You don’t need any other fonts).

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