The season is young but much has been established in the International Division of the IBL. After over 2 weeks of play we know it will be a dog fight for the Division Crown between the Albany Legends, Kankakee Soldiers and the Gary Splash.
All three teams have varying styles of play. The Albany Legends like a run and gun offense that keeps an uptempo-shootout pace. The Soldiers do play the same way at times but have a high energy defense that can make them very versatile. The Gary Splash prefer to keep the game in the half court and use every moment of the 22 second shot clock.
But although the Albany Legends have a 4-2 record after this weekend’s series against the Gary Splash there is an overwhelming feeling of underachievement.
One thing that has become apparent in the Legends’ first 6 games is the lack of continued consistency. A team that has failed to cement an identity. A team, although stacked to the brim with amazingly talented players, that has these same players disappear at times during the game. A team easily rattled, emotional and without a true “go-to guy”.
Perhaps one lasting theme we can take from both series is that when the heat is on the Legends choose to release the reigns than control the pace of the game. In addition when knocked off balance they seem to struggle to regain the same pace that puts them in favorable positions.
Both series had chippy moments and in each the Legends’ seemed to falter when running on pure emotions. A serious advantage that both the Soldiers and the Splash took advantage of in their individual victories.
In reality this is truly a team going through growing pains. Coach Ben Smith had very limited time to prepare the Legends for the season as the roster wasn’t at 100% until days before the season tipped off. The fact that despite that detractor the Legends have been able to take 4 of their first 6 games.
Coach Smith has been a crafty and cerebral strategist that has directed and weaved the Legends through many of their tough stretches. And while I personally find it admirable that Coach Smith has told me after each loss that the blame rests on his shoulders, there needs to be accountability from the players and a focus to improve as a whole.
The truth is although the Legends are an extremely talented bunch you never know what you’re going to get from game to game. Some games you get high energy defense that leads to critical steals, forced turnovers and blocks only to completely lose any sense of defense the following game.
Game after game the Legends struggle on the boards and while at times there are players who do step up and help out on the glass, DeAndre Thomas seems to be the only consistent rebounder. Additionally, there is no offensive rebounding to be seen this season. Which eliminates 2nd chance points and also makes it hard for the Legends to rebuild runs or derail opposing teams runs.
Emotions take over the Legends way too easily. When teams get physical and control the paint against Albany, the Legends falter. Foul trouble, technicals, missed layups and blown defensive assignments follow. Instead of regrouping, the Legends fall apart. Players are visibly upset and some at times mentally check out of the game when frustration arises. It leads to a clearly visible disinterest.
Aside from the detractors the Legends truly have a high octane, potent offense that when they do put it all together, could break a lot of IBL scoring records.
The Legends have a versatile lineup. They can attack the post with DeAndre Thomas and Scott McRae. They can shoot the 3 with pinpoint accuracy with Ej Gallup and Damoane Morris. They have a true playmaker in Emanuel “Tiki” Mayben. A defensive, high-speed, instant energy player in Lloyd Johnson. A hard nosed, tough, aggressive force in Lloyd Clinton and an all-energy/all-effort guy in Scott Morton.
There is a confidence and a hope in Albany that the Legends can and will click on all cylinders. More often than not, in both losses it was more a factor of the Legends “losing the game” than either the Splash or the Soldiers “winning the game”.
The sky is the limit for this talented bunch but only playing in cohesive fashion and recognizing their identity will return them to the promised land in 2011. Because in all honesty, it’s the Albany Legends’ IBL Championship to win…and lose.