Five games into their National Basketball League of Canada season, the new-look London Lightning (3-2) are building their identity.
But veteran Marvin Phillips says the consistency and chemistry the team is seeking won’t come without a greater dedication to professionalism, discipline and detail.
Phillips took time to hammer that message home to his teammates after Tuesday’s practice at the central branch YMCA.
“It’s small little details that we have to be more professional with,” the six-foot-six power forward from Jacksonville, N.C., said. “The more disciplined a team is, the better off we are. We become one big unit. We are not just a team of individuals; we are one big fist together ready to pack the blow.”
Phillips said the Bolts have to find the discipline to block out insignificant distractions, and stay focused on the big picture.
“A guy might be in the wrong spot on defence or on offence or the official could make a bad call or you could feel like you should be playing more minutes or whatever the case may be,” he said. “Those little itty-bitty things can distract us.
“There are big fish and little fish in the pond, right? So when you go fishing, you go for the big ones and, you know, feed the whole family.”
Kendrick ready to roll
The Lightning received some welcome news on returning from their 10-day east coast road trip in that Jelan Kendrick could make his debut Thursday against the Express.
The six-foot-six shooting guard from Marieta, Ga., averaged 29.3 points a game, nine assists and five rebounds with the Nevada Desert Dogs of the North American Premier Basketball League last year where Bolts guard AJ Gaines was a teammate.
Kendrick, who was injured in Lightning training camp, says he’s feeling close to 100 per cent and he’s excited to get back on the court with his new teammates.
“Early on in the season, we always have room for growth, but we have some exciting players,” Kendrick said. “We are amazingly talented, so I’m just looking forward to being on the court with them.”
With a new team, chemistry is something that will build throughout the season, but Kendrick says the Lightning are headed in the right direction.
“Over the course of the season, you will gradually see us grow and gradually see us get better,” he said. “It’s a long season ahead of us and the plan is to win three championships in a row. . . . You can’t win a championship in December. It’s something that you have to work toward and constantly get better and I’m looking forward to that.”
Another sign of hope for the Lightning is the way three young guards have performed during the first five games of the season.
Gaines led the Lightning with 30 points and 12 rebounds in their season-opening win over the Windsor Express and Kevin Ware scored 18 points and added four steals in a 112-107 loss in Sudbury, but the most impressive performances so far have come from Xavier Moon.
Moon hit a game-winning three-pointer with 3.4 seconds left on the clock against the Cape Breton Highlanders in Sydney, N.S. He followed that up with 25 points in a 109-95 win over the Riptide in Saint John, N.B. and 27 points in a 123-111 loss to the Island Storm in Charlottetown on Saturday night.
“They’ve been giving us a lot,” Lightning coach Keith Vassell said. “They’ve made a really good transition entering the league. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I think those three guys have been pretty consistent and have been major impact players for us.”
The Lightning open a three-game home stand Thursday night against the Windsor Express at 7 p.m. They play host to the Saint John Riptide Saturday night at 7 p.m. and finish up Sunday against the Kitchener-Waterloo Titans at 2 p.m.
Fans are encouraged to bring unwrapped toys to Sunday afternoon’s game in support of the Salvation Army holiday gift drive.
Thursday — Windsor Express at London Lightning, 7 p.m.
Saturday — Saint John Riptide at London Lightning, 7 pm.
Sunday — Kitchener-Waterloo Titans at London Lightning, 2 p.m.
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