I haven’t written about the Arsenal yet this season, but me and Sandy are still going to the games. Now that I actually have some time to sit down and write a bit, I figured I would give a bit of a mid-season recap of what we’ve seen so far.
Coming into the season, I thought the Arsenal were poised to get off to a good start. From the pre-season games, it looked like the Arsenal would have a better low post presence than last year, where I felt like they consistently got killed on the boards and didn’t have enough offense down low to be a consistent scoring threat. However, that was a bit of a mirage – the Arsenal started the season 1-5 and have struggled to catch up since. They are in a frustrating situation where they are playing just badly enough to lose many games – and while James White has been among the top scorers in the league (exploding for 47 points a few games ago), he is not quite dominant enough to be a go-to guy in the final minutes of a game. For example, in the loss last night to the Erie BayHawks, he got off his game thanks to some very picky foul calls early on, and didn’t have a great game overall. The Arsenal pulled close several times, but were never able to get over the hump and retake the lead.
The roster has undergone its usual makeover. Noel Felix came into the season looking much improved (much stronger, and having developed more of an outside shot), but tailed off after a good start, got injured, and then waived. Tierre Brown was the starting point guard for awhile, but I think his tendency to shoot first and pass later, which drove me bonkers, finally drove Sam Vincent bonkers too, and he was waived. A revolving door of guards in general has left the offense with some inconsistency and a lack of coordinated ballhandling on the offensive end. Kedrick Brown and Marcus Campbell are back, with their impact being similar to last season.
With regards to the rest of the league, the Idaho Stampede and the Austin Toros continue to be two of the powerhouse franchises. The Bakersfield Jam, the laughingstock of the league last year, is now one of the top teams following an off-season coaching revamp, and the Los Angeles D-Fenders have nosedived into the cellar after an impressive year last year. The races for the division titles are still fairly tight, with several contenders within striking distance in each division, and no teams (except perhaps Tulsa and Los Angeles) completely out of it yet.
It’s hard to say where the season will go from here. Defensively, I feel like the Arsenal have played well enough – not great, but good enough. They force turnovers and awkward shots at an acceptable frequency. What’s really been missing is a fluid offense, one where players are getting free and getting the ball in their hands, instead of one where they simply get the ball in James White’s or Kedrick Brown’s hands and have them try to create a shot or take a mid-range J. It’s unfortunate that the involvement of the Clippers and Hawks in the franchise has been nil, and that the team can’t look for help from the assignment system – that just means that they’ll have to continue scouring the market to try and find ways to upgrade the team for the last half of the season.
One final note: I haven’t checked it out yet, but there’s apparently an Arsenal podcast at radio-arsenal.com. I’ll have to give it a listen, and see if other fans have similar views about the team…