/ |

Broncos appear content with mediocrity

by Ed Odeven

If a team is winning most of its games, it’s probably wise not to shake things up and make a major overhaul to its roster.

On the other hand, if a team is mired in mediocrity after several months, the best course of action probably involves making a few moves and giving a team a more competitive roster.

Curiously enough, the Saitama Broncos have chosen not to make any roster moves since the season began in October.

Under first-year coach Masato Fukushima, the former Toyam a Grouses bench boss, they are having another forgettable season with an 11-17 record. And they are on pace to miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

Every other team in the bj-league has released players, signed players or made trades.

The Broncos aren’t a particularly powerful offense (74.4 points per game). Their leading scorer, Mario Jointer, is tallying 15 points a game. Only two others — Terrence Woodyard (12.2) and Terrence Roberts (11.2) — are averaging in double digits.

They don’t do a very good job of taking care of the basketball (423 assists, 420 turnovers). Their free-throw shooting is horrendous (64.3 percent). And they yield 80.4 points a game.

So one wonders why the Saitama front office hasn’t added even one fresh face over the past four months?

If the team was making steady improvement, there would be an argument against making changes. But the evidence suggests the Broncos are stuck in quicksand, so to speak.

Weekend schedule: Saitama will try to end a two-game losing streak when it plays host to the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (24-6) this weekend.

Also on the docket: Toyama (12-16) vs. Sendai 89ers (18-12), Rizing Fukuoka (19-13) vs. Kyoto Hannaryz (11-17), Oita HeatDevils (14-18) vs. Takamatsu Five Arrows (9-21) and Ryukyu Golden Kings (21-11) vs. Niigata Albirex BB (16-14).

The Tokyo Apache (9-19) return to action next Monday and Tuesday against the Osaka Evessa (16-14) at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2. Both games begin at 7:30 p.m.

The Shiga Lakestars (16-18), the only team to have played 34 games to date, gets a break this weekend. The Lakestars face the visiting Saitama Broncos on Feb. 27-28.

Rebounding battle: Lakestars power forward Gary Hamilton is the league’s leading rebounder (13.9 boards per game). The rest of the top five consists of 89ers center and defending champion Chris Holm (12.9), former Apache big man Nick Davis (12.5), Grouses veteran Kirby Lemons (12.4) and HeatDevils teammates Ricky Woods and Mike Bell (11.9).

Weekly accolade: Niigata forward Antonio Burks is the Circle K Sunkus Player of the Week.

Burks posted double-doubles in both games against Fukuoka last weekend, helping the Albirex record a series sweep.

He had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the opener, a 92-84 Niigata triumph. He was 2-for-3 on 3-point shots.

In the rematch, Burks scored 26 points, grabbed 10 boards and handed out four assists. He finished 3-for-7 from 3-point range in an 84-83 Albirex win.

Burks is averaging 14.3 points per game. He is shooting 40.5 percent (70-for-173 on 3s), the second-best percentage in the league.

On the move: Center/forward Johann Collins was released by Hamamatsu on Wednesday. Toyama then signed him to a contract.

The 208-cm Collins averaged 4.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in 30 games (17 starts) for the Phoenix.

Parting thought: Is there enough effort being spent on making the bj-league a better league?

Are the games getting better?

Are the players as a whole a better group of players than, say, two or three seasons ago?

It’s a tough analysis to make quickly, but there are signs the league may be taking steps backward.

Just last weekend, the league had two examples of teams not stepping up and performing at a truly professional level:

• On Feb. 13, Ryukyu beat host Sendai 68-48.

• On Feb. 14, Hamamatsu topped Toyama 85-45.

All teams will have slumps and all teams will have atrocious shooting nights, but these games were an embarrassment for the league.