Plymouth Raiders prepare to go big following point-guard Rod Brown's exit
GAVIN LOVE is confident Marjon Plymouth Raiders can remain a force this season following Rod Brown's surprise exit.
Point-guard Brown, 34, joined BBL Championship rivals London Lions in a transfer deadline-day deal last Thursday.
Brown made his Lions debut on Sunday and completed a team-high nine assists, helping them overcome Sheffield Sharks 86-78.
Drew Lasker is now set to run Raiders' offence in the final weeks of the campaign in a reduced seven-man rotation.
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Raiders are currently in the middle of a three-week break in their schedule before having to squeeze in nine games on the final four weekends of the regular season, which climaxes next month on April 7.
Last time out – in a 104-100 home win over Durham Wildcats – Love started Lasker and Michael Ojo in Raiders' backcourt behind a frontline of Javarris Barnett, Matt Schneck and Andreas Schreiber.
Guard/forward Colin O'Reilly and forward Jamal Williams came off the bench.
Raiders coach Love believes Brown's departure by mutual consent can be a blessing in disguise.
"I think we will play big basketball now," said Love. "We can slide Colin O'Reilly to shooting-guard more.
"When we have gone big this season, we've been very effective, particularly on defence and rebounding the ball.
"I'm happy with where we are."
In the win over Wildcats, Lasker was excellent and finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in 34 inspired minutes.
Lasker crucially carried Raiders' offence late in the fourth quarter.
Overall this season, Lasker is averaging 9.4 points, five rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes per game.
"Drew runs our offence really well," said Love of the 30-year-old American who, like Brown, hails from Dallas, Texas.
"He gets everybody involved and the more minutes he plays, the more productive he is.
"He's not going to score 20 points in a hurry, but over the course of a game he becomes more effective.
"I'm more than confident Drew can carry the load for us."
Love admits he is still working out who will fill Lasker's former role and become Raiders' new back-up point-guard.
It could be O'Reilly or will more likely be Ojo, who assumed that job successfully, in the final five minutes of Raiders' 91-89 win over Surrey Heat at the Pavilions on February 16.
Love said: "We have to look at who is going to be our back-up point-guard and yes, we don't have a pure point-guard, but in this league I think you can get away with it."
Brown averaged 9.1 points and 5.8 assists in 28 minutes per game for Raiders in eight appearances.
He was recruited to replace his predecessor at the club, Jeremy Bell, who was released after a prolonged spell back home in the United States for personal reasons over Christmas.
Brown began his professional career in London and played for former BBL clubs Leopards and Towers from 2000-05.
That helps explain his switch to Lions, who it is believed are paying him more money than Raiders were.
Brown was also carrying an ankle sprain from the 96-79 defeat to Newcastle Eagles on February 17.
Earlier in that loss, it had also, in my opinion, become apparent that Brown could not guard a quicker opponent like Eagles' Anthony Martin, who tore Raiders to pieces that afternoon.
"There were a lot of reasons why Rod left, but myself and Rod remain on fantastic terms," said Love. "After the decision was made, he still came around for dinner.
"At the end of the day Rod's a great guy and a great player. Sometimes things just don't work out."
Raiders are currently 16-8 and fourth in the BBL, where they finished last season.
They are on course to face Surrey Heat or Worcester Wolves in what would be a tough first-round match-up in the play-offs.
"Whatever the match-ups are in the first round of the play-offs, it's going to be really difficult – for everyone, not just us," said Love.
"But it's exciting. I wouldn't like to pick who will make the final. It will be who gets hot at the right time."
Raiders had been scheduled to visit Sheffield Sharks this Friday, but will not now do so until Wednesday, March 20 (7.30pm).
This is because Sharks are preparing for Saturday's BBL Trophy final against Leicester Riders in Glasgow.
Raiders next play when they visit defending BBL champions Eagles a week on Friday (March 15).
Love added: "If we put our best foot forward in this last stretch of games I'm confident we can get some good results. I'm looking forward to it."