The first month of the season is historically hard on teams in the NBLC; coaches are still trying to find what works, players are still trying to gell, and fans are trying to learn another set of players to cheer on. However, the first month of play for the London Lightning has been quite different. With success on and off the court — and the return of some familiar faces — it seems to be business as usual for the Bolts. Here are five big storylines from your 10-3 London Lightning so far this season.
1. Royce White’s Triple-Doubles
NBL Canada has never had a player with the pedigree that Royce White brings. His signing and looming debut was met with a certain level of uncertainty — simply because he had been away from the game for long as he had. Needless to say, those concerns were quashed almost immediately. The former first-round NBA Draft choice posted two triple-doubles in his four NBL Canada games on route to Central Division Player of the Week honours for the week ending on Jan. 9. Needless to say, we’ve only seen the beginning of what White can bring to the Lightning, the NBLC, and London.
2. Win Streak
The big story of the 2016/17 NBLC season so far has been a tale that will be familiar to fans of the league: London (10-3) and Halifax (11-1) appear to be the best teams in their respective divisions. While Halifax’s season-opening win streak ended at nine (which preserves London’s record-setting 11-0 start to the 2012-13 season), London’s blistering six-win streak still stands heading into February. The Bolts have powered through early season setbacks to prove they are one of the deepest and most effective teams in the league.
Marvin. Phillips. #TheDogIsBack🐶. The Lightning’s all-time leader in points and rebounds came back to the team in January after playing in France. Needless to say, the 6’7” forward from North Carolina is feeling right at home. Through three games, The Dog is averaging 16ppg and shooting .606% from beyond the arch. The guy can do it all. I mean, have you seen him work out?
4. Julian Boyd
While both Royce White and Marvin Phillips came to London with reputations, the same can’t be said for the standout star on the Bolts this season, Julian Boyd. The powerful 6’7” forward from San Antonio, Texas has done nothing but impress crowds at Budweiser Gardens with electrifying dunks and prolific shooting. Look for his team-leading 18ppg and Central Division-leading .583 shooting percentage stay consistent through February and beyond.
5. Niagara Rivalry
For the last story on this list, we take you back to the very beginning of the 2016/17 NBLC season. London’s 107-106 Boxing Day loss to the Niagara River Lions was a tough one, but, as this budding rivalry has allowed for, the Lightning got their revenge soon after. Their 114-103 win over the River Lions the following night capped off two scrappy games against two teams that don’t like each other. London has enjoyed the better of the series since, winning the following three meetings, but that doesn’t mean the rivalry is over. Also, did you notice that nine River Lions have either played for or against the Lightning in previous NBLC seasons (Richard Amardi, Bilal Benn, Chris Commons, Russ Conley, Tyler Murray, Tyshawn Patterson, Logan Stutz, Kirk Williams Jr, Sammy Zeglinski)? This rivalry is only going to get better, as both clubs will play back-to-back games on Tuesday (Feb. 7th) and Thursday (Feb. 9th) in St. Catharines.