London Lightning believe 'simple game' will help them defend National Basketball League of Canada title

Coach Michael Ray Richardson’s whistle brought London Lightning practice to a halt Wednesday afternoon at the YMCA’s Centre Branch.

“We just missed our last three shots,” he called to the team during a scrimmage. “We can’t do that. We have to keep it simple. That is one of the keys to our game. Keep it simple.”

With another blow of the whistle, the team was back in action and practice continued as quickly as it had been stopped. The team is hard at work getting ready for the upcoming season, and preparing to defend their title as champions of the National Basketball League of Canada.

Rodney Buford was a member of last year’s team. The 6-foot-5 forward from Milwaukee was acquired last year by the Lighting through a midseason trade with the Halifax Rainmen. Buford now finds himself as one of the few veterans on a team comprised of many new faces, but he doesn’t believe he will be the only leader in the locker-room.

“We are all leaders,” he said. “This team already has so much veteran leadership. Anything I can bring to the locker-room, I will. If that’s leadership or hard work, I am going to give it my all.”

Buford’s began his pro career in 1999 after being drafted by the Miami Heat, and played with teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings in the NBA.

“No matter where you win, it’s a great feeling. But now we have a new season to prepare for and focus on,” said Buford.

After winning a championship in London, Buford feels there are a lot of pressures to defend their title, but he says Richardson is preparing the team to be competitive once again.

“Everyone wants to beat you. We have a target on our back — that means we need to play harder and be smarter,” said Buford. “They’re gearing up to take on this team. It’s a very competitive league where Halifax, Oshawa, and every other team are going to be difficult match ups.

“This year, fans can expect a lot of hard work from this team, and — if we keep our game simple and focused — a lot of wins.”

The Lighting play 40 games this season, and welcome new rival Windsor Express to the league. Windsor plays London in a preseason game 7 p.m. Oct. 25 at Budweiser Gardens.

The regular season begins Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. wheen the Lightning play the Halifax Rainmen at Budweiser Gardens in a rematch of last season’s final.

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