By: Law Murray
It’s mid-July, and teams are trying to secure playoff spots in both the Russell Brown and Keith Anderson divisions. The Drew League is so packed that even the Jaguars, on a seven-game losing streak, haven’t been eliminated from the race yet.
Let’s take a look at the Russell Brown division. The defending champion Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars have clinched a playoff spot at 8-1, along with NWA at 7-2. One more win clinches a playoff spot for Hank’s Panthers (6-2) and Hard Times (6-3). I Can All-Stars and M.H.P. are both comfortably in the top eight at 5-3, while Legacy sits in seventh at 4-4. The Clozers and Tradition are both 4-5, with The Clozers holding the tiebreaker for the eighth and final spot due to a head-to-head tiebreaker (they beat Tradition in Week 8).
Problems is a game behind The Clozers and Tradition at 3-6. Hank’s New Image and Hank’s United Ballers are both 2-6, less than two games out of a playoff spot. C.O.A. (last year’s runner-up) and Reapers are tied for last in the division at 2-7, and would be outright eliminated with one more loss.
Things are a bit more complicated in the Keith Anderson division. The last undefeated team left, Citi Team Blazers, have clinched a playoff spot at 9-0. One more win for the Blazers allows them to clinch the top seed in the division, as LAUNFD is in second at 7-2; LAUNFD has also clinched a playoff spot. BB4L, Sky Ryse, and ICEO are all 6-3 and a win away from clinching the playoffs. Salvatori’s Spirit sits alone in the sixth seed at 4-4, while #Juglife and C.A.B.C. are in seventh and eighth, respectively, at 4-5.
LA LOOP is 3-5, half a game out of the last playoff spot. Salvatori’s Nova Stars and Salvatori’s No Shnacks are both 3-6, a full game out of the last playoff spot. Hank’s Bulldogs and Pandas are 1.5 games out of the last playoff spot at 2-6. Jaguars are dead last at 2-7, one loss away from being eliminated:
Pandas (2-6) vs. Salvatori’s Spirit (4-4)
(Fri. July 17, 6:30pm)
Fright Night returns to The Drew, and one of the Pandas’ two wins this season came on a Friday night buzzer beater two weeks ago. These two teams have a knack for playing close games, so anything can happen. Spirit have a maddening habit of letting games that should be blowouts get too close, but they’re on a three-game winning streak due to some improved interior scoring.
M.H.P. (5-3) vs. I Can All-Stars (5-3)
(Fri. July 17, 7:45pm)
This is the game of the night, and one of these teams will go a long way towards solidifying a playoff spot with a win. M.H.P. won’t have Victor Rudd, but they got a big win over The Clozers without him last week, thanks to huge double-doubles by big men Reggie Murphy (19 points, 21 rebounds) and D.J. Shelton (23 points, 11 rebounds). M.H.P. is open about their lack of interest defensively, but they allowed only 22 second-half points last week. Vince “The Body Snatcher” Camper will return to I Can All-Stars after missing last week, a game that saw G Deonte Burton (28 points) hold the fort down in an overtime win against C.O.A.
Tradition (4-5) vs. Reapers (2-7)
(Sat. July 18, 10am)
The Reapers are a loss away from elimination, while Tradition has lost back-to-back games, leaving them out of control of their playoff positioning. Even when Tradition has a full squad, they don’t have much protection at the rim or an ability to force many turnovers. The Reapers are capable of some big offensive games, but they may be relying on PG Keoni Watson a little too much.
Hank’s Bulldogs (2-6) vs. Salvatori’s No Shnacks (3-6)
(Sat. July 18, 11:15am)
Last season, these two teams were involved in a controversial tiebreaker to determine a playoff spot that ultimately went to No Shnacks. This season, these teams are struggling to keep up in the standings. The Bulldogs have lost two in a row, as Tyrone “50” Riley rarely gets more than one teammate to help with the scoring. No Shnacks simply hasn’t been able to beat enough good teams, with their perimeter defense being a major issue.
Legacy (4-4) vs. Hard Times (6-3)
(Sat. July 18, 12:30pm)
If Legacy wants to stay in control of their playoff chances, they better show up against Hard Times. Legacy took a page out of the Houdini’s All-Stars playbook and started pressing and trapping all game long, which eventually caused a veteran New Image team to tap out. Hard Times succumbed to that style of play two weeks ago, but they are coming off their best win of the season against NWA. Hard Times is a balanced team that does very well in fast paced games.
Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars (8-1) vs. C.O.A. (2-7)
(Sat. July 18, 2pm)
What a difference a year makes. Last August, these two teams clashed for an incredible championship game that Houdini’s All-Stars won by a single point. Now look. Houdini’s All-Stars are poised to defend their title, while C.O.A. seemed defeated before this season even started. This rematch is worse timing than last year’s title game rematch between Citi Team Blazers and Kings of L.A., but who knows. Maybe Rhino shows up and exacts a measure of revenge?
#Juglife (4-5) vs. ICEO (6-3)
(Sat. July 18, 3:15pm)
#Juglife in the Game of the Day? That’s what happens when you win four in a row and get James “Moochie” Wright on the roster for the stretch run. #Juglife has been much better since expanding the rotation and putting more responsibility on SF Jordan Burris and C D.J. Shumpert. Of course, #Juglife has yet to beat a team with a winning record, so they still have a lot to prove. And ICEO has the connects to make #Juglife’s effort to get to .500 a big challenge.
Problems (3-6) vs. The Clozers (4-5)
(Sat. July 18, 4:30pm)
The Drew is crazy, and you can’t count any team out. Problems came into Week 9 on an unprecedented six-game losing streak. One 38-point game by Week 9 Player of the Week Gerry Blakes later, they have a shot at jumping into the 8th seed with a win over The Clozers and a loss by Tradition, the team Problems beat last week. The Clozers were brutal offensively last week, and if PF Bennie Boatwright is going to take 33 shots again like last week, he needs to attack the basket instead of settling for the jumper. You can bet that Blakes will be attacking and trying to get to the free throw line.
LA LOOP (3-5) vs. Salvatori’s Nova Stars (3-6)
(Sat. July 18, 6pm)
LA LOOP earned an impressive victory over BB4L last week, getting poised performances late from wings Keala King (26 points) and Markus Monroe. The Nova Stars, meanwhile, haven’t figured out how to stop the bleeding while on a six-game losing streak. LA LOOP has always been one of the better scoring teams, while the addition of C Andre Jones hasn’t helped Nova Stars soft interior defense at all; Citi Team Blazers C Gary “Lurch” Hamilton had almost as rebounds by himself (20) as the Nova Stars had as a team (21).
Pandas vs. Jaguars (2-7)
(Sun. July 19, 10am)
Sunday’s Breakfast Club game will likely serve as an elimination game for the loser. Pandas have played three overtime games in the last two weeks and they’ll be coming off relatively short rest. The Jaguars haven’t played a competitive game in a month, and PG Jacques Streeter has been the only player to score in double figures each of the last three weeks.
I Can All-Stars vs. Hank’s United Ballers (2-6)
(Sun. July 19, 11:15am)
The United Ballers need a win to keep their almost nonexistent playoff hopes alive, and they’re coming off a listless performance against Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars in which they had eight assists and 44 turnovers. They should have more energy than I Can All-Stars, who will be coming off a Friday night game.
NWA (7-2) vs. Hank’s Panthers (6-2)
(Sun. July 19, 12:30pm)
Despite their record, NWA’s intangibles have been a question among people in the league this season. The loss of PG Horace Wormely (overseas) doesn’t help that concern, while the addition of PF Mark Dawson didn’t stop NWA from only their second loss of the season last week. This could be a division semi-final preview, with the Panthers on a six-game winning streak and coming off a game where they held Reapers to 50 points. Will 2013 co-MVP Jonathan Gibson return this week for NWA?
C.A.B.C. (4-5) vs. BB4L (6-3)
(Sun. July 19, 2pm)
Last year, C Mamadou Ndiaye saved C.A.B.C.’s season. This year, it’s been PF Austin Daye, who has come in as the top scoring option and has C.A.B.C. in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. BB4L is coming off a loss to LA LOOP in a game where G Baron Davis struggled (3/17 from three). Now would be a good time for BB4L to get G Casper Ware and C Keith Closs back in the lineup.
LAUNFD (7-2) vs. Citi Team Blazers (9-0)
(Sun. July 19, 3:15pm)
This is the Game of the Day, and it’s been hyped up almost the entire season. After all, the Blazers narrowly defeated LAUNFD in 2013 in that year’s divisional final. It catches both teams at an interesting time. LAUNFD G Bobby Brown will miss the game, although there’s more than enough depth to go around now that Pooh Jeter is back. The Blazers are so deep that they’re pushing rotation players from June to the edge of the roster. Malcolm Thomas may not play Sunday, but Billy White and Lurch have done a great job filling in. No matter who is on the court, this potential divisional final preview will be a playoff-type atmosphere.
M.H.P. vs. Hank’s New Image (2-6)
(Sun. July 19, 4:30pm)
It’s been a tough season for the veteran New Image team. The players are mostly the same from last season’s playoff squad, but the season-long absence of rim protection and inconsistent shooting has cost them all season. They also saw Hassan Stephens move on to Sky Ryse. M.H.P. might be a bad matchup for what will be a desperate New Image team, though M.H.P. has shown that they can be beaten by anyone if their defense gets bad enough.
Sky Ryse (6-3) vs. Salvatori’s Spirit
(Sun. July 19, 6pm)
The last game of the weekend has the potential to shake up the standings. Sky Ryse has held their spot in the top four of their division all season, but folks already had a hard time taking them seriously before their recent two-game slide. G Josh Gordon mentioned that the loss of Mark Dawson wouldn’t be a major concern, but it is unclear whether or not they were able to successfully poach the big men from No Shnacks that would replace Dawson’s production. If Spirit can win two games this weekend, then they’ll end Week 10 ahead of Sky Ryse in the standings.