With the 2016-17 NBL Canada season under a month away, teams are starting to assemble their training camp rosters, and get the right pieces in place as they embark on the journey towards the NBL Canada Championship.
Even though each team protected six players from last year’s roster at the start of the off-season, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe from off-season moves.
On Tuesday, the London Lightning and the Windsor Express pulled off a trade that will drastically shake up the lineup for both teams moving forwards.
The Lightning sent hometown boy, and fan favourite, Warren Ward to the Express, in exchange for the rights to Doug Herring, Jr. and a former Lightning player, Maurice Bolden.
Last season with the Lightning, Ward was one of the more popular players on the team. With his hometown being London, he starred in front of his hometown faithful on a nightly basis.
He averaged 12.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest, while shooting 39.7% from the floor and 38.5% from three point range.
Earlier in the off-season, Ward signed an offer sheet with the Niagara River Lions, which the Lightning proceeded to match. However, they were having trouble signing him for the upcoming season, and he was reportedly reluctant to report to the Lightning’s training camp, which opens on Friday.
Ward is the reigning Canadian Player of the Year in the NBL Canada.
In return, the Lightning receive two players who could be big additions for the upcoming year, barring they sign contracts.
Bolden played two years with the Lightning early in his professional career. Last season with the Express, he averaged 10.1 points and a team-best 6.9 rebounds per contest.
Standing at 6’10”, Bolden would add some much-needed size and depth to a front court rotation that features other newcomers to the Lightning, such as Joel Friesen and Julian Boyd.
Bolden was recently drafted with the 18th pick in the first round of the 2016 NBA D-League Draft by the Austin Spurs, but he has only played in one of the team’s four games.
As for Herring, Jr., the former star for the Utice College Pioneers excelled in his second year in the league. With the Saint John Mill Rats, who are now the Riptide, he averaged 16.2 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per contest, while appearing in 45 games.
He was traded from Saint John to the Express earlier in the off-season, but didn’t sign.
The move brings two talented pieces to the Lightning for the 2016-17 season, and both are players who can come in and make an impact right away. The big issue is whether or not the Lightning can sign them to contracts.
London opens their training camp on Friday, and will play an exhibition game against the expansion Kitchener-Waterloo Titans on December 18th at 2:00pm.
The 2016-17 NBL Canada season gets underway on Boxing Day.
– T. Bennett