Los Angeles Fireballs Off-season Report
- By Jron Magcale, Day 1, 2021
LOS ANGELES - "You need to win in LA." Those are the words that GM Jron told the reporters after a whirlwind of an off-season that have seen the team making bold moves and such. After a 2020 season that was unexpectedly successful, there are quite some questionable moves that GM Jron made this off-season that saw some critics second-thinking on what GM Jron has on his sleeves.
"I ain't even worried about what other people say. They are the same people who looked at me differently when I did my moves during last season's Finals run. I'm not saying that the result would be the same but I can see that our team will be competitive this season. Our division is tough and with the addition of 10 expansion teams the whole league becomes tougher, schedule-wise. So, we'll see where will we be at and will take it a game at a time." GM Jron responded to a question by a reporter.
The bold GM made news by trading away one of its best players and LA fan favorite wing Jordan Carstensen for 2 future 2nd round picks, in hopes to free up cap space to re-sign Star PF Colin Stafford and SG Wilkinson or pry away some big name free agents but it didn't go as planned. The Fireballs re-signed Staff at a discounted price to hopefully chase a ring, but missed on Jamal Wilkinson (who signed with the Skyhawks for $18.5M) he then went after LA native Kendall Nash but also missed on him as he went for a starring role with Phoenix Vultures trying to fill in the vacant role that legend Ben Winder left. Fireballs settled for veteran guard Travon Fortune who hopes to get his first full-time starter role in Los Angeles. In many ways the trade backfired because Los Angeles weren't able to secure a solid replacement for Jordan Carstensen who was the team's starting SG ever since GM Jron took the job 2 seasons ago.
Before Free Agency, the Fireballs did score a top 10 talent in the draft by catching the free-falling Memphis wing Garret Cue at #25, who showed his scoring pedigree in his lone year at Memphis but didn't showed much attention defense and his work ethic has been questionable at best. The raw talented wing will see some minutes but will not immediately start. The Fireballs went on and selected some bigs in the draft too (Evan Dupont at #43 and OG Adebayo at #55). Besides the signing of Travon Fortune, the Fireballs did nabbed veteran post defender Jamarcus Norwood, who'll provide depth at the frontcourt position, the addition of Norwood hopes to address one of the key weaknesses of the team going into the offseason, Los Angeles also signed young french guard Fabrice Masse in hopes to fill the gaping hole at the SG position in which the team fails to address during the off-season.
Los Angeles still looks like a playoff team having a 3-headed monster of LaCruz-Staff-iMac that will lead the Fireballs throughout the season. Although the team saw a hole at the #2 position, the team pretty much have some depth this coming season, the promising progress of Australian SG Ty Davidson and last year's rookie TJ Holloway will be closely monitored as both will need to showcase what they can do to help this team be more successful. The training camp showed some of the role players improving backup center Keemar Campbell and combo forward Calvin Woodard both showed improvement especially evident in their strength which is encouraging.
Veterans Staff and iMac looked like they've lost a step or 2 but nevertheless still lethal, both veterans are the elder statesman of the team Staff at 35 and iMac at 31 but don't let that fool you as both are still capable of showing firepower as evident of their run last season. The team's star Chris LaCruz have shown maturity and leadership while showcasing a better overall game to boot, coming off a back-to-back All-JBL 1st team nods, he would want to get this new season on a better start than last season to build up a strong conversation for them to be a favorite come playoffs.
The team's starting lineup will projected as follows:
PG - Chris LaCruz
SG - Travon Fortune
SF - Isaiah McCarty
PF - Colin Stafford
C - Vlado Dvoracek
The 6th man role is interesting as we might see TJ Holloway be that guy and pushes LaCruz to play some SG position just like the 2019 season when Jared Monroe took the PG duties to give LaCruz some burn at SG. Jamarcus Norwood can be a good option as well for a small-ball 5 role which the team often does or we can envision the team giving the rookie some time at the 3 and 2 position. But our money is that the team will go for a veteran lineup to keep competitive throughout the season. Can Los Angeles build on the magic they had during the 2020 playoffs or does that hole at the 2 will haunt them this season?