2023 Los Angeles Fireballs Season Preview

  • By Jron Magcale, Day 1, 2023


LOS ANGELES - The 2022 season ended prematurely for the Los Angeles Fireballs after they fail to make it into the playoffs for the 1st time since GM Jron took over the team. Injuries and late struggles are part of the reason why the Fireballs failed to make the playoffs after making it to the finals in 2020, they barely made it in 2021 and then fall off completely in 2022. So, the team made some moves that resulted on the early exit of veteran stars Hilton Phillips and Colin Stafford. That was the first move into retooling the once dangerous Fireballs team. This offseason was crucial to make moves to again contend in the ever improving Western Conference.

THE POINT GUARDS

Starter - Chris LaCruz
Backup - TJ Holloway
Reserve - Addison Whalen (Acquired vis FA) *rookie*

The Fireballs will again rely heavily on All-JBL point god Chris LaCruz who just before breaking his toe in a private workout was beginning to be work like a beast. He'll be back by training camp and be ready for their season opener. The team brought back TJ Holloway to play backup PG role, TJ's familiarity with the system is one of his biggest asset, he will be tasked to take over the point guard position when LaCruz is on the bench. Addison Whalen is a project to say the least, the rookie will most likely be stashed in the IR list but the team intends to see him in action as the season progresses. He is an insurance at the point guard position if there are injuries.

THE SHOOTING GUARDS

Starter - Jamal Wilkinson
Backup - Akua Frazier
Reserve - Kareem Teague

The team traded to get Jamal Wilkinson back in LA to assume the hole at the SG position, a fan favorite when he was in Southern Cali and an integral part of the Fireballs team that surprised everybody by reaching the Finals. He hasn't shown his full capabilities when he was with the Skyhawks and Colonels but the coaching staff is confident that Wilkinson will fit into the scheme where he averaged 13 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg and 1 spg while shooting 41% from the outside in the 2020 playoffs. Akua Frazier was a surprised late signing for the Fireballs as he went for the veteran minimum to play again in Los Angeles, a starter caliber player that has played majority with Eastern Conference powerhouse Philadelphia Warriors during their developmental stages and later with Charlotte after he was healed from a major torn MCL injury, he will have his chance to contribute off the bench and will be one of the 1st players off the bench. Kareem Teague the 18th pick of the Fireballs in the 2023 draft will have to kind of redshirt in his rookie season to give way to Akua Frazier who at this stage would have a bigger role than the defensive wing out of Kansas. He will likely get some playing time as the season moves on.

THE SMALL FORWARDS

Starter - Isaiah McCarty
Backup - Sidney Cavenell
Resereve - Lorenzo Charles

iMac will be the starter and will still heavy minutes at the SF position, he has been a vital part of the Fireballs since being acquired via trade from the Cyclones (circa 2020). The team signed veteran scoring wing Sidney Cavenell using the team's MLE to address the backup wing situation , if he will play his role well off the bench, Cavenell can be a good contributor, he has fallen off last season with limited minutes but given the opportunity he will produce. Lorenzo Charles was acquired on the trade that also brought C Derrick Aririguzoh and JP Marquardt and a package of picks, he was brought in to play minutes in the 2 and 3 position but given the wing acquisitions of LA, he might have to move to a reserve role. A serviceable defensive wing that can be an asset in the right rotation, he will be given a chance to prove his worth on training camp as has been reported the backup wing position isn't 100% locked in yet.

THE POWER FORWARDS

Starter - Devan Carroll
Backup - Stoyanov Vitas
Reserve - Jack Sears

In a unprecedented move the Fireballs acquired super 6th man Devan Carroll from the cross cutting Thunder in which the space saved from the Carroll trade was used to sign-and-trade that landed prized FA Dontay Sowder. Carroll will move on to a 6th man role and will play as the starting 4 position, indication that the Fireballs will be back on their 2020 season identity of run and gun. Carroll can play both forward position but will be utilized in a sort of small ball 4 position. He will have the chance to play heavy minutes at the 4 and let his versatility do the talking. Stoyanov Vitas was also another player acquired on a trade last season and will fill the role of Carroll's backup. He is potentially the favorite to play the 6th man role in LA but nothing is concrete till the training camp, a very versatile forward that can stretch the floor, he can start on some teams but in LA he will play a vital role leading the Los Angeles Bench Mob in which hopes to have an impact in the team's bid for playoffs. Undrafted rookie Jack Sears is an undersized 4 with the skills to play within the Fireballs scheme, he will probably be in the IR list to start the season but given his skill set if his name will be called, he will contribute.

THE CENTERS

Starter - Keemar Campbell
Backup - Derrick Aririguzoh
Reserve - Asa Alkins

Keemar Campbell was re-signed this offseason and will be the starter at the 5 position. He have shown flashes of what he can when playing important minutes and now will have the position locked, he is an athletic post defender that can also catch lobs and can finish, his role will be bigger this season than his previous ones in LA. Derrick Aririguzoh aka Guzo is almost the same player as Keemar Campbell and he will be splitting the minutes with Campbell, providing the same energy offensively and defensively, we're looking at a center by committee as both Keem and Guzo whom are identical in skillset will have a seamless rotation providing LA with energy and defense in the floor. Asa Alkins will be a player that will be moved to the reserve list as well, with the center position already occupied by the Keem and Guzo show he'll have to wait for his chance to show what he can do as early as the training camp.

The aim of the team is to make it into the playoffs this season and the strategy going into the offseason is to provide bench support that contribute when the starters rest, that was the case last season when their bench can't pull the team up when it mattered the most. This offseason the front office made sure that they will address that situation by aiming on players that can play a role whether starting or off the bench. The target is to win 45-48 wins this season and lock a playoff berth.