The Leicester Riders sit top of the British basketball world, with a league MVP candidate and an award winning head coach. But regardless of how impressive their regular season, preparing for the most bizarre post-season ever will be a challenge like no other.
Moving forward from a cancelled championship tournament last season, the British Basketball League (BBL) has approached this years’ playoffs a little differently. The final now hosted in Leicester at the Morningside Arena, The Riders are desperate to play on their home court when it matters most, fans or no fans.
Leicester Riders chairman and league director Kevin Routledge is excited for the knock-out games despite the muted ‘COVID-19’ season.
“This is when it matters most, playing in the big game, playing at your best, this is what basketball is all about.”
Routledge’s team has started to peak right when it matters, with only three games left to play, the Riders are 12 points clear and almost certain to lift the regular season trophy.
Here's the latest table after this weekend's action… pic.twitter.com/mRTDFZqCHh
— Leicester Riders (@RidersBball) April 12, 2021
Playing with new COVID-19 protocols has been an annoyance, and taking the court without fans has been an adjustment, but head coach Rob Paternostro has been preparing his team admirably. Routledge appreciated this when talking about the coming season finale.
“We have always been a team to nearly do things, nearly win the title but fall just short. But in the last five-or-so years we have really come into our own. It’s been the most successful times we’ve had, and it’s no coincidence it’s come with the arrival of Rob Paternostro. I think most people in the league know he is one of the best [head coaches] to do it.”
Rob Paternostro will be planning for the post-season already. For the first time in history playoff seeding will mean very little. With fans still absent from arenas, and teams given time to travel to stay safe, every court is almost neutral. Teams this year have won playing away from home more than ever, and the gap between the top and bottom sides in Britain has shrunk.
With likely the number one seed at the top of the league, The Riders do have the advantage of comfort, playing on the same court they have made their home. This is even more prevalent this year, with the final being hosted by the Leicester side themselves, as opposed to being housed by the O2 Arena in London.
Winning the playoff title would make history, as the Riders would be the first team to claim the trophy in their home.