Check out the standings. Check out the schedule.
That’s all you need to know about how important this week is to the St. John’s Edge.
The Edge play four home games over the next six days, two each against the Halifax Hurricanes and the London Lightning, the teams ahead of them in the overall standings in the National Basketball League of Canada.
They are also the teams that met in last year’s NBL Canada championship final, which was won by the Lightning.
In other words, they have been — and continue to be — the teams to beat.
“It’s always one game at a time, but this is a big week,” agreed Edge head coach/GM Jeff Dunlap. “If you’re a competitive, sports-minded person playing in any sport anywhere in the world, this is the position you want to be in.
“We need to embrace that and be enthusiastic and excited about it. I think we are.”
First into Mile One Centre are the Atlantic Division-leading Hurricanes (21-10) who play here tonight and Wednesday. The Lightning, who are here Saturday and Sunday, are 21-11 after a 109-102 loss to the Saint John Riptide Monday night.
Tonight’s game (7 p.m.) is the first meeting between Halifax and St. John’s since Nov. 19, the Hurricanes’ home opener and second-ever game for the expansion Edge.
But St. John’s is much different team than the one that dropped a 124-121 decision in Halifax. Five of the 11 players who dressed for that contest are no longer on Edge’s active roster. What’s more, St. John’s has transformed into a much bigger team with the addition of players like Ransford Brempong, Ryan Reid, Antony Stover and Xavier Ford.
“Something we haven’t really done this year is the possibility of playing two bigs at the same time and going with a power attack,” said Dunlap.
“We’ve been playing (Charles) Hinkle at the 4 (power forward position) and he’s been really good at it, but he’s not a power forward, that’s not who he is.
“There are some bigger teams we will face down the line, including the two coming here this week. Halifax has a lot of height and athleticism and is the No. 1 rebounding team in the league. London is probably the biggest most powerful team in the league.
“We may try it, putting Ryan Reid and Anthony Stover in at the same time.”
That would require the activation of Reid, the former NBAer who missed the opening two games of the Edge’s six-game homestand Friday and Saturday as St. John’s swept a pair of bitterly-contested matchups with the KW Titans.
Dunlap says Reid — who has been sidelined with a “strained joint muscle or something” — might have been able to play Saturday if it had been a playoff game, and was hoping he would be good to go tonight. However, as of Monday evening, there was no announcement from the team of a roster move involving the Reid, who has yet to play at Mile One Centre.
It is known that power forward Grandy Glaze will not play tonight.
The Canadian has been suspended by the league for a game for leaving the bench Saturday to enter a midcourt melee sparked by Edge star Carl English being tripped as he raced down the court.
Glaze and guard Jarryn Skeete were both ejected from the game, but Dunlap says a league review shows Skeete’s action did not warrant a suspension.
“Because he left the bench so swiftly and got out to centre court, Grandy is going to get a game,” said Dunlap, “but Skeete was different. He took a couple of steps out onto the floor, but I felt he only did that in order to keep other guys back.
“He was actually trying to help control the situation even though he did take two steps onto the floor.
“When they reviewed it, the league thought the same thing.”
Dunlap himself quickly got out onto the floor when the brouhaha broke out.
“I didn’t want Carl to get into any further altercation,” said Dunlap. “That was a hard trip that came in the middle of a hard game. It was very physical with a lot of talking going on.
“They start chirping at each other and it gets the blood boiling, it makes me nervous and then to have an incident like that, where a player takes a hard foul …
“I was proud of Carl for not bouncing up and going after him.”
That wasn’t going to be the only point of praise Dunlap had for English, who at 37, is the league’s leading scorer. He took over top spot on the strength of a 58-point performance Saturday, the highest single-game point total in league history.
“He was in remarkable form … from the get-go,” said Dunlap.
“It was amazing what he was doing. And though we don’t want to keep belabouring his age, you know, while 37 is young in the real world, it’s not young in basketball.
“What he’s doing out there against players who are 10, 12, 14 years younger than him is incredible.”