Newcastle Eagles host the division’s surprise package tonight looking to extend their five-match unbeaten league run and continue New Year form that has seen them re-assert their own title credentials.
The Lions have certainly made their presence felt in the BBL title race this season, claiming a number of scalps as they look certainties to book a play-off place in their first year as the capital’s basketball franchise. The former MK Lions were the last team to beat the Eagles in the league, claiming a 96-82 win at the Copper Box on December 29.
Flournoy knows they are well capable of repeating that success and feels they have the “deepest” roster in the entire competition.
“This is a huge game for us. We’re around the top of the table and all the teams that we’re playing right now are near the top as well so the importance of any result is magnified,” he said.
“London Lions are a really strong organisation and in many ways they have continued the good work of the franchises that have been associated witht the capital. This team, in and itself, has history because it used to be in Milton Keynes and then before that it was Watford, who were always very dangerous opponents.
“I think you are seeing them continue and in fact build on some of the momentum that they got from moving to the Olympic venue and they are the sort of team that no opposition wants to meet. They remind me of what Newcastle were before we went on our run of success – we were the sort of team that no one wanted to face because we were dangerous.
“That is London Lions now so we have to be right on our game.”
The Lions moved to London in 2012, having formerly competed as Milton Keynes and enjoyed a run of success during those 14 years in the town.
But their move to the capital opens up new avenues for the club, especially as they play in the Copper Box Arena on the Olympic park.
As well as acting as a potential draw for new players, the lure of playing in London might pose problems for the league’s traditionally northern and Midlands power base.
“I think that if they continue to build, they can win the league,” he said.
“The one thing that they need is consistency. The league is always about finding that consistency and discovering a foundation. That means bringing back returning players because that is absolutely key to success in the BBL.
“Success is all about development, and if they do that – and bring back some of those returning players – with the size and the potential of that organisation it’s only a matter of time before they win something. You have to have a little bit of luck with regard to injuries as well but I think they are a team that inevitably, one day, will win some silverware. They are a team that has already done that as MK Lions and, in my opinion, they are a team that you just don’t want to run into right now.”
Flournoy believes that the Eagles’ form has been overlooked by the league’s opinion formers and he reckons that the general perception of the team is that they are no more than average. He disagrees – and points to the performances of the likes of Scott Martin and Malik Cooke as evidence.
“Everything that is being said about us at the moment is that we’re average,” he said.
“I don’t think our guys are average. I think they are very talented and I think then when we put everything together we look great. In fact, we look absolutely fantastic. There have been times when we haven’t played the best basketball but we’ve won games – and yet we’ve been criticised for that. I believe in this team.”