The MVP back court: Kevin Lisch on health and playing with Jerome Randle

It might be a bit of an understatement to say that guards play a pivotal role in basketball.

The NBA is dominated by point guards and shooting guards, like Stephen Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, just to name a few. Teams that find success, at any level, tend to have elite level talent on the back court. The NBL is no different – nine out of the last ten league MVPs have been guards. Now, two of those MVPs are on the same team. One-time MVP Jerome Randle and two-time MVP Kevin Lisch will be taking to the court for the stacked Sydney Kings. In a league where guards often dominate, having two elite guards is certainly a luxury most teams would wish for.

This NBL season won’t be the first time Randle and Lisch have played together for the Kings. When Lisch returned from his calf injury at the tail end of the season, the pair demonstrated their potential on the court together. With both former MVPs now issued with a clean bill of health, Sydney fans certainly can look forward to see a full season of the two guards playing at the same time.

“I’m feeling great actually,” said Lisch about himself. “It’s been nice. I utilised the off-season; I didn’t go anywhere to play. I stayed here in Sydney and worked out and worked on things and [got] healthy. And really, I’m feeling as good as I ever have.”

While Lisch’s calf injury hurt the team’s chances of having a successful year last season, it did bear unexpected fruit. With the 32-year-old guard down, the Kings had to look to adapt, and find other options. Enter Jerome Randle. In an attempt to salvage their season the Kings signed the former Adelaide 36ers star to a one-year deal with a team option.

“I guess it was a blessing in disguise, me going down,” said Lisch. “I love playing with Jerome. I love what he brings to the team, himself as person foremost, but his competitiveness [and] his energy.” In March, after a period of speculation, the Kings exercised their team option to bring Randle back for the 2018/19 season, and Lisch couldn’t be happier. “We have a great relationship where we can speak freely with each other. Even this offseason we were constantly talking back and forth. So I’m very excited that he’s coming back.”

Lisch says that he and Randle are looking to become even more effective as a backcourt duo this season; a frightening prospect for their defenders.

“Jerome and I have spoken a lot with each other, whether it’s how we can move better without the ball, or utilising each other off on ball [screens].” Sydney struggled enormously on defence last season, conceding the second most points in the league. Becoming pests on the defensive end is another goal the pair have on their radar. “I think the biggest area that Jerome and I spoke of last year was how we can really try and give these other guards problems by pressuring and using our quickness… I think Jerome was one of the best defensive guards, which is something some people might not have said in the past. So he’s got capabilities to do that [again] for sure.”

Whilst it’s true that Andrew Bogut gives the Kings a powerful weapon in the paint, Sydney’s strength at the guard position is not to be forgotten. With guard play being an important tool for success in the NBL, the fact that Sydney have two of the league’s best means the rest of the NBL have yet another puzzle to solve when facing the Kings.

Oliver Kay

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Freelance sport journalist with a love for all things basketball.

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