Boise resident, D-League expert/writer/blogger/Twitter personality Gino Pilato weighs in on the Idaho Stampede


December 11:Top 5 Reasons Stampede Fans Should Hang Tight Despite Slow Start

Even though the Idaho Stampede have yet to win a game this season, there is plenty to still remain hopeful about. This last Saturday night against the Austin Toros it appeared that the 'Pede would get their first W of the season. At the half Idaho was clinging onto a 52-46 lead, but a dreadful third quarter in terms of shooting combined with the streaky brilliance of Luther Head closed the door on the Stampede's hopes for their first win. As the Stampede embark on the rest of this groundbreaking season, fans have plenty to look forward to as time still remains on the Stampede's side.

The Stampede are currently at home practicing for their upcoming match-up with the newest team in the D-League, the Santa Cruz Warriors. It will be valuable time for head coach Mike Peck and his staff to work out the bugs that the team has encountered during these first 6-games of the season. The Warriors are one of the hottest teams in the D-League entering this upcoming weekend's clash with the Stampede, there is no better time for the 'Pede to get off the snide than to do it against a very formidable opponent. Along with the obvious exciting match-up that the Stampede will engage upon this weekend, here are my top-5 reasons why fans should remain hopeful despite the slow start.

1. The Portland Trail Blazers have now started assigning players
Will Barton and Victor Claver were the first assignment players that the Stampede have received since their newly formed hybrid affiliation this past offseason, and they won't likely be the last. Stampede fans should get used to hearing those two names announced in CenturyLink Arena as the two rookies will probably be receiving more assignment orders from Portland. The Trail Blazers will look to get both youngsters added playing time and also the opportunity to develop as players within their own system.

Barton seemed to relish in the opportunity the most out of the two, he averaged 19.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.5 steals. The Spanish-born Claver averaged 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 1.0 steal during his weekend jaunt with the Stampede. Look out for Nolan Smith and possibly Joel Freeland for future assignments from the Blazers.

2. 44 games still remain!
There is plenty of time to make up some ground in the standings. The Stampede have had arguably one of the toughest opening schedules in the league, which didn't help the young team out on the road to start things off. Now with some time spent together out on the court and in practice, the Stampede should start to gel and the wins will likely follow.

3. Head coach Mike Peck has a history of winning
Head coach Mike Peck is going to figure things out, his incredible 157-8 record while he was at Findlay Prep tells us that he knows how to win. There is an obvious learning curve making the transition from high-level high school ball to the second best professional basketball league in the world, and Peck will surely find a system that works for the Stampede.

4. The development of Durrell Summers
Before this past weekend, Durrell Summers was killing it for the Stampede. The youngster from Michigan State will continue to prove that his varied skill set can help their team get on a winning track. Summers is an exciting kid to watch, and his development as a player will be an interesting aspect to follow. At the moment Summers is tied in scoring average with another top performer for the Stampede in the early going, Sean Evans. Both players are averaging 16.2 points a contest.

5. Coby Karl's possible last run at the NBA
Karl, the former Boise State standout, has gone on record stating that this may be his last run at the NBA. Karl was a member of the Lakers, Cavaliers and Warriors in the NBA and played in 24 games from 2007-2010. Karl's name surfaced on Twitter when Steve Blake's injury was announced, so at least the clever guard is keeping his name in the minds of scouts and NBA teams. If Karl can produce for the Stampede, the likelihood of him suiting up for an NBA team one more time could become very likely as this season moves along.

September 18:New Coach, New Logo, A New Beginning

Not since Paul Carter drained the game winning shot to cap off the 2012 Stampede season, has downtown Boise harbored the kind of enthusiasm that was on display in Bardenay's banquet room Monday evening. Newly appointed head coach Michael Peck was on hand to greet a crowd of special invitees, all of which integral parts to the Stampede's success each and every season. With the unveiling of their new logo, tied together with Peck's welcoming to the "City of Threes", the Stampede officially embarked on a new journey.

With tryouts just around the corner, the Idaho Stampede's season is inching closer to tipping off. The announcement of their new head coach symbolizes a fresh new page turned for the Stampede franchise. Peck fit every bit of the part of a young, hungry, and eager-to-prove-himself coach, about to take this new opportunity and run with it. Sharply dressed, he addressed the crowd of supporters with a message of optimism and promise. Peck has proven himself as a successful developer of talent from his days at Findlay Prep and he is looking to bring those talents to the D-League level.

The Stampede's new logo easily fosters the thought of their newly formed NBA affiliate, the Portland Trail Blazers. With slick and defining red, black, white characteristics, the Stampede now have an unmistakable resemblance to Portland's Trail Blazers. Not only will the Stampede start to look the part cosmetically, on the court the Stampede will surely have striking similarity with the Blazers, as well. The newly established affiliation will allow the Trail Blazers the opportunity to control the Stampede's basketball operations, this means to a certain extent, the style of offense and defense that the Stampede will look to play with this upcoming season will be very close to what Portland is running over in the Rose Garden.

Overall, there is certain buzz that can be felt around the Stampede franchise. Head Coach Michael Peck's welcoming was just the tipping point. 6 out of the 8 teams who participated in last year's NBA D-League playoffs were single affiliates for NBA teams. The two teams who ultimately made it to the championship game (Austin Toros, Los Angeles D-Fenders) knowingly work very close with their NBA affiliates, it is a trend that will likely continue in the D-League and one that has proven to be successful. The Stampede will look to carry on this winning formula as next season can't come soon enough for Idaho Stampede fans.

September 4:Breakin' Down The 2012-2013 Idaho Stampede Schedule

Now that the NBA Development League has officially released its 2012-2013 regular season schedule, we can look ahead at some of the more juicy and intriguing games for your Idaho Stampede.

What better way to start a season where the Stampede enter as the official NBA affiliate for the Portland Trail Blazers, than to open up against their heated rivals' (L.A. Lakers) NBA affiliate the Los Angeles D-Fenders. The 'Pede will roll into El Segundo, California to take on the reigning runner-ups from last season's NBA D-League Championship. An exciting way to start the season seeing that the Stampede and D-Fenders had some epic battles on the hardwood last season. Did I mention that Pacific Northwest basketball fans aren't too keen on Southern California basketball teams? Well, there's that too!

Fans will get to see this years Idaho Stampede up close and live for the first time this season when they take on the D-League champion Austin Toros for a Friday-Saturday (November 7-8) double dip. The Stampede will open up the season playing it's first 11 games against 4 teams, all of whom made the playoffs a year ago. However, this is a brand new era in Idaho, and the Stampede are looking to erase last year's Western Conference last place finish from their memories.

On December 26, yes the day after Christmas, you can rock that new Idaho Stampede jersey that Santa will likely bring you to a head to head match up against another newly named D-League single affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. The Red Claws are now the single affiliate of the Boston Celtics and fans should expect to see some exciting players as Boston has revamped their team this off season in the direction of youth.

January 7-10, the Stampede will be making the trek to Reno for the NBA D-League's Showcase, generally an event you can stream with NBA Futurecast or watch on NBA TV. The Showcase is a great way to watch multiple teams and players in an action packed few days. Many of the top NBA scouts and coaches attend the event and any player who happens to be suiting up for the Stampede in Reno will be bringing their A-game!

After the Showcase, the 'Pede will kick off the second half of the season with 4 home games against the always tough Reno Bighorns, and the New York Knicks' NBA affiliate Erie BayHawks.

February will be an action packed month for Stampede season ticket holders as the 'Pede will play 6-straight home games before taking their talents to the road. Two of the games will feature match ups against the Springfield Armor who grabbed the number 2-seed in last year's playoffs. Just as the Armor were able to turn around their squad in just a short amount of time the Stampede will be looking to follow suit.

Transitioning from February into March the Stampede depart on their longest road trip of the season, an 8-game stretch that will take them to Reno, Los Angeles, Canton, Fort Wayne, Iowa, and Sioux Falls. The mileage will add up, and the players will hopefully have some solid listening material on their Ipods for that one. An interesting stop along the way will be against former Stampede assistant Joel Abelson's new club, Sioux Falls. Abelson took the head coaching job over this off season, and will likely have the meeting against his old pals circled on his calendar.

Fast forwarding toward the end of the season, a finale looms with guess who...the L.A. D-Fenders, this time at home and the Stampede will look to cap off their season in style with two potential huge wins. Here's to a great 2012-2013 campaign, and Go 'Pede!

July 27:Stampeders in the Summer League

As the NBA Summer League action wrapped up in Las Vegas, there were some familiar former Idaho Stampede players who stood out from the crowd of eager ballers looking to impress NBA scouts and coaches. Three former Stampeders put together some impressive stat sheets that should surely garner the attention of NBA decision makers. The Stampede saw former players such as Terrico White, Luke Babbitt, Paul Carter, Jordan Hamilton, and Derrick Caracter from last season, suit up for an assortment of NBA Summer League squads. Let's take a look at some players in particular who were able to make the most of their time in Sin City.

Jordan Hamilton - The former small forward for the Texas Longhorns saw action in 26 games for the Denver Nuggets last season and suited up in 6 games for the Idaho Stampede where he averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds for the club. The 6'7'' forward has plenty of potential and he showed NBA scouts some of those talents in Vegas. Hamilton averaged 19.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists for the Denver Nuggets summer league team. Hamilton had consecutive 21 point scoring performances against Charlotte and New York and never scored below 18 points in any of Denver's Summer League schedule. Hamilton should have an improved upon sophomore season with Denver, and his time spent in Las Vegas appeared to be very beneficial for the young man.

Luke Babbitt - Babbitt played in even fewer games than Jordan Hamilton for the Idaho Stampede last season (3 games) however, he started in each game that he played for the 'Pede, and averaged a team high 21.0 points per game while adding 9.0 rebounds. Babbitt also started every one of Portland's 4-Summer League games and averaged 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists a contest. Babbitt struggled shooting the ball percentage wise, but seemed to be able contribute in other areas out on the floor. Babbitt shot just 37% from the field and averaged 30.8 minutes of on court time during his Vegas rendezvous. Despite the shooting woes from the field, Babbitt still impressed onlookers and will almost certainly be apart of the Stampede's NBA affiliate Portland Trail Blazers opening day squad.

Terrico White - White was apart of Lob City Summer League-style for the Los Angeles Clippers, and averaged 8.8 points and 3.2 rebounds. White was selected for the 3-point contest in the D-League Dream Factory last season, however could not participate due to an injury. In Summer League action White shot 50% percent on limited attempts from downtown. White averaged 13.1 points per game for the Stampede and shot 40% from beyond the arc, he started 10 of the 18 games for the Stampede last season. While the former Gonzaga standout Adam Morrison did his very best to deter eyes away from White's contributions for the Clippers in Vegas, many beat writers from Los Angeles tweeted about the possibility of White making the Clippers roster after what they saw. Perhaps they will be right.

Coming off a year where the NBA Summer League went dark due to last season's lockout, this year's installment of high caliber basketball accompanying the bright lights of the Vegas' strip, proved to be a great opportunity for Idaho Stampede alums to showcase their skills.

July 2:Checking In On The Trail Blazers Draft And Upcoming Free Agency

The chore list for Stampede fans is starting to pile up as two significant off-season events have taken place. Sharpen your pencils and grab a fresh notepad, because you Stampede fans have some homework to do! Stampede fans should have kept a close eye to the NBA draft this past Thursday evening, watching as the Portland Trail Blazers drafted future young stars to fill positions on their roster for the upcoming season. Also, July 1st marks the official date for free agency to commence in the NBA. The Blazers have been very upfront about being active in free agency this season. The draftees and future free agent additions all should be on Idaho Stampede fan's radar, because the likelihood of these players suiting up in downtown Boise could be very plausible.

First, let's take a look at the Blazers draft, which received high grades from many of the league's respected pundits.

With the sixth overall pick, Portland drafted Damian Lillard out of Weber State. The Blazers needed a point guard, Lillard averaged 18.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.25 steals in his 4-year career at Weber State. Lillard also finished second in the nation in scoring last season, averaging 24.6 points while shooting 46.7% from the field. Lillard has tremendous upside and his court vision and passing abilities could be developed nicely in a Stampede uniform. A fantastic selection by Portland, which will surely pay dividends for the Blazer's backcourt future.

With the 11th overall pick the Blazers selected Meyers Leonard from Illinois. This time going after a big man, Portland was fortunate with Leonard at the 11 spot. Some reported that Leonard was in play at the 10 spot for New Orleans, while he impressed more than Tyler Zeller did for most teams. Size, and athleticism are two of Leonard's most admired attributes. His numbers for the Fighting Illini this sophomore season were 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.88 blocks per game. Fundamentals could be a nice thing for Leonard to improve upon under CenturyLink Arena's roof. Again, many raved about this selection and rightly so. His progress will be fun to follow.

With the 40th overall pick in the second round, Portland selected Will Barton from Memphis. Considered a steal at this spot in the draft, Barton's impressive averages of 15.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.49 steals per game were enough to crown him Conference USA Player of the Year. He led the conference in scoring last season averaging 18.0 points per game, as well. Many had Barton going in the first round as he was heavily considered one of the best scoring wings in this year's draft. Perhaps he could hone his knack for the bottom of the basket even more by playing for the Idaho Stampede at some point in his career?

As far as free agency goes, Portland can make a number of moves; however, they've stated that they would like to make each move count this time around.

High on Portland's priority list will be Nicolas Batum, and trying to keep the budding star in a Portland uniform. Batum is only 23 years old and showed us all last season he could be a possible franchise player. Not likely that we will see Batum in a Stampede uniform anytime soon, but fans in Idaho should get acquainted with Batum nonetheless. His amazing abilities are still far away from peaking.

Jeff Green has allegedly drawn some consideration, while last year Green was forced to sit out due to a heart condition he is still a highly-regarded player within the league. If Batum doesn't work out Green would be a great filler. Also, for Stampede fans his time away from the game may mean he could benefit from a game or two in the D-League. Either way, Green is a nice young talent and worth the time spent tracking his whereabouts this off season.

At 7'1'' Spencer Hawes has drawn some free agency buzz. He has a nice ability to provide finesse to his large physical presence on the block down low. With Greg Oden in the rear view mirror Portland needs to fill the center position with a sturdy and seasoned player. Hawes is just that. If Portland snagged Hawes perhaps some of the other post players would need minutes with the Stampede to keep them fresh and ready for a call up...because we all know there is high unpredictability when it comes to post player's health during an NBA season.

Alright now go study up Stampede fans! Make sure to stay up to date with all of Portland's activities this off season, as it could result in seeing a familiar face when the Stampede season tip rolls around.

May 30:Rip City Establishes Firm Roots In The City Of Trees

It is official, Rip City will hit the City of Trees next season as the Portland Trail Blazers and Idaho Stampede announced their single affiliation partnership Tuesday, May 29, 2012. Portland will join 9 other single affiliated NBA and D-League clubs. With one-third of NBA teams invested in their NBA D-League affiliates, the Idaho Stampede join a group of teams who are leading the way in shaping the future of the league.

The two teams in this year's D-League finals (Austin Toros and Los Angeles D-Fenders) are single affiliated D-League clubs, and proved that the formula produces winning results. As a single affiliate the Stampede will allow the Blazers to utilize their team for development of players the Blazers see fit. In doing so, the product on the floor will be a much younger and hungrier squad. It will provide the opportunity for Treasure Valley basketball fans to see more players like Luke Babbitt. Babbitt, who was in attendance at the Stampede's press conference announcement, is a prime example of how the D-League system is supposed to work. The Blazers felt Babbitt needed more playing time and assigned him to the Stampede last season which Babbitt ultimately received a call up back to Portland, and played significant minutes down the stretch.

Ways in which Idaho Stampede fans will get to enjoy this new partnership will be the fact that Portland is a up and coming ball club itself. As the season finished last year the Portland Trail Blazers squad was peppered with young talent. Surely the Blazers will use the Stampede as an opportunity to test out this talent throughout the season next year via the Stampede's roster. The Blazers have also announced their participation in the NBA Summer League in which case Stampede fans should keep an eye on, there is a good chance some of those players will be with the Stampede to start the 2012-2013 D-League season. All of this in addition to the upcoming NBA Draft Lottery which the Blazers hold onto a slim 2.9% chance at a top-three draft pick position, should help curb the off-season blues for Stampede fans.

With the new control over player and personnel decisions, current head coach and Idaho Stampede respected alum, Randy Livingston has sudden competition for his job next year. It was announced that an open audition will take place for the position in which Livingston has earned the right to be apart of. This move will be the first major decision in which the Blazers will have say in for the Idaho Stampede.

Whoever the Blazers do decide as the head coach going forward, it will be a well thought out and precise decision by Portland. This ultimately marks the beginning of this new relationship, and the Blazers officials will undoubtedly put a deserving person on the sideline.

With a fan base as crazed as the Portland Trail Blazers the Idaho Stampede fans will surely do their part to help fuel a successful partnership between the two franchises going forward. Now that Rip City has officially been introduced into the City of Trees, and a new Northwest basketball brotherhood has been formed, it is time for both teams to grow together and establish winning ways.

April 14:Stampede's NBA Affiliate Denver Nuggets Earn League's Respect

When the final whistle blew Saturday night in Los Angeles, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers players came to the center of the court to exchange congratulatory handshakes and hugs commending each other on a hard fought 7-game series. From L.A.'s perspective they had to of felt a certain level of relief after fending off a feisty Denver squad who took the Lakers and all of the NBA by surprise when they extended the series to 7-games after being down 3-1.

After the Utah Jazz were swept by the San Antonio Spurs, the Idaho Stampede's NBA affiliate playoff hopes rested on the Denver Nuggets' shoulders. Entering their first round playoff series with the Lakers, Denver won only 1 game out the 4 regular season match-ups with L.A. However, each game was closely contested. On paper, many NBA analysts and fans knew that the Nuggets would have to rely on their speed advantage against the sheer size and power of the Lakers front line. Many thought the series would be close, but ultimately end in the Lakers favor. Few thought Denver could pull off the upset, but TNT analyst Charles Barkley thought Denver had the tools to grind out a series win over the Lakers. Barkley was nearly correct as Denver took L.A. all the way to the wire in an epic 7-game series that garnered the respect of NBA fans across the globe.

Former Idaho Stampede players from this season, Julyan Stone and Jordan Hamilton saw little action over the series amounting just 6 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound, and 1 steal in a little under 10 minutes of play combined. It was still great to see the two former Stampede players from this season out their representing the 'Pede in the NBA's most intense and viewed upon point of the season.

Denver showed everyone they have the right mix of youth and talent to serve them well in the upcoming seasons. With Ty Lawson looking like a potential All-Star caliber point guard, and rookie Kenneth Faried showing that he will be a force on the glass and in the paint for many years to come, the Nuggets will surely stay a contender under head coach George Karl.

Denver will look to add some free agents to mix as they look to be somewhere between $16-$19 million dollars under the cap for next season. Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez, and JaVale McGee are all set to come off the books at the end of this season. With McGee's impressive postseason play though it is likely they ponder paying him the $10 million dollar a year contract that he reportedly wants.

The exciting news is that Denver looks to be a contender in the NBA and as one of the Idaho Stampede's NBA affiliates that is good news for basketball fans in the Treasure Valley.

April 8:Stampede Close Out 2011-2012 Season In Thrilling Fashion

When the season began way back in November, Stampede fans were thrilled and also relieved that basketball had returned and a season would actually coincide with the NBA. The NBA lockout ended at 3 am November 26, that same day the Stampede would take the court in their second game on the season against Tulsa. The lockout's effect on the D-League was mainly in regard to the rules, as of this season NBA team's could assign players with three or less years experience, whereas last season it was two years. Also, veterans now have the option of being assigned to the D-League for injury rehab as long as it is a mutual decision between player and team. The Stampede like many other team's around the league would get to know this system quite well as this season the D-League established a new record in call-ups and popularity.

The 'Pede found their first win in the third game of the season against the Dakota Wizards, as Idaho Stampede season staple Seth Tarver, led all players in scoring that evening with 22 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. As with any season in the D-League, the roster of players for any given team changes constantly throughout the season, this was also the case with the Stampede this year. 26 players suited up for the Stampede at one point or another, and the Stampede saw some amazing talent rock their red, white and black threads.

Now Portland Trail Blazer Luke Babbitt would finish the season as the Stampede's highest average scorer with 21.0 ppg in his 3-game stint.

Tony Bobbitt ended up leading the Stampede in total points scored, total minutes logged, total games played, total 3-pointers made and total field goals made. Seth Tarver was second to Bobbitt in total scoring with 508 points, and started the most amount games out of any Stampede player this season. Other statistical leaders were David Bailey total assists (208) and Mikki Moore total rebounds (242).

The Idaho Stampede finished the season at the bottom of the Western Conference standings posting a 21-29 record and while there were bright moments at times, this is a season the Stampede would not like to repeat. The 'Pede finished the year on a 3-game winning streak, however it matched their other longest winning streak of 3-games back in December against the L.A. D-Fenders, Bakersfield Jam, and Canton Charge. The team could not make a run it seemed, and continuity was an issue for Idaho all season. Stringing together a set of wins is crucial to a team's success during the year and the Stampede could never piece a run together. Outside of the Stampede's final game of the season, the most exciting home game came against rivals the L.A.

D-Fenders January 13, when the 'Pede came back in thrilling fashion to take down L.A. 113-107 in front of 2,897 fans.

The Stampede did finish the season on a high note as University of Illinois-Chicago alum, Paul Carter who averaged 10.8 points and 5.4 rebounds this season, hit the game winning jumper to cap off a 97-96 win against the Bakersfield Jam in front of a joyous crowd. Much like the Lady Houdini halftime act, the Stampede managed to defy the odds of being down 91-96 with minutes remaining to ultimately come back and win the game. Late addition Derrick Caracter had a few keys plays in the final stretch and played well for the Stampede at the end of the year. Perhaps it was too little too late, the 'Pede's final starting five of David Bailey, Seth Tarver, Derrick Caracter, Paul Carter, and Mikki Moore seemed to be their strongest starting five all season. Who knows what damage they could of done rolling out that crew for a number of games. The cards fell as they did and the Stampede have nothing to hang their heads about. In every contest the Stampede were competitive and surely no opponent looked forward to running with them on any given night.

Shortly after the Stampede closed out the 2011-2012 season, fan favorite Antoine Walker closed out his career announcing to the club in the locker room that he had played his last professional basketball game. Walker ends a nice run with the Stampede and will start a new chapter in his life just as the Stampede will when they embark on a new season in 2012-2013. The Stampede will look to get back to winning ways and hope to establish themselves as an elite team in the NBA Development League once again. Go 'Pede!!!!!!

March 26:Stampede Split Their Set With The Mad Ants

The Idaho Stampede split their 2-game set with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants over the weekend and struggled to find consistency against a team who sits at the very bottom of the D-League's standings. At times the Stampede had everything working, but it would come only in single quarter increments and not pieced fully together for an all 4 quarter performance. The Stampede also got out-rebounded both games, with the Detroit Piston's assignee Vernon Macklin doing most of the damage tallying 39 total rebounds himself. Still, there were plenty of bright-spots for the Stampede, and as they head into the final stretch of the season, the Stampede still remain a tough team to get a W against.

Marcus Banks had a fantastic performance in game 1 against Fort Wayne, in probably his best game on the season. Banks went for 21 points, 12 assists and 4 steals. Banks was threading the needle all night with impressive bounce passes finding his teammates in transition for easy buckets. In game 2, Banks scored 11 points and dropped 6 dimes in the losing effort. Banks started both games and looks to be relishing in the role.

Paul Carter who was relatively quiet in the first game, went off in game 2, leading the Stampede in scoring with 19 points and pulling down 6 boards. Other top performers from the weekend were Mikki Moore, Reggie Larry, Seth Tarver, and Tony Bobbitt.

Scoring came in waves for the Stampede against Fort Wayne as defined by first and third quarter point totals over 30 points in the first game matched with point totals in the teens for the second and fourth quarters. The Stampede were able to get away with the streaky play in game 1, however in game 2 the Stampede seemed to reverse their scoring habits having big second and fourth quarters, but struggled to put up points in the first and third.

The Stampede are now 18-28, with the playoffs not in their cards, and head to Reno next to take on the Bighorns. The teams have split their 6 games thus far, and every game in their series has been close. The games will surely be competitive and the Stampede will look to gather some momentum in the win column before returning for their final set of games at CenturyLink against the Bakersfield Jam April 6,7.

March 20:Read to Achieve with the Idaho Stampede

Monday, March 19 at Hillcrest Elementary School I sat in Tara Harsin's 4th grade classroom as Idaho Stampede Associate Head Coach Joel Abelson and guard David Bailey read to students the classic tale of the 3 Little Pigs. Abelson and Bailey got the entire classroom energized and hyped on reading as part of the NBA D-League's Read to Achieve program.

The Idaho Stampede and D-League participate in many community outreach programs, and Read to Achieve is the centerpiece. The Read to Achieve program helps promote the love of reading and online literacy and to encourage adults to read to young children regularly. During the year teams help participate in a number of reading-related programs and activities similar to what took place in Ms. Harsin's 4th grade classroom. With the support from Reading is Fundamental and Scholastic, Inc, Read to Achieve provides over 150,000 kids with reading materials throughout the D-League communities.

Coach Abelson guard David Bailey were excellent in the classroom.

Their interactions made the reading exercise fun for the entire group of onlooking kids. I referenced that Bailey should not go unnoticed in this article here and Bailey should not go unnoticed off the court as well! It speaks volumes when a player takes the time out of their day to make a special appearance for a program such as Read to Achieve, and reach out to the kids who idolize what they do on the court.

Coach Abelson was awesome with the kids, his passion and energy in which he displays on the sideline transfers seamlessly off the court as well. I arrived moments before Coach Abelson and David Bailey and the kids were acting like they were on the verge of Christmas break full of excitement. Abelson was able to spread the Read to Achieve message perfectly, and provided a nice spark for the kids before they headed out to recess.

Once again the Idaho Stampede and the D-League proved that they are committed to the community, and willing to go above and beyond in reaching out by spreading positive messages on the court as well as off the court.

March 16:Stampede Play Spoiler Once Again

The Idaho Stampede once again snapped a long running win streak. This time it was the visiting Texas Legends, who entering Wednesday night rocked a 8-game winning streak heading into their 2-game set with the Stampede. Just as the 'Pede snapped the L.A. D-Fenders' 10-game win streak, they put a halt to the Texas Legends' 8-game win streak as they topped the Legends 101-95.

Prior to Wednesday's game, the first of their two game set with Texas, Idaho hit the road for a 5-game stretch beginning at the Dakota Wizards' gym and ending with their familiar foe, the L.A. D-Fenders in El Segundo, California. The Stampede went 1-5 in that stretch and played tough in every game, but were unable to put together a complete 4-quarter performance outside of their initial contest with Dakota.

Once the Stampede returned home to Boise, they were welcomed with news of a 3-year lease renewal agreement to play in CenturyLink Arena.

Perhaps the comforting news of the lease and some much needed R&R at home provided a spark the Stampede needed to knock off the D-League's hottest team. Marcus Banks led all scorers with 24 points and dished out 6 dimes in the winning effort. Once again Banks' willingness to draw fouls helped him score 13 of his 24 points from the charity stripe. The Stampede had 5 other players in double digits scoring and Reggie Larry provided his first installment of what would be a fantastic individual performance against the stout interior of the Legends both games.

Antoine Walker entered Thursday night's contest a bit premature as Mikki Moore picked up two quick fouls. Walker gave fans and this teammates the kitchen sink in terms of his game, there were no-look passes, running jump hooks and solid screens enabling his teammates open shots. Walker finished the quarter logging 10 minutes and 39 seconds of court time and helped keep the Stampede within striking distance. Reggie Larry, the former Boise State Bronco, turned in part two of his solid twin bill, adding 19 points and 11 rebounds.

However, it was a late miscue on a cross court pass that left a damper to what originally was a fantastic game by Larry to set up the victory for the Legends 94-92.

The Stampede left everything out on the court both nights and head into Saturday's game with the L.A. D-Fenders with what should be added confidence. It will be the Stampede's last game against the D-Fenders this season, in what has become a fierce rivalry. Idaho will then head back to CenturyLink for a Friday/Saturday set with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, March 23-24.

March 2:Stampede End The D-Fenders' Streak, Now Start Their Own?

The Idaho Stampede became the talk of the D-League ending the 10-game winning streak that the D-Fenders brought into CenturyLink Arena Thursday night. The Stampede did so by having a balanced offensive attack in addition to a great game from Mikki Moore. Moore led the Stampede with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and had a crucial offensive rebound tip out to set up a new 24 second shot clock to waste away the final minute. The Stampede would then hang on for the win 101-93. The (15-21) Stampede will now take to the road as they will embark on a 5-game trip beginning Sunday, March 4 at the Dakota Wizards.

Going into the 2-game set with the D-League's hottest team, it was important for the Stampede to begin the second half of the season in winning fashion. Wednesday, Idaho did nothing to keep fans with hope that a playoff run lies within the 'Pede this season. They were blown out for the final 3 quarters of the game losing in embarrassingly 94-72 and helping the D-Fenders to their 10-straight win. The overall body language from the players felt, and looked defeated from the tip.

With the D-Fenders down to 8 players on their entire roster, the 'Pede had an opportunity to play their style of basketball and wear down a thinned down line up of coach Eric Musselman's D-Fenders. Instead, they came out flat and let the D's fill with confidence which they rode all the way to the victory.

The Stampede were without their former NBA'er Marcus Banks, with an injury holding him out of both contests with the D-Fenders. Point guard David Bailey finished the night 0-10 from the field giving an overall sense as to how the team dealt with the long All-Star break...perhaps a bit rusty. You win as a team, and you lose as a team. The Stampede shot 33.9% collectively as a team, the shots were simply not falling. Turnovers were also an issue as the Stampede amounted 22 versus the D-Fenders' 13. When you shoot poorly and cough up the rock like that, an addition to the L-column is all but certain.

Thursday night the Stampede brought a completely different attitude to the court, right from the start they were able to make the extra pass setting open looks for teammates in which they knocked down this time around. The Stampede shot 50.6% percent from the field and 31.8% from 3, which in Game 1 they shot 20.8% from downtown. Tony Bobbitt knocked down 3 from beyond the arc himself as he further proved he is right at home launching 3's under the roof at CenturyLink. Every player got on the score sheet, with Paul Carter, Seth Tarver, David Bailey, and Chris Davis having solid performances. Coach Livingston intermixed his rotations exceptionally well, even at times playing Mikki Moore and Antoine Walker together to help battle against L.A.'s height down low.

Once the D-Fenders knew they were outmatched on this particular night, the game became all but sealed when Seth Tarver intercepted a pass late to set up free throws on the other end by Moore.

The Stampede will need to keep on the winning path and doing so on the road has been particularly difficult for the club this season. The 'Pede are 6-11 away from home, but if they complete a sweep on this road trip they can pull that record to .500. The road trip will conclude in El Segundo against Los Angeles. The Stampede will then return back home to host the Texas Legends for another Wednesday/Thursday set of games hopefully looking to build upon a winning streak.

February 27:A Rockin' Century Link Arena Perfect For Stampede Playoff Push

The Idaho Stampede closed out the first half of the season dropping one to the league's hottest team the L.A. D-Fenders. With 16 games left on their 2012 schedule the Stampede will need to utilize the raucous atmosphere Century Link boasted when the D-Fenders visited in mid-January, and start the second half with a pair of W's.

If you haven't made it out to a game yet, it is highly recommended that you get down to Century Link this week when the D-Fenders return starting Wednesday, February 29. In true Northwest vs. Southern California rivalry style, Stampede fans have made it clear they enjoy rooting against anything with Los Angeles stitched across a uniform.

As a veteran attendee of many Blazer vs. Laker showdowns, the atmosphere matched any previous Rose Garden effort, and surely the Stampede will need it from fans to pull off the upset.

As witnessed with the sudden injury to Terrico White just before he was set to participate in All-Star weekend as a dunk contestant, a D-League roster can change in a New York minute. However, assessing the current squad Coach Livingston will trod out Wednesday, the Stampede seem poised to make a run at a playoff spot. The David Bailey/Low Top Assasin (Marcus Banks) back court combination is a luxury for the Stampede defensively and also offensively. Banks leads all active Stampede players in scoring, and he will likely be the key to any sort of run the Stampede will need to make in order to snag a playoff spot.

Another NBA veteran and journeyman, Mikki Moore was playing lights out basketball before the break, well enough in fact he made the D-League's official Prospect Watch list. Moore is averaging 11.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and at this rate Moore might make it an even 10 NBA teams if he receives a call-up.

'Pede fans will need to bring their A-game while the D-Fenders are in town trying to increase upon a D-League leading 9-game winning streak.

With only 8 home games remaining, what better time than now to get down to Century Link and cheer on the Stampede. Perhaps the expected energy from fans will help ignite a successful second half run for the Stampede.

February 20: Blake A-Who? Stampede roll Reno at home

February has proved to be a much more generous month for the Stampede than January. Tallying just two wins in the entire month of January, the Stampede eclipsed that total before Valentine's Day! Idaho has dropped just two games by a combined total of 12 points, on their way to posting a 6-2 record in the month of February thus far. Their recent 2-game sweep over Reno at Century Link arena Friday and Saturday, further proved that perhaps the Stampede have found a formula for success.

Head Coach Randy Livingston has utilized the addition of Marcus Banks, using Banks aka the "low top assassin" as a catalyst for his second unit. Banks spearheads a group of players coming off the bench including Antoine Walker for the Stampede, and against Reno were able to disrupt Blake Ahearn and company enough to take both games against the feisty Bighorns. Banks saw his first bit of action for the Stampede February 3rd, and it seems since that successful twin bill against Rio Grande Valley, the Stampede and coach Livingston have put together a product on the floor capable of winning any given night.

Banks and Walker supported the efforts led by another NBA veteran Mikki Moore, and the rest of the starting unit which were able to grab first quarter leads in both contests against Reno. Livingston and the Stampede approached the task of guarding the D-League's leading scorer Blake Ahearn by mixing up looks with the speedy David Bailey, and physicality from Marcus Banks. However, being the great player that he is, Ahearn still amounted 27 points and 28 points respectively for the Bighorns in their consecutive loses to the Stampede.

In Saturday's game the Stampede donned Utah Jazz jersey tops to promote their affiliation with the NBA team, and Paul Carter in particular played well while rocking the Jazz old school threads.

Carter played in the Jazz's training camp earlier this season so the Jazz uniform perhaps brought out the NBA talent within Carter, while he helped the Stampede jump out to a 30-21 lead in the first quarter adding 9 points to the cause. In both games, Tony Bobbitt provided further proof that he is most comfortable playing in front of the home crowd, leading the Stampede in scoring on both nights.

The Stampede will take on Reno in their gym Tuesday, February 21 which will be broadcast on Futurecast via the D-League's official website.

The 'Pede will be going for the hat trick in as many games, and if they bring the kind of effort they displayed in Boise, they shouldn't have any problem enhancing their current awesome romp for the month of February.

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