Minus Pierre Jackson, New-Look Idaho Stampede Keep Rolling

With assignments, Call-Ups and players going overseas -- not to mention the typical assortment of injuries and roster moves -- an NBA D-League locker room is an ever-changing place. The Idaho Stampede learned that the hard way last week when star Pierre Jackson -- arguably the league's MVP -- signed to play in Turkey, leaving behind a gutted team that could only dress seven healthy bodies in the three games since. But players quickly come to accept that reality, Stampede head coach Michael Peck explained on Thursday, especially after going through a similar situation a month ago when starting power forward Richard Howell left for the Philippines.

"At this level, things happen fast," Peck said. "There's nothing we can do in an instant to change it or have a re-do. They understand that it's a fact of life and we've got to move on. That's the attitude our guys have taken on, and now they're playing with more of a chip on their shoulder."

It's showed on the court, as the undermanned squad somehow won its first three games following Jackson's departure. Peck, who likes to have two point guards on the floor, inserted Dexter Strickland into the rotation to play alongside dynamic floor general Dee Bost. That allowed Kevin Murphy to continue to light it up as a slashing, catch-and-shoot off-guard, and he's now scored at least 27 points on 50+% shooting in five straight games. It's Bost who has taken on a larger workload, playing 135 of the team's 147 minutes in the three games and initiating the offense on the majority of plays. His usage rate (% of his team's possessions that he's used) has increased from 19.2 with Jackson to 26.4 without, as he's taken more than 23 shots per game.

That's why the primary motivation behind Wednesday's trades, Peck said, was simply adding healthy bodies. A secondary benefit of course, is that the "reinforcements" they acquired consist of two of the league's most talented players.

Both Scott Machado and C.J. Leslie arrive in Idaho having yet to hit their stride this season. Machado, a pass-first point guard who thrives in uptempo systems, will give the Stampede another playmaker to lighten Bost's load while allowing him to do some work as an off-ball scorer. But Leslie, whose stellar career at NC State landed him at No. 19 on our preseason Prospect Watch, is the real intriguing piece here. Peck saw the 6-9 forward up close and personal at the 2009 Nike Global Challenge, a showcase for top high school talent, and says he's "pound for pound as athletic as there is."

"He came in [to the NBADL] with a lot of hype, but for whatever reason, the Erie thing didn't take off like people expected," Peck says. "He showed glimpses of what he's capable of, but with all young guys it's about showing consistency."

It's easy to see Leslie taking off in Idaho, where he'll be surrounded by more talent -- with playmaking guards to get him the ball, shooters to spread the floor and Dallas Lauderdale and Derrick Character to eat up space down low. The Stampede's more wide-open offense gives players "the freedom to play loose and comfortable," Peck explained. "They're not looking over their shoulders. Hopefully that will bring out the best in him."


Bost, Murphy Among February's Hottest Prospects

Top Weekend Performers: Bost | Murphy

Watch: Reggie Hearn's Buzzer-Beater to Top L.A.