We Came, We Saw, We Blogged
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 10:49 p.m. CT
We saw it all. We watched 12 games in three days. We counted 2373 total points, 26 20-point games and seven double-doubles. We witnessed amazing dunks, great passes, shooting exhibitions, fierce blocks and the competitive fire of talented, young stars. We met players who dream about getting a shot. We stalked coaches and learned about the challenges and joys of teaching these players. We found out what scouts are looking for. We hunted down NBA general managers to pick their brains. We pretty much talked with anyone who would talk to us and learned that life in the D-League is always an adventure.
We networked to stay connected and in-the-know. We sifted through and cropped a LOT of photos. We braved weather delays all over the country just to be here. We huddled to stay warm. We sat in the dark three times. We memorized the lyrics to a handful of songs and may have offended the arena sound guy. We ate to stay energized (is it bad that I popped a button on my pants?).
We got more than an eyeful of the future and a good show, to boot. We did our best to capture and report everything we saw, heard, tasted, smelled and felt within the confines of Sioux Falls Arena. We gave you everything we had for 14-plus hours a day and loved every minute of it.
We thank you for reading.
Posted by Rick Kamla on January 17, 10:33 p.m. CT
NBA TV's Rick Kamla is a freak. When it comes to basketball knowledge, there may not be anyone who can top him. He was here all three days and watched (or broadcasted) every minute of every game. But instead of letting him rest his weary throat, we asked him for some final thoughts from his time here.
The MLK D-League Showcase for 2007 is in the books. 12 games over three days, each team played two games and we saw a lot of great talent.
I want to start this recap talking about Renaldo Major of the Dakota Wizards. In his first game in this tournament, he scored 23 points and had six rebounds against the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, not to mention a great body of work leading up to that game. He got the call-up by the Golden State Warriors during the tournament. He was the only guy who got the call-up while we were here. They use to call him "Skinny Hardaway" back in the day and he tries to pattern his game after Tracy McGrady. We wish him much luck in the NBA. I hope he sticks because he's a great young kid. Who know, i may have witnessed his last D-League game.
Jeremy Richardson of the Fort Worth Flyers is another guy I liked a lot. He's skinny at 6-7, fantastic size for a swingman. He's out of tiny Delta State and started to get his name out there through some fantastic play. He's among the league leaders in scoring in the D-League around 20 points per game here this week. He's a silky smooth player, he can rise, has a good jump shot and does not take bad shots. Keep your eye on him.
I also want to talk about Will Conroy. He did not play that well here at the Showcase, but coming in, he had four triple-doubles this year. That's already a career record in this league. Will Conroy is a bad, little dude kind of out of the Jameer Nelson/Damon Stoudemire mold. He's one of the best players in the League and I'm not mad at him for underperforming a little bit here.
Pops Mensah-Bonsu is an asignee down from the Dallas Mavericks. He was the most energetic, active and athletic player here at the MLK Showcase. On the defensive end and in terms of his body type and leaping ability, he reminds me a little bit of Kevin Garnett. If you haven't seen him, you have to check him out. Dallas likes him, obviously, and after seeing him block a million shots, I like him, too.
Gerry McNamara is a legend at Syracuse University, helped them win a title with 'Melo and Hakim Warrick. He's at it again here in the D-League. He was in Greece to start the season for a couple of months, played one minute there, said "I'm out, I'm coming back to the States to try and get to the NBA." He led the Bakersfield Jam to a comeback that was unbelievable. :59.2 seconds left in the game against the Austin Toros, his team down nine, that is as bleak as it gets, but Gerry led his team back. He suffered a right elbow injury on a foul late, stepped to the free throw line, hit them both, went to OT and he finished with 20 points in that game. He is a magical player, as clutch as they come and I can't believe he is not in the NBA already.
One more player... Colorado's Pooh Jeter. He is a little dude, kind of looks like Earl Boykins out there, but whereas Earl is a shooting guard in a point guard's body, Pooh is a true point guard. He had 11 assists and no turnovers in the first game and played very well in the last game as Colorado beat Dakota. This guy makes smart decisions, he has a good jump shot and he was probably the quickest player here.
It's been a good time. I look forward to next year and look for these players. They are coming to an NBA arena near you.
12 Games Later...
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 9:59 p.m. CT
If you like scoring, the 12th and final game of the NBA D-League Martin Luther King Showcase was right up your alley. Despite the slow start, the scoring came in bundles. We had an idea it might turn out like this, especially after Dakota's 123-112 win back on Dec. 29 in Bismark. This time, it was Colorado coming out on top by a score of 126-116 and extending their winning streak to three games. They finished this brief road trip 3-1 and improved upon their league-best scoring average in the process.
Along the way, we also saw some stellar offensive skills on display. The few remaining NBA folks left in the building, like Denver Nuggets Vice President of Basketball Operations Mark Warkentien, saw an extraordinary performance out of Quemont Grier. Wow, that was fun.
Pooh Comes Out Hard
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 9:28 p.m. CT
Just when you thought Grier might steal back this game for Dakota, Pooh Jeter answered for Colorado to help build the lead back up to ten points with the third quarter winding down. Jeter has 15 points in this quarter to match Grier, who also has 15 of his 34 points in the third stanza. The 14ers have reached the century mark and reached 100 points for the 17th time in 20 games, this one happening before the third quarter was over.
Wizards Working Their Magic
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 9:19 p.m. CT
What was once a 13-point lead for Colorado has been cut down to four... Grier has 29 already and Maye has 17... This one might just come down to the wire.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 8:51 p.m. CT
Without Renado Major, the Dakota Wizards are finding it difficult to score. The Colorado 14ers have opened things up and started to run, building up a ten-point lead with under a minute to go in the first half. Dakota's Quemont Grier has 18 points, but James Maye has only four and no one else has been able to score with any real consistency. They have another half to turn things around, they will need to find a way to stop or slow down down the Colorado offense. If that is even possible.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 8:17 p.m. CT
So much for the run-and-gun shootout we expected, at least so far. Both teams have increased the physical play and done a bit more banging than scoring. The officials (including our good friend Marat Kogut) have tightened the reins a bit here as a result in order to set the tone. Von Wafer got Colorado got out to a six-point lead, but Dakota answered with a 6-0 run to tie the score at 20-20 between these division leaders with just over two minutes to go in the first quarter.
Last, But Certainly Not Least
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 7:49 p.m. CT
This is the game most real D-League fans have been waiting for - the 12th and final game of the Showcase pits the first place teams in each conference against each other. The 14-3 Dakota Wizards have won eight games in a row and sit atop the Eastern Conference. The Colorado 14ers are 13-6 and pace the West. Dakota has won each of the two previous meetings so far this season, but Von Wafer may be the hottest scorer in the lelague right now (20.3 ppg)The game has lost a bit of buzz with Dakota's Renaldo Major getting called up to the NBA just a few hours ago, but even the Sioux Falls fans are sticking around to see two high-flying, up-tempo teams close the Showcase out with a bang.
You Won't Believe This, But...
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 7:27 p.m. CT
With just :24 seconds to go in the game and the Skyforce up 117-105, the lights went out again. Power was restored immediately, but darkness remained. So what did the officials decide to go? They agreed to let the teams play the final seconds in the dark. Very cool. I think. I couldn't really see what was happening. Maybe there's just too much electricity in the air with all this talent brimming over.
11 Down, One to Go
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 7:24 p.m. CT
The Skyforce and Flyers played three strong, back-and-forth quarters before the hometown heroes put this game out of reach. Stephen Graham, Vincent Grier and Amir Johnson have started to run a bit. Frank Williams is knocking down 3-pointers and the crowd is making things tough for the Flyers down the stretch. In just under a minute now until the final buzzer, the Flyers will drop to 12-5 and a full two games behind the Dakota Wizards in the Eastern Conference (pending the outcome of the final game).
Point To Point
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 17, 7:15 p.m. CT
I met with Tulsa's star point guard Will Conroy after his team's 107-92 loss to Anaheim. Conroy has been racking up big numbers lately but was held to only five points and five assists on Wednesday. After he signed some autographs, Will talked about his second D-League Showcase experience with the 66ers.
Randy Belice/NBAE/Getty Images
Conroy also mentioned the return of teammate Desmon Farmer, who played with the Seattle Supersonics early this season after leading the D-League in three-pointers in 2005-06.
"Desmon will help us once he starts knocking some shots down," said Conroy. "He still needs to get his timing back because he didn't play that much in Seattle. Once he gets his shot back we should be ok."
Even though Conroy struggled today, players through the league still give him his due as one of the league's best. His counterpart at point guard in today's game, Majic Dorsey of Anaheim, had only good things to say about him. Majic enjoyed a solid outing on Wednesday, scoring 17 points with four rebounds.
"I know that Will Conroy, if not the best, is one of the best point guards in this league," said Dorsey. "I've been playing against him for the last two years, and everytime we match up it's a tough fight. He's a good player and a good role-model off the court, so I've got a lot of respect for him."
I Said It Before...
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 6:08 p.m. CT
...and I'll say it again... Pops Mensah-Bonsu is the best player here. He just dunked so hard my sinuses just cleared out. I hope those Spalding people are still here because their rims and backboards just passed the biggest test they're going to take.
Shuffle the Playlist, Pleeeeeease
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 5:44 p.m. CT
As we sit here in the dark with the music going, I would like to make a public plea for the Arena to get some new music. Now this is no slight to the Skyforce because they have been nothing but amazing in taking care of everything the past few days, but after sitting in this here now for 10 games, I really do wish they had more songs in their in-arena entertainment playlist because I've heard the same 15 songs at least 25 times. Now I realize they are set up to put on a great show for one game (because who would be crazy enough to play four games in a row on three consecutive days?), with more than enough music to keep the crowd excited, but hearing every song this many times is getting a little crazy. I'm pretty sure I know every word to Chamillionaire's "Ridin' Dirty," that Weezer song, "Beverly Hills," Replay (Rihanna), "Temperature" (Sean Paul), "This is How We Do It" (Montell Jordan) and "Don't Cha," by the Pussycat Dolls. Also, on every jump ball we hear either "Jump Around" (House of Pain) or "Jump," by Kriss Kross.
Would it really be that hard to mix in a little of Apache's "Jump On It" or something by The Cure, U2 or Britney Spears? I'd even settle for a little Paul Anka just to mix things up and keep it interesting.
Of course, we did just hear the National Anthem for the sixth (and final) time. It is sung before every session, though I'm not sure why. My patriotism has not dwindled at all since the opening session again. But it is nice to be reminded how great a nation we live in.
And as I type this, the lights have returned and we're ready to return to action with one minute remaining in the first quarter.
Lights Out Again
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 5:38 p.m. CT
Dave Eggan/NBAE/Getty Images
They swear this doesn't happen all the time, but the a brief power surge has left the Arena in relative darkness. The music, scoreboard and auxiliary lighting came back on within a few seconds, but the house lights need about 15 minutes to cool off and warm back up again. It took about 15 minutes last time. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic. Sioux Falls Skyforce center Chad Bell is neither a chad nor a bell. Discuss.
That Was Fast
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 5:28 p.m. CT
Assigned from the Dallas Mavericks earlier this morning, Jose Barea is already with the Flyers and playing in the game this evening. With all of the airport delays due to the ice storm in Texas, perhaps Mark Cuban let him use his private jet...
Renaldo's Major Opportunity
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 17, 4:55 p.m. CT
Renaldo Major of the Dakota Wizards has been having an excellent season, capped off by a 23-point, six rebound performance in front of the scouts on Monday night. Major is known as a great offensive player, but he sealed a 95-94 win over the Thunderbirds with a huge block in the final seconds. With the GATORADE Call-Up rumors swirling, I spoke to Renaldo for a few minutes.
Dave Eggan/NBAE/Getty Images
Major: "Just my intensity. My defense, I just go out and give my all for 48 minutes. Whatever they need I am just going to play my hardest for any team."
Q. What makes the D-League experience so valuable to a player?
Major: "I think the hands-on experience with the NBA, they offer you mentoring, everybody is keeping an eye on you, and they give you a great chance to showcase your talent both with all of the scouts that come to the games and the fact that a lot of games are on NBA TV, so everyone can check out your skills. There are some talented guys in this league, so you need to bring it every night. Every game is a dogfight."
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
Major: "Just to maximize my ability and take advantage of this opportunity that I've been blessed with. I can't get mixed up in individual accomplishments, I just take what the defense gives me, work well with my teammates, and listen to our coaches."
An Official's Magical Road to the D-League
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 4:22 p.m. CT
Second-year referee Marat Kogut has taken quite the interesting path to the D-League. As the son of Jewish Russian immigrants, his family moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. when he was just five days old. While kids his own age were playing, he began calling games while still a teenager and was noticed by NBA Director of Officials Ronnie Nunn while working a local New York City pro-am league. He was invited to work summer league games and was hired by the D-League. Like magic, his career began to take off. Yes, magic was most definitely involved.
Q. How did you get
started in the business?
Kogut: "I got certified at 16-years of age. I was working small games and someone advised me to go for my certification. It had been a hobby of mine, working like 100 games a month. They were in-house, rec league games with little kids. I was doing them for free because I really loved it. So I got certified just so I could make a few dollars while still in high school. I was one of the few who actually passed the exam, I passed the floor exam and started working youth games making cash in Brooklyn. I was making $30 a game and $250 in a weekend while my friends were making $4.75 at the Gap working crazy hours."
Q. But youth league games are a far cry from working with
some of the most talented players on the planet.
Kogut: "Right, so from there, I went to St. John's University and worked with the basketball program there. My job was to take care of the officials' dressing room, so I got to meet all of the Big East officials and they let me sit in on their pre-game routine, their halftime talks, post-game talks, and I soaked it all up like a sponge. It was great for me. I made great contacts and they gave me advice on where to go to camps and I got an offer to work pro-am basketball in New York. That is how Ronnie Nunn got his start, and he happened to be at one of my games. He asked me where I was going to camp that summer. I told him that I wasn't going to any camps, meaning NBA summer camps. He took out his Blackberry right there and I got a call the next day from the NBA with an invitiation. I must have had a good camp to get hired the first time. That was two summers ago in Vegas."
So this is your second season in the D-League?
Kogut: "Yes. I gave the D-League full availability. This is what I want to do. This is the path I'm going on."
Q. What areas are you working on to improve in your "game?"
Kogut: "Without experience, us younger guys just need to work as many games as possible. We see more players and get them into the hard drive in our brains for recall. More experience helps us learn to manage the games. It's not all about correct calls. There are flows to games that we have to understand and small nuances. One thing I'm learning is to have a patient whistle because these players are so talented and can play through a lot of marginal contact, so we don't always want to interrupt the game with a whistle. Also, the film breakdown with the supervisors is tremendously helpful. Especially at this Showcase. Immediately after the game we go into the film room with Ed T. Rush and George Tolliver, both of whom were longtime NBA officials, teaching you right there."
Q. What are your long-term
Kogut: "Every year, they want to see you moving up and getting better as far as development. If after a few years, you flatten out and plateau, you're going to be released in place of someone else. If someone's potential ends up running out, that's just the way it is. My goal is to get better every year and ultimately be in the right place at the right time. My goal is to get hired by the NBA. That's what I want to do."
What, if any, other jobs do you
have on the side?
Kogut: "Yes, I have a part-time job working in magic. I started when I was really young at that, too. There was an amazing magician at my cousin's Bar Mitzvah. It just blew my mind. I'm the type of guy who wants to learn everything immediately, so I went to the library the next day and got everything I could on it. It took me far. I started doing kids' parties and I started a small business out of it. Any time I can book an event in between games, I'll do that in New York.
After talking with me, he actually pulled out the Bluetooth headset for his cell phone and made it disappear.
D-League fans should keep an eye out for him before he makes himself disappear... and re-appear in the NBA.
Call it A Comeback
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 17, 4:04 p.m. CT
While Matt is off looking for officials to interview, this game has gotten interesting. After trailing by as many as 17 points, the 66ers have cut the lead to just five points with seven minutes to go in this game. Tulsa's Alan Anderson has 26 points already and is just a force on the floor. He's diving for loose balls and giving it all to make these next few minutes as tight as possible.
The Official Word
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 3:53 p.m. CT
So we've met players and coaches here in Sioux Falls, but who are the officials working in the D-League?
The NBA D-League officials pool is made up of two different groups. There are referees in development who are working their way up to the NBA and WNBA. There are also currently NBA and WNBA officials working a select number of games as a supplement to their work. These are younger officials with less experience. Three-man (or woman) crews work together and may be made up of any combination of experienced and inexperienced individuals.
"For every ten D-League officials trained in our development program pool, maybe one or two will get hired by the NBA or WNBA," Joe Borgia, the NBA Director of Officiating Programs and Development, said. "The NBA only hires two new officials a year, at most. In working their way up after spending time in the D-League, the final tryout, if you will, would be WNBA Predeaft Camp, NBA summer leagues and NBA preseason games."
For those who have gotten the call-up, though, it does not mean that their time in the D-League is at an end.
"In their first four years as an NBA and WNBA officials, referees spend a number of games working in the D-League," Borgia said. "In the first year, it might be 15 games, then 12. By the fourth year, we might not see them. The D-League provides an opportunity for our NBA officias with less experience to work on leadership skills. Since they are not yet crew chiefs in the NBA, they can work on their crew chief skills in the D-League. It's like taking the blender down to a lower speed."
The average tenure of a D-League official is four years. After two years, if they have shown improvement, we will keep them on. If we feel that they have reached their potential and that level is short of NBA or WNBA standards, they will move on to make room for new prospective officials. They are evaluated after each game, just like at the NBA and WNBA level. Tapes of the game are made available immediately, and either a supervisor or observer will go over important and questionable plays as well as behaviors and interactions with coaches and players.
Let's go meet a one.
Arsenal Stocked With Weapons
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 3:44 p.m. CT
Anaheim has built up a 15-point lead over Tulsa midway through the third quarter of the second game of the day behind Jawad Williams, Andre Owens and Majic Dorsey. After playing the late game last night, the 66ers do not have the same energy and are getting beat to loose balls. Meanwhile, the crowd has begun to fill up in anticipation of the Sioux Falls Skyforce and Fort Worth Flyers at 5 p.m.
Harrick On The Jam
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 17, 3:14 p.m. CT
Bakersfield head coach Jim Harrick is known as a player's coach, so when I met up with him shortly after the Jam's comeback victory, I asked him for his opinion on some of the key participants in the overtime thriller.
Q. Kevinn Pinkney has now had two excellent games at the Showcase. What does he bring to the Jam?
Harrick: "He's been playing like that all season long. He's a very solid player. He didn't rebound today until towards the end of the second half and overtime, but then he grabbed a bunch. He missed some shots that he doesn't usually miss, but it was the second game of a back-to-back and he's played a lot of minutes. We were down nine with 1:13 to go and came back, and we should have won in regulation. But Pinkney has had a great two days, and I would wish him well and hope something good happens for him."
Q. Tony Bobbitt has recently returned from injury, how is he getting back into the flow of things?
Harrick: "He finally found his range at the end of the game, it's the second game of a back-to-back, but he shot well later in the game and in overtime."
Q. Two huge free throws for Gerry McNamara to tie the game towards the end of regulation. How valuable is he to the team?
Harrick: "Gerry, Bobbitt, and Pinkney are guys that we need to have good games for us to be efficient, and they carried us at the end of the game. Brandon Bowman also made some big shots, and we played well in that 11-2 stretch and in the overtime."
Presidential Address: Blogging With Phil Evans
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 2:01 p.m. CT
NBA D-League President Phil Evans has been overseeing the events here in Sioux Falls just as he has the entire operation of the league since its inception five years ago. From his assessment of the progress and development of the league to where he sees it going in the future, Evans is a man with a plan. He joins up courtside to answer some question and give us a quick state of the union.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
Evans: "The league has been extremely successful in meeting its objectives. When we started five years ago, we really wanted to create a human resources pool where players, coaches, officials and front office staff could go and develop their skills and ultimately move on the NBA or WNBA. Since 2001-02, we are now at 53 player call-ups with another that has not yet been announced, 30-plus front office staffers have taken NBA jobs and 15 officials have been called up."
Q. Are call-ups the ultimate metric for success or are there other things you look at as well?
Evans: "That was first and foremost on our list of objectives. The next most important objective from our perspective was to provide a quality basketball-centered entertainment option in primarily non-NBA markets. I think we have done that. The quality of the basketball being played and the in-arena entertainment is really second to none in the minor leagues. As I go around to cities in the D-League and talk with fans, like here in Sioux Falls, where they had a team in a league for a number of years, they are thrilled to death as what they see as the improvement of the play on the court and the in-arena presentation."
Q. From both basketball and business perspectives, what are the next steps for the D-League?
Evans: "It is important for us to increase the number of teams in the League. Ultimately the goal is a 1-to-1 ratio of NBA and D-League teams. It's an evolving goal. What we've heard from NBA teams is that they like the affiliation system that we put into place last year. They are not as wild about sharing their D-League affiliates with other NBA teams for obvious reasons. They do not have as much input as to who the coach is, the system, playing time that their asignee might get in the position... so one of the goals is to increase the number of teams ultimately to 30. Rhe other important goal is to ensure that as we move into new markets, that they are the right markets for this product, that we partner with the right ownership groups and that we are in the right facilities and that we give new ownership groups sufficient lead time to educate the market because we really do think this is something special."
Q. You mentioned the 1-to-1 relationship with teams, so how closely do you monitor what the Los Angeles Lakers are doing with their D-Fenders as a model?
Evans: "I look at the the L.A. situation as an example of an NBA team that has made a decision that owning its own D-League affiliate is right for their basketball team. I think you will see more NBA teams make that decision, but you will also see NBA teams realize that there is a potential business opportunity here. The D-Fenders are currently playing their games before or after Lakers games at the Staples Center. They will probably do that again in 2007-08, but the long-term plan is to move into a smaller venue, sell tickets and operate a separate-but-related business."
Q. What are you looking forward to about the All-Star Game in Las Vegas next month?
Evans: "We are thrilled that we have the opportunity to put on an All-Star Game in Las Vegas as a part of the NBA's marquee event. From our perspective, it's a reward to these players who work so hard. It's another opportunity, like this Showcase, for them to put forth their skills in front of a lot of NBA personnel. We will likely see a call-up or two coming out of that as we will here. It's also another illustration of how important the D-League is to the NBA. It makes the connection in people's minds. It is great for future owners and I know that the current owners are excited to be a part of it as well."
What A Finish
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 1:38 p.m. CT
Down five points with just under a minute to go, the Bakersfield Jam rallied to send the game to overtime. After a 3-pointer from Tony Bobbitt, Gerry McNamara made two free throws to tie the score at 92-92. But Bobbitt just missed on the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, thus sending the game to an extra session. This will be the first OT game at the Showcase. Sitting next to the former Deputy Commissioner of the CBA, Wade Morehead, he is a proponent of the old CBA overtime rules: first team to three points wins.
A Taste of McDonald's
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 1:14 p.m. CT
Watching Loren Woods and Brad Buckman on the court together at the same time for Austin, it is interesting to note that both were McDonald's All-Americans coming out of high school. Woods played in the 1996 game while Buckman appeared in 2002. Other D-Leaguers who were honored and participated in the marquee event include Frank Williams (1998), Kevin Lyde (1998), Rick Rickert (2001), Jawad Williams (2001), Von Wafer (2003) and Amir Johnson (2005).
We Have Light
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 12:53 p.m. CT
Power is back and the lights are warming back up. We should be up and runnning again momentarily. Game On!
Blogging in the Dark
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 12:51 p.m. CT
Reports are that the power outage is not just in the arena, but in fact, citywide. Players have taken to the court and are shooting around just to stay warm as if it were halftime.
Shooting the Lights Out. Literally.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 12:33 p.m. CT
With 1:29 to go in the third quarter, the arena house lights have gone dark. Austin took the lead, 68-65, and certainly didn't need this kind of momentum killer. Luckily we still have power for our laptops... We do know that the Skyforce and arena staff are busily working to fix the issue. I'm sure the players would have no issue with playing in the dark... after all, most of them probably honed their skills on driveways and playground courts long after the sun had set and their moms were wondering if they'd be home for dinner.
Something In the Water?
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 12:10 p.m. CT
Following up on a piece of news we updated you on yesterday, yet another fan hit the halftime halfcourt shot just now (Jam lead the Toros, 52-49). That makes 4-of-9, proving that the city of Sioux Falls has the best half-court shooters in the country. With all of the free subscriptions they are giving away, this Showcase may be putting that newspaper out of business. Now we know why they don't give away vacations.
Stampeding Through The D-League
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 17, 12:01 p.m. CT
I had a chance to talk to Idaho Stampede head coach Bryan Gates, whose team won both of their games at the Showcase to extend their winning streak to nine games. In addition to winning plenty of games, Gates has been busy working with NBA players C.J. Miles (Jazz) and Mouhamed Sene (Sonics), who have been assigned to Idaho in past two weeks.
Gates: "They've been meshing great. Both of them are big chemistry guys, they care. When you have that then that is half the battle. They want to play well. C.J. (Miles) is always watching video, and Mo came into the locker room after the game upset because he missed some layups and apologizes to Randy Livingston because he didn't get assists. I mean they care, you can't coach effort and it's nice to be around a team where you don't have to worry about that. I think it's because of the leadership of Randy Livingston."
Q. The team started 0-5 but has been playing excellent basketball since then. What was the key to the turnaround?
Gates: "Just stay the course. We lost the first game by a good margin but we were in every other game. When you play like we do and pass the ball around a lot, you're going to turn it over because not everybody knows each other and that happened to us when we got the NBA players but we just stay the course. Our guys believe in themselves and they have effort, and when you have those two things it's half the battle.
Q. Is it a challenge keeping the players focused at an event like this?
Gates: Everybody talks about playing in front of big crowds, but I think when you throw the ball up it's just basketball. I think guys understand that and they block everything out and just play. We just do the same thing we do at practice and it's still basketball, so we are just going to do the things we do.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 11:05 a.m. CT
During intoductions for the first game between Bakersfield and Austin, it was announced that Patrick O'Bryant was recalled by the Golden State Warriors. He is the second player to be recalled so far since we've been here. Marcus Vinicius was recalled from Tulsa by the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets because he has a potentially-torn Achilles tendon.
We may not be done with the transactions, either. Rumor has it we may have a call-up or two by the end of the day.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 10:12 a.m. CT
Prior to the start of shootaround this morning, a group of men formed a circle around the basket at the north end of the arena. The basket was lowered to about eye level as the group was performing a number of tests on the rim, backboard and mesh net. Included in this group were NBA Senior Vice President Stu Jackson, NBA Vice President of Apparel, Sporting Goods & Basketball Partnerships Christopher Arena and representatives from Spalding.
The company that makes the NBA and D-League ball also makes the baskets used in games. At this Showcase, Spalding is testing its new basket, rim and net to see how they hold up in game situations. So far, so good. Of course, it was most entertaining to watch them bounce balls off the rim, apply pressure to the rims by "hanging" on them at floor level and do just about everything else you could think of to examine their strength and durability.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 17, 9:44 a.m. CT
So how do a bunch of NBA scouts, D-League employees and players and NBA TV crew relax after a long day? By watching more hoops, of course. Down in the lobby of the hotel, a throng of hoops junkies watched the instant classic college game between the ranked Big XII teams Texas and Oklahoma State. The game featured two of the best young stars at the collegiate level, and they did not disappoint. The game ended up going three overtimes and featured insane shots and buzzer beaters. You would have thought it was the NCAA Tournament with the way folks here were caught up.
And after a good night's rest, we find ourselves back here in the Arena watching as the Bakersfield Jam and Austin Toros go through their warm-ups. I'm so jazzed for this, the third and final day of the showcase that it's not even 10 a.m. yet and I cannot stop thinking about how fun that Dakota-Colorado game will be in like 10 hours. It just so happens that the marquee game of the week will be be the last one. Of course, there is a lot of basketball to be played between now and then. So sit back, relax, pop on NBA TV (all four games will be showed live today) and get ready for some fun.
Wrapping It Up...
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 10:05 p.m. CT
Two days down and one to go here at the D-League Showcase. Be back at noon ET (11 a.m. CT) for the Austin Toros and Bakersfield Jam.
Among today's top performers...
-Bakersfield's Kevinn Pinkney - 25 points, 5 rebounds
-Idaho's CJ Miles - 22 points, 8 rebounds
-Idaho's Jeff Graves - 11 points, 12 rebounds
-Tulsa's Desmon Farmer - 21 points, 5 rebounds
-Tulsa's Mike Hall - 17 points, 13 rebounds
-Albuquerque's Chris Rodgers - 21points
Coach Rogers On The Win...
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 16, 9:58 p.m. CT
Q. How does it feel to pull out a win when you were behind for most of the game?
Rogers: "Wow, down ten with five minutes to go, coach got them in the huddle and told them we are not going to give up. Those guys came out and they fought. They made plays down the stretch and it was really enjoyable to watch and be a part of."
Q. Is it a challenge for a coach to keep the players focused with all of these scouts watching?
Rogers: "It is, because just putting myself in their position I know how nervous I would be. You think you might be putting your future on the line, just on this weekend. What we try to tell the players is that these scouts have already seen them alot, so this weekend can help them, but it's not going to ruin your career if you don't play well. It's human nature to put that pressure on yourself. There are so many scouts in one place that you want to play well, so it's a human tendency for guys to put pressure on themselves."
Q. Desmon Farmer has recently returned to the 66ers, how is he fitting in with all of the new faces on the roster?
Rogers: "I know he scored tonight, but the biggest thing Desmon contributed tonight was energy. We went through a lull there were we were methodical and kind of robotic. We put Desmon in there and he was a sparkplug, jumping up and down, encouraging guys, that was his biggest attribute tonight, even though he knocked down some big shots."
Q. Will Conroy has been playing great lately, what do you see for his future?
Rogers: "That's our general, as he goes we go. It's no secret if you want to get to the body of the snake you have to go throught the head, and that's our head. Coach Myer and myself have put in a lot of time with Will, he's come a long way, and that's our job, to develop guys. Of courrse we are going to miss him, but it's like when your kid is 17 and it's time to push him out of the house to go to college. It's time for Will to go on to bigger and better things. "
At The Buzzer...
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 9:45 p.m. CT
The T-Birds just missed a shot at the buzzer that would have sent their game with the 66ers into overtime. Alas, Tulsa came from behind thanks to the strong play of Desmon Farmer down the stretch in the closing moments to pull out the 100-97 victory in the fourth and final game off the day.
Exit Stage Left
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 9:03 p.m. CT
After leading his team to a 1-1 record here in back-to-back games against two of the best teams in the league, D-Fenders coach Dan Panaggio is ready to lead his team on and out of Sioux Falls and down to Albuquerque for back-to-back games with the Thunderbirds (currently up 72-60 over the 66ers at the end of the third quarter here in the final game).
Panaggio is a former CBA coach who was actually brought in by Lakers coach Phil Jackson to head up the D-Fenders? Why? Because Panaggio is very familiar with the famed Triangle Offense, a system which he implemented with his D-League players. He readily admits that he is still learning the nuances of coaching in the D-League, but enjoys the challenges. Of course, many of his players are learning the system for the first time as the league signs players to a pool from which the teams may choose. The other challenge Panaggio faces is the lack of a distinct home court advantage. The D-Fenders play all of their games before or after Lakers games and do not sell individual game tickets.
That said, the Lakers organization is very involved in the daily operations of the team in just about every perspective, which can only lead to positive things as they work towards the future.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 8:44 p.m. CT
During halftime of every game, one fan has been selected from the crowd to take the halfcourt shot to win a free subsrciption to a local newspaper. One of the four fans hit the halfcourt shot yesterday, which you almost never see... but two more hit the halfcourt heave today in the first three games. What are the statistics on this? Three of seven from halfcourt? Those are absurd numbers.
So here we are at halftime of the final game of the day between Tulsa and Albuquerque with our lucky fan ready to take his shot. The historical perspective of this may not be very significant... but if he hits this shot... to go 4-for-8... it would be on par with Wilt's 100-point game as far as feats we will never see again.
Here he goes... he's lining it up... it's up and... ohhhhh, it just rims out. We were that close. Regardless, 3-for-8 is still pretty insane.
Quaker Meeting House
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 7:38 p.m. CT
I have no formal training at this. Blogging, I mean. Everything I learned covering sports came while I was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania. So naturally I have followed the D-League career of Colorado 14er guard Eric Osmundson, a recent graduate of that very same school. Drafted in the tenth round of this year's D-League Draft, Osmundson (or "Oz", as he's called by his friends), is the only Ivy Leaguer in the league. So naturally, he's the smartest, best-prepared, hardest-working player in the league, right? He has to be... (ok, enough snobbery out of me. for now).
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Osmundson: "I actually went overseas a little bit after graduation, to the Czech Republic, but due to contract issues, I never even picked up a basketball. I had offers to play in the first division in Germany and a couple of other places, but I figured this would be a good starting point for me and would give me the chance to play with the best players in the States."
Q. How has this experience been for you so far?
Osmundson: "It's been a lot of fun. I came in expecting it to be a little different in the sense that I was going in as a late Draft pick. But I worked really hard and got to the point where I'm out now. It's been a blast ever since and I'm just working as hard as I can every day and not take anything for granted."
Q. As far as the team goes, Colorado has been playing well consistently this season. What has it been like playing with guys like Von Wafer, P.J. Tucker, who have NBA experience?
Osmundson: "It's been cool. You can see their level and set that as a goal to reach. Playing with them every day, you get to see their skills, which of them you like and want to try and incorporate. The great thing about it is that it is so competitive each and every day in practice. It's really cool."
With guys like that, what becomes your role on the team?
Osmundson: "I went from playing the point all my life to playing the two here. It has been a little bit of an adjustment, but my role is to go in there and be a hard-nosed guy, be the best defender on the team and rattle the other teams' guards. Just to run the floor and finish in transition."
Q. What's the next step from here?
Osmundson: "Hopefully I'll get the chance to play on an NBA Summer League team this summer and then, from there, we'll see. If I play well enough, maybe I can get into a training camp. A majority of guys on our team have that experience and have been fortunate enough to go to training camps with the teams. From there, if something good comes up overseas, I'd pursue that. The idea is to keep working and eventually get to the NBA."
Eric is not the first Penn Quaker to play in the D-League. Center Geoff Owens played with the Roanoke Dazzle, and was ultimately joined by his younger brother, Kevin.
Hurrah for the Red and the Blue.
Dunk of the Week (So Far)
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 16, 6:49 p.m. CT
Brian Chase from just outside the three-point line lobs an alley-oop to Sean Banks, who has a serious vertical leap. Unfortunately, the D-Fenders still trail by 22 with about five minutes left. Banks has been impressive in the two Showcase games for Los Angeles, his third D-League team this season. Even the scouts got excited by that monster slam. I'm looking for a piece of paper with 10.0 written on it to hold up.
Colorado Looking Impressive
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 6:39 p.m. CT
We haven't been commenting that much on the actual game action deliberately (that's what you have NBA TV for), but here in this third game of the day, Colorado looks like a team that has had a few days rest while the Los Angeles D-Fenders look like a team that played last night. The 14ers have built up a 90-65 lead as the fourth quarter begins to tick away. Pooh Jeter (rhymes with "cheddar"), Von Wafer, Elton Brown and P.J. Tucker have the offense firing on all cylinders. You can see why this is the top-scoring team in the league as four players have already reached double digit points.
If this pace keeps up, the 14ers will win their third game over Los Angeles already this season and maintain their lead over the surging Idaho Stampede in the Western Conference.
Also, a special shout out to Joe Borgia's lovely wife, who is keeping up with the blog while her husband diligently studies and analyzes the officiating of the D-League crews here at the Showcase. The NBA Basketball Operations group is here in full force, from Stu Jackson, Ronnie Nunn and Borgia on down. We'll learn more about the officiating here tomorrow, but needless to say, there is a lot of work that goes into the development of referees at this level as well.
A Blog's Eye View
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 6:32 p.m. CT
Why is it so blurry? I'm not wearing my glasses, of course.
Jam on the Radar
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 6:31 p.m. CT
Jim Harrick has spent his career developing young talent and helping them realize their potential. He led the UCLA Bruins to an NCAA title and now mans the helm for the Bakersfield Jam. The Golden State Warriors recently entrusted young Patrick O'Bryant, a 7-0 center, to the care of Harrick and the Jam. So how is he helping O'Bryant to realize his potential?
"We work every day on offensive post moves in and around the basket," Harrick said. "We also play some post defense under the basket and away from the rim as well, how he stands, how he defends certain players, where to go for help-side defense and things like that."
As far as his communications with the Warriours on specific things to be working on with O'Bryant, Harrick has been given some freedoms.
"We talk to them and they let me do it at my discretion. I think more importantly, they want him to get on the floor and get some playing time. That's what they need more than anything."
In Bakersfield's 99-89 victory earlier today, O'Bryant had four points and committed six fouls in 18 minutes as the project continues.
The Chapman Report
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 5:23 p.m. CT
For many of the scouts here at the Showcase, this may be the only opportunity to see D-League players in action for awhile. But for the select few who actually specialize and focus their efforts on the D-League and its players, their breadth of knowledge about every player in is extensive and impressive. Eric Chapman, a former CBA coach and executive, now provides a minor league scouting service to more than half of the NBA teams. In producing his Chapman Report, which he has done for more than 17 years, NBA teams trust his opinions and evaluations and often make decisions based off of them. Here on this very Blog, Chapman offers up his services for free and gives us his ten players to watch (in no particular order).
Will Conroy, point guard, Tulsa
"He has been Mr. Triple-Double the past few weeks with three or four in that span. He is a strong, heady point guard who can take the ball to the hole. He probably has to work on his mid-range jump shot a little bit more. Once he knocks them down consistently, I think he is an NBA player."
Wafer, shooting guard, Colorado 14ers
"A two-guard, probably the most consistent 3-point and long-range shooter in the league right now. Colorado is leading the league in scoring and he has been the beneficiary of that. Any NBA team looking for outside shooting help, Von will be at the top of the list."
Stephen Graham, small forward, Sioux Falls Skyforce
"He is a swing man between the two and three spots. He has been in and out of the NBA the last year or so. I think his stay in the D-League will be fairly brief. Once he gets his feet back under him and gets some playing time, he'll be back in the NBA in short order. He is a solid all-around player, a great defender and right on the cusp of the NBA."
Loren Woods, center, Austin Toros
"We didn't really get to see a lot of him here at the Showcase because of an injury. He's only be in the D-League for a couple of weeks so far, but with his NBA background and size at 7-2, he put up 17 rebounds in his first game in the league. If he consistently puts up something close to that, you'd have to think he'd be back in the NBA relatively soon, especially any team looking for help inside."
Jawad Williams, small forward, Anaheim Arsenal
"Very consistent outside shooter, good all-around player. He probably doesn't do any one thing great, but really knows how to play. Decent defender and would fit in with an NBA setting where he could be a spot-up guy on the perimeter and be a 3-point shooter. He has the length and size to be an NBA small forward."
shooting guard, Fort Worth Flyers
"A really intriguing prospect out of a Division II program and now a rookie with the Flyers. He didn't see a lot of playing time early on, but with Kelenna Azubuike getting called up to the NBA, his window of opportunity has opened up here for him. He is a really exciting guy, but may be a year away from making the NBA. He will be sure to get a lot of looks in the summer leagues and at training camp in the next 12 to 18 months. He should be a guy on everyone's list of players to watch."
Ramos, center, Idaho Stampede
"The goliath of the D-League. At 21 years old and 7-3, he is an offensive presence in the paint every single night. He causes matchup problems for opposing teams who have to decide whether or not to double-team him. That really opens up the floor for the team playing the best in the league right now. He needs to become a better rebounder and work on his defensive presence to establish himself as an NBA big man. The progress he has made in the least year and a half in the D-League bodes well for his future in getting another NBA call-up."
Alan Anderson, small forward, Tulsa 66ers
"He just got released by the Charlotte Bobcats last month. Much like Graham, he is likely to have a short stay in the D-league if he plays up to his ability. He is another swingman who can play the two and three spots. Very versatile, takes the ball to the hole well, good mid-range offensive game all in an NBA body. I expect that if he stays healthy, he will have another shot in the NBA this season."
Reiner, center, Sioux Falls Skyforce
"Another good, solid big man. Size matters in the NBA and they are going to look at him. He had some experience with the Bulls a few years back when he made their roster. He is a good pick-and-pop guy who reminds me a little of Michael Doleac. He can step out, face up and shoot. He knows how to play, a good passer at the high post. He is a solid, all-around big man with a chance to get back in the NBA."
Kevinn Pinkney, power forward,
"He reminds me a little of former NBA player Chris Gatling. He has a four/three game, likes to step off the bloc, shoot the 17-foot jump shot, but probably needs to do a little bit of a better job of taking his time and getting inside and using his size a little bit more to score around the basket. He has surprisingly good defensive hands. He recently had six steals from the power forward position, which is unique. Runs the floor well. He may need a full season in the D-League to work on his game, but he has a chance down the road."
"As for three guys with the most long-term NBA career potential... Alan Anderson and Stephen Graham are at the top of the list. They are both similar combo players who can play and defend multiple positions. I think the other guy would be Ramos. You don't find guys like him very often. They come along only once in a few years. They are doing a nice job with him in Idaho, come out every night and throw him the ball to get him involved. If he can make progress and stay healthy, I think he can make the NBA."
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 4:44 p.m. CT
Session Two is about to begin as we will get our first look at the Colorado 14ers this week. With six games down and six to go here during the Showcase, things are just heating up. Well, on the court, at least.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 3:33 p.m. CT
While his Fort Worth Flyers do not play again until tomorrow, Coach Sidney Moncrief spoke to us about his newest player, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who was sent down from the Dallas Mavericks a couple of weeks ago. The buzz on Pops here at the Showcase has been extremely favorable after his first game yesterday, where he excelled on both ends of the court. If anyone can give him some insight, it would be Moncrief, who had a very successful NBA career as a player, himself. A four-time NBA All-Star, Moncrief was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons and finished his 11 year NBA career with an average of 15.6 points per game.
Fort Worth Flyers
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images
Moncrief: "He's brought some good energy, his ability to rebound the basketball, which is crucial, he has a positive attitude and spirit. That has been very important for our team. He's a team guy."
Q. When an NBA player gets sent down for assignment, how much input does the NBA team have in how you use the player?
Moncrief: "They have a lot of input. They just want guys to play. They can actually develop them indvidually on their own, so it's not an issue of working on something specific. It's more about getting them into game situations and seeing how they react."
Q. How does it affect your lineup and creative freedom as a coach?
Moncrief: "They have a minimum number of minutes they need to play, so we can't slowly work them into the lineup because we have to adhere to that. So we work him in as we see fit knowing that we have to get him a certain number of minutes. Obviously if he's playing better, he gets more minutes. If he is playing marginally, he gets the minimum number of minutes."
Q. How often do you talk to the Mavericks to update them on Pops' progress?
Moncrief: "We don't talk daily. We talk occassionally about his progress, and they follow it on their own. Their people come out and watch ballgames. So we don't have to talk about it too much."
Q. What about the changing nature of rosters in this league?
Moncrief: "That happens to us a lot, so we're used to it."
Q. Right, but is it then tougher to coach with constant lineup changes?
Moncrief: "I'd rather have that problem, especially if they are NBA-calibur players, but it's an adjustment and something we just have to work around."
The Fort Worth Flyers are 12-4 and have the second best record in the league.
In a side not, if I had any paper on me, I may have even gotten his autograph and had him make it out to "My good friend and lifelong Bucks fan Rob Peterson..." Maybe tomorrow.
Mark The Time
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 2:51 p.m. CT
We had been here in the northern plains nearly 40 hours before hearing a single country music song until just now. During the halftime break(Arsenal lead, 42-36, by the way), the honkeytonk jamboree began. Now seems as good a time as any to bow out and check out the concession stand...
Big Men, Big Dreams
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 2:11 p.m. CT
Watching the second game of the day, a match that pits the Anaheim Arsenal and the Idaho Stampede, alongside Sioux Falls Skyforce owner Greg Heineman, he tells us that one of his favorite subplots for these games has been the growing number of 7-footers in the D-League and here at the showcase.
In this game, we are seeing 7-3 center Peter Ramos for the Stampede and Anaheim's Ha Seung-Jin (7-3) is making one of his first appearances with the team. Across the league, the Flyers have two in Ayudeji Aakindele and Luke Schenscher (both 7-1). Tulsa has a pair of twin behemoths in Frans Steyn (7-1) and Cezary Trybanski (7-2). Albuquerque's John Edwards is 7-0, as is Arkansas RimRockers center Marcus Campbell. The Austin Toros recently added Loren Woods, who stands at 7-2. We also just saw Bakersfield center and recent NBA asignee Patrick O'Bryant, who stands at 7-0 as well. Robb Dryden is another 7-footer who used to be with Bakersfield, but just signed with the L.A. D-Fenders.
So for NBA scouts, you may not be able to teach size, but you might be able to stock up on it if you're in need of a big man.
Catching Up With G-Mac
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 16, 1:49 p.m. CT
Before he ventured out of the locker room to meet a bevy of autograph seekers, I met up with Gerry McNamara to get his thoughts on the Jam's 99-89 victory over the RimRockers.
Garrett Elwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Gerry and his Bakersfield Jam team will take on the Austin Toros in tomorrow's opener. Gerry is also interested in joining the D-League Blog Squad, so stay tuned to D-League.com for the first installment.
Rooks Getting Experience
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 12:32 p.m. CT
As you likely know if you are actually reading this entire Blog, the NBA D-League is more than just about developing players. It is about the education and experience of coaches, referees and even broadcasters. One of those broadcasters who has been working the D-League games for NBA TV is former NBA standout Sean Rooks. After an NBA career that covered seven NBA teams from 1992 to 2004, Rooks has turned to commentating. He currently works as on the Bakersfield Jam broadcast team, but will work half of the games here in Sioux Falls this week.
But what makes this story most unique is that Rooks also works with Coach Jim Harrick and serves as an assistant coach on his staff. While he does not take off the headset and book for the huddle during time outs, his insight into the team's play on the court has been extremely insightful.
Now entering the fourth quarter in the game that he is also broadcasting, the Bakersfield Jam lead by 13, by a score of 77-64.
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 16, 11:42 a.m. CT
Today's first set of games will have a bit of a Far Eastern flavor, with Bakersfield's Yuta Tabuse and Anaheim's Ha Seung-Jin seeing their first Showcase action. Both players are basketball trailblazers for their respective countries as Tabuse is the first Japanase player to play in the NBA while Ha Seung-Jin is the first native of Korea to play for an NBA team.
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 16, 10:52 a.m. CT
Just returned from the mandatory player development seminar, which featured talks from master motivational speaker and former NBA player Walter Bond, as well as scout Scott Roth of the Milwaukee Bucks and San Antonio Spurs Director of Pro Personnel Dell Demps. The Arsenal, 14ers, Wizards, Thunderbirds and D-Fenders were all in the room taking advantage of some free breakfast as well as some of the great speakers that the D-League staff had put together for their benefit.
The speakers gave some valuable advice to the players on what it takes to make it to the NBA, as well as general advice for succeeding in life. The keys are branding yourself, finding a niche that you do well, and always being ready to take advantage of your opportunity when it comes. Not to mention that the best players are always the ones who put the most effort into improving their games. With all of the NBA scouts in attendance this week, opportunities abound for D-League players.
Bakersfield and Arkansas are warming up and will play the first game of today's session in a few minutes.
The NBA G.M.'s Take on the D-League
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 10:26 a.m. CT
Celtics G.M. Chris Wallace is one of the many NBA front office executives who has utilized the D-League to improve his own ballclub. Just last season, high-flying Gerald Green was assigned for several weeks. Wallace is here scouting the players on all teams, and while he does not mention anyone specifically, he is keeping his eye on a nmber of players who he thinks have long-term NBA potential.
Q. What traits or skills do you look for in a player when evaluating their development in here at the Showcase?
Wallace: "Generally, players who make it in the NBA have at least one discernible NBA skill at a fairly high level. That can be scoring, interior defense, bringing energy from the bench. Something that will stand up in the NBA. The big-time players have multiple NBA-level skills. It's not realistic to think that someone coming out of the NBA D-League or Europe will have multiple, high-level NBA skills. Some players can develop that as they get more experience. We're just looking for one thing to catch our eye."
Q. What is the call-up process like for an NBA team?
Wallace: We haven't called up a player since January of 2003, Mikki Moore. Our roster has always been pretty well-stacked. The process is not that complicated, though. We'll get ahold of Chris Alpert in the D-League office, some coaches of teams and the people in the league. If they agree, there is not much to it. The pre-call-up evaluation never really ends. You're always looking because the players in this league are always changing from the beginning of the season to the end. This is not a static league as many players come in and out. You can't say that you're going to scout this league in November and get it over with once you watch all the teams play because there are other guys coming up in the league. We're always watching. As far as seeing them in person, it comes at this Showcase. It's so convenient because we can see everyone at one time in one place. We do have a very hectic scouting schedule between international and college."
Q. When you do assign a player to the D-League, as you did last year, what is the process like of monitoring and checking on progress of your player?
Wallace: "The assignment process, like we did with Gerald Green last year, is about monitoring the play of our player. We hired a strenght coach down in Fayetteville last season and various members of our staff went down there with him as well. But that was a quick one because he was in and out of the league in two or three weeks. We've never placed someone down for a prolonged period of time. If we did, that would involve a very significant monitoring on our part, sending staff members to work with the coaching staff and people to work him out, maybe even hire a strength coach in that area. You have to big of an investment just to send him down alone, and this is in no way a negative reflection of coaching staffs in this league. You have to follow it up and have a hands-on relationship."
Q. Would you give specific instuctions to the coaching staff?
Wallace: "We would give them things to work with our player on, but he also has a whole team to work with and has to win games, so putting the extra little emphasis on his skill and development is our responsibility more than the D-League team would."
Q. Are there players here you are keeping an eye on?
Wallace: "Yes there are. There are guys that are here that, in talking to coaches in the league and looking at stats, that have risen above the rest at this particular junction, but we are also missing four or five of the best players who have been called up. They were the cream of the league and this is not the same league it was a few weeks ago, but there are still players who will get called up and become successful NBA players."
Q. What about those players who have become successful players already, the Matt Carrolls and Chuck Hayes of the league? What made them stick?
Wallace: "They have that special skill. Take Matt Carroll, for example. He can really shoot the basketball. But he is not just a scorer. He was a member of a highly successful college team at Notre Dame, he's a high-character person, he can play defensively in that a coach can put him out there and not worry that the roof is going to fall in. He is not going to commit turnovers and make mistakes."
Q. Are there players in the D-League right now who will have the same success?
Wallace: "Yes, I believe so. I don't have exact stats, but if you did a study, you'd see that a couple of players each year who came from the minor league system become successful, so the numbers indicate that it will happen this season as well."
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 16, 9:43 a.m. CT
Back in the arena already with more than an hour to go before the Bakersfield Jam and Arkansas RimRockers tip off the day's quadruple-header. Players from both teams are already down on the floor warming up.
After the games last night, players from many of the teams gathered in the hotel lobb attached to the arena, just to catch up, grab a bit to eat, hang out and maybe gossip about how the Golden Globes went down. This is the only event all season where these guys will all be together.
Waking up couldn't have been easy as the temperature dropped to 20 degrees below zero, though every team has now arrived (Tulsa and Anaheim were the last teams to get in yesterday). It is so cold here that people bundle up indoors! But players from four teams had to be up to attend a mandatory player meeting and development seminar. As part of the NBA's ongoing education and training, the league puts on presentations for the players on a number of topics. Eight of the teams participated in their session on Sunday while the rest are meeting as we speak. Matt Brennan has joined for the morning and will be sure to talk about what he has learned.
In the meantime, there is Boston Celtics General Manager Chris Wallace just down row...
Catching Up With Renaldo
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 9:59 p.m. CT
Renaldo Major not only led the Wizards with 23 points, he had a huge block on Chris Rodgers that sealed a 95-94 victory for Dakota over Albuquerque in the final game of Monday's D-League Showcase action. I caught up with Renaldo in the locker room to see how it feels to have a big game with all of the NBA scouts in the house.
"Well it was good, because first of all, I propelled my team to victory", said Renaldo. "And second, I got to show the scouts that I can play some defense as well as offense. I'm trying to not just base my game on offense, I want to do everything to be an effective player overall."
Renaldo and the Wizards, who have now won eight straight, are back in action on Wednesday night against Colorado.
That just about wraps up the blog for today, but remember there will be a live webcast of tomorrow's Tulsa vs. Albuquerque game, which will begin at approximately 7:40 p.m. CT.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 9:26 p.m. CT
In talking with Dakota PR stud Mike Offerdahl before this game with Albuquerque, he was most concerned about his team's ability to handle the rigors of a back-to-back game. It is the team's first of the season. You'll recall that the Wizards played at home against Anaheim yesterday, then drove through the night to get to South Dakota. Well, Mike, it looks like your boys are hanging tough. With 2:30 to go in the fourth quarter, the Wizards are leading, 91-87. But do they have the legs to hold on? This is when the wear-and-tear of consecutive games really starts to be felt in the legs...
In A Major Way
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 9:09 p.m. CT
Dakota's Renaldo Major is lighting it up here at the Sioux Falls Arena, with 20 points after three quarters. Stay tuned for a word with Renaldo after the game.
Majic In The Building
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 8:44 p.m. CT
I caught up with Majic Dorsey of the Anaheim Arsenal, who was checking out the action with some of his teammates on their day off. Ever since my feature story on Majic we had been looking forward to meeting in person at the Showcase. Here's what Majic had to say about his time at the D-League Showcase and the road ahead.
Jeffrey Bottari/NBAE/Getty Images
Dorsey: "I just want to come out here and prove to the scouts and the fans that I can play in the NBA. It's just a blessing to come out here in front of NBA scouts, other D-League teams, the fans here in Sioux Falls, it's just a blessing to be here."
Q. What are your thoughts on how the Arsenal are playing this season?
Dorsey: "I think that we're playing a lot better than we did at the beginning of the season, but when it comes to winning one, losing one, we just have to be more consistent, we are playing much better together as a team. The second half of the season will be starting soon, so we just need to win a few in a row and play some solid defense and we should be set."
Q. Do you think players are going to be nervous with all of these scouts here?
Dorsey:"I'm pretty sure everybody will be pretty nervous, because everybody is playing for a callup. But I'm pretty sure that nobody is going to come out here and embarrass themselves, so we just need to play together, listen to our coaches, and be humble on the court."
Q. What are you looking forward to for the rest of the season?
Dorsey: "I'm just looking forward to staying healthy and living positive on and off the court, and being a role model. I just want to show people who know me that I'm living a good life, and I'm enjoying using me God-given talent, which is basketball."
Summer Summer Summer Time
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 8:25 p.m. CT
The best song DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince ever made is on the PA right now. By the way it is about 10 degrees outside in Sioux Falls. so this is equivalent to hearing Winter Wonderland in the Amazon rainforest. Tight game here, 44-43 Dakota with two minutes left in the first half.
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 7:44 p.m. CT
The T-Birds and the Wizards aren't putting a lot of points on the board, but they are definitely playing hard as this game has already featured two instances of players diving into the crowd after loose balls. The courtside folding chairs here at the Sioux Falls Arena are having a rough first quarter. Expect more of the same as these players go all-out to impress the crowd of NBA scouts in attendance.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 6:59 p.m. CT
It's cold in here. There must be some Toros in the atmosphere.
Or it's the Austin Toros that are cold, down 23 points now with just over two minutes to go in the game. Stephen Graham and Amir Johnson have been great for Sioux Falls, but this is a balanced team that has taken down Austin tonight. One more game to go tonight...
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 6:50 p.m. CT
..C..A... It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A!!!
Seriously, does that ever get old?
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 6:34 p.m. CT
Back to the game... The "visiting" Skyforce are starting to pull away now with just a few minutes left in the third quarter. Even though Sioux Falls is hosting the Showcase this week, each team is officially the home team and the road team for one game each. This is the Skyforce turn at being the road team even though they have a decided home court advantage. Tough luck for the Austin Toros, who lose that edge. The Skyforce "return home" on Wednesday evening to take on the Fort Worth Flyers.
The Big Dog Barks
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 6:26 p.m. CT
Even though they do not play until tomorrow, Anaheim Arsenal forward Corsley Edwards is in the house after just landing. Averaging 16.2 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game, he is proving that the No. 1 Draft pick status was not unwarranted. His team played at Dakota last night, then had to fly through Minneapolis, then back to Sioux Falls. After long delays, he arrived and spoke with us before doing just about anything else. He hasn't even checked into the hotel yet!
Edwards: "It has been a great experience. I am just happy to be out here because last year, I couldn't do it. Now I can come out here and just play."
Q. You were playing in Spain last year, right? What are the big difference between playing overseas and being at home in the States?
Edwards: "People speaking English (laughs). It's tough when you're out there in another country, especially a place you've never been to before. And when the coach is speaking another language, it's even tougher. You have translators during the game... It's difficult."
Q. After the Draft, there were a lot of expectations that come with being the top pick. How would you rate how you've done so far this season?
Edwards: "I'd say mediocre. I always have room for improvement."
Q. What would you like to work on?
Edwards: "My weight. Conditioning is the key. Playing every day and doing more after practice every day is the way to do that. I've been doing that. After practice, I've been working with Majic Dorsey and Andre Owens. Majic is another guy like me from Baltimore. I always used to watch footage of him when he was in school there, though he's younger than me. I watched and read articles, though. So we do extra work together, like lifting weights and running on teht treadmill."
What skills are you looking to showcase here at the aptly named Showcase?
Edwards: "A lot. I would like to show them everything I can. I am going to put everything I have out there on the court. Post moves, people know I have those, but I want to show I can run the floor, too."
Q. Last question... with the D-League All-Star voting still going on and the first-ever D-League All-Star Game, what would it mean for you to play in that game next month?
Edwards: "It would be an honor. It's the big-time. All-Star Weekend for the NBA guys, too. Just to be on the same court they play on would be great."
Bringing The Skyfunk
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 5:47 p.m. CT
We were just treated to a timeout performance by the D-League's only hip-hop dance team, Skyfunk. The Skyleaders Dance Team and Thunder the mascot are in attendance as well. No word on if mascots or dance team members are eligible to receive call-ups to the NBA just like the players. If there are any scouts from the Laker Girls or the Knicks City Dancers in attendance, we will let you know. By the way, Sioux Falls leads Austin 37-26.
Foul 25, Blue
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 5:28 p.m. CT
Sioux Falls center and D-League blogger Jared Reiner was just whistled for a moving pick. Hopefully we will be hearing a new installment from Jared sometime during the Showcase, perhaps with his opinion on whether he was standing still or not.
No-Name Offense, Pt. 2
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 5:11 p.m. CT
Austin's Troy Bell is another new acquistion who has yet to have his last name added to his jersey. However the crowd should already have a good idea who he is after the former NBA first round draft pick scored the game's first points.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 4:26 p.m. CT
The first session of games is in the books as the D-Fenders surprised the Flyers to win the second game. The moderate crowd dispersed without issue, many of them, though, came right back in as the doors opened for the second bloc of games. At 5 p.m., the host Sioux Falls Skyforce will take on the Austin Toros and the crowd is likely to be a good one.
In the meantime, we pause for a brief respite to eat a very Thanksgiving-eque turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and veggies with some of the coaches, scouts, crew and even a few agents. Just like my mom would have made if she actually cooked.
As one of the big events on the NBA calendar now, the Showcase is as much about social networking within the business as basketball gurus come together to discuss (and play) the game they love. And with so many former players now working for the league and many of the NBA and D-League teams, a bunch of them even got together for a fun little pick-up game early this morning here in the Arena. Led by former NBA-ers Michael Curry and Shawn Respert, the group also had a few pretenders as well (though we won't call anyone out here). Of course, they are still talking about it hours later. The group will be back again tomorrow bright and early, so if you are in the neighborhood and want a free show of some former players trying to recapture a bit of the glory of yesteryear by dunking on rec league hacks, there might be a door unlocked at 7 a.m. tomorrow...
This Showcase is also a chance for a few of the NBA players currently on assignment in the D-League to spend some quality time with the people from their NBA team. For example, there was James White chatting it up for nearly 30 minutes with Dell Demps, Director of Pro Player Personnel San Antonio Spurs. You'll recall that White was assigned to the Austin Toros a little more than a week ago.
Pops Has Hops
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 3:38 p.m. CT
Fort Worth's Pops Mensah-Bonsu has just deposited two D-Fenders field goal attempts into the stands. He's definitely the most intimidating defensive presence that we've seen so far today. However his Flyers still trail, 100-94 with 2:47 left in the game.
Cutting To The Chase
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 3:25 p.m. CT
Brian Chase, the shortest guy out on the floor, just drained two long threes in a row to give the D-Fenders a 93-81 lead with seven minutes left. Chase started this season on the Utah Jazz roster, but is now in the D-League and looking for a way back to the NBA. He is off to a great start at the Showcase as the D-Fenders look to knock off the team with the league's best record.
J-Rich, Vol. 2
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 3:02 p.m. CT
Golden State isn't the only place where you can find a J-Rich. Fort Worth's Jeremy Richardson is all over the place for the Flyers, draining jumpers and swooping to the basket. He has 18 points throught the middle of the third quarter. Richardson has been a major factor offensively for the Flyers now that Kelenna Azubuike is a Golden State Warrior. At least Azubuike is used to having a teammate named J-Rich.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 2:51 p.m. CT
Robb Dryden, signed by the Los Angeles D-Fenders on Saturday, has just joined the team and is playing in his first game with the team. How new is he? Well, he does have a jersey and a number, #51, but the team has not yet had time to have a name sewn on the back just yet. But D-League fans should know Dryden's name as he was with Bakersfield earlier this season and was with Fayetteville for a spell last season.
Keeping Close Watch
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 2:44 p.m. CT
When Amir Johnson was assigned to the Sioux Falls Skyforce last week, he was not the only one who packed his bags for the short trip west. Also joining him was Pistons Director of Player Development, Ryan Hoover, who has now been here in South Dakota for over a week. Not only is Hoover monitoring the progress of the young player, but he is also working with the Sioux Falls coaching staff to help focus and fine-tune his training.
Q. What types of things is Amir working on in his second stint in the NBA D-League?
Hoover: "Amir is skilled and athletic. You know what you're going to get out of him night-in and night-out. He comes with energy, he's long, athletic and plays hard. The biggest thing we need him to continue to do is compete and get better. He needs to get used to playing back-to-backs and staying competitive all the time."
Q. So that's his mental fitness as well as his physical fitness?
Hoover: "No question. The thing that people often forget is that Amir is only 19 years old. A lot of times our coaching staff forgets that. He's only 19 years old and would still be a sophomore in college right now. What he does on the court, skill-wise, is off the charts.
Q. When you are here with him, how often do you interact with the coaching staff to help with his progress?
Hoover: "It's been great. Coach Mo and his assistant, Nate Tibbetts, have done a wonderful job coaching him on and off the court. It's funny. I have been to his practices and they have been so great to me as far as asking my opinions and what he should be doing. He just needs to be coached and work on the fundamentals, the spacing of the game, where to be and where not to be and that kind of thing."
Q. How long do you expect him to be with the Sykforce?
Hoover: "We are just totally playing it by ear. They play seven games in 12 days, so that's pretty darn tough. That's a lot of time. We're just going to see what happens."
Q. When you go back to Detroit, how do you keep track and monitor his progress?
Hoover: "I'm here until tomorrow and I've been here since last Monday. My boss, Joe Dumars, John Hammond (Vice President of Basketball Operations) and Scott Perry and our scouts have been in contact with me every day. they have been updated on the transition and how it's been going. He has also been in touch with the players. We have a great group of guys, all of whom keep in contact from Chauncey (Billups) to Rip (Hamilton) and Lindsay Hunter. They want to know how he's playing and see how it's working out."
Q. Have you been scouting other players while you're here as well?
Hoover: "Not necessarily. I'm here to watch everyone to get a feel for the League itself. We don't have all that many scouts. This is our chance to see all the D-League players, the teams and the way it is all coming together. So there is not necessarily one particular player, but we go back and make a list of the top ten players and sit down and go over that."
From The Banks of the Big Sioux
Posted by Matt Brennan on January 15, 2:35 p.m. CT
The D-Fenders lead 57-55 at halftime, led by 12 points from Sean Banks. Banks is on this his third D-League team this season, but he has plenty of raw talent judging from his performance here so far and his one season of college basketball at Memphis.
The Second Cummings
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 1:57 p.m. CT
D-Fenders's forward T.J. Cummings with the monster dunk. He's got good genes.
As the Flyers' radio guy just said (because he's sitting right next to us), "L.A. just won't go away and trails 23-22 with 2:20 to go in the quarter."
Let's Play Two
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 1:34 p.m. CT
The second game of the day is underway between the Los Angeles D-Fenders and the Fort Worth Flyers. We have a tight game early on with Kevin Burleson leading the way early. Burleson is actually the brother of NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson, whose Seahawks lost a tough one to the Chicago Bears yesterday (and Nate scored a TD on a return). Kevin is also wearing a mic for NBA TV in today's game, which, by the way, is available live only on a D-League webcast.
Miles... To Go
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 1:22 p.m. CT
Idaho Stampede guard C.J. Miles was assigned by the Utah Jazz just last week. Just after the game, he stopped by to talk for a bit. This is his second stint in the D-League after spending a month or so with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds last year.
Q. What was your initial reaction after learning that you were coming back to the D-League?
Miles: "I kind of saw it coming because I hadn't played in awhile, since the first 14 or 15 games of the NBA season. I knew we'd have a long road trip in January, which is when it happened last year. So I saw it coming. I just look at it as an opportunity to come play."
Q. Are there things Coach Sloan wanted you to work on while you are here?
Miles: "Offensively, he knew I'd score points because he knows I'm talented. He told me to guard guys, to get up on them. Working on the baseline, coming off screens and stuff like that."
Q. How hard is it to join a team that has already something of a chemistry to it and has been playing well before you joined?
Miles: "It's tougher on the court. Off the court, everybody is really cool. We all have the same type of personality. On the court is harder because you have to learn about the guys, their play and the like. I have to learn where my spot is and learn the offense on the fly. In the first game last week, we didn't really run many plays because I was a day into the season. By the second game, I started to pick up on some of the plays. I had two good games. Today we wanted to run even more plays, so I was just trying to find spots. I didn't really know what was going on so much. It's just about learning the system."
Q. This is now your second trip to the Development League. How do you think this trip will be different than last year's?
Miles: "It's just another year of experience. I've now started some games (in the NBA) this year and played a lot of minutes in the beginning of the season. That just makes my game better."
Q. Any idea of how long you expect to be here with the Stampede?
Miles: "I don't know. Last year I was down for about a month and went back before the All-Star Game, so maybe it will be the same and maybe it won't. I'm just trying to play more and get better and wait for the call."
Arkansas Run Falls Short
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 12:35 p.m. CT
Despite playing from behind for the first three quarters, the RimRockers made a run to even the score at the start of the fourth quarter, but Idaho had too much and pulled away for another double-digit victory. Going to pull over C.J. Miles from the locker room to chat now. He was sent down from the Utah Jazz just last week and is playing in his third game.
Interesting story about Idaho's Ronnell Taylor. The Stampede guard has a twin brother, Donell, who is currently playing with the NBA's Washington Wizards. He is also a guard because, well, because they're identical twins. Donell, like his brother, was undrafted out of UAB, but signed with Washington and played in 51 games last year as a rookie. He is averaging 2.1 ppg with the Wizards this season.
Scouting... The Opposition
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 11:59 a.m. CT
Not only are there a number of NBA scouts in the crowd, but there are also a number of D-League opposing coaches scattered about in the stands. Bakersfield's Jim Harrick and Ike Austin are seated in the fourth row across from the Idaho bench. The Bakersfield Jam play these very Arkansas RimRockers in the first game tomorrow (Tuesday morning). Austin's Dennis Johnson is also here with his assistant, Dale Osbourne. There are more, no doubt, but we're here to watch hoops, not the faces in the crowd.
Action! Camera! Lights!
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 11:36 a.m. CT
Watching recent Idaho-asignee Mouhamned Sene (from Seattle) shoot the first of two free throws, just about the entire arena was startled to see an NBA TV cameraman walking out into the middle of the court to shoot the action from a highly unique angle. This wireless steadicam, as the boys in Jersey call it, will be on the floor all week during deadball situations. The network is introducing and experimenting with new technologies and production methods this week for possible future use during future NBA telecasts.
In addition to the steadicams, two jib cameras are stationed on the end lines, which will handle the majority of the play-by-play action (It feels like an MTV Rock-and-Jock game minus the 40-foot rims and 50-point shot). Plus, there are six enhanced microphones to capture the sounds of the game spread around, which makes the periodic comments under my breath about all the more dangerous. Then cameras will be following teams into the locker room at the half for even more all-access coverage.
But sadly, once again, my ingenious idea, the first-person-player-sweatproof-headband cam has yet to be introduced. Looking up the web site for the U.S. patent office now...
In other news... Arkansas mounting a bit of a comeback after being down by double-digits. On the strength of some sweet fadeaway jumpers from Matt Haryasz and Clay Tucker, it's down to a seven point deficit with five and half minutes to go in the half.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 11:12 a.m. CT
Chiming in... Matt Brennan comments on how short the RimRockers bench is.
"He's not the best colorman in the league for nothing, folks!"
But he's right. I count only four players not in the game right now, which may explain why the Stampede have gotten out to a 19-6 lead just six minutes in.
By the way, let us take a moment to comment on the ingenious thinking of the Sioux Falls events folks just once more. I still can't believe how lucky we are that our arena is connected to our hotel via an indoor walkway! We never have to walk outside again until we leave. I might just move here now. This is like a casino, really, in that I have no idea if it's day or night.
And We're Off...
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 11:08 a.m. CT
Idaho and Arkansas have tipped off and Peter Ramos scored the first bucket of the Showcase. Fittingly enough, it was Brandon Dean of the RimRockers who had the first rim-rocking dunk of the week.
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 10:02 a.m. CT
Greetings from the "Crow's Nest," above the court here at Sioux Falls Arena. We are set up and ready to go with a little under an hour to go before the RimRockers and Wizards open up the Showcase. Both teams have begun warm-ups directly above us and we could not ask for a better view for the next three days. The NBA TV crews are already setting up, ready to bring you 10 of the 12 games live.
Your friend and mine, the AWESOME Rick Kamla will serve as host for two games each day and Sioux Falls broadcaster Tom Nieman covering the other half. NBA TV also has a collection of production folks who will be shooting just about everything for a new show slated for ESPN later this year. Click here to see the most updated NBA TV schedule. Plus, the only two games you won't see live on NBA TV are available and free right here on D-League.com. NBAE photographers are also blanketing the arena as we will be posting some of the best photos each day here on the site.
Honoring Dr. King's Legacy
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 7:51 a.m. CT
Every morning when I was growing up, I would wake up with hopeful excitement that there might be snow on the ground, thus forcing school to be closed. Waking up and seeing nothing but white snow everywhere still gets me excited, though those schooldays are long over. Seeing the snow here in Sioux Falls upon waking up early this morning likely did not have the same effect on local schoolchildren because they already have the day off thanks to the life and sacrifices of an amazing man and a great generation.
Since its inception, the NBA D-League Martin Luther King, Jr. Showcase has been about more than just providing young basketball players a chance to show off their skills.
Farbeit from us to do real justice to the legacy of Martin Luther King in this space, but since the next three days worth of D-League basketball will honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through various community events and in-arena celebrations, it warrants something.
King was the most famous leader of the American civil rights movement in the 1950's and 1960's. A Baptist minister, King became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. As the leader of a church in Montgomery, Alabama, King rose to national prominence in 1955 while leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat on a bus. He was instrumental in the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and conducted non-violent protests around the nation and advocated civil disobedience. organized and led marches for blacks' right to vote, desegregation, labor rights and other basic civil rights. Most of these rights were successfully enacted into United States law with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In what may have been his most notable speech of his life, King spoke of his desire for a future where blacks and whites would coexist harmoniously as equals on August 28, 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It became a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.
While he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter in 1977 and Martin Luther King Day was established as a United States holiday (only the fourth Federal holiday to honor an individual) in 1986.
In this, the third annual NBA D-League Martin Luther King, Jr. Showcase, take pause to remember the life and legacy of a pastor, a pioneer and a patriot.
With that out of the way, let the bountiful bonanza of basketball begin!
C-C-C-Cold in Sioux Falls
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 15, 2:19 a.m. CT
Finally... after nearly 16 hours in transit, we've made it. Three cancelled flights, more than a dozen delays, one cool de-icing machine in Minnesota and finally we arrive in sub-zero temperatures. And it is not only cold, but there's a full-on blizzard going on outside. As Phil, our friendly cab driver explained, this is the first big snowfall of the year, but because the terrain is so flat, the wind really kicks up and blows the powder around.
So having just arrived here on the frozen tundra of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, we are already warming up and getting settled for the next few days of hoops. Players, coaches, scouts and media have all assembled for the third annual NBA D-League Martin Luther King, Jr. Showcase, which will feature 12 games between 12 teams in three days.
Sioux Falls – population 135,000 – is set along the banks of the Big Sioux River. Folks here like to call it the biggest little city in the region. In fact, the "Gateway to the Plains" is larger than any other city in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, or Montana. According to the infomation guide here in our hotel room, Sioux Falls takes its name from scenic cascades formed 14,000 years ago as Ice Age glaciers retreated. The shifting ice also exposed pinkish, quartzite bedrock, which was used to construct many of the city's older buildings. Among the larger businesses here, Citibank is the city's largest employer, which makes sense because all of my bills come from a P.O. Box somewhere nearby (and it is always nice to put a face with a P.O. Box).
Natually, it's cold here. In fact, we do not expect it to break the freezing point all week. Good thing the arena is connected to the hotel. Nearly half the teams are staying here as well, so it should make for an interesting few days. Time to catch some sleep and recover from a day of travel woes.
Getting Here Is (More Than) Half The Battle
Posted by Matt Wurst on January 14, 4:25 p.m. ET
We were supposed to be there by now... but here we sit, D-League.com readers' favorite columnist, Matthew Brennan, and I... more than seven hours after getting to the airport. Yup, we're still in New York City, sitting on the floor here at LaGuardia Airport. Due to inclement weather just about all over the country, our first flight was delayed, then cancelled, the next flight was already full, and here we wait for the 6 p.m. ET flight to Minneapolis to connect on through to Sioux Falls.
Strike that. We're now delayed until 6:45. At this rate, we might not get to South Dakota tonight after all... Since when was fog a reason to shut down a major metropolitan airport? I can understand the ice storms in the heartland of the country that is forcing delays, but fog? We already know that the Tulsa 66ers are also experiencing some travel issues as they are stranded as well. Their first game scheduled for tomorrow night has now been pushed back to Tuesday. Let's hope other teams do not experience similar troubles.