The Dev Report: Week Four
Names to Know
- Troy Hudson, G, Sioux Falls Skyforce
- James Mays, F, Springfield Armor
- Jarvis Varnado, F, Sioux Falls SKyforce
- Jeff Adrien, F, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
- Chris Wright, G, Iowa Energy
- Chris Wright, F, Maine Red Claws
- Ben Uzoh, G, Springfield Armor
- DJ Kennedy, G/F, Erie BayHawks
- Chris Douglas-Roberts, G, Texas Legends
- Ron Howard, G, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
- Kevin Jones, F, Canton Charge
Troy Hudson would lay his famous dreadlocks down, fade into unconsciousness and see old teammates. He'd look around and find himself in the many locker rooms he'd called second homes for two decades. Metallic palaces in LA, Orlando and Minnesota. Cement cells with broken hangers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Yakima, Washington.
But he'd blink himself awake and remind himself that hoops wasn't his life anymore. That the surgeries and the sinew tears and bone creaks had so drained his love for the game that he hadn't so much as picked up a ball since an appearance in the Howard Pulley Summer League in 2009. And for more than three years, the veteran of 11 NBA seasons avoided the game almost completely.
"I was done," Hudson said. "I was done."
Meanwhile, a coach seven years his junior took over the Sioux Falls Skyforce head coaching job and made it his top priority to sign a veteran point guard. Joel Abelson, that new head coach, had spent a half-decade as an assistant around the league and saw first-hand just how much a savvy signal caller -- ideally one with some NBA time to his name -- could make an offense flow, and, in turn, make a crew of individuals looking to make the NBA leap play like a team.
"They've been around the game and they've seen every possible scenario," Abelson said of experienced point guards. "Nobody's re-writing the basketball book. We all copy off each other."
And long before Troy Hudson scored 25 points in his first professional game in nearly four years, leading his Sioux Falls Skyforce team to a season-opening win on Saturday and convincing his team, his coaches and himself that an NBA Call-Up's more than possible, life led both men together.
Hudson, the veteran of 11 NBA seasons had undergone a small parade of changes in the four years since he last played in the Association. He started a record label, parlaying off a rap career that spat out a prolific number of records nobody bought. He fathered a son. He became a born-again Christian. And after three years away, the invisible currents in his life converged at one conclusion, he said.
"This summer, I realized I still had something left in the tank," he said. "I wanted to be able to end my career on a happy note, without bowing down because of injury."
He called his agent and said he wanted to come back.
"He said, man, you're gonna make me work," Hudson said with a laugh.
But that meant, when Abelson and his brand-new cabinet -- the existing Sioux Falls staff was largely gutted when longtime coach Mo McHone wasn't brought back -- went looking for a point guard to run their system, they had a target.
"I was more concerned -- and our concern as a staff -- was that he might not be able to sustain this for 35 minutes a night, 50 times a year, with back-to-backs, travel and this and that."
So, after speaking with Hudson's agent, the Skyforce staff worked out Hudson soon after in Minneapolis. The game was still there -- shooters will tell you that the shot's the last part of the game to go. The conditioning certainly wasn't -- said Abelson: "we told him straight out, 'You're not anywhere near where we need you to be, as far as physically,' and he said, 'I know, and I will be ready. Trust me.'"
Hudson spent the next two months running. Running like he hadn't since his playing days and running without pain in his joints for the first time since he could remember. And when NBA training camps opened and the Skyforce staff told NBA affiliate the Minnesota Timberwolves that they wanted Hudson on their roster, the T-Wolves obliged, signing Hudson only to waive him and send him directly to Sioux Falls.
"I'm healthy again," he said. "My legs are under me. My wind is there. I have veteran experience. I can help any team out there that needs veteran leadership off the bench. ... When I first started training this Summer, I had some doubts in my head, like, 'Am I gonna get my legs under me?' But I started doing stuff this summer when I wasn't in shape. And old men can always shoot."
But old men can also poison a locker room, Abelson said. The 29-year-old's been around the league long enough to see what happens when a player starts an NBA comeback for what he called the "wrong reasons" -- notably, financial trouble.
"They need money, first and foremost," he said of such players. "The other one is that often, they think that they're entitled to a chance -- that they're entitled to be back in the NBA. They're just about themselves."
"It can be the most detrimental thing you can do in your coaching tenure," Abelson said of bringing on a veteran out to return at all costs. "I've seen it happen in multiple cases. They ruin the locker room. They divide it. They make it about themselves. ... The NBA D-League can be very difficult if you have bad guys in your locker room. If you have a bad veteran who's around and not doing the right things, and who makes it about himself, it makes it impossible to win. It makes it impossible to develop and it makes it impossible to be in a positive situation."
"We went through every scenario that could happen for Troy," Abelson continued. "He told us right to our faces, 'I don't care if I come off the bench.' He got Called-Up coming off the bench behind Randy Livingston 14 years ago in Sioux Falls. He doesn't care if he plays 20 minutes a game. He missed the camaraderie. He wanted to end on his terms."
But this story wouldn't be appearing here if Troy Hudson didn't stand a chance at the NBA. Of last year's record-breaking 60 GATORADE Call-Ups, 19 of them -- including Mike James' quintet of Call-Ups in support of an ailing Derrick Rose -- went to either true point guards or combo guards. And if Hudson's looking for a model, he's got one in James, who played precisely the role that Hudson's offering: after all these years, T-Hud, the safety blanket.
"The [NBA D-League] is going younger," Abelson said. "And when Minnesota took him and we claimed him as our Affiliate Player, I got a lot of negative feedback from it. This is a young man's game now and I'm a young guy, but the NBA D-League is about developing, ultimately. And there are guys who do it the right way, like Mike James, who get called-up."
"If you need a point guard who can still definitely make shots, run your team and not screw it up for 10 minutes, this is your guy," Abelson said. "Is he gonna get called-up to a youthful, up-and-coming team fighting for a playoff spot, but ultimately in the Lottery? Probably not a great fit. But if they need a veteran to come in for 10 minutes, he's that guy right now."
So now, after timing brought him here, it's timing that'll get him another shot, too.
"If you'd have asked this time last year if I was gonna play, it was absolutely no," Hudson said. "I had no aspirations to play or come back, but over the summer something hit me, and I was like I wanna do this."
Check out our photo gallery of the Top 10 Performances from the weekend, then stay tuned for tomorrow's all-new Prospect Board!
A few Top Prospects struggled in their first games of the 2012-13 seasons. The good news is that they've got at least 48 games to turn things around.
JaJuan Johnson, F, Fort Wayne: On Friday, the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft struggled hitting shots. On Sunday, he picked up four fouls in the first half and failed to really factor in the game on the offensive end, scoring four points on 2-for-8 shooting -- though he did finish with eight boards.
Mike Davis, F, Sioux Falls: Davis played somewhat limited minutes on Saturday, but largely because of his own doing. He picked up four fouls in just 19 minutes, and while the second-leading rebounder in University of Illinois history did grab five boards, he had only two points and no blocks.
Keith Benson, C, Erie BayHawks: Benson also got himself into foul trouble in Erie's win over Fort Wayne on Friday, with the ex-Hawks big man -- and one of our favorite players at Summer League -- slapping and out-of-positioning his way to five fouls in 19 minutes.
Michael Eric, C, Canton Charge The Cavs camp-invitee, who drew a comparison to Serge Ibaka from Cleveland coach Byron Scott, scored just four points and went without a block in 26 minutes for the Charge. He did pull down eight rebounds.
The first weekend of play in the NBA D-League made for some thrilling moments across the nine games -- all of which you can watch in their entirety (or bits and pieces, if you're into the whole brevity thing) at our YouTube Hub -- not to mention an early candidate for Play of the Year.
Brady Morningstar hits the three-quarter-court shot at the first quarter buzzer.
Antoine Agudio drills the game-tying three with time expiring.