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Western Conference Preview, Part I

The second installment of a four-part preview series looks at four teams from the West, including the return of a team in the City of Angels.
SEASON PREVIEWS
Eastern Conference, Part 1(CTN, DAK, ERI, FWN)
Western Conference, Part 1(AUS, BAK, IDA, LAD)
Eastern Conference, Part 2(IWA, MNE, SXF, SPG)
Western Conference, Part 2(RNO, RGV, TEX, TUL)


From now until the start of the 2011-12 NBA Development League regular season on Friday -- including a live broadcast on NBA TV (7:30 p.m. ET) of the Canton Charge's first-ever game, when the newcomers take on defending champ Iowa -- we'll look at the teams, players and storylines you should know as the NBA D-League preps for its most competitive season yet.

After we previewed our first four teams from the Eastern Conference on Monday, a breakdown of four teams from the Western Conference is on-tap today, with the second half to follow on Thursday. Because everybody needs an appetizer before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, stay tuned to NBADLeague.com for exclusive video and stories about #DTip11.


After running the Pan American team's offense this summer, Justin Dentmon jumped across state, from Dallas to Austin.
NBAE via Getty Images

Austin Toros
NBA Affiliate: San Antonio Spurs
Coach: Brad Jones
Key Players: Leo Lyons, Justin Dentmon
Key Draft Pick: Tristan Thompson (Rd. 2, 30th overall)
Last Year: 22-28
City Fun Fact:
Austin’s well-known – at least among Austinites and the Northerners who wish they lived there six months out of the year – for its “Keep Austin Weird” slogan. Originally, it was a marketing pitch to help support small business and the local music scene.

Now it’s Leslie Cochran’s life mission.
Outlook: After an eighth-place finish in 2010-11, the Toros have re-tooled. First, they shipped the No. 2 overall pick to the Texas Legends in exchange for Justin Dentmon, who led USA Basketball in assists and tacked on 9.2 ppg during the Pan American Games. Then they drafted Tristan Thompson out of North Texas, a potential star-in-the-making, and brought in Luke Zeller, a 6-11 center known for his long range, via trade with Bakersfield.

Meanwhile, former Duke star Lance Thomas is back for his second year in town, after steadily transforming into a consistent playmaker over the course of his first year in the NBA D-League last year. And what does all of that mean? After finishing no worse than second in their first three seasons in Austin, expect the Toros to make last year nothing more than an anomaly.

NBA D-League veteran Renaldo Major will be leading a young, talented crew in Bakersfield.
NBAE via Getty Images

Bakersfield Jam
NBA Affiliate: L.A. Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors
Coach: Will Voigt
Key Players: Renaldo Major, Brian Butch
Key Draft Pick: Mac Koshwal, Mustapha Farrakhan, Osiris Eldridge (all 1st round)
Last Year: 29-21
City Fun Fact:
Back in the 1950’s, the town gave birth to a honky-tonk style of country music known as ‘The Bakersfield Sound,’ led by ultra-surly Hall of Famer Merle Haggard. In the 90’s, it gave us KoЯn.
Outlook: During the 2011 Draft, the Jam were exactly that. The jam. (sorry…KoЯn brought us back to the late 90’s) Now that that’s over with, back to the point. The Bakersfield Jam were the big winners on Draft night.

With three picks in the first round for the first time in Draft history, the Jam hung onto ‘Mac’ Koshwal and Mustapha Farrakhan – a big man with bigger upside and a gifted playmaker in Farrakhan – and dealt No. 6 overall pick Edwin Ubiles and fellow pick Travis Walton to the Dakota Wizards for veteran Renaldo Major and rook Osiris Eldridge. Toss in Brian Butch, the MVP of the 2010 NBA D-League All-Star Game, who's in Bakersfield after recovering from a knee injury, and you've got an inside game as good as any in the league.

They’ll be young, and it’ll take some time to pull everything together, but the potential here is reason enough for Jam fans to make their own … Bakersfield sound. See what we did there.

Longtime NBA star Antoine Walker will be the face of the Stampede again in 2011-12.
NBAE via Getty Images

Idaho Stampede
NBA Affiliate: Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz
Coach: Randy Livingston
Key Players: Antoine Walker
Key Draft Pick: Jason Ellis (Rd. 2, 23rd overall)
Last Year: 24-26
City Fun Fact:
Idaho’s state vegetable is the potato. In related news, the soup of the day is bread.
Outlook: Antoine Walker returns for his second straight year with the Stampede, bringing his 16.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game from 2010-11, as he seeks a return to the NBA – where he spent 12 years, won a title with the Heat and went to three All-Star Games. Joining him will be returning guard Tony Bobbitt (14.6 ppg) and new recruit Jason Ellis, a high-energy forward who played two years with Idaho after four at Boise State, with a stint in Holland mixed in.

The Stampede haven’t made the playoffs since 2008-09 – which came a year after they won the NBADL title in 07-08 – and will need a few of their fresh faces (former Syracuse 3-point assassin Eric Devendorf, anyone?) to step up to break that streak.


Jamaal Tinsley, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBADL Draft, starts his quest for an NBA return in L.A.
NBAE via Getty Images

Los Angeles D-Fenders
NBA Affiliates: Los Angeles Lakers
Coach: Eric Musselman
Key Players: Jamaal Tinsley
Key Draft Pick: Tinsley, Anthony Gurley (Rd. 2, 31st overall)
Last Year: Did not compete in 2010-11
City Fun Fact:
Los Angeles' full name -- stemming from a settlement that cropped up in 1781 -- is actually El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula, which translated to 'The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Little Portion,' and has, in our opinion, a much better ring to it.
Outlook: After a one-year hiatus, the D-Fenders are back. And with them comes Jamaal Tinsley, a one-time NBA star looking to get back to the Show after being taken with the No. 1 pick in the Draft. Tinsley was the second big acquisition for the D-Fenders this summer, after L.A. lured over new head coach Eric Musselman, who coached at the NBA level before taking the Reno Bighorns to a 34-16 record last year.

Musselman will be put to the test early, with a bit of a motley crew of new faces on his hands. But look for draft pick Anthony Gurley, a point guard out of UMass, to turn some heads after falling further than we expected him to in the Draft.