FORMER BIGHORNS PLAYERS LOOK TO MAKE BIG IMPACT IN NBA PLAYOFFS
April 27, 2012
RENO, NEV.— Last March, Danny Green was playing for the Reno Bighorns at the Reno Events Center in front of 4,000 people. Come this Sunday, Green will be the starting shooting guard for the Western Conference’s top-seed San Antonio Spurs as they face the Utah Jazz in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Green has been a major factor for the perennial contender Spurs this season, averaging 23.4 minutes, 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Green’s journey from the Development League to the NBA has not been Fan uncommon one this season, with the D-League experiencing its most successful season yet.
There has been a record 60 Gatorade Call-Ups during the 2011-12 season. The Bighorns have had three players called up this season, including two that will be playing for teams in the playoffs. When the NBA playoffs kick off on Saturday, there will be a total of five players making contributions whose path to the NBA ran through Reno.
Blake Ahearn, after having one of the most impressive D-League seasons in history, got his Gatorade Call-Up from the Utah Jazz on April 9. Ahearn was a scoring machine this season, averaging 23.8 points in 37 games with the Bighorns. The D-League all-star and former D-League Rookie of the Year also became the D-League’s all-time leading scorer this season, with 3,804 points. Perhaps his most notable accomplishment this season was his remarkable stretch of 110 consecutive made free throws. That record shattered the previous D-League record of 79, also set by Ahearn, and surpassed the NBA mark of 97, set by Michael Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 1993 season. This season with the Bighorns, Ahearn shot an incredible 96.2% from the charity stripe.
Ahearn has appeared in three games for the Jazz since being signed, averaging 1.0 point in 5 minutes per game. The eight-seeded Jazz will take on the Spurs this Sunday.
On being called up and getting into the playoffs, Ahearn said, “It’s great. Not only getting called up, but getting called up to be with a team that is competing in a playoff race and then make the playoffs. Just to be part of the games we have had these past couple of weeks, it’s been great, it’s been fun. It’s been a great experience and it means a little more too because I have played with San Antonio before, so having a chance to play them in the first round of the playoffs is really awesome. It’s been one heck of a month and a half for me.”
Bobby Simmons of the Los Angeles Clippers got the call-up this season on February 27 after playing in 21 games for the Bighorns. With the Bighorns, Simmons averaged 13.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Simmons also played in 10 games for the Bighorns during the 2010-11 season. This marks Simmons’ second stint with the Clippers, having last played in Los Angeles during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 campaigns. He turned in his most productive NBA season while with the Clippers in 2004, tallying career-highs of 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists, garnering the NBA’s Most Improved Player award that season. Currently, Simmons is averaging 2.9 points in 14.9 minutes per game. The Clippers will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs, starting this Sunday.
The New York Knicks feature two former Bighorns. Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak have made significant contributions to the Knicks this season, helping reenergize the team after a slow start.
Lin, who has become the most recognizable D-League star and whose amazing journey has been told numerous times, appeared in 20 games for the Bighorns during the 2010-11 season. He was assigned to the Bighorns three separate times by the Golden State Warriors, and boasted the impressive stat line of 18.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game. After being cut by the Warriors and Rockets, Lin was signed by the Knicks, sent down to play one game for their D-League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks, then brought back up to New York, when he took the Garden by storm. Lin set a scoring record for his first 5 starts, including a monstrous 38-point-outing against the Los Angeles Lakers in early February. He was sidelined due to a knee injury in mid-March, but is expected to be available for the second round of the playoffs.
Lin’s teammate, sharpshooter Steve Novak, only played two games for the Bighorns during the 2010-11 season, but definitely made a mark in his short time here. Novak shot 64.3% from behind the arc and averaged 18.5 points in 29 minutes per game. Since joining the Knicks this season, he has become a deep threat and currently leads the league in 3-point field goal percentage. The Knicks will play the Miami Heat in the first round of playoffs, starting on Saturday.
These former Bighorns embody the mission of the NBA Development League as a place to foster talent and develop top prospects into NBA players. Green, Ahearn, Simmons, Lin and Novak will be important players to watch during the playoffs.
Reno Bighorns season tickets for the 2012-13 season are on sale today. Fans can become part of the Bighorns family with packages starting at $99. For more information, call the Bighorns front office at 775-853-8220 or visit RenoBighorns.com.