(Yvonne Falk/NBAE/Getty Images)

Santa Cruz Weekly Write-Up: Damian Jones’ Epic Slam

By Kevin Danna

Santa Cruz Warriors broadcaster Kevin Danna provides an update on what's going on with the Sea Dubs.

1. How's the team doing?

Last week, I mentioned that this team could win 35 games this year when at full strength … that last phrase being the key. Santa Cruz has been shorthanded the last couple of games, and it has showed – the Sea Dubs lost to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers 139-121 Friday night at home before losing a close 117-112 battle to the Reno Bighorns in the Biggest Little City in the World Monday night. The Warriors played those games without the services of two-way guard Quinn Cook, who has gotten some well-deserved time up with Golden State, and the Sea Dubs are obviously going to feel the effects of not having a top-five scorer in the G League in the lineup.

Santa Cruz has also been without former Detroit Piston Michael Gbinije, the 2017 Golden State training camp invitee who has missed last four games with a calf strain. At the time he went down with the injury against Long Island on Nov. 17, Gbinije (a former roommate of Quinn Cook at Duke) was shooting 50 percent from the floor and 41 percent from downtown.

The losses to the Snakes and ‘Horns have Santa Cruz at 6-5 and in third place of the Pacific Division, trailing the first-place South Bay Lakers by three games.

2. How are the guys on the Golden State roster doing?

Damian Jones continues to dominate G League competition. The Vandy big has been a bright spot for the Sea Dubs during their two-game mini-skid, scoring 23 points against RGV on Friday before putting up 18 to go along with four blocks on Monday. Jones is averaging 23.0 points over his last four games and shooting a ridiculous 78 percent from the floor (52-for-67) over his last six games – I guess it’s easy to shoot that well when you have the ability to posterize defenders like this:

Quinn Cook hasn’t played for Santa Cruz since our last installment, but it was nice to see him rack up five assists (against just one turnover) in 13 minutes of court time against the Bulls on Friday to go along with his four points and two rebounds. The good news for Santa Cruz is that Cook has rejoined the Sea Dubs as the Big-League Dubs embark on their six-game road trip.

3. Who else has been impressing lately?

It has been a nice couple of weeks for Damion Lee. Recently getting engaged to Sydel Curry, Steph’s younger sister, Lee appears to have gotten back to full form following an ACL tear last December that cut short a promising season with the Maine Red Claws. The Drexel Dragon-turned-Louisville Cardinal has scored at least 24 points in each of the last two games, hitting three 3-pointers and shooting at least 50 percent from the floor in both games.

Alex Hamilton is coming off his best game of the season, going off for a season-high 23 points in the loss to Reno. He was 2-for-4 from 3-point range in the game, bringing his season total to 7-for-13 from beyond the arc. The sample size is still small, but it’s growing – a year after shooting 23 percent from downtown with the Sea Dubs in 2016-17, Hamilton appears to have more confidence in his shot.

Lastly, Georges Niang continues to do Georges Niang things, and that means contributing everywhere on the floor. The Iowa State product is 10th in the league in field goal percentage and free throw percentage and 12th in assists per game and has been a model of consistency for the Sea Dubs. One of three guys to start all 11 games thus far, Niang has scored at least 17 points in 10 of 11 games, has contributed at least five assists in at least nine of 11 games and pulled down at least five rebounds in nine of 11 games. Niang is coming off his third double-double of the season, putting up 17 points and 13 boards Monday against Reno.

4. What's next?

The Sea Dubs are in the midst of a three-game road trip, which continues Wednesday night at Oklahoma City and wraps up Friday in Sioux Falls before welcoming in the Sioux Falls Skyforce to Kaiser Permanente Arena on Sunday night. Winning two of the next three would be nice to get to 8-6. Make sure to come on out to Kaiser Permanente Arena for the 6 p.m. tip against the ‘Force Sunday night; there’s no better way to end the weekend.

Speaking of the KPA, the Sea Dubs just announced that the Santa Cruz City Council unanimously voted to extend the team’s lease at Kaiser Permanente Arena though at least the end of the 2020-21 season. Great news for a venue that is easily the most vocal and vibrant in the G League.

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