Sea Dubs in the Bubble: Finding a Groove
Santa Cruz Warriors Broadcaster Kevin Danna Reports on the G League Bubble in Orlando
The Santa Cruz Warriors’ G League season is well underway as the squad sits at 2-3 following Wednesday afternoon’s 111-108 overtime win over the Canton Charge. Just 10 games remain in the sprint to the finish for this shortened season, but there is still much to see and learn from watching the “Sea Subs” put in their work on the hardwood. We connected with Santa Cruz broadcaster Kevin Danna prior to Wednesday’s matchup to get updates on Jordan Poole, Nico Mannion, Alen Smailagic, Jeremy Lin and the rest of the team, and to hear his thoughts on what he has seen so far:
What are your main takeaways from the Santa Cruz Warriors’ start to the season?
DANNA: My main takeaway is that I don't know how many takeaways there are going to be from this season. Aside from winning a G League title or completely bottoming out and finishing 1-14, a 15-game sample size isn't really indicative of how a team would play over a normal 50-game season. The one plus is that although it's only a 15-game season, the Sea Dubs should be able to find some sort of groove because they have more or less the same roster. There figures to be a lot less roster flux than a normal G League season; that said, Santa Cruz has already picked up another guy on a two-way contract with Dallas in Nate Hinton and they've already had to deal with some injuries (Axel Toupane, Zach Norvell Jr. and Ryan Taylor, not to mention not having Alen Smailagic for the first handful of games).
How have Jordan Poole and Nico Mannion looked to you?
DANNA: Jordan Poole has really found a nice groove over the last couple of games (23 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists through five games). He's gotten a lot more efficient compared to the first two games and is making more sound decisions with the basketball as the bubble season has progressed. When he's in a groove, the basket looks like it's the size of the ocean for him.
As far as Nico is concerned (21 points, 6.8 assists, 1.4 steals), I definitely like what I see. Turnovers have been a huge concern for him -- he turned it over 15 times in his first two games combined -- but there's no question he knows how to get a team into its offense and distribute the rock. He's also very sound defensively and can turn opposing guards when he's defending the ball. The question for him will be how well can he shoot the 3-ball (and if he can cut down on the TOs). His shot looks good and he's a pretty athletic dude so I think he has a bright future.
What has been your impression of Jeremy Lin?
DANNA: Jeremy Lin is still an NBA player, without a doubt in my mind. He knows how to play the game, he's a very good shooter and he still has a burst. He was unconscious against the Westchester Knicks, scoring 29 points and dishing nine assists on just 12 shot attempts and hitting 7-of-9 on three-point attempts. He's made more than $60 million over his NBA career for a reason and he's only 32. He still has plenty in the tank.
What, or who, has been the biggest surprise to you??
DANNA: The biggest surprise to me has been the success of G League Ignite. I knew they had some good vets and two top-five draft prospects, but I did not expect them to start the season 4-0. People knew about Jalen Green, especially around here since he's a Cali guy, but Jonathan Kuminga is very mature for his age and really knows how to play. Daishen Nix might be 19 but he is as thick as a running back and can really finish nicely around the rim. Isaiah Todd is a skilled big who has a nice shooting touch. And we haven't even started with the vets -- former Warrior Jarrett Jack put Santa Cruz to sleep with his 9-for-10 field goal performance that included a couple of huge buckets late. Bobby Brown is a bucket. I don't know how Brandon Ashley hasn't received at least one 10-day contract yet. I could go on and on. Ignite has been really impressive.
Among non-Santa Cruz Warriors players, who has stood out the most from the games you’ve called?
DANNA: Myles Powell of Westchester has been very, very good. He was a bigtime scorer at Seton Hall in college and he's a bigtime scorer in the Bubble for the Knicks' G League team. He definitely has NBA regular season games in his future. Paul Reed, who is on a 2-way contract with the Sixers and Delaware, is a skilled big who has really nice footwork. His shot is a tad funky right now from the perimeter but he's making it enough that people have to guard him out there. Moses Brown, on a 2-way with Oklahoma City, looks like he's made some nice strides. Tre Jones, on assignment from San Antonio with Austin, really knows how to run a team. He hasn't shot it well from deep but everything else is high level. Iowa forward Tyler Cook is unstoppable down low at this level. And I gotta give a shout out to two of my favorite non-Sea Dubs to watch: Jemerrio Jones of Delaware, who is the G League's Charles Barkley, leading the league in rebounding through the first three games despite being just 6-foot-5-inches tall, and Cam Reynolds of Austin, one of the smoothest dudes out there.
Your thoughts on some of the rule experimentation in the G League is implementing, and how it’s affecting the game?
DANNA: There aren't any new rules this year, but the one that has carried over from last year that I absolutely love is the one free throw rule. For the first 46 minutes of regulation, players shoot one free throw worth one, two, or three points depending on if they were fouled on an and-1, a two-point shot or three-point shot. Studies have shown, or so I've been told, that this rule has save games about 6-8 minutes on average, which is awesome. Free throws are the most boring aspect of a game, until the final 2 minutes when a game is close, then they become intense. And luckily with this rule, you go back to the normal free throw rules for the final 2 minutes of regulation and any OT period. As I like to say, the fewer free throws, the better. Back in 2014-15, the league experimented with not having teams shoot FTs until the 6th team foul of a period, which I hope they bring back.
What is it like to broadcast a game remotely?
DANNA: Broadcasting a game remotely is pretty chill, assuming the technology works. I've lost all audio right as I've gone on air where I can't hear anything the producer is saying to me or hear any court sound and I've lost the video feed for like a minute or two during live action; that makes for a more stressful experience. I practice broadcasting by watching games on my laptop, so I'm used to seeing players at thumbnail size and not live in the flesh. Broadcasting remotely is a lifesaver these days since we can't be at the actual games in the G League. Luckily I've had a lot of experience with this with calling our road games for Santa Cruz last year off a monitor at Kaiser Permanente Arena, which is how we're doing it this year.
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