Sea Dubs in the Bubble: Locked In
Santa Cruz Warriors Broadcaster Kevin Danna Reports on the G League Bubble in Orlando
The Santa Cruz Warriors (10-3) sit atop the G League stadings in a three-way tie with just two regular season games left on their schedule. As you prepare to watch the G League squad prepare for the playoffs, hear from Santa Cruz broadcaster Kevin Danna on what he has seen from the "Sea Dubs" thus far:
Jordan Poole and Nico Mannion got called up to Golden State recently, and yet without two of their scoring leaders the Sea Dubs come out and dominated the Eire Bayhawks on Tuesday. What was working in Santa Cruz’ favor? Who did you see step up?
DANNA: What a win on Tuesday against Erie. Figured to be the toughest game of the season against the team with the best record and without Nico and Jordan, not to mention other starting caliber players sitting in Dusty Hannahs, Kaleb Wesson and Nate Hinton. They were just locked in defensively to start, holding Erie to 91 points, which is a very low number for a G League game. Axel Toupane, who was in camp with Golden State in preseason, got off to a great start with 14 points in the first quarter and showed why he could be in line for another 10-day contract (he has played 2 years in the NBA with Denver, New Orleans and Milwaukee). Everyone really chipped in... Heck of a team win.
How has Jacob Evans performed since rejoining the team?
DANNA: One of those other performers who really stepped up was Jacob Evans. Look, it didn't work out for him with Golden State, and it has to be humbling to go from being a first round NBA draft pick to being cut from a G League team in training camp in the span of two and a half years like Jacob did (he was waived by Erie before the regular season started). But you got to give him a lot of credit: Santa Cruz picked him up from the player pool when they lost Dwayne Sutton to a season-ending injury in large part because of his familiarity with the system. He sat the first couple of games and was a great cheerleader from the bench. Kris Weems loved his energy and has always been a fan of Evans off the court. Kris told him he was going to be needed at some point, and over the last three games his importance has grown. He ERUPTED against Erie on Tuesday for 24 points and 7 rebounds and hit like 4 of 5 from three-point range. He is still only 23 years old so if he can continue to show growth he can hopefully work himself to another shot with an NBA team be it in a Summer League or training camp situation and go from there. If you can get past that he was a first-round pick and just look at what he's doing now, you have to give him a lot of credit.
Alen Smailagic had himself a near-triple-double (13 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists) on Tuesday. What was different in that game?
DANNA: The Santa Cruz coaching staff has been really trying to hammer home to Smailagic to play within the system, because his natural instinct is to get the rebound, bring it up the court and then try to dunk on the entire team. You love the hunger, but that's obviously not going to fly with an NBA team that has Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Draymond Green on the team. He's got to learn how to be a complimentary piece and he has made some pretty good strides in that department over the last couple of games. He's been looking to get others involved more, as evidenced by the seven dimes against Erie, and worrying about his offense primarily on offensive rebounds, which is what the staff wants to see. He's still working his way back from that minor meniscal tear that he needed surgery on in January and so that hasn't helped his production, but the game against Erie was a really positive sign.
Head Coach Kris Weems is in his second season as head coach. How would describe him, his leadership and his coaching style to anyone in Dub Nation who has been unable to watch him on the sidelines yet?
DANNA: I love Kris Weems. He's a guy who has long been focused on player development, dating back to his first tour of duty with the GSW organization last decade, which makes him perfect for the G League. He's not going to curse guys out and lose his mind on the sidelines like you'd see from some college coaches. That doesn't mean he won't be stern with players when he needs to be, though. He's a cerebral guy and I think has done a terrific job getting the best out of a group that has had to deal with two season-ending injuries to Zach Norvell and Dwayne Sutton, the recall of Jordan Poole and transfer of Nico Mannion back to Golden State, not having Jeremy Lin available for half the season and having other starting caliber players like Dusty Hannahs, Kaleb Wesson and Axel Toupane all miss multiple games... and guiding this team to a tied-for-G-League-best 10-3 record. It's impressive stuff from Weems and staff.
What should Dub Nation pay attention to as the Sea Dubs enter their final two games? Anything/anyone they should keep their eye on in particular?
DANNA: Keep an eye out for Axel Toupane and Nate Hinton. Watch for how well Toupane times his cuts -- he's going to give you at least one dunk a game off a perfectly timed cut right through the paint. He has an NBA body with his length and a jumper that might come out a little flat at times but one he's hitting in the mid-to-high 30s from deep. Hinton has a lot of Juan Toscano-Anderson in him in that he does all the little things to help your team win games -- diving for loose balls, playing great defense, snatching offensive rebounds and knocking down the occasional splash. He's on a two-way with Dallas so Golden State can't just sign him but he's a guy that Santa Cruz really liked in the pre-draft process and was happy to get on the roster. Also, should shoutout Eli Pemberton for his steady play off the bench and 3-point ability.
Looking into your crystal ball: who do you see Santa Cruz potentially facing in the first round of the single-game elimination playoffs, starting on Mar. 8, and what challenges might these opponents pose?
DANNA: They might get a preview in their next game against Rio Grande. If Santa Cruz finishes as the No. 1 seed, RGV could very well be the 8. It's a familiar foe for Santa Cruz, which has faced RGV thrice in the postseason. They're a team that tries to get up loads of threes per game that has the services of arguably the most talented player in the G League bubble in Kevin Porter Jr, a second year NBA player on assignment from Houston who working his way into the Rockets rotation. They also have Kenyon Martin's kid, KJ, who is a high-flyer to the max and a double-double machine. They might also get another run at G League Ignite, the team with the NBA Draft prospects spending their gap year between high school and the pros in the G League that is teamed with pro vets like Jarrett Jack and Amir Johnson; Santa Cruz lost to them in the opener. But honestly, they could face anyone. It's still a pretty big jumble.
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