John Bryant had a nice D-League debut for the BayHawks (via www.slamonline.com)
I never did get Futurecast up and running last night, but I was able to follow along reasonably well for most of the games. There were definitely some flat teams, as five of the six opening night contests were decided by double digits. Yikes. Regardless, I'm definitely excited that the D-League season is back on and that we have stuff to watch and talk about now. So let's get to it.
Erie BayHawks 85, Fort Wayne Mad Ants 77
I called made this game the main course in my Thanksgiving semi-related preview (I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, by the way), and I guess the fact that this was the closest score justifies that. The game wasn't even really that close, though, as Erie had a 49-34 lead at halftime. John Bryant had a fantastic game for Erie, with 16 points on 7-12 shooting, 14 rebounds, three blocks, three assists and two steals. He had five fouls, which is something to work on, but that's a pretty great debut. Jackie Manuel played pretty much out of his mind, with 18 points on nine shots, nine rebounds and four steals. He had six turnovers and five fouls, and most of his production came in the first half, but otherwise it's something to build on.
For the Mad Ants, I'm really, really confused. Ron Howard, Brandon Cotton and Sean Sonderleiter led the team in field goal attempts, which is mind-boggling with guys like Rob Kurz and Ryan Ayers on the roster. Kurz didn't attempt a single field goal! And this is a guy who started in the NBA! Howard is a good defender, but he should never take 16 shots in a game, and he showed why by making just five of them. He got to the free throw line and made eight of his nine shots there, but otherwise I can't imagine this is the offense Joey Meyer envisioned. I should say that Sonderleiter played pretty well, improving his rebounding in the second half and finishing with 21 points (on 11 shots) and 10 boards, and was able to draw some fouls himself. Jeff Potter has been writing that Sonderleiter has been putting in work this offseason and looking pretty good in camp, and the results are there. I still think this team missed Chris Hunter, though, not just in taking some rebounds away from Bryant but in taking shots away from Howard as well.
Hit the jump for the rest of the night's games.Sioux Falls Skyforce 112, Maine Red Claws 95
Reggie Williams is going to be a fantastic scorer in the D-League. I know I've said it before, but he made me say it again by scoring 29 points on 13 shots to go with four rebounds and four assists. He's not particularly athletic but he's crazily efficient and does a good job of getting to the free-throw line. Keith Brumbaugh and Joe Krabbenhoft each had pretty good games, Brumbaugh scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds and Krabbenhoft picking up nine points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Those rebounds were key for each of them as starting center Greg Stiemsma had a pretty terrible game.
NBA assignee Bill Walker played, well, like an NBA assignee should with25 points on 18 shots and 11 rebounds. He also led his team with five turnovers, though, and that likely made the difference in the game. The Red Claws weren't out-rebounded by a large margin, they did a decent job of distributing the ball (15 assists on 34 field goals, which isn't spectacular but is okay) and they shot just two fewer free throws than their opponents, but they turned the ball over 19 times to the Skyforce's 12. Billy Thomas had his three-pointer going, making three of four shots from behind the arc and finishing with 18 points overall. Stanley Thomas and Abdulai Jalloh each had 17 points, on 11 and 10 shots respectively. And before you ask, I know almost nothing about Jalloh. It looks like he played at St. Joseph's where he did pretty well (even being the team's second-best rebounder at 6'1"), then he transferred to James Madison and was terrible.
Austin Toros 93, Rio Grande Valley Vipers 82
This was sort of the opposite of the Erie-Fort Wayne game in that it was closer than a double-digit win would indicate. The Vipers actually outscored the Toros in the second quarter and were down by just one at the half, but Alonzo Gee finished with 24 points on 15 shots and Dwayne Jones had 11 points and 12 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive end. Curtis Jerrells was a perfect 12-12 from the free throw line, but he shot just 3-11 from the field and finished with just three assists in 40 minutes to go along with six turnovers. Wherefore art thou, Marcus Williams? Jerrells, and by extension the Toros, are going to have to figure this out, because even though they won the signs weren't entirely positive, and that starts with the ball distribution. Seven assists on 32 made field goals is pretty terrible. The team also made just one three-pointer out of nine attempts and was out-rebounded 39-48.
Rio Grande Valley really could've had this one. Why didn't they? For starters, Joey Dorsey struggled on the offensive end, shooting 3-9, and he also had a hard time handling Jones on the glass early on. Kurt Looby came in during the first half and fared better, and ended up with six rebounds in 18 and a half minutes. Dorsey's board work improved, and he ultimately grabbed 15 rebounds (eight offensive), but that was one early struggle for the Vipers. Another was three-point shooting. I will probably mention this a little too often early on this season, but new coach Chris Finch has said that he prefers an up-tempo, three-point-heavy offense, but the Vipers shot just 3-14 from behind the arc last night. Antonio Anderson led all scorers with 28 points on 19 shots, which is nice, particularly from a guy known more for his defense, but he was 1-5 on threes and turned the ball over six times. This team might need to trade for some outside shooting, because from what I've seen in this game and in the preseason, it's just not there in-house.
Utah Flash 100, Tulsa 66ers 85
Dontell Jefferson shook off some early struggles (he started the game with a missed three and a pair of turnovers) to finish with 18 points on 11 shots and five rebounds, though he also had just two assists. Backups Orien Greene and Jason Richards helped out in that department, with Greene picking up five assists to go with 17 points on nine shots, eight rebounds and three steals. If he can bring that kind of production off the bench on a consistent basis then the Flash should be set in the backcourt, for as long as Jefferson is around anyway. Richards added three assists in 13 and a half minutes. Luke Nevill and Carlos Wheeler weren't particularly efficient offensively, with Wheeler needing eight shots to get 10 points and Nevill scoring 11 points on 12 shots, but they did pretty well with the other stuff. Wheeler grabbed 10 boards and had two blocks while Nevill added nine and four, respectively. Bennet Davis added nine rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. Garrett Siler got a DNP for some reason.
Tulsa has a decent starting point guard, Mustafa Shakur, they just need a backup. Eight of the team's ten assists came from Shakur, and Larry Owens was the only other player with any (two, if my math is correct). NBA assignee Byron Mullens struggled with his shot early one, and he finished with 14 points on 17 shots, five fouls and four turnovers (though he added 10 rebounds). Keith Clark played pretty well, with 14 points on eight shots, seven rebounds and four steals. Latavious Williams played a little under 11 minutes off the bench, and while he didn't put up a single shot attempt he still had three rebounds and a block, which is decent production, particularly since he also didn't turn the ball over or commit a single foul. It's always good to temper expectations, anyway.
Albuquerque Thunderbirds 102, Bakersfield Jam 81
So this game was as ugly as I feared it would be, although it didn't really get that way until the second half. The good news for the Thunderbirds is that Carlos Powell is good and on their team, as he finished with 20 points on 13 shots, nine rebounds, five assists and only one foul in 37 minutes. The other good news is that their centers are pretty good rebounders, as Kevin Pittsnogle, Erek Hansen and Chad Toppert combined for 18 boards. The bad news is that their centers aren't what you'd call "good" offensively. Pittsnogle was particularly bad, shooting 0-10, and five of those shots were three-pointers. He's played well in the past, but at this point he's been away from the game for so long that it will take some time for him to get his game back. Hansen shot 2-8 and Toppert was 2-7, so the alternatives weren't much better. (Okay, Toppert is actually a guard and not a center. This is why I shouldn't write these things at 2 am.) Yaroslav Korolev proved me wrong for at least one game, finishing with 15 points on seven shots, five rebounds, two steals and only one turnover. Good game outta him.
For the Jam, yikes. Where to start. First of all, it's never a good thing to have a better three-point percentage (.435) than overall shooting percentage (.319). Robert Swift had a decent rebounding outing, with 11 boards, but he was pretty much a non-entity offensively with four points on 1-5 shooting. He also picked up five fouls and turned the ball over four times in 30 minutes. This is another team without a point guard, and they mustered just eight assists on 22 made field goals. Justin Hawkins shot just 3-14, though he made up for it somewhat with eight rebounds and 9-10 shooting from the free-throw line. And all isn't entirely bleak, as Reece Gaines and Jared Newson did fairly well offensively, with 19 points on nine shots for the former and 18 points on nine shots and four rebounds for the latter. Still, these are your starting guards and they best they can give you is a pair of assists from Gaines? And the backup PG Lance Hurdle gives you a zero in that department? Yikes.
Iowa Energy 106, Springfield Armor 73
Ahhh, it's good to have pro basketball back in Springfield, Massachusetts. The boxscore/play-by-play for this game was acting up all night, and as of my writing this the stats are still stuck in the second quarter. I'll update it whenever the D-League fixes their site.