David Bell and the Dakota Wizards begin the D-League season tonight against the Maine Red Claws
Now that the D-League season is officially underway, it's time for the rest of the teams to get in on the action. Well, except for the fact that three of these games are rematches of last night's contests. But you know, other than that.
Iowa Energy at Springfield Armor
What, again? Last night's boxscore still isn't correct, but based on what's there Curtis Stinson and Pat Carroll had very good games, which makes sense given the Armor's lack of perimeter defenders at the moment. Perrin Johnson shot the ball well (early on, anyway) for Springfield, and he could turn out to be the team's main offensive weapon rather than JamesOn Curry. I also wonder for how long Kentrell Gransberry will start over James Cripe. Cripe's pretty athletic and had a nice game (again, early on at least), while Gransberry can do some nice things, but he also doesn't have the most stamina in the world and almost no offensive game to speak of. He's been working hard over the last few seasons, I'm just not sure he's starter material yet. Both of these teams will probably be a little tired given the game's early start (it's actually underway as I write this), and I certainly don't expect another blowout. Springfield could hang with the Energy if tired legs don't let shots go down.
Maine Red Claws at Dakota Wizards
Maine also could come out sluggish, given that they also played last night and had some (relatively minor) travel on top of it. Add to that the fact that the Wizards have the defenders who can slow Bill Walker down. Maine's hope should lie in the fact that Dakota doesn't really have a ruthlessly efficient scorer in the mold of Reggie Williams, so if Romel Beck decides to take the Red Claws on himself or if David Bell's shots don't go down the Red Claws could stay in the game. Will Blalock also hasn't impressed yet this season, but he's talented and could be due for a nice game for Maine.
Utah Flash at Tulsa 66ers
Yet another rematch, and while I've tried to be hopeful for the teams that got blown out last night (like Springfield and Maine), I'm not sure the 66ers can pull this one off either. They have some nice pieces - Moses Ehambe was scoring pretty well before Tulsa had to put up a lot of shots to try and get back in the game, Keith Clark is capable of putting some nice games together, Mustafa Shakur looks like a nice pickup at point guard - but Utah is one of the most loaded teams in the league right now, and they have a lot of frontcourt talent to throw at Byron Mullens and keep him shooting as poorly as he did last night. The fact is, the Flash won by 15 last night without getting great games from Dontell Jefferson or Luke Nevill (offensively, anyway), so there's even some room for improvement for them. Tulsa should improve over last year's poor season, but it's not hard to see them starting 0-2.
Rio Grande Valley Vipers at Austin Toros
Quin Snyder is a good coach, and Curtis Jerrells is a talented point guard, so it's entirely possibly that Austin will improve on last night's game (did I mention that they won?) and share the ball a little more, but Rio Grande Valley should be mad that they lost last night when so much went right for them. I'm still not crazy about the Vipers' three-point shooters, but they should do better than 21 percent. Joey Dorsey also should come out motivated to perform better offensively and also take some of those rebounds away from Dwayne Jones. If the Vipers play just a little bit smarter and a.) not turn the ball over so much and b.) not foul so much, they could split this mini-series.
Los Angeles D-Fenders at Albuquerque Thunderbirds
The good news for Kevin Pittsnogle is that the D-Fenders don't really have a center who will demand a lot of his defensive attention, and also that it's hard to miss all of your shots two games in a row. At some point one of them is going to go in. Los Angeles also doesn't have a lot of players who can challenge Pittsnogle's outside shots, either because they're more post-oriented (Longar Longar) or because they're not tall enough (pretty much everyone else on the roster). I know the Thunderbirds won in a walk last night with Pittsnogle playing terribly on the offensive end, but he could end up being the key player for them tonight. Ryan Forehan-Kelly and Deron Washington both came off the bench in LA's preseason game, which isn't necessarily how I'd do it, but I also would expect them to play a little bit more. Forehan-Kelly can help out in a lot of areas, and the D-Fenders could use his rebounding ability against Albuquerque, and Washington is more talented than a few of the guys who got the start ahead of him. This game is itself a rematch of that preseason contest when Albuquerque won, 83-77, but even factoring in having played last night the Thunderbirds could easily repeat that outcome.
Reno Bighorns at Idaho Stampede
Finally, a game in which neither team played last night. Idaho looked very impressive in the preseason, although I wouldn't expect Roberto Bergersen to make all of his threes again. There will be some nice point guard matchups with Russell Robinson vs. Sundiata Gaines and Lanny Smith vs. Majic Dorsey. I'd expect to see Marcus Hubbard spend some time checking Anthony Tolliver, at least while Tolliver is out on the perimeter, as Rod Benson and Cezary Trybanski are better at defending the post. Given the pace at which Idaho plays now, Reno's Desmon Farmer could put up some really nice numbers, though he should be careful that they don't come at the expense of the rest of the team's offense and he needs to be careful about taking care of the ball. That also goes for Hubbard, who should build on his solid preseason game and not get the itch to start jacking up threes just because the other team is doing it. This could be the best game of the night.