Now this is more like it; five games, some nice matchups.
Reno Bighorns at Los Angeles D-Fenders
Reno is still looking for their first win, and it may just come tonight. Reno's first pair of games came against Idaho, who force teams to run with them, but the Bighorns should be able to play closer to their preferred style here. Michael Fey has had a nice start for the D-Fenders, but Rod Benson should be able to defend him pretty well. They've also acquired Doug Thomas, who I like a little better than Brian Laing (who was waived) coming off the bench. If Desmon Farmer can keep the turnovers down, I like Reno's chances. After the last game, though, that's a big if. The D-Fenders have point guard Gabe Pruitt back, and they also have several guys tall enough and athletic enough to guard Marcus Hubbard wherever he goes on the floor. They have talent, but the fact that Pruitt is still getting acclimated means their offense could struggle.
Erie BayHawks at Sioux Falls Skyforce
There should be some good individual matchups in this one, with Greg Stiemsma having to guard Erie's talented new center John Bryant, and the BayHawks' Donell Taylor likely spending some time checking Reggie Williams (at least he should be). Keith Brumbaugh and Pete Campbell have each shot the ball pretty poorly so far this year for Sioux Falls, but if they can contribute in other areas the team should be okay. Outside of Jackie Manuel's first game, the BayHawks haven't gotten much help for Taylor and Bryant. They'll need someone to pick up the slack (ideally Ivan Harris, who hasn't hit a three yet) to stay in this game, given how many guys can score for the Skyforce.
Springfield Armor at Maine Red Claws
This is already being called a rivalry game, which I guess it is for regional purposes, but let's see how they play against each other first. Maine has a stacked roster now, with
five six seven players with some NBA experience (assignees Bill Walker and Alexis Ajinca plus Billy Thomas, Mario West, Will Blalock, Noel Felix and Trey Gilder). It's true that said experience only amounted to about a dozen games for a few of those players, and that Mario West was awful as a pro, and that Blalock has been less than impressive so far this season, but that's still a lot of talent. As for the Armor, well, they've reportedly signed Major Wingate, a talented center who never showed up to Maine's training camp. Plus they have an NBA guy of their own in JamesOn Curry, never mind the fact that he's shooting 31.8 percent from the field and 21.4 percent on threes so far. Actually, you probably should mind that. Even more importantly, Curry has just one more assist (nine) than turnovers (eight) this season. Perrin Johnson and Maurice Maxwell have switched off having good and bad games for Springfield, but who are we kidding; this one could get ugly.
Tulsa 66ers at Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Tulsa won a few days ago, but if you didn't read my write-up of the game (and it's understandable if you didn't; it's really long), there weren't a whole lot of players I was all that impressed with. Mustafa Shakur is good, certainly, but the Vipers have some defenders (like Antonio Anderson) who could keep him in check. Joey Dorsey and Mike Harris also should kill Byron Mullens and DeVon Hardin. Moiderize them. Either Dorsey or Harris could end up with 30 rebounds and 10 blocks. Heck, both of them could. The Vipers have had some players with turnover problems and they haven't been hitting their threes, and the 66ers have some shooters who could get hot, but the skill gap in the middle is just too large.
Austin Toros at Albuquerque Thunderbirds
I was made a fool of the last time I said this, but I'm going ahead with it anyway - Kevin Pittsnogle could be a key player in this game. The Toros just don't really have anyone who can guard him on the perimeter (caveat coming) if he's shooting the ball well. Dwayne Jones is rooted to the paint, Justin Bowen is really more of a small forward (though he can get up to block Pittsnogle's shots) and David McClure is too spazzy. The Toros also don't really have anyone who can adequately guard Carlos Powell. For Austin, they need to get Alonzo Gee involved early and keep looking for him even if he's not hitting shots immediately. More specifically they need to keep running him off of screens, where he does his best shooting. He's the best player on the team, and there were multiple possession stretches against Tulsa the other night when he was flat out ignored on offense. This could be a fun game.