"One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team."
-- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Last night, I was at the Dakota Wizards - Iowa Energy game. Wow. As our old pal Jim Ross would say, what a slobberknocker! Both teams played relatively flawless basketball. Talking to a buddy of mine who was at the game with his dad enjoying his Spring Break like any true hoops fan would do, he said something that made me think: "That was as close as you're going to get to NBA basketball in Bismarck, North Dakota - and I was at the preseason game between Denver and Minnesota."
This got me thinking. Watching so much D-League basketball (Seriously D-League - how I didn't win the Futurecast contest is ridiculous.), I'm spoiled. I'm getting used to how great the D-League actually is. Bismarck is. Colorado is. Anaheim is. Albuquerque is. Anyone that has the opportunity to really watch the D-League on a consistent basis is really a part of something great.
Last night at the Wizards game, tickets were $5 if you wore green. Included with that $5 was a hell of a basketball game, a great atmosphere, and several of the best players not currently in the NBA playing their hearts out for 2,668 fans in March. Sure the homecrowd saw a loss, but they also saw an amazing game of basketball.
Like a great boxing match, each teams punch was met with a counter punch, equally as impressive:
Romel Beck of Dakota, who played with the Mexican national team and did this to Kobe Bryant, went off, showing me that he may be the best player in the D-League when it comes to an iso-offense, scoring 27 points on 15 shots.
Courtney Sims, who has had two 10-days with the Phoenix Suns, scored 36 freakin' points for Iowa, including some clutch plays in crunch time.
Richard Hendrix, who was drafted by the Golden State Warriors this season, had to play on a bad knee for the Wizards after Hamed Haddadi was called back up to the Memphis Grizzlies. In 30 minutes, while battling an injury, he scored 12 points and grabbed 13 boards
Othyus Jeffers, the best swingman you've never heard of, had quite possibly the most impressive game of the night - 29 points, seven boards and four steals in just 30 minutes of action for the Energy.
Will Frisby, the best big man in the D-League you've never heard of, had 17 points and 10 rebounds himself. In Frisby's past 10 games, the 6'8" center's averaging 17.8 points and 8.7 rebounds in 34 minutes of action.
Denham Brown, who plays on the Canadian national team, had 14 points, nine assists, and five rebounds, off the bench for the Energy.
Blake Ahearn, the first call-up of the D-League season, had 27 points, coming up with some clutch shots and making balloon figures before the game (I don't know what it was - Ahearn said it was a 'B' for Blake).
- Post-game, I walked outside while Coach Nurse and Coach TIcknor were talking about the game "Playoff game" and "Excellent game" were both overheard. They're both great coaches, even if Nick Nurse deserves technical's far more often than he receives them.
People that write off the D-League don't know what they're missing.
Continue on for Co-Games of the night (Also known as the two games that I had the most to write about!)
Sioux Falls 92, Los Angeles 89
Sioux Falls was missing two of their most dynamic players in Kasib Powell and David Bailey, but Coach Tibbetts and crew still pulled off the victory on the road. If I'm worth my salt (and I am, believe you me), I'm going to predict someone writes about Sun Yue being the glue guy for LA, eventually making it on the front page of the D-League website. And I'm going to throw up in my mouth.
Frank Williams played very well for Sioux Falls. If Frank Williams name doesn't sound familiar, it should. Williams was the '98 Illinois Mr. Basketball, led Illinois to the Elite Eight as the 2001 Big Ten Player of the Year, was a first round pick in 2002, and played in 86 games over three seasons in the NBA, two with the Knicks, and a small bit of time with the Bulls. He's definitely not a pass first point guard, but is a great shooter, averaging 24.2 points per game over his last nine.
Other notables for the Skyforce include Alexis Ajinca, who beasted like I knew he should, scoring 18 points, grabbing 12 boards and two blocks in 29 minutes; Sean Singletary continued to struggle though, scoring 12 points with three assists and four turnovers.
Los Angeles best performance came from Earl "Not really a pearl" Barron. Barron actually started 15 games for the Heat last season, and is now coming off the bench for a bad D-League team. Ouch. He had a great night last night though, scoring 10 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, though shooting just 3-for-12 from the field. In just four games with the D-Fender's this is the first he's impressed me, sans the making just three of his 12 shots. Yuck.
Other notables for the D-Fender's include Joe Crawford, who scored 19 points in 33 minutes. Former Minnesota Golden Gopher (Still looking for tickets for this weekend, ticket getters) Lawrence McKenzie played in his first game with the D-Fenders, scoring 16 points.
Idaho 109 @ COLORADO 118 (OVERTIME!)
I knew this would be a good game. I didn't know Colorado would win. D-League guru, I may not be. :-)
Colorado was led by, your favorite and mine, Josh "Call me up if you need a veteran combo forward that can do everything you ask" Davis! You know Davis' story, so we're going to keep this short. He was either guarded by Brent Petway or Nate Jawai, and he scored 22 points in 32 minutes, shooting 3-for-5 in the field.
Other notables include the whole team. Quick rundown: Eddie GIll had 12 points, 12 assists; Joe Dabbert had 19 points, eight boards; Trey Gilder had 15 points, eight boards; Dominique Coleman had 14 points, eight boards, seven assists; Sonny Weems had 20 points in 32 minutes before fouling out.
Idaho was led by Lance Allred. I like Lance. He's smart (writing two, maybe three books), he's increasing his range (18-footer's are coming consistently), and he's down to earth (he once replied to my facebook message). Last night, he had 18 points and 12 boards in less than 30 minutes.
No one else stands out to me from Idaho.