"I guess this team kind of personifies the phrase 'don't judge a book by it's cover" -- One of my friends describing Albuquerque, as you'd assume they're more suited for a football team simply by looking at them.
Everything surrounding this game was pretty crazy - including the flooding in Eastern North Dakota, the snow being up to my knees when I got home (I'm about 6'4"), the game starting 40 minutes late due to the officials not being on time, Dakota's unheralded man in the middle, Will Frisby, going home to Miami with his pregnant wife, my boy Travis McArthur missing a layup during a timeout promotion, and both teams were fighting for their playoff lives. Crazy I tell ya.
Since we can't fix the first two (unfortunately), we'll look closer at the offiicials' situation. Marat Kogut, of course, was on time, because he loves beautiful North Dakota and all that it provides, clearly demonstrated in his officiating. The other two officials (one isn't in the D-League system, as the last three game's he's officiated (Friday & Saturday in Sioux Falls, last night in Dakota (3 games, 3 nights? Who'd he piss off?)) didn't arrive at the arena until about 7:15 because they had to drive instead of fly from Siox Falls to BIsmarck, a 6.5 hour trip. Apparently their flight got cancelled so they had to drive. What interests me is that Austin who played in Sioux Falls the night before got in a few hours before the officials that reffed the night before.
Alright, so then the game started. Dakota jumped out to a good lead, 29-18, behind 11 points from Mo Baker, who got to the rim with ease the majority of the night. I would love to blame this on Will Conroy, but it wasn't his fault. The Thunderbirds were running a 3-2 zone with 6'7", 290 pound Jasper Johnson at the top of the key. Even after talking to Coach Coffino for a couple of hours, I have no idea why.
Albuquerque then scored just a few more points through the next three quarters and, badda-bing badda-boom, they won. Dakota had chances in the fourth, but things just didn't go their way, culminating in an ill-advised Mo Baker 3-pointer to win that fell a foot short as time expired.
Biggest difference in the game - Albuquerque shot 32 free-throw's Dakota shot 13. Can't help but wonder if the official that just reffed three games in three nights in the Dakota's wasn't looking for a bit of revenge?
Continue on for my detailed individual analysis, as this is the first home game I've watched in full in quite awhile.
In random order -
Jasper Johnson - I've dogged him quite a bit on this blog, but he did impress me in this game. He's definitely not an NBA prospect, he's a step and a half slow on defense and his conditioning looks to be equal to mine (read: bad), but he's a good D-League player. Like Sun Yue, he's left handed. He's got a good stroke though, is a great free-throw shooter, and showed a little step back a couple times. Jasper just barely missed a triple double, with 20 points, 10 boards, and nine assists.
Romel Beck - I haven't talked much about him since he arrived in Dakota, mostly because I don't know what to think about him. He doesn't seem to fit in with the offense, as his game is pretty well relegated to isolating, not too much movement without the ball. His 3-point shot was supposed to be good, but it doesn't look pretty when I've watched - weird form and takes a bit to get off.
Will Conroy - Conroy had a relatively quiet 25 points and seven assists. Sorry Will, still not impressed. As the D-League website says, "he's an elite D-League scorer." I guess I'm more concerned with him off the court, as he is a bit too vocal for my liking. Everytime he'd drive, he'd yell for the and-one, something that's always turned me off about players. If you're in the D-League for the fourth year, you're not in the NBA for a reason. I'm going to strongly suggest he takes the next contract that comes up, or do something to quell the attitude issue that's well-known around the league.
Maurice Baker - I've been a fan of Mo for a long time, and tonight I saw what I needed to see to keep my fandom present. He had 22 points, eight boards and four assists, routinely getting to the basket without much resistance. True, it usually started with taking Jasper Johnson off the dribble, but he slashed very well. The other intracacy of his game I like is his rebounding ability. He's an intelligent player.
Mouhamed Saer Sene - Didn't he come into the league as "Saer Sene"? I seem to remember that. Anyway, Sene showed why he was a lottery pick a couple seasons ago as well as why he is currently in the D-League. His footwork in the low post needs seasoning, but he uses his length very well when bringing in rebounds. He blocked three shots, but probably goaltended another three as well. Regardless, he scored 15 points and had 15 boards and has not-quite-ridiculous upside.
Renaldo Major - When Renaldo's healthy, he's a cut above the rest of the D-League. He plays very good defense and is rounding into an offensive force as well. While he won't get a call-up this season, he's recovered very well from the open heart surgery that caused him to miss all of last season. Last night, he scored 22 points, grabbed eight boards, and dished five assists. Don't sleep on Mr. Major.
Antonio Meeking - see my Jasper Johnson post, but tone it down a bit. He's good at this level - another guy that should take his next contract offered out of the D-League.
Richard Hendrix - I like Rich, but he needs to start dominating games. He got himself into foul trouble in this game, which is an ocassional issue. Still, he's gotta show a motor. Seems too easy to get him to pick up a couple early fouls and let him self-destruct. He finished with 12 points and eight boards, missing all five of his jumpers in 28 minutes.