Sonny Weems laying it in ahead of the pack. Photo Courtesy Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images
To the basketball fans that don't watch the D-League, you don't know what you're misssing. Last night was one of the more exciting games I've watched in the D-League (I've watched a lot). It had plenty of NBA talent (eight of 18 with NBA experience), runs galore (and not the kind Joel has been dealing with while ignoring my texts) and was exciting down to the last shot - plus, it's free to watch on Futurecast.
The Colorado 14ers overcame an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to take a 114-111 win over the Austin Toros - finishing the game on a 23-10 run in the final 7:45 in front of a pretty good crowd, at least as far as the 14er's are concerned. The 14er's are now the first team in the D-League finals, awaiting the results of Monday's game between Utah and Dakota.
Denver Nuggets assignee Sonny Weems led the Colorado comeback, scoring 14 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter. Weems tied the game at 103 with a 3-pointer from the right corner with 5:32 to play, and gave the 14ers the lead for good on a fast break dunk that had Chad Andrus exclaiming "He spiked that one down like a volleyball on Bowen's head!" My reaction was a bit different, as it involved the word 'Holy' followed by an expletive.
Sonny Weems is really good at basketball. I said in my preview yesterday that he has hops. He can score. He plays defense. There isn't really a part of his game I'm down on - he's basically in the D just to polish up rather than watch the Nuggets play every night. Well, Denver GM Mark Warkentien's halftime interview confirmed this for me (Interview with him coming this week. Any questions?), as he was pretty assertive that George Karl really wanted to see him play well in something that matters, rather than watching the Nuggets from the bench. Weems finished the game with 27 points off the bench, but didn't play the greatest of defense - though he was defending should-be NBAer Malik Hairston.
Malik Hairston was with San Antonio for the better half of this season, getting called-up early and released just a week ago, when San Antonio felt it was prudent to release him in favor of Marcus Williams. Watching him last night, I think Jacque Vaughn would have been a better cut. Hairston can score on an NBA level. Jon said his game would be better suited for the mid-90's (Oh, how I miss the mid-90's NBA), and I'd concur, but he can score today as well. He's a bit slow on defense, but he's quick enough on offense to pretty much be able to do what he wants. Hairston finished last night with 37 points, hitting from all over the place. Weems defended Hairston while they were in together, so that has to either say either Weems defense isn't NBA-ready or Hairston is NBA-ready.
Remember Eddie Gill? He who threatens Randy Livingston's most 10-day's in a career record? He probably deserved more than the two he got this season. Since this blog is about upside, and Eddie has little of it, I never really mentioned him during the regular season. I apologize. He's good. He can't defend 6'7" Marcus Williamses on their way to the basket, but who can? Gill showed a propensity to find the open man, knock down the open 3 (4-for-6), and generally be the definition of a floor general. Gill finished with 23 points and seven assists in 35 minutes of action.
Marcus Williams was assigned by San Antonio back to Austin earlier this week to help the Toros in the D-League playoffs. Suffice it to say, he did everything he could to help his former teammates, averaging 33 points, 10.5 boards and 10 assists in his two games in the playoffs, playing a remarkable 101 Dalmations minutes. His bugagoo, as it may be, is his turnover rate, as he turned it over 13 times in his two playoff games. Granted, that's as the primary ball-handler, a role he's still growing into, and along with his playing at least 48 minutes both games, it isn't as bad as the box score portrays it to be. One problem he had last night was that he seemed fine with settling for jump shots, rather than getting into the lane. As Jon said, "his game bordered on the overconfident at times."
Billy Thomas played well for the Colorado Geriatrics 14ers as well. Thomas, who has seen his share of NBA action in 1998. Thomas set a KU record, making 269 career 3 pointers (later broken by North Dakota's own Jeff "Big Shot" Boschee). After watching him start out the third quarter last night, I can safely say he's still got his stroke. Thomas rattled off 10 points in about a minute of action to extend Colorado's lead to 10, the largest Colorado lead on the night. After that though, he didn't really get many touches, which was strange - and probably disappointing to Kansas alums who longed for a Jayhawk to star in April. Thomas finished with 16 points, five assists and no turnovers.
Dwayne Jones was the third, and final, player that made a worthwhile contribution to this game for the Toros. The 14ers plan was apparently let the big three get what they do and make sure no one else scores. It worked, to a degree (they won), but it had me scratching my head quite a bit. Jones went basically unscathed (nobdy was around him to even do said scathing in most instances) in the low post, confounding me - the dude missed both of his free-throw attempts tonight and made just 64.5% from the charity stripe this season - why let him get easy lay-in's whenever he touches the ball? Regardless, that's what happened, as he finished 12-of-15 from the floor for 24 points, though the D-League's best rebounder was held to just six boards. I'm still wondering why he didn't get many touches toward the end of the game.
Others for Colorado: Josh Davis got scratched in the eye early in the game and I guess never really recovered, finishing with just nine points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with 11 boards... Dominique Coleman played some excellent defense, keeping Marcus Williams at bay with him shooting errant jumpshots at will (Williams missed 17 shots on the night)... Jon wonders why Coleman didn't switch to Hairston, but I think Williams may have went to the lane more often with a lesser defender... Trey Gilder impressed, but played just 7 minutes - I expect injury... Joe Dabbert went to the bench early with an unidentified injury, but was spelled by newly haircutted Kentrell Gransberry, who played well..
Others for Austin: Eric Dawson played alright, finishing with 10 points and six boards, hitting some clutch free-throws at the end that kept Austin within spitting distance... Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson, the only other Austin player that I really noticed (due to his Lil Wayne-like appearance) had an off night, hitting 1-for-7 from the field...
Other notes: Official Brent Barnaky did his best to alter the outcome of the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter... Weems foul, Gransberry foul (shooting), Davis loose ball foul (QUESTIONABLE.. Originally called Dwayne Jones, Jones complained, and it was switched), Coleman foul and two Gill fouls in the first 2:33 of the fourth quarter, putting Austin in the bonus. A Bob MacKinnon technical finally settled B-Squared down a bit.