Yes, the D-League is back on Versus for their now weekly "Saturday night game of the week!"
The best news is, according to my DVR system, bull riding is not live beforehand, so the game might actually start at 10 pm Central Time as planned. Even if it doesn't, my dream job at age seven was to be the next Steve Tomac (scroll to page 361), so we're good either way.
Alright, on to the preview!
Tonight is the second of 16 D-League games to be shown on VERSUS. This is a big deal. Like last week, it will once again include play-by-play from Eric Musselman who unlike Rick Kamla, seems to know what's going on in the D-League and has a good working knowledge of the minor league landscape.
I suggest you either stay home and see if I do the same so we can live blog this one together or set your DVR!
The Backstory: Last night, the Energy took care of business using their vaunted 'we have eight guys that can beat you on any given night' method. The Mad Ants countered with their vaunted 'if our shot is on, we're going to win' offense, though their shots weren't what I'd call on, and thus, they lost. If Fort Wayne has any chance of winning tonight, players other than Rob Kurz and Rashad Anderson are going to have to step up - namely Kyle McAlarney, Rod Wilmont and Oliver Lafayette, who combined to shoot 4-of-22 from the field last night.
Fort Wayne Prospect To Watch: I would make it Joe Alexander, but since he's not a call-up prospect, we're going to go with Rob Kurz for the second week in a row. Kurz is the only NBA prospect on the Mad Ants, but luckily, he's a quality prospect. Earlier this week, Kurz was rumored to be going overseas, though nothing's happened as of yet. If the former Warrior is able to have the type of game he had last week on VERSUS (21 points, 24 boards and a win), he may be headed to the NBA instead of overseas. On the season, Kurz is averaging 17.9 points and 10.8 rebounds while shooting 52% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc.
Rounding out the Mad Ant's roster: Recently assigned Joe Alexander, the eighth overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft, got off to a slow start last night, but finished with 13 points, six boards and five assists in his first game of the season - albeit off the bench with the Mad Ants instead of the Bucks ... Kyle McAlarney and Ryan Ayers, along with Kurz, all attended Notre Dame .... McAlarney is a shooter and Ayers is, well, I haven't decided what he's doing quite yet ... Rod Wilmont's probably Fort Wayne's best scorer, though the former Hoosier's been way too inconsistent as of late ... Sean Sonderleiter doesn't really excel at anything, but he's a very solid backup big man in the D-League. He hasn't fared to be the greatest as a starter, however ... Recently acquired Rashad Anderson made quite a few big shot's while at UConn a few seasons ago and is averaging over 14 points per game off the bench for Fort Wayne ... Oliver Lafayette, out of Houston, has shown flashes of brilliance as of late, but the Mad Ants desperately need a true point guard if they're going to start competing ... the Mad Ants are currently missing big men Jared Reiner and Anthony Kent, both out with injuries, as well as Ron Howard, the leader of the team, due to a broken thumb.
Iowa's Prospect To Watch: Othyus Jeffers. Jeffers is a bit of an unknown to all but the hardcore D-League fans which is why I did an in-depth profile on him over the Summer. Go read that quick: marvel at his past, be intrigued about the almost-call-up and tell me how smart I am for drafiting him in the CBA draft before you continue reading this post. I'll wait. Still waiting. And we're back. Jeffers recently returned from Cantu in Italy, where he averaged 16.2 points and 5.8 boards. While he hasn't quite had any standout games thus far this season in the D-League (averaging 13.9 points and 5.3 boards in 25 minutes), tonight would be a great time to remind whomever is watching what he can do, especially if he's matched up with Joe Alexander.
Rounding out the Energy's roster: Courtney Sims is Iowa's other call-up prospect, though he looked a bit too rusty for my liking in his first game back in the D-League last night, and thus is relegated to this spot. Sims has barely played since his 10-day contract ended with the Knicks last April because shin splints caused him to miss Summer League and, apparently, the first part of the D-League season. He did have a one-game tryout with CSKA Moscow earlier this month, but they quickly brought Pops Mensah-Bonsu in to replace him ... Jeff Trepagnier is the wily veteran on this team. The former first round pick is knowing his role and playing it well: shooting 3's and picking pockets... Pat Carroll is the brother of Matt Carroll. Pat hasn't been dominant this season, but he dropped 24 on the Mad Ants last night, so he could be in store for another big night tonight ... Curtis Stinson is leading the D-League in assists and technical fouls. As far as I can tell, only one of those stats are hurting his chances at getting a call-up ... Earl Barron's been consistently solid, though never spectacular, this season. I can see why he was on the Heat for three seasons, but I'd expect him to dominate the D-League. He would, too, if he would do more work in the post ... Mark Tyndale out of Temple inexplicably received an invite to camp with the Bucks this fall, though he was cut almost immediately. His contributions on the offensive end for the Energy have been very streaky ... Marvin Phillips is the energy guy - a really fun player to watch. He's probably only 6'5", but coach Nick Nurse plays him quite a bit at the four. Phillips is physical enough that Nurse can get away with it ... I don't know enough about Sean Barnette or Shy Ely, but Shy has a cool name.
For further reading on this game, check out D-League.com's preview presented by Matthew Brennan. I'm not sure how he was able to get some actual hard-hitting commentary in on the official site, but I love it.
Also, by hard-hitting commentary, I mean this:
Since the game is in Des Moines, you might even see some local celebrities in attendance. Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast (and Dancing with the Stars winner) Shawn Johnson, masked metal band Slipknot, and NFL quarterback Kyle Orton all hail from the Des Moines area. Fort Wayne may or may not travel well, but if they bring any famous fans then perhaps football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, actress Jenna Fischer (Pam from The Office) or soccer star DeMarcus Beasley will be in attendance.
I would consider any of Fort Wayne's assistants (Former NBA players Mike Sanders and Vitali Potapenko or Mike Gansey's brother Steve) more famous than whoever DeMarcus Beasley is, but the rest of that is great information if you're going to be tuning in tonight and scanning the crowd for celebrities.