The NBA D-League kicked off its twelfth season on Friday evening, giving basketball fans some entertainment as they recuperated from eating too much turkey the day before. As per the NBADL's new fascinating deal for more exposure, all games can now be viewed live and/or archieved via the league's YouTube channel.
Such an opportunity gives fans and even out-of-town scouts the chance to keep tabs and/or discover the up and coming talent available in the minors. With so many players vying for a spot on an NBA roster, there are certain to be some promising performances to watch on a nightly basis.
Two of the league's top players on opening night come from very contrasting D-League backgrounds. One player has a reputation as a staple for his team and its city (a true NBADL fan-favorite, if there ever was one), and though the other hasn't been in the minors for very long, he's sure to garner a reputation himself as one of the league's most prolific scorers.
Both the Mad Ants' Ron Howard and the Legends' Chris Douglas-Roberts set out on Friday night to help their respective teams come away with opening night victories. As fate would have it, however, despite impressive individual performances, both failed to do so.
After just turning 30 years old this month, Howard returned to Fort Wayne this season for what will be his sixth season with the team. Aside from becoming a fan-favorite over the years, Howard also resides in the city and has raised his family there as well. Owning a bevy of Mad Ants scoring records, the one-time D-League all-star is one of the better scorers in the league.
As the focal point of his squad's offense, the guard can light it up on offense in efficient fashion. Despite his level of talent, however, his time spent in the D-League may never again result in another NBA look. His "older" age precedes his abilities.
Nevertheless, Howard focused at the task at hand on Friday as he hoped to help his team to an opening night victory. The NBADL veteran paced his team's efforts on offense, leading the way with an impressive 27 points. Drawing fouls effectively, Howard remarkably sunk all twelve of his attempted free throws.
But it just wasn't enough. Without much other support (2012 D-League Draft number one selection JuJuan Johnson shot just 5 for 15 in his debut), Howard wasn't able to carry the Mad Ants to a win. The depth and a balanced effort from the BayHawks proved to be too much, as Erie won 109-100.
Perhaps with a little bit more to prove, three year NBA-vet Douglas-Roberts is hoping to use the minors to remind NBA teams what they're missing out on. After erupting for 49 points in the Legends' sole preseason game, it's a guarantee their offense will be centered around CDR as long as he's in Texas.
One of the more versatile scorers the D-League has seen in quite some time, CDR probably isn't poised to be around for the long-haul. The guard is able to score in bunches, and does so in a varied amount of ways. He can drive to the basket. He can pull back to knock down a fade-away jumper here or there. And when none of that works, the swingman knows how to get his teammates involved. He's an NBA-level talent.
But for now, he'll have to settle for being the star of the Texas Legends. Continuing his offense dominance, Douglas-Roberts led the way with 31 points and also made an unprecedented amount of shots from the charity stripe (11 of 11), but his team still lost on opening night. Heavy on the guard play, the 66ers used their speed to run away with a 83-76 win over Texas.
There's no denying Howard and Douglas-Roberts represent two of the more versatile and capable scorers the D-League will host this upcoming season. Should their respective squads fail to support them with balanced team efforts, however, both players will have to hope their own overwhelming individual dominance still help them earn looks from NBA executives.