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D.J. Kennedy Focuses On Winning Games in D-League As He Eyes the NBA Again

NBA D-League players often catch the eye of NBA executives by doing all of the little complementary things. Though D.J. Kennedy's goal is the same, his focus is instead on one big thing instead: winning ball games.

Andy Lyons

An array of aspiring NBA athletes search high and low to find the perfect formula for success as they try to earn themselves a call-up from the D-League. With so much offensive firepower already evident in The Association, it's often suggested that NBADL players should focus on doing all of the little things instead.

Reaching the NBA for prospects more often than not comes down to who plays steady defense, who rebounds the ball well, who dishes out the rock with ease, etc. The pressure is undoubtedly on for these players, and there seems to be a lot on their minds as they look to crack the code for breaking into the NBA.

Of course, that's if they let these very pressures get to them. But D-League All-Star D.J. Kennedy makes things rather simple on himself by worrying about one thing: winning ball games.

As the D-League looks ahead to the second half of their season, Kennedy has thus far been putting up M.V.P. worthy numbers--- 18.8 points (while shooting 44% from the field, 35% from deep, and 84% from the line) 8.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per contest. His statistics are arguably more balanced than any other player in the NBADL, but the guard says he can't worry about when/if these same numbers will earn the attention of NBA executives. Instead, he knows it's emerging as a winner that will continue to help him turn some heads.

"I think it's all about playing within myself," Kennedy told this past weekend. "NBA teams will realize what they need, and then things work themselves out from there. I just go ahead and continue playing my game. It's all about winning, because every team looks for a winner. I try to go out all the time and make sure my team wins."

Whereas some of the D-League's top teams have more balanced rosters with regard to strong mixes of talent, the BayHawks seem to rely upon Kennedy more to lead them to victories. He's responded well to the challenge, and Erie currently holds a 19-14 record-- good for seventh seed. That said, they stand only 2.5 games out of first place in their respective division, which if attained, would automatically propel to the third seed.

While in the D-League, plenty of players can be found worrying about pouring in the most points or dominating individually to catch the attention of others. But Kennedy doesn't quite go about it that way.

Last season, he managed to catch on with the Cleveland Cavaliers to close out the season. Playing heavy minutes through two contests, he scored 6 points, grabbed 3.5 rebounds and 1 steal in 29.5 minutes. After being traded in the offseason, Kennedy spent training camp with the Grizzlies before beginning the season in Erie once again.

There's something cool, calm, and collected about Kennedy's demeanor. Whereas many NBADL players seem to worry about when or if that coveted call-up will ever come, the second-year BayHawk is focused on the objective currently at hand, and wants to continue being a team player. He knows whatever may follow is all but out of his hands, but at the same time, one has to be confident in his skills. There's no doubt he owns a balanced and talented bevy of skills.

And it doesn't hurt that the St. John's alum is playing within some enjoyable and familiar surroundings with regard to his organization. After spending his college days in Queens, New York, Kennedy has now moved on to play for the New York Knicks' D-League affiliate. It appears to be a dream come true.

"It's an honor basically playing for the same organization I watched my entire college career," he added. "I'm able to watch them and develop a close relationship, and they've given me a great opportunity to play for the BayHawks."

Nevertheless, though his focus is continuously doing what it takes to help his team win, it was nice for Kennedy to be appreciated and recognized for his efforts as an All-Star in Houston. Following the game, Kennedy could be found joking around with former Red Storm teammate Sean Evans (also an NBADL player these days), and said that he had been enjoying the unique opportunity.

"Just being able to participate here is great. We had a fun All-Star Game, and I really enjoyed just being with all these guys and getting a chance to play with them," said Kennedy.

Of course, like many D-League players with NBA hopes, Kennedy is yet another one of those guys who seems to say all the right things. But perhaps what's even more telling is how he allows his progress on the court speak for itself.

He's been putting up great numbers across the board this season, but so have a handful of other players as will. However, what has allowed Kennedy to stand out most has been his impact in Erie. The former Cavalier has emerged as a winner, and it's hard to believe NBA teams wouldn't want to add someone like that into the fold.