Inside the D-League

Inside the D-League
Dec 05, 2006, 11:49 pm
Azubuike scores 35

Kelenna Azubuike of the Fort Worth Flyers turned in the best individual scoring performance of the season thus far, totaling 35 points in 37 minutes, on only 17 shots from the field. Azubuike had 33 points with 29 minutes remaining, but didn’t really attack too much for the rest of the game. He was scoring in a variety of ways, and made all 5 of his three point attempts. Azubuike has slimmed down last year, but is still very effective when slashing to the basket. He can still hang in the air and absorb contact, but is a lot more agile on his way to the basket. Consistency has always been an issue for Azubuike in the past, but he has been very consistent from the end of last season until now. He currently leads the D-League in scoring at 26.7ppg, and is also averaging 5.7 rebounds per game through three games. If he can consistently score in the 20s throughout the season, and proves to be a constant threat from the three point line, Azubuike would be a good candidate for a call-up in need of a scoring 2 guard.

Hodge Assigned to D-League

Julius Hodge of the Denver Nuggets was cleared to play basketball again, and then assigned to the Colorado 14ers. Hodge was the victim in a shooting occurring during his rookie season, and will need time with the 14ers to get back into game shape. He spent some time with the Austin Toros last season, and appear in 14 games with the Nuggets. He played his first game Sunday against Idaho, and was 0/1 with 1 assist in 4 minutes. Promptly afterwards, he complained about his playing time to the media, and was chided for it the next day in the media by Nuggets head coach George Karl.

In contrast to last year, where he clearly welcomed the opportunity to be sent down to the D-League to get playing time, Hodge—quoted in the Denver Post-- did not embrace the news of his second stint in nearly the same way: "I feel like I'm good enough to play here. But it's a business, and I guess whatever decision is made, I'll have to go with that."

Hodge needs to be careful, because he is no sure-fire bet to stick in the NBA with the way his short career has gone so far. Denver’s current front-office considers him a draft-day mistake of former GM Kiki Vandeweghe, and Karl’s stern and quick reaction criticizing Hodge’s attitude is a clear reflection of that. The Nuggets have already decided not to pick up the 3rd year option on his contract, meaning he’ll be a free agent this July. He should view his stint in the D-League as a chance to showcase his skills to all other 29 NBA teams for next summer while earning over a million dollars for his efforts—roughly 83 times what the majority of his teammates with the Colorado 14ers will make.

D-League Expands to Orem, Utah

Orem, a city about 40 miles from Salt Lake City, was awarded a D-League expansion franchise late last week. There is currently a contest on to name the team, and the winner will be awarded Utah Jazz tickets. The new team will start playing games in the 2007-2008 season, and will likely be affiliated with the Jazz.

NBA Player Update

Louis Williams

Williams has played very well in his first two NBDL games, totaling 21.5 points per game to go with 8.5 assists. He has displayed much improved point guard skills, and in his second game was making some very nice reads in the half-court offense. When Kelenna Azubuike was dominating on offense, Williams had no problem deferring to him and looking for him in half-court sets. Williams is explosive off the dribble, and has a well developed lower body, which allows him to hang in the air. In addition, he is a very creative finisher inside. His ball handling skills have improved as well, though he sometimes loses the handle while crossing over in transition. It would be nice if Williams could add some upper body strength, because in the NBA it will be much harder for him to take contact in the paint. If the 76ers continue to struggle this season, Williams may get called back up for a chance to prove he can produce at the NBA level.

Bobby Jones

After a good start on the defensive end during his first game, Jones played very well on both ends Friday against L.A. He continued to play good defense and rebound the ball well, and also scored 18 points in 27 minutes. He knocked down both of his 3 point shots, and finished well in transition. He even created off the dribble on one occasion, and is becoming better at initiating contact with his body near the basket. Jones has all the tools to become a defensive specialist at the NBA level, and any improvement he can make to his offensive game is an added bonus.

Ryan Hollins

Hollins has continued rebounding the ball well, using his length and jumping ability. On offense, his mid-range jumper has been hit or miss so far, but he has done a much better job of getting to the free throw line inside. At this point, the key things for Hollins will be to add muscle mass and work on his timing when trying to block shots. Further muscle mass would allow him to take contact better, and he could then become a valuable pick and roll big man. For now, he’s getting the valuable playing time he needs to improve as a player, and has the whole season to work on his game.

Team Updates

Fort Worth Flyers, 3-0

The Flyers are the only unbeaten team at this point, and have recently added two NBA players to their roster. They have solid players at every position now, and will have a chance to win on nights when their best players are off. Kelenna Azubuike has been leading the way for them this season, but they also have been getting solid contributions from Louis Williams, Bobby Jones, Ryan Hollins, and Corey Santee. Santee made the team out of open tryouts, and his game has fit in perfectly with the NBDL style of play.

This past week, the Flyers struggled early but managed to come back and take down Bakersfield. Louis Williams led the way with 28 points and 10 assists, and Kelenna Azubuike added 22 points. Saturday night the Flyers beat the Los Angeles D-Fenders by a score of 113-95. Azubuike’s 35 led all scorers, but the Flyers also received solid contributions from Louis Williams (15pts, 7asts), Bobby Jones (18 pts, 9reb), and Cory Santee (24 pts).

This week, the Flyers host Anaheim tonight, before traveling to Arkansas for a Friday night game.

Colorado 14ers, 3-1

Colorado has played very well so far, despite losing their first game of the season on Sunday. They handed L.A. their first loss of the season on Friday night, and lost a Sunday game to Idaho. Von Wafer has been scoring very well for Colorado this season. He is currently 8th in the D-League in scoring at 20.8 points per game. Pooh Jeter has also played well for them, scoring 15.8 points per game to go with 4 assists.

This week Colorado only plays one game. On Sunday they travel to L.A. for an afternoon game against the D-Fenders.

Dakota Wizards, 3-1

The Wizards have played well early in the season behind the strong play of Justin Williams. In 4 games, Williams leads the D-League in rebounding at 13.8 per game, and has grabbed 15 or more rebounds in 3 out of his 4 games. In a win against Tulsa last Friday, he had 15 points and 2 blocks along with 19 rebounds. Dakota has a number of players who can score the ball, including Renaldo Major, Jerome Beasley, and Brandon Armstrong.

The Wizards play a game on Tuesday before having the rest of the week off. The game on Tuesday is at home against the Idaho Stampede.

Arkansas Rimrockers, 4-2

Arkansas put together a solid weekend beating the defending champion Albuquerque Thunderbirds in back to back games. The Rimrockers have been getting a consistent contribution from a number of players, including Clay Tucker, who was just named the D-League player of the week. Guard Myron Allen has been very consistent for Arkansas as well. Matt Haryasz is still struggling to get into the flow of things on the offensive end, but has contributed consistently on the boards.

The Rimrockers host a struggling Austin team tonight, and host Fort Worth on Friday night. Fort Worth will be a good test to see if Arkansas can compete among the best in the D-League.

Los Angeles D-Fenders, 4-2

L.A. struggled over the weekend, losing a pair to Colorado and Fort Worth, but bounced back strong last night with a victory over Sioux Falls. Newly acquired guard Brian Chase, who was recently cut by the Utah Jazz, has scored the ball well in his first few games. Devin Green hasn’t been scoring the ball as well lately, but is still creating some nice looks for teammates in the triangle offense. Athletic combo guard Chet Mason is doing an excellent job coming off the bench, scoring 15.2 points a game and pulling down 4 rebounds and shooting 56% from the field.

This week, the D-Fenders play 3 home games. On Wednesday, they host Sioux Falls, and Tulsa comes to L.A. on Friday. Sunday they get a rematch against Colorado, the team who handed the D-Fenders their first loss.

Albuquerque Thunderbirds, 3-2

The Thunderbirds dropped a pair of games over the weekend to the Arkansas Rimrockers. Friday night they received a 28 point effort from TJ Cummings, but he followed it up with just 8 points in his next game. 6’10” big man Marcus Douthit has led Albuquerque in scoring this year at 19.4ppg. Dijon Thompson, who was recently added to the team, has been scoring the ball well, but is only 1/9 from the 3 point line so far.

The Albuquerque Thunderbirds host Anaheim for a pair of home games on Thursday and Friday. Anaheim will be a good test to see if they can bounce back from a pair of losses.

Anaheim Arsenal, 3-2

Anaheim took down Austin in a pair of weekend games, winning the first in overtime, and the second by a 5 point margin. Jawad Williams is leading the Arsenal in scoring at 21.2ppg, but is only shooting around 40% from the floor. They have also received strong games recently from Andre Owens, Majic Dorsey, and Corsely Edwards.

Tonight, the Arsenal Travel to Fort Worth, and they play a pair of games in Albuquerque on Thursday and Friday.

Tulsa 66ers, 2-2

Tulsa was able to win a home game Friday night against Dakota, before being blown out on the road the next night by the same team. Guard Cheyne Gadson currently leads Tulsa in scoring at 19.8 points per game, which ranks 7th in the league. Will Conroy has been consistent at the point guard position for the 66ers this season, and averages 15.8 points and 6.3 assists per game. Denham Brown has played very well at times, but will need to become a more consistent option for them.

Tulsa plays 3 games this week, starting on Wednesday when they host Austin. They then head to California for back to back games against Los Angeles and Bakersfield starting on Saturday.

Sioux Falls Skyforce, 2-4

Sioux Falls pulled out a nice victory on Friday against Idaho, but dropped games Sunday and Monday to Bakersfield and L.A. 2nd overall draft pick Andre Brown has played well so far this season, averaging nearly 17 points per game, and 8.5 rebounds per game as well. Frank Williams has been inconsistent for the Skyforce, though he is averaging 16 points and 4 assists per game. Jared Reiner has been rebounding the ball well for Sioux Falls, but they will need to be more consistent as a team to string some wins together.

This week, Sioux Falls plays only 1 game. Tomorrow, they travel to L.A. before taking the rest of the week off.

Bakersfield Jam, 1-4

Bakersfield won their first game in franchise history on Sunday, but they have otherwise struggled thus far. Big man Kevin Pinkney has played very well for them, and is a consistent threat to hit the mid-range jumper. Their first round pick Brandon Bowman has been very inconsistent and is averaging only 8.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. To start winning games, Bakersfield will need better effort on the defensive end of the ball.

This week, the Jam will try and turn things around on Saturday when they host the Tulsa 66ers.

Idaho Stampede, 1-5

Idaho won their first game Sunday against a good Colorado team, but had struggled up until that point. Point guard Randy Livingston has been distributing the ball with ease, and currently leads the D-League in assists at 10.5 per game. He could be a candidate for a call-up if a team needs an experienced 3rd point guard who can distribute and be a consummate pro off the court. Eddie Robinson has been somewhat inconsistent, but has managed to score 16 points per game on 52% from the field. Big man Peter Ramos, formerly of the Wizards, has struggled for Idaho so far, and hasn’t dominated the league like you’d expect from somebody of his size.

Idaho plays a road game against the Dakota Wizards tonight, before taking the rest of the week off.

Austin Toros, 0-4

Austin is the only winless team remaining in the D-League. Their only bright spot so far has been the play of big man Jamar Smith, who ranks second in the D-League at 23.3 points per game, and 9th in rebounds at 7.5 per game. Smith was in training camp with the Spurs, and has a chance to be called up if an NBA team is looking for a post player who can score the ball. He seems to be much improved from his days in college. BJ Elder has been scoring the ball well for Austin, but has been very inefficient thus far. They will need better guard play if they are going to start winning some games.

The Toros have a chance both tonight and tomorrow to win their first game of the season. They play on the road tonight against Arkansas, before traveling to Tulsa tomorrow.

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