Inside the D-League

Inside the D-League
Jan 23, 2007, 10:43 pm
Anaheim Arsenal Fires Larry Smith

The Anaheim Arsenal have decided to let go of head coach Larry Smith. Smith was an assistant coach with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds last season, but the front office of Anaheim decided he just wasn’t getting the job done this season. To finish the season, the Arsenal will look to Smith’s former assistant Reggie Geary, who has been named the interim head coach. Anaheim sat with a 10-15 record at the time of the firing, and struggled to build chemistry on the court this season despite compiling a talented roster. The players were informed of the firing in a meeting, but no reason was given for letting the coach go.

Tulsa and Austin Complete Trade

The Tulsa 66ers and the Austin Toros have agreed to the first major trade of the season this year. The 66ers swapped guard Cheyne Gadson for center Scott Merritt. Gadson averaged 16.2 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game for Tulsa this season. Merritt has played in the D-League since graduating from Marquette, and averaged 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game this season. This trade works out well for both teams. Tulsa has been guard heavy recently, and Gadson was expendable since they acquired Desmon Farmer. The Toros recently added Loren Woods, but have struggled with backcourt production for much of the season.

Luke Jackson Re-Joins Idaho

After completing a 10 day contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, Luke Jackson has returned to the Idaho Stampede. Jackson appeared in 3 games with the Clippers, and averaged 1 point and 1 assist per game. He is a former lottery pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and signed with Idaho after failing to make the opening day roster of the Boston Celtics. He appeared in 6 D-League games this season, averaging 12.5 points, 3.2 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game.

Fort Wayne Likely Awarded Expansion Franchise

An ownership group based out of Fort Wayne, Indiana will likely be awarded a franchise that will start play for the 2007-2008 season, reports the Fort Wayne TV station WPTA. According to the report, the ownership group will be headed by Former AT&T executive John Zeglis, and they are working on negotiating a lease with Memorial Coliseum. The addition of this team gives the D-League 14 teams heading into next season (one in Orem, Utah has already been officially announced), with the potential for 15 if the Florida Flame can work out their arena situation. The NBA League Office would like 2 NBA teams per D-League franchise next season, but this mean they may have to expand to 16 teams because the Lakers own their own franchise.

Pistons Recall Amir Johnson

The Detroit Pistons have recalled second year forward Amir Johnson from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the D-Leauge. Johnson averaged 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game in 6 games with the Skyforce. It was his second year where he has appeared in the D-League, and it appears to have been a very positive experience for the young power forward. Johnson was drafted by the Pistons in the second round out of high school, and has made some nice improvements to his game over the past two seasons.

Player Movement

A number of interesting names have been added to D-League rosters over the past week. Guard Andre Emmett has been added to the Los Angeles D-Fenders. He played in the D-League last season as well, and should be a very interesting player to watch. Former Iowa State guard Curtis Stinson left his team in Croatia, and joined the Dakota Wizards. Guard Cedric Bozeman was recently cut from the Atlanta Hawks, and will now play for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds. The irony here is that the Thunderbirds lost Bozeman’s former roommate Dijon Thompson to the Atlanta Hawks who brought him on to replace Bozeman.

NBA Player Updates

Jose Juan Barea, Dallas Mavericks/Fort Worth Flyers
22.3 points, 8.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds

Barea has played very well in the D-League thus far, showing that he can stick around the NBA for a long time as a third point guard. He has recently become more accustomed to running the Fort Worth offense and playing with new teammates, and his assist numbers have increased accordingly. He is a very talented creator off the dribble, and is quicker than most point guards in the D-League right now. Barea also has the ability to hit the 3 point shot. In the NBA, he will have trouble finishing with a lot of the bigger players inside, but he will be among the top point guards in the D-League through the duration of his stay in Fort Worth this season.

James Augustine, Orlando Magic/Anaheim Arsenal
9.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, .9assists

Augustine has responded very well when given the chance, and has been stable on a team that has struggled to build chemistry. He scores the ball well inside when he can go left, and has been one of the top rebounders in the D-League since being sent down. He will need to work on his right and, and his game away from the hoop, but he will have some time to do this since the Magic don’t have a lot of room in their front court rotation right now.

Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Dallas Mavericks/Fort Worth Flyers
13.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, .4assists

Mensah-Bonsu is the most athletic big guy in the D-League right now, and looks to be stronger than he was last year in college. He uses his natural athletic abilities to his fullest ability in the D-League, and makes a lot of plays inside the paint on both ends of the floor. His effectiveness will probably drop significantly on the next level unless he further develops his offensive game. Mensah-Bonsu lacks the ideal height for a power forward, and will get pushed around by bigger players in the NBA. He has done a good job of playing his role in Fort Worth, and will likely have a long season to work on his game.

Patrick O’Bryant, Golden State, Warriors/Bakersfield Jam
6.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists

O’Bryant displays flashes of becoming a good player in the future, but looks lost on the floor quite often. His offensive game is very raw at this point, and he needs to develop a go-to move out of the post that he can hit consistently against the D-League level big men. He has displayed the ability to hit the mid-range jumper with limited success, but this isn’t the type of offense you typically look for from your 7 footer. Defensively, O’Bryant has looked capable of blocking shots from the weak side, but sometimes struggles with man to man defense, and isn’t as dominant as he should be considering his size, length, and athleticism. The biggest thing O’Bryant can do is develop some type of killer instinct. He plays will little intensity at the moment, and will struggle to develop unless he develops some passion for playing the game.

Saer Sene, Seattle Supersonics/Idaho Stampede
9.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, .3 assists

In two recent games against Bakersfield, Sene has outplayed Patrick O’Bryant on both occasions. His offensive game is developing nicely, and he has really developed a jump hook move that he can use from about 10 feet on in. His hands still aren’t the best in the world, but they have improved considerably over the past couple months. Sene is very effective at altering shots, though his block numbers could be better. Unlike a lot of basketball players who haven’t played the game very long, Sene has taken a liking to the game of basketball, and plays with a constant flow of energy. He will need to continue to improve on both ends of the floor, but all of the tools are in place for Sene to become an above average center some day.

CJ Miles, Utah Jazz/Idaho Stampede
17.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists

Miles still needs to work on his consistency when it comes to shooting the ball, but his stroke has been very accurate lately. In his last game against Bakesfield, he hit 4 of his 5 shots from behind the 3 point line. To get the most out of his time in the D-League, Miles will need to drive to the hoop more frequently. He has the quickness and athleticism to get inside, and his skinny frame will be less of a concern when he is not playing against the much bigger interior players in the NBA. Miles has all the tools to be a high quality NBA shooting guard, but will need some type of mid-range game to reach his full potential. He needs to continue to work in the weight room as well.

PJ Tucker, Toronto Raptors/Colorado 14ers
9.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists

Tucker has continued to struggle with his consistency in the D-League. Friday night he had one of his better games since being sent down, but he was only able to score 4 points the next night. He looks lost trying to create his own shot on the perimeter at times, and doesn’t take advantage of his physical play inside like he should. He still has good potential as an NBA player, but will need to show that his perimeter game can be a steady threat for him. Tucker’s jump shot looks a little better this season, but is far from being a threat that the opposing team has to respect.

James White, San Antonio Spurs/Austin Toros

White has been scoring much more efficiently from the field lately, though he often struggles with turnovers. His shooting stroke has been working with better consistency, but he still will need to improve his outside shot to become a respectable threat from 3. At this point, the best thing White can do is learn to use his athleticism frequently in the half court offense. He will show flashes of being a world class athlete a couple times a game, but would be really dangerous as an NBA player if he could take advantage of it at all times. White will also have to step up his play on the defensive end if he ever wishes to gain a spot in the Spurs’ rotation.

Team Updates

Dakota Wizards, 15-5

Dakota went 1-1 last week after the showcase, splitting a pair of home games against the Fort Worth Flyers. They lost Renaldo Major to the Golden State Warriors, but Quemont Greer has played extremely well over the past 5 games. James Maye has also been as consistent as anybody in the D-League this season. Their point guard play has been good lately, and Dontell Jefferson knows how to distribute the ball. They can only improve in their back court with the addition of Curtis Stinson, who will be good for their transition game.

This week, Dakota will attempt to remain at the top of the D-League standings while playing a pair of road games in Fort Worth. These games will take place on Saturday and Sunday.

Idaho Stampede, 16-7

Idaho has been the hottest team in the D-League lately, and they have won their past 11 games. They have two very talented NBA players helping them out, and a number of players who have played in the NBA in the past. One of their biggest assets on the basketball floor is point guard Randy Livingston. With Livingston on the floor, it’s like having a head coach handling the point guard position. Idaho will only get stronger with Luke Jackson coming back. Former Denver Nuggets second round pick Ricky Sanchez has started to play more aggressively on the offense end, and now takes the ball to the hoop with some frequency. As long as they have Miles and Sene on their roster, it will be very difficult for another team to take down Idaho.

Idaho plays a pair of games at home this week on Wednesday and Thursday against the Fort Worth Flyers.

Fort Worth Flyers, 13-6

The Flyers split a pair of games last week against the Dakota Wizards on the road. They struggled for a while after losing Kelenna Azubuike, but have regained form lately with the addition of Jose Juan Barea. They have a new go-to guy on the team now in Jeremy Richardson, and he has stepped up and emerged as arguably the top shooting guard in the D-League. Richardson is up to 18.5 points per game on the season, and uses screens very well to free himself up and get shots off. There are a lot of rumors coming from the NBA about teams liking Richardson. Up front, Luke Schenscher and Deji Akindele have been consistent, and one of the better center duos in the D-League.

Next week, Fort Worth plays back to back games in Idaho starting Wednesday, and then they return home for a pair of games against Dakota starting Saturday night.

Colorado 14ers, 15-7

The 14ers have emerged as the most exciting team to watch in the D-League. After finishing the showcase, they split a pair of games at home against Anaheim. Louis Amundson has played well since returning from his injury, and is leading the league in field goal percentage. Pooh Jeter has continued his strong play as well, and makes his teammates better on the court. Von Wafer has taken advantage of his talent as well, and is putting together a very nice season this year. If their players remain together for the entire season, Colorado is a nice pick to win the D-League championship this season.

Colorado has a tough week ahead of them, as they play 3 games on the road. They play in Austin Wednesday, Los Angeles Friday, and Anaheim on Saturday.

Sioux Falls Skyforce, 15-9

Sioux Falls won a pair of games in Arkansas last week, and have compiled one of the most talented rosters in the D-League. They will have to adapt to playing without Amir Johnson, but Jared Reiner has played very well for the Skyforce this season. Vincent Grier has also been producing for Sioux Falls lately, and is one of the top shooting guards in the league. Stephen Graham brings a solid all-around game as well as some NBA experience to Sioux Falls. He should receive another shot to play in the NBA at some point, but is playing very well where he is for the time being. Antwayne Robinson has also picked up his production lately, and had 19 points on 8/11 from the field in a game against Arkansas last week.

This week, Sioux Falls will play a pair of games in Tulsa on Friday and Saturday nights.

Los Angeles D-Fenders, 12-11

Los Angeles split of games in Albuquerque last week, and have been playing with a record of around .500 lately. Sean Banks has played very well for the D-Fenders lately, and is a big reason they are a game over .500 right now. The addition of Andre Emmett has also helped out their backcourt greatly. Brian Chase continues to look very good at times, but struggles to find his shot other times. Since he is not a true point guard, Chase must shoot well in order to be effective on the court. Forward Andre Patterson has also played well lately, and has been one of the more consistent players for the Los Angeles front court.

This week, the D-Fenders host Colorado on Friday and Bakersfield on Sunday.

Tulsa 66ers, 10-14

Tulsa has made a move to attempt to balance the talent on their roster by acquiring Scott Merritt from the Austin Toros. Merritt will be a good option for them at center, and they still have a top backcourt tandem in Will Conroy and Desmon Farmer in the backcourt. Farmer is one of the most talented 2 guards in the D-League, but he will need to get past his struggles with consistency. Alan Anderson has played very well for Tulsa lately, and could see himself back in the NBA at some point this season. Denham Brown has continued to score the ball well lately, but should work on become more efficient at it. Conroy has done everything possible to make it to the NBA, and he has led the D-League in assists for most of the season. At some point, he should receive a look from an NBA team, because he has the potential to be a 3rd point guard in the NBA for a long time.

This week, Tulsa hosts back to back games against Sioux Falls starting on Friday.

Anaheim Arsenal, 10-15

Anaheim split a pair of games in Colorado last week. They fired their coach today and named the assist the interim head coach. There will be an adjustment period for them with a new coach, and it will be interesting to see if they can build up some chemistry and make a run. Daryl Dorsey has played very well for Anaheim lately, and is averaging 14.5 points and 8.5 assists per game over his last two games. Jawad Williams struggled on Saturday while just going 3 of 13 from the field. James Augustine has been a nice addition to the Anaheim front court, and he will help them out greatly as long as he is there. Corsley Edwards will have to become a more consistent player for Anaheim if they are going to turn things around this season.

This week, Anaheim plays home games on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. On Wednesday and Friday they play Albuquerque, and Sunday’s game is against Colorado.

Albuquerque Thunderbirds, 9-14

Last week Albuquerque split a pair of games at home against the Los Angeles D-Fenders. Duane Erwin has been very solid for them up front lately, and has been an especially good rebounder. Cedric Bozeman will help out Albuquerque’s backcourt. In his D-League debut, Bozeman had 9 points and 7 assists, and he followed it up the next night with 16 points on 12 assists. Tony Bland scored 28 points on Saturday night, and will need to become a more consistent scoring threat for Albuquerque. Joe Shipp also will have to become more consistent for Albuquerque to get back to where they were last season.

This week, Albuquerque plays in Anaheim on Wednesday and Friday, before traveling to Bakersfield for a Saturday night game.

Bakersfield Jam, 7-15

Last week, Bakersfield dropped a pair of games against Idaho. Kevinn Pinkney has been one of the best power forwards in the D-League all season, but struggled against the experienced front court of Idaho. Gerry McNamara also struggled in these games, and had no points or assists on Friday night. One of the biggest problems for Bakersfield over the past couple of games has been turnovers. Patrick O’Bryant has the tendency to turn the ball over too frequently, and will need to become better at hanging onto the ball in the post. Tony Bobbitt has played well for the Jam recently, and scored 24 points on Friday night to lead the team. To improve their record, they will need to look for another player in the front court who can produce points.

This week Bakersfield hosts Albuquerque on Saturday and plays on the road in L.A. on Sunday.

Austin Toros, 7-16

Austin won a pair of games last week at home against Tulsa. They have received a better effort from Jamar Smith lately, which helps considering he was one of the best players in the league last season. BJ Elder has also continued to score the ball efficiently, and lead the team with 32 points in the Friday night win. Loren Woods has also continued his strong play, and really helps Austin when it comes to rebounding. He will have a chance for more minutes now that Scott Merritt has been traded to Tulsa. The addition of Cheyne Gadson should add an addition scoring punch to the Austin backcourt, and they have a chance to put together a nice winning streak to get back into the middle of things.

This week Austin hosts Arkansas on Wednesday and Colorado on Friday.

Arkansas Rimrockers, 6-16

Arkansas has struggled recently, and they have now lost their last 14 games. Last week they dropped a pair of games after the showcase, including one by a margin of 30 points. Clay Tucker has struggled recently, despite the fact that he is getting a lot of good looks. To get back into the flow of things, he will need to start driving to the basket with more frequency. Matt Haryasz has played better since returning from an ankle injury, and his production will need to be consistent for Arkansas to break their losing streak. Players like Marcus Campbell and Myron Allen will need to play better for Arkansas, but their best bet at this point is to hope for a big name from the available player pool.

This week, Arkansas plays a game Friday night in Austin against the Toros.

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