Inside the D-League: Week One

Inside the D-League: Week One
Nov 29, 2007, 04:46 pm
Inside the D-League

Tolliver Joins Iowa

Power Forward Anthony Tolliver has been acquired by the Iowa Energy from the available player pool. The rookie forward attended training camp with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and was set to make the opening night roster until Demetris Nichols became available. Tolliver, who played his college basketball at Creighton, joins a team which is currently 3-1 on the season. He joins a front line in Iowa featuring D-League vets Nick Lewis and Deji Akindele.

Lasme Added by Los Angeles

Forward Stephane Lasme has been added to the Los Angeles D-Fenders after recently signing a general contract with the D-League. The 46th pick in the 2007 NBA draft, the rookie forward spent the beginning of the season with the Golden State Warriors. Lasme became well known at Massachusetts for his ability to change a game defensively with his shot blocking. The D-Fenders have also moved to the top of the waiver priority list since Jelani McCoy was called up by the Nuggets.

Available Player Pool Filling with Talent

A number of talented players with NBA experience have finally decided to join the D-League as of late. Will Blalock has re-joined the league, after starting this season with Hapoel Jerusalem in the Israeli League. DerMarr Johnson has also joined the D-League, after starting this season with Benetton Treviso in Italy. John Lucas started his career in the D-League, and has joined the league again after failing to make out of training camp with the Houston Rockets. Other players, including center Kris Lang, have also considered the D-League and may decide to sign a general contract shortly.

Tucker Assigned to Thunderbirds

Rookie forward Alando Tucker of the Phoenix Suns has been assigned to play with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds. Tucker has appeared in just two games for Phoenix so far this season, with both of his appearances coming in blowout wins. The rookie out of Wisconsin could benefit greatly from his time in the D-League, and will likely make a very big impact in terms of scoring and rebounding with the Thunderbirds. Tucker is the 12th NBA player to be assigned to play in the D-League this season.

Coby Karl Joins the D-Fenders

Rookie guard Coby Karl of the Lakers has been assigned to play with the Los Angeles D-Fenders. Karl joined the D-Fenders yesterday afternoon for practice, and will play his first game tonight against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The rookie undrafted free agent out of Boise State has appeared in just two games for the Lakers this season, playing a total of four minutes. Karl is known for his nice feel for the game and ability to set up teammates.

Damone Brown Back to Sioux Falls

Veteran small forward Damone Brown has joined the Sioux Falls Skyforce after failing to make the Utah Jazz during the preseason. A 28 year old out of Syracuse, Brown played for the Skyfoce last season, with averages of 15.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. The veteran forward is known for athleticism and the ability to score inside, but has struggled with the range on his jumper for much of last season.

Celtics Recall Pruitt

The Celtics recalled rookie guard Gabe Pruitt from the Utah Flash upon the completion of his second D-League game. Pruitt was assigned to the Flash right before the start of the season on November 23rd, and returns to Boston just four days after being assigned. In two games with the Flash, Pruitt averaged 21.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. He came out on fire on opening night scoring 31 points and dishing out 8 assists in a win over Anaheim, but struggled the following night in a blowout loss in Los Angeles, finishing with just 12 points while turning the ball over 9 times. Pruitt was known for his streaky play in college, and he will likely return for another stint or two in the D-League at some point in the near future.

Bakersfield Re-Acquires McFadgon

The Bakersfield Jam have brought back guard Scooter McFadgon, who played for the Jam last season. A 25 year old out of Tennessee, McFadgon joined Bakersfield in February of last year after returning from Europe. During his stint with the Jam last season, he averaged 18.6 points, 3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game in 22 games. A talented scorer, McFadgon will provide a much needed boost to a Bakersfield team that has started the with a pair of consecutive losses. The Jam need a go-to scorer, and he can step in and play that role for the team immediately.

Sessions Named D-League Performer of the Week

In two games with the Tulsa 66ers, Milwaukee Bucks rookie Ramon Sessions led the team to a pair of wins. His strong play at the point guard position makes him the first perfomer of the week of the D-League season. In two games, the rookie has per-game averages of 30.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.5 steals. Sessions elected to leave the University of Nevada after his junior season, and was selected with the 55th pick in the draft by Milwaukee. He will likely spend the majority of the season with Tulsa, barring any unexpected injuries or roster moves.

NBA Player Updates

JamesOn Curry, Chicago Bulls/Iowa Energy
23.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.0 apg

Playing primarily at the point guard position, Curry has efficiently scored the ball from the field in three games so far. Though he is more of a scorer than distributor, Curry generally shows good patience in setting up the half-court offense. The rookie from Oklahoma State has great range on his jumper, and a mid-range game that allows him to score against any player in the D-League. To last in the NBA, Curry needs to prove he can make better reads and quicker decisions as a half-court point guard. Defensively, the Chicago Bull shows good fundamentals, but bigger guards in the NBA will surely take advantage of their size and strength advantage by posting him up.

Nick Fazekas, Dallas Mavericks/Tulsa 66ers
10.5 rpg, 10.0 rpg

Though Fazekas has made a big impact up front for Tulsa in 2 games, there are certain weaknesses that he will have to overcome to last in the NBA. Offensively, Fazekas showed off his skills, making a number of moves facing the basket in his 2 games. A majority of his offensive looks have been on an isolation play, where he receives the ball facing the basket at about 17 feet out. At the same time, Fazekas has struggled to do anything with his back to the basket, mostly due to lack of strength. Excellent hands combined with good anticipation allowed him to score on his own misses, and his rebounding fundamentals make up for a lack of strength and athleticism. Defensively, Fazekas needs better lower body strength in order to get better leverage. Skill-wise, Nick Fazekas surely has what it takes to play in the NBA, but physical improvements would greatly improve his chances of success.

Kyrylo Fesenko, Utah Jazz, Utah Flash
16.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg

At just 20 years old, Fesenko received a three year contract as a rookie second round pick. The Ukrainian big has excellent size to go with good physical tools. So far in the D-League, Fesenko displays good potential on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he must become more comfortable in the post, and develop further counter moves. On the defensive end, the rookie big shows some promise as a shot-blocker, but must improve his understanding of defensive rotations in the NBA game. Fesenko had a solid showing in the preseason for the Jazz, and it will be interesting to watch his progress as he becomes more comfortable with the style of play and his teammates.

Marcin Gortat, Orlando Magic, Anaheim Arsenal
8.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg

The 56th pick in the 2005 draft, Marcin Gortat has made great strides with his game in Europe in the couple seasons since he was drafted. In the D-League, he struggled in his first two games, but will likely need time to adjust to the different style of play. Gortat shows promise as a good defender and solid shot-blocker, but foul trouble has limited him in both of these areas so far. He fouled out in his first game, and picked up 5 fouls the next night against Utah. It doesn’t help him that his Anaheim team was built with many athletes who get up and down the floor. Gortat’s skills translate best to a half-court, slower style of play. Offensively, the rookie can hit a mid-range jumper if left open, and has a couple of spin moves that he utilizes in the post. In the coming weeks, he must focus on developing a broader range of moves on the low block.

Ian Mahinmi, San Antonio Spurs/Austin Toros
13.0ppg, 7.0 rpg

Manhinmi can still be labeled as raw despite the fact that he has improved quite a bit over the past few seasons in France. From watching him in the D-League, it’s clear he has a great deal of upside to make a future impact in the NBA. Foul trouble has plagued Mahinmi throughout his career, so it should be no surprise that he fouled out in each of his first two D-League games in 26.5 minutes per game. With the Toros, he has the chance to play through foul trouble and he can focus on changing shots instead of attempting to block everything. Offensively, Mahinmi scores the ball effectively when given the ball in the right spot, but his touch inside and footwork could both use some work. With the Spurs owning the Toros, the rookie from France might spend his whole season in Austin. He has the physical tools to compete in the NBA, and the D-League gives him the minutes to polish his game.

Steve Novak, Houston Rockets/Rio Grande Valley Vipers
12.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg

Novak was drafted out of Marquette for his shooting ability, and in maybe the least shocking news tidbit ever, he can still shoot. With the Vipers, he has split his time at both forward positions, and provided them with a nice third scoring option. When playing the small forward, Novak still struggles defensively against quicker players, and he lacks the ideal strength for a power-forward at the NBA level. Novak plays a smart game and knows his role on the floor, and his ability to shoot will give him a chance to succeed in the NBA.

Kosta Perovic, Golden State Warriors/Bakersfield Jam
9.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg

A rookie from Serbia, Perovic has displayed nice hands and good touch around the basket. Offensively, he has displayed a nice hook shot in the low post, but he will need to develop further moves down low to have a reliable back to the basket game in the NBA. Defensively, the rookie needs to work on his understanding of rotations and put in better effort when it comes to attempting to block shots. Perovic has great size and some nice tools to work with, but it’s unclear how much upside remains for him at this point.

Ramon Sessions, Milwaukee Bucks/Tulsa 66ers
30.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 5.0 apg

Sessions has been one of the top players in all of the D-League during his first two games with Tulsa, showing a very impressive range of scoring tools. The rookie out of Nevada has used his excellent mid-range game, shooting a number of floaters and pull-up jumpers in traffic. Instead of relying on his perimeter game, Sessions has also attack the basket very aggressively, and scoring numerous lay-ups in transition. Defensively, he has played with great focus and forced a number of steals without gambling in the passing lanes. Sessions proved to be a solid distributor in college, but has focus more on scoring in the D-League. He has involved his teammates very nicely on the offensive end, and appears to be very comfortable running the offensive sets. He may need to overcome the lack of ideal athleticism and size to really have a role in the NBA, but he has taken full advantage of his two games thus far.

Brandon Wallace, Boston Celtics, Utah Flash
14.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.0 apg

A rookie out of South Carolina, Wallace was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Celtics after they fell in love with his upside in Las Vegas over the summer. The rookie forward has all the athletic tools to succeed in the D-League, standing at 6’10 with an explosive vertical leap. Added focus on adding strength to his frame will be important for Wallace, who lacks the body to play in the NBA right now. Offensively, he appears capable of hitting a mid-range jumper when left open, but scores the majority of his points on hustle plays. Wallace fits the mold of an energy player at the NBA level, and his playing time in the D-League will allow him to further develop his skill-set.

Team Updates

Rio Grand Valley Vipers, 3-0

Jim Hlavac

The expansion Rio Grande Valey Vipers are off to a perfect 3-0 start with home wins over the Austin Toros and Bakersfield Jam and a road win over the Anaheim Arsenal. Gabe Muoneke leads the team with 26 points per game. Guard C.J. Watson has also been impressive offensively averaging 25.7 points per game. He has shown a good ability to get to the free throw line and convert, making 30-of-34 attempts. Houston Rocket assignee Steve Novak has appeared in two games so far hitting 36% of his attempts from the 3-point line and averaging 14.5 points per game.

Coming up, Rio Grande Valley attempts to keep their dreams of a perfect season alive with vistis to Los Angeles and Tulsa and a home game against Sioux Falls.

Tulsa 66ers, 2-0

The 66ers have benefited greatly from their two NBA assignees, getting Ramon Sessions and Nick Fazekas to play two of the most valuable positions in the D-League. They opened their season with a road win in Fort Wayne, before traveling to Sioux Falls and defeating the Sky Force after struggling throughout much of the game. Mike Hall has played a big role for the 66ers, creating turnovers on the defensive end, and showing the ability to shoot the jumper on offense. Jeremy Kelly has also contributed as an energy guy. The 66ers suffered the loss of their first round pick, Glen McGowan, to a knee injury, but they still have the talent to compete as long as they can keep Sessions and Fazekas.

Tulsa closes out this week with a pair of home games starting Friday night against Colorado, and wrapping up on Sunday against Rio Grade Valley.

Iowa Energy, 3-1

Iowa beat defending champion Dakota in two road games to open the season, before traveling home and splitting a pair of games (a win against Albuquerque and a loss to Colorado). Dwayne Mitchell has been the best player for the Energy thus far, using his athletic ability to score at the rim and defend. To keep their spot atop the division, the interior defense must improve for Iowa. Anthony Tolliver just joined the team, and should provide them with an extra scoring punch down low.

Iowa hosts Fort Wayne tonight, before traveling to Fort Wayne for a Sunday road game against the Mad Ants.

Idaho Stampede, 2-1

Idaho suffered a close loss on opening night to Albuquerque, before bouncing back to gain a pair of road wins in Colorado and Los Angeles. Last year’s D-League MVP Randy Livingston missed opening night due to injury, but bounced back with 20 assists against Colorado. First round pick Jamaal Tatum is still out with an ankle injury, but should provide a nice boost when he becomes healthy. Lance Allred has maybe been the best center in the D-League so far this season, averaging 20.7 points and 10 rebounds in three games this season. With a number of solid role players on the team, Idaho is geared up for another big season.

The Stampede finish the weekend with a pair of home games with Dakota and Albuquerque coming to town.

Albuquerque Thunderbirds, 2-1

Albuquerque dropped a game to Iowa on Tuesday after defeating Fort Wayne and Idaho to open the season. Forward Josh Gross has started the season strong, scoring 26 points per game so far this season, while getting to the line over 8 times per game. Ali Berdiel has also been a steady contributor for the Thunderbirds. He sometimes forces things, but has averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 assists in three games. Albuquerque has a number of shooters, and they have played above average team basketball so far.

The Thunderbirds conclude their week with a Saturday night game in Idaho.

Colorado 14ers, 2-1

Colorado dropped a home game to Idaho, but has beaten Anaheim and Iowa since the start of the season. Elton Brown has again been their best player, showing a wide range of moves on the low block combined with the ability to make some ridiculously difficult fade-aways. Julian Sensley has also been a solid contributor, showing good range on his shot and the ability to mix it up inside. If he can get himself into shape, he could be a very interesting prospect later in the year. With an up and down start to the season, Kaniel Dickens needs to show more consistency before he can make it back to the NBA. He may be the best athlete in the D-League and can shoot and drive at times, but tends to disappear for long stretches or even whole games. Colorado may look to add another guard soon, but they may have the best front-court in the D-League.

The 14ers close out the week with a Friday game in Tulsa and a Saturday game in Austin.

Austin Toros, 1-1

Austin dropped their opening game of the season, but bounced back with a win over the Bakersfield Jam. Despite struggling with his outside shot, Keith Langford has played very well for the Toros in both games. The former Kansas Jayhawk has averages of 31.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. D-League veteran Justin Bowen returned to Austin this year and has been a solid scorer and rebounder for the Toros.

Austin will try to start a winning streak at home this weekend, with Sioux Falls and Colorado coming to town.

Los Angeles D-Fenders, 1-1

Richard Walker

The Los Angeles D-Fenders opened their season with a home split, defeating the Utah Flash, 109-92 and losing to the Idaho Stampede 118-111. First round draft pick Jelani McCoy averaged 8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4 blocks per game which was good enough for the Denver Nuggets who called him up on November 28th. Sean Banks was the leading scorer in both contests averaging 27.5 points per game, while also dishing out 6.5 assists per game. Devin Green has improved his outside shooting this season, hitting 86% (6-of-7) of his 3-point attempts in the first week. Laker rookie Coby Karl was assigned to the D-Fenders on Wednesday and will join the team for Thursday’s game against Rio Grande Valley.

Marcus White injured his knee against Utah and was placed on the injury waiver list. To replace him the D-Fenders acquired U Mass rookie Stephane Lasme who was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the 2nd round this year before being released.

This week, the D-Fenders hit the road to play Anaheim, Bakersfield and Utah.

Dakota Wizards, 1-2

The Wizards struggled to start the season, dropping a pair of home games to Iowa, but won in Utah thanks to a last second shot by Kevin Lyde. Lyde boasts a double-double average right now, and has been nearly unstoppable on the low block this season. Dakota starts two point guards in their back-court, which has worked out well for Dontell Jefferson so far this season. Jefferson still needs to become a more consistent player, but has good size and slashing ability combined with solid instincts. Blake Ahearn has also played well, shooting lights out from behind the three point line. First round pick Carlos Powell has been too much for opposing players to handle, and he currently leads the team in scoring at 22.7 points per game.

The Wizards end their week Saturday night with a contest in Idaho.

Utah Flash, 1-2

The Flash opened their season with a win in Anaheim, before dropping games to Los Angeles and Dakota. First round pick Kevin Kruger struggled in his first three games, and needs to become more comfortable with his offensive role. James Lang has upside that few D-League centers can match, and great touch down low. Better conditioning is a necessity for him to make it back to the NBA, however. Brandon Jackson has been a solid glue guy for the Flash up front.

The Flash close out their week at home against Bakersfield before traveling to Anaheim early next week for a pair of games.

Sioux Falls Skyforce, 0-1

The Skyforce dropped their only game so far this year to the Tulsa 66ers, despite strong performances from Antwayne Robinson and Nik Caner-Medley. Robinson shot the ball with great accuracy from the perimeter and made some solid finishes inside, but his teammates stopped passing him the ball late in the game. Caner-Medley made a number of mid-range jumpers and difficult finishes inside throughout the game, showing great body control after taking contact.

Sioux Falls heads to Texas this weekend for back to back games in Austin and Rio Grande Valley.

Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 0-2

Fort Wayne has struggled early in the season, dropping games to Tulsa and Albuquerque to open the season. Jeremy Richardson has played well, and could be the next guy called up to the NBA. It will be important for the second year shooting guard to add strength, however. The Mad Ants took a big hit when point guard Walker Russell Jr. went down with an injury, leaving them with just rookie Earl Calloway at the 1. Center Larry Turner struggled with foul trouble in both games, but is starting to show a decent back to the basket game. Free agent tryout Eric Smith has been very impressive as well, starting the game against Albuquerque and scoring 18 points on 8/12 from the field.

Fort Wayne finishes their week with a road game in Iowa before returning home to face them again.

Bakersfield Jam, 0-2

Bakersfield started the season off slowly, dropping games to Austin and Rio Grande Valley. Brandon Bowman had a strong opening game to the season, but struggled in his second game. The second year forward struggled with consistency last season, but has a great deal of talent. 10th round pick Anthony Wilkins has been solid as well, shooting over 40% from behind the three point line in the two games. The addition of Scooter McFadgon should give the Jam a go-to scorer, but another big man would help this team greatly.

The Jam play back to back games Thursday and Friday in Utah and Anaheim, and finish the week with a Sunday game in Los Angeles against the D-Fenders.

Anaheim Arsenal, 0-3

Richard Walker

The Anaheim Arsenal have dug themselves a hole to start the season, losing all three games they played this week. After a season opening road loss in Colorado, the Arsenal came home and dropped two games to a pair of expansion teams – Utah and Rio Grande. As expected, Guillermo Diaz (22.7 ppg) and Steven Smith (20.3 ppg) are the leading scorers for Anaheim. Top pick, Kedrick Brown is averaging 13.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2 steals per game. Point guard Davin White is also contributing to the offense with 15.3 points and 6.3 assists per game. Center Marcin Gortat is on assignment from the Orlando Magic and has yet to show anything. In three games, he has grabbed one offensive rebound. He is averaging just 7 points and 4.7 rebounds in 24 minutes per game, while commiting an average of 5 fouls per game.

Anaheim looks to right the ship with four home games this week against Bakersfield, Los Angeles and Utah twice.

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