Inside the D-League: Week Seven

Inside the D-League: Week Seven
Jan 10, 2008, 07:25 pm
Spurs Sign Richardson to 10 Day Deal

The San Antonio Spurs have signed second year swingman Jeremy Richardson to a 10-day contract. Richardson started the season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and was signed to a contract by the Memphis Grizzlies on December 20th. The Delta State grad only played spot minutes in the three games that he appeared in for the Grizzlies.

The Spurs have been intrigued by Richardson’s upside since December of last season, and they had originally planned to bring him in for a two day workout at the same time he was signed by Memphis. San Antonio let both DerMarr Johnson and Keith Langford go before the January 10th contract deadline, and could use extra depth at both the 2 and 3 spots. The Spurs can sign Richardson to up to two 10 day contracts before they have to decide to either keep him for the rest of the year or let him return to the D-League.

The Spurs will be Richardson’s 4th NBA team in two seasons since graduating college. Last season, the Atlanta Hawks brought in the talented guard for a pair of 10-day contracts, and Portland gave him an additional 10-day later in the season.

A very athletic scorer, Richardson has a very solid mid-range game that will translate to the NBA level. He also has the ability to pull-up from anywhere off the dribble, and the range on his jumper extends to the NBA three point line. To last in the NBA, Richardson must focus on adding strength to his 185 pound frame and improve his footwork on the defensive end.

Watson, Diaz make 100 All-Time D-League Call-ups

With Guillermo Diaz and C.J. Watson joining NBA teams recently, there have now been 100 call-ups in the history of the D-League. The league was created in 2001, and Omar Cook was the first player called up in the 2001-2002 season when he joined the Boston Celtics. Many recognizable names appear on the all-time call-up list, including quite a few players who still play in the NBA. 16 players were called up on 22 occasions last season, and the D-League is on pace right now to break last year’s record of 22 call-ups. With a few NBA roster spots opening up recently because of the guaranteed contract deadline and the D-League showcase approaching early next week, we could see the number of call-ups jump well over 100 very soon.

McRoberts Assigned to Idaho

Rookie power forward Josh McRoberts has been assigned to play with the Idaho Stampede. The rookie from Duke missed the early season with a bad ankle sprain, and spent much of his recent practice time playing against the rehabbing Darius Miles. The 37th overall pick in the 2007 draft, McRoberts is just 20 years old. He has a good feel for the game and a solid jumper in his favor, but he must become tougher as a rebounder and defender and work on better applying his athleticism to game situations while in the D-League. With the showcase approaching, fellow Blazers’ rookie Taurean Green could also re-join the Stampede for a handful of games. McRoberts has only appeared in three games for the Blazers this season.

Taft Acquired by Rio Grande Valley

Big man Chris Taft has joined the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, who acquired him from the available player pool. Taft declared for the draft out of Pittsburgh at the age of 20, and dropped to the 42nd pick overall after being hyped as a lotto pick for the majority of the college season. As a rookie with Golden State, he showed good flashes of potential but back spasms kept him out towards the end of the season. Taft sat out last season rehabbing his back injury, and will join a Rio Grande Valley team that needs a high level of production from him. It may take the young big man some time to regain his conditioning, but he has the potential to become the best big man in the league if he can stay healthy.

Bakersfield Acquires Britton Johnsen, Trade Him to Utah

The Bakersfield Jam have acquired former NBA forward Britton Johnsen from the available player pool and subsequently traded him to the Utah Flash for guard Michael Cuffee, completing the first trade of the 2007-2008 D-League season. Johnson played his college ball at Utah, and has a good deal of minor league experience which includes past stints with the now defunct Fayetteville Patriots as well as the Idaho Stampede. The forward entered the free agent pool with the Flash in mind as his ideal destination, and the two teams worked out a deal immediately. Johnsen played last season with Pau Orthez in France, and was at home up until deciding to enter the D-League free agent pool. Cuffee averaged 9.9 points in 17 games with the Utah Flash this season.

Nichols Recalled by Chicago, Curry Re-Assigned

The Bulls decided to re-call forward Demetris Nichols, and re-assigned JamesOn Curry to take his spot on the Iowa Energy. A rookie small forward out of Syracuse, Nichols averaged 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game with the Energy. While he has a sweet shooting stroke from the perimeter, the rookie forward struggled defensively, and passed up on too many open looks to drive to the basket. Curry joins Iowa for his second D-League stint this season. He will provide the team with a much needed boost at the point guard position, as well as the leadership they have lacked from other players.

Almond Recalled by Jazz

Rookie shooting guard Morris Almond was recalled by the Utah Jazz earlier this week, ending his first stint with the Utah Flash. On the Flash, Almond proved himself as one of the more versatile scorers in the D-League, and set a record by dropping 51 points in a single game. In 10 games with the Flash, the rookie from rice recorded averages of 29.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. He may be given some time in the Jazz rotation, considering the team is currently without both Ronnie Price and Andrei Kirilenko. Almond can be re-assigned to the Flash up to two more times this season.

NBA Player Updates

Nick Fazekas, Dallas Mavericks/Tulsa 66ers
17.3ppg 8.6rpg 1.8apg

The rookie out of Nevada has scored the ball with a high level of efficiency as of late, and has dropped 25 points in his past two games with the 66ers. Fazekas has a field goal percentage of 55 on the season, but needs to work on extending his shooting range out to NBA three. Against many D-League post players, the rookie can put the ball in the hoop with his back to the basket, but the stronger big men in the league force him to play facing the basket. He has excellent hands and positions himself well for rebounds, but added strength is the only thing that will improve his chances of lasting at the NBA level. Defensively, Fazekas could learn to rotate better as a help defender.

Kyrylo Fesenko, Utah Jazz/Utah Flash
11.0ppg, 7.4rpg, 1.5apg

The Ukrainian big is playing out his third assignment of the season, meaning he can’t return to the D-League if the Jazz need him again. The rookie has struggled offensively since returning to the Flash and will need to work on his footwork in the low post as well as becoming more comfortable operating on the low block. Fesenko continues to impress with his ability to rebound the basketball, thanks to long arms and the use of his body to box out opposing players. Defensively, the rookie shows promise as a shot blocker as well, but needs to work on avoiding foul trouble while going for the block. Few big men in the D-League have the upside of Fesenko, and he could really turn out to be a steal in a few seasons.

Ian Mahinmi, San Antonio Spurs/Austin Toros
18.5ppg, 7.7rpg, 1.8apg

The rookie from France continues to make progress with the Toros, and has upped his field-goal percentage to an amazing 62% on the season. Mahinmi fouled out in his last game against Rio Grande Valley, but it was the first time it happened in nearly a month. Offensively, he shows a reliable right hook from the post, and has solid hands around the basket. The rookie tries to dunk nearly everything inside, and his body and athleticism may allow him to translate this against NBA big men. Defensively, Mahinmi isn’t afraid to bang in the post, but could work on better timing his help rotations to become a more effective shot blocker. Many people questioned San Antonio when they picked Mahinmi in the first round of the 2005 draft, but he looks to be a future NBA player judging by his performance in the D-League.

Saer Sene, Seattle Supersonics/Idaho Stampede
11.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg

Sene has struggled with foul trouble and turnovers recently, and needs to improve his understanding of the game. The second year center shows a nice jump-hook offensively, but needs to become more consistent when he steps out to shoot the 15 footer. He also needs to take better advantage of his length and size defensively. Sene has 7 blocks in a game against Anaheim, but has no more than 1 block in any other D-League game this season. It may hinder his development some that he plays on a team with big man Lance Allred, who is averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds per game on the season.

Ramon Sessions, Milwaukee Bucks/Tulsa 66ers
20.4ppg, 5.7rpg, 6.8apg

Sessions still struggles with his jump-shot, but does a fairly good job of playing to his strengths on the floor. The former Nevada guard uses the floater effectively to score over big men, and can get to the basket quite easily against D-League competition. As a point guard, he has sometimes struggled with over dribbling in the half-court or turning it over in transition. He does have good vision on the pick and roll, and can find an open cutter in the paint. The rookie must focus on improving his shooting and become more consistent as a point guard. Sessions appears to be a good third point guard type who will last for a while in the NBA.

Cedric Simmons, Cleveland Cavaliers/ Rio Grande Valley Vipers
9.3ppg, 5.3rpg, 4.3 bpg

A second year forward from N.C. State, Simmons hasn’t really played much in real game situations since 2 years ago when he was in college. As a result, the power-forward still needs to work himself into game shape. Simmons’ offensive game can be described as raw, with his only main weapon being the 15 foot spot-up jumper. He lacks any type of game with his back to the basket, and also struggles with his touch inside. The most effective aspect of his game for Rio Grande has been the shot-blocking ability he brings. Simmons has a quick vertical leap along with excellent timing and long arms. At this point, he tries to block everything, which leads to foul trouble and low rebounding numbers. He remains raw at this point, and could benefit from playing the rest of the season with the Vipers.

D.J. Strawberry, Phoenix Suns/Albuquerque Thunderbirds
31.6ppg, 3.8rpg, 3.2 apg

The rookie from Maryland has displayed impressive scoring ability since he was assigned from the Suns. It may not translate to the NBA, but he gets to the hoop at will in the D-League which leads to a high number of free throw attempts. Strawberry often struggled with his shooting in college, but has three good shooting games since joining Albuquerque, and sits at 43% on the season despite a 1/8 outing against Utah. Defensively, Strawberry shows great potential as a lock-down defender. He uses good length and excellent quickness to stay in front of the defense, and should have the ability to stop either guard position in the NBA. Strawberry lacks the potential to become a high level starter in the NBA, but has many tools to become a solid role-player type for the next 10 years.

D-League Team Updates

Austin Toros, 12-4

Austin won a pair of closely contested home games against Rio Grande Valley last week to remain atop the D-League. Their second win went into double overtime, and they were able to grab the victory thanks to a 32 point and 20 rebound effort from Marcus Williams. Kris Lang has been quite valuable for the Toros since joining the team, and has shot over 60% from the field while scoring 18 points per game. Justin Reed remains ineffective for the time being offensively, be still ranks among the premier defenders in the D-League. Both DerMarr Johnson and Keith Langford cleared waivers today and officially re-joined the Toros. To make room, Kevin Pittsnogle and Kenton Paulino have been injury released.

This week Austin hosts Albuquerque for a pair of games on Thursday and Saturday.

Los Angeles D-Fenders, 11-4

The D-Fenders blew out Dakota at home last week in their only game to stay just a half-game back of Austin. Devin Green led the way for Los Angeles with 28 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds. An experienced guard, Green has to be on the short-list for D-League call-ups considering the defense and versatility he brings to the floor. Wendell White has quietly continued to play very well, showing excellent intensity as well as above average rebounding ability. The D-Fenders re-acquired big man Jelani McCoy and injury released Robert Whaley, and move that will further upgrade their front court. Coby Karl is expected to re-join the team at some point, maybe before the showcase in Boise where the rookie played his college basketball.

The D-Fenders play Anaheim on Friday before hosting Sioux Falls on Sunday.

Idaho Stampede, 12-5

Idaho has the longest winning streak in the D-League at 7 games, and have not dropped a game at home in 8 contests this season. They won 2 games last week against Bakersfield and Tulsa who both traveled to Boise. Cory Violette is undersized for a 4 in the NBA, but shows good toughness inside, and has averaged nearly 15 points per game on the season. Randy Livingston has continued to rack up amazingly high assist totals and leads the league with his average of 11.2 on the season. Lance Allred can best be described as a double-double machine this season. The 26 year-old big man has 8 games with double-digit rebounds so far this season. Roberto Bergersen struggles at times with the accuracy on his jumper, but has still managed to score 15.9 points per game this year.

Idaho will try to continue their winning streak this weekend with home games against Colorado and Fort Wayne.

Dakota Wizards, 10-7

The Wizards dropped a pair of games in California against Los Angeles and Anaheim last week, but bounced back for a win yesterday against Sioux Falls. Guard Dontell Jefferson recently returned from an injury, and has the scoring ability and upside to receive a call-up at some point this year. Maurice Baker compliments him nicely in the back-court. Both guards rebound the amazingly well and have lockdown ability on the defense end. Rod Benson continues as the league’s leading rebounder, but his numbers could drop slightly with Kevin Lyde healthy again. Blake Ahern and David Palmer are two excellent D-League players who can get hot from behind the three point line on any given night. The return of Renaldo Major in a few weeks will provide the team with a major boost.

Dakota plays a Thursday home game against Iowa before traveling to Des Moines for a Sunday game.

Utah Flash, 10-7

Utah beat Bakersfield and Rio Grande Valley last week but dropped a home game to Tulsa. Kevin Kruger has 8 assists in each of his last 3 games, and his mid-range game on the offensive end has been solid as well. James Lang had his best game of the season against Tulsa, finishing with 25 points and 23 rebounds. Guard Michael Cuffee has been solid for the Flash this season as well, though he must improve his three point shooting to take his game to the next level. The Flash will have to look for another scorer with Almond gone, but do have solid depth and should have a chance at a playoff spot this season.

Utah plays their last game before the showcase on Friday against Fort Wayne.

Colorado 14ers, 9-7

Colorado lost their only game last week at home against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, despite entering the game as 15 point favorites. Eddie Gill played a solid game with 20 points and 8 assists, but the effort wasn’t there from his teammates. Kaniel Dickens finished the game 5 of 20 from the field and only 1 of 11 from behind the three point line. Justin Cage managed to go 7 of 8 from the free throw line while grabbing 12 boards, but finished 3 of 9 from the field. Elton Brown has played very well lately but also struggled against Fort Wayne. With Brian Greene and Julian Sensley out for a while, the 14ers need their role players to produce more consistently. The team recently acquired Tony Bobbit to give their shooting a boost as well, and the team reacquired Billy Thomas from the New Jersey Nets, which will improve them defensively.

Colorado hosts Tulsa on Thursday before traveling to Idaho for a Friday night contest in Boise.

Rio Grande Valley Vipers, 9-8

The Vipers lost a pair of games to Austin over the weekend and dropped a game in Utah yesterday. Within a couple of weeks, they have lost leading scorer CJ Watson to the NBA, second leading scorer Gabe Muoneke to Spain, and third leading scorer Kenny Taylor to Greece. They will need a big effort from newly acquired big man Chris Taft, who has excellent potential assuming his back is fully recovered. Quin Humphrey will need to shoulder the scoring load, along with forward Trent Strickland who has really improved as of late.

Rio Grande Valley plays in Tulsa on Saturday before traveling back home to face Albuquerque on Sunday.

Iowa Energy, 9-10

Iowa has dropped their past 4 games and now sit at 1 game below .500 for the first time this season. The return of JamesOn Curry will be huge for the team, and he appears to be back in Iowa for a long period of time. Dwayne Mitchell has continued to show excellent scoring ability (21.9 ppg) but his shooting accuracy has dropped considerably lately. Center Jeff Hagen played extremely well in Iowa’s pair of losses against Sioux Falls last weekend, and his size inside will be important for the team to turn things around. Better consistency is needed from forward Doug Thomas, who appears to be one of the most improved players in the D-League this season.

Iowa travels to Dakota for a Friday night game and will play an early afternoon game on Sunday against the Wizards.

Albuquerque Thunderbirds, 6-7

Albuquerque dropped a game to Anaheim on the road last week before bouncing back at home against Fort Wayne. Josh Gross has continued to be a solid scorer, and his spot-up shooting will be important for the team once they lose Strawberry back to the Suns. Ramon Dyer remains a steady presence for the team, though he does need work on his three point shooting. The Thunderbirds recently cut big man James Smith in favor of Cory Underwood, but they need another big man or elite scoring guard to have a chance at making the playoffs this season.

Albuquerque plays in Austin on Thursday and Saturday before closing out the week with a Sunday contest against Rio Grande Valley.

Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 7-9

The Mad Ants dropped a game in Albuquerque last week before bouncing back for a win in Colorado. Sammy Mejia continues to score the ball efficiently, and has been the best rebounding guard in the D-League so far at 7 boards per game. Earl Calloway has remained solid at the point but could help the team greatly by reducing his turnover numbers. To end their recent wave of losing, the Mad Ants have started to play with smaller lineups which have included a back-court of Calloway and Walker Russell Jr. The small-ball approach has been slightly more effective, but the re-assignment of Cheikh Samb from Detroit will help the team greatly.

Fort Wayne plays in Utah on Friday and Idaho on Saturday.

Sioux Falls Skyforce, 7-11

Sioux Falls picked up a pair of home wins in Iowa over the weekend before dropping a game in Dakota yesterday. Kasib Powell’s consistency remains key for Sioux Falls. The veteran forward lacks three point range but shows excellent mid-range ability as well as a great feel for the game. Jason Klotz has played better as of late, and center Chris Alexander’s size creates problems for most opposing teams. Carl Elliott needs to be a more consistent offensive player, but has a very tough demeanor on the court and plays excellent defense on the perimeter. The Skyforce now have top waiver position in the free agent pool, and could add a talented scorer in the coming days.

Sioux Falls heads to California this week to face Bakersfield on Friday and Los Angeles on Sunday.

Tulsa 66ers, 6-10

Tulsa dropped a game to Idaho last week but bounced back to beat both Utah and Bakersfield. Guard Adam Harrington struggled for 4 games after returning from an injury, but bounced back nicely against Bakersfield, finishing with 15 points, 4 assists and 4 steals. Small forward Mike Hall still needs to gain consistency, but plays solid defense and finished up with 30 points and 8 rebounds against the Jam. Forward Glen McGowan still needs time to become fully healthy, but has displayed solid flashes at times over the course of the season. If he can come in at 100% by the all-star break, the 66ers will have a shot at making a playoff run through the second part of the season.

The 66ers play Thursday night in Colorado before traveling home on Saturday to face Rio Grande Valley.

Anaheim Arsenal, 6-10

Anaheim won a pair of games last week, taking down Albuquerque and Dakota in a pair of home games. Guillermo Diaz played very well in both games, and the loss of him to the Clippers may hurt the team. Center Marcus Campbell has played surprisingly well since joining the team from the free agent pool, and Steve Smith now averages 19.8 points per game on the season while shooting 40% from three. Will Blalock remains streaky at times, and it will be important for him to play at a high level with Diaz in the NBA. The team still could use another big man, and it will be interesting to see if they can extend their winning streak past 2 games.

Anaheim hosts Los Angeles on Friday in their last game before the showcase.

Bakersfield Jam, 3-18

Bakersfield dropped three games last week, with losses coming against Utah, Idaho and Tulsa. Their players are in a tough situation with the recent coaching change. Sean Rooks remains the interim head coach for the time being while the owners look for a long term replacement. Andre Barrett’s is probably the best point guard left in the D-League with C.J. Watson in the NBA, and he averages 9.3 assists and 2.5 turnovers per game this year. Scooter McFadgon has the potential to be an excellent scorer in this league, but better three point shooting and improved consistency are necessary. Newly acquired guard Michael Cuffee will have a chance to contribute right away, but the team needs to look to the player pool for another big man.

Bakersfield hosts Sioux Falls on Friday night in their last game before the Showcase.

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