Inside the D-League: Week Two

Inside the D-League: Week Two
Dec 06, 2007, 03:03 am
Brooks Assigned to Vipers

Rookie point guard Aaron Brooks of the Houston Rockets has been assigned to play with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. A rookie out of Oregon, Brooks will join teammate Steve Novak with the Rockets' affiliate in south Texas. The rookie guard has appeared in 2 games with Houston this season, and is stuck behind Rafer Alston and Mike James in a deep point guard rotation. In Rio Grande Valley, he will have to split time with top D-League point guard C.J. Watson. Brooks becomes the 14th NBA player assigned to the D-League already in this young season. His first game will be a Sunday home game against the Tulsa 66ers.

Antywane Robinson Bought Out by Pau-Orthez

French team Pau-Orthez has bought out forward Antywane Robinson of the Sioux Falls Skyforce, making him the first D-League player to leave for Europe this season. Robinson averaged 18 points per game in three games with the Skyforce this season, while shooting 50% from behind the three point line. Robinson will join a team that has struggled early this season, with a record of 2-8 in the French ProA league, and record of just 1-4 in the ULEB Cup. They will look for the second year forward to provide a large scoring boost in their front-court.

Luke Jackson Re-Joins Idaho

Small forward Luke Jackson has joined the Idaho Stampede for a second consecutive season. The former lottery pick of the Cleveland Cavs spent some time in Boise last season before eventually signing with the Toronto Raptors. The veteran forward has three years of NBA time under his belt, and joins a team with the best record in the D-League already. At the age of 26, Jackson will certainly be on the short list of call-up candidates that NBA teams may look at as the season progresses.

Cage and Dean Acquired by Colorado

Guard Justin Cage has joined the Colorado 14ers, along with Brandon Dean, who was injury released by the team less than a month ago. Cage played his college ball at Xavier and is known for his defensive ability and smart shot selection on the offensive end. He was allocated to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants by the league office, but cut before the start of the season in favor of raw but athletic forward Eric Smith. Dean brings a veteran presence to the 14ers, and is in his third D-League season. He will spend the majority of his time at the point guard position this season.

Andre Barrett in Bakersfield

Former NBA player and D-League veteran Andre Barrett has joined the Bakersfield Jam, after signing a contract with the league office. Barrett, drafted first overall in the 2005 D-League draft by the Florida Flame, has three seasons of prior NBA experience. The Jam drafted his rights with the first overall selection in the 2006 expansion draft. Barrett provides leadership along with his scoring and distributing ability, and will likely be one of the first guards looked at by NBA teams. To make room for Andre Barrett, Bakersfield waived their top draft pick, Jamison Brewer.

Pruitt Re-Assigned to Utah

Rookie combo-guard Gabe Pruitt has been re-assigned to the Utah Flash, after spending 9 days with the Celtics. He was re-called originally due to injury concerns with Ray Allen and Tony Allen, but made just one appearance with the Celtics, in a blow-out win over the Knicks. The rookie joined the Flash just before a game, playing just 12 minutes in a win over Anaheim with 3 points and 4 turnovers. Pruitt has the defensive ability to become valuable in the NBA, but needs to improve his consistency offensively before he will see regular rotation minutes at the next level.

Marcus Williams and DerMarr Johnson to Austin

Using their waiver position, the Austin Toros have added veteran guard DerMarr Johnson from the available player pool. Johnson started the season with Benetton Treviso, one of the top teams in Italy, but returned home after only a month. The 27 year-old has 6 prior seasons of NBA experience, most recently with the Denver Nuggets where he played 71 games in 2005-2006. To further bolster their line-up, the Toros have re-acquired rookie Marcus Williams, who was injury released before the start of the season. Williams was drafted in the early second round by the Spurs but was cut before the start of the NBA regular season. With Williams and Johnson on board, things are really looking up for the Toros.

Gortat Re-Called by Magic

Rookie center Marcin Gortat has been re-called from the Anaheim Arsenal, re-joining the Orlando Magic over the weekend. The 23 year-old Polish national was playing in Anaheim on an injury rehab assignment, and struggled in his early D-League appearances. After playing well in consecutive games, the Magic decided to re-call Gortat to examine his progress. Gortat could return to the D-League at some point during the season, and will likely remain out of the regular rotation in Orlando for the time being.

Fesenko Re-Called, sees First NBA Minutes

After 20 days with the Utah Flash, the Jazz recalled rookie center Kyrylo Fesenko. The Ukrainian big was needed by the Jazz thanks to minor injuries to Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. After returning to the NBA, Fesenko had a solid showing in his NBA debut, racking up 6 points and 7 rebounds in 20 minutes of play. The rookie has been on the active roster for the Jazz over the past two games, but hasn’t appeared in either game. With Boozer and Okur playing again, Fesenko could return to the Flash soon, although Jerry Sloan seems to be pleased with the progress his rookie big has made.

Richardson Named D-League Performer of the Week

Second year guard Jeremy Richardson was named the D-League performer of the week after leading his team to their first two victories of the season. Richardson’s performances including a very impressive 40 point game in a road win over the Iowa Energy. The leading scorer for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, he received two call-ups to the NBA last season. Richardson has displayed offensive versatility this season, showing an impressive ability to pull up for jumpers off the dribble. He gets to the basket easily too, and has NBA range on his three point jumper. Strength may be the one thing holding Richardson back right now, but he will certainly receive a look from an NBA team at some point this season.

NBA Player Update

JamesOn Curry, Chicago Bulls, Iowa Energy
22.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 3.5 rpg

The Bulls guard has displayed impressive scoring ability off the dribble in his stint with the Energy, pulling up for jumpers both in the half-court sets and in transition. As a distributor, Curry has been impressive at times, but still mainly looks to score first. The rookie needs to gain strength and play a more physical style to have success at the NBA level. This becomes clear when he runs the pick and roll. Opposing big men can step out on him, and as long as they take the jumper away, Curry becomes stuck and has to pass the ball. To overcome this, he must work on attacking the paint by either splitting the screen or going right at the opposing big man.

Nick Fazekas, Dallas Mavericks, Tulsa 66ers
12.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.3 apg

Fazekas has remained solid offensively throughout his time in the D-League, particularly when facing the basket. He can spot up for the open jumper or face-up out of the post with success. The lack of physical strength has really hindered him thus far, particularly in a match-up against Colorado and Elton Brown. The physical play of Brown in the low post allowed him to score effectively and put Fazekas in foul trouble. If the Mavs’ rookie can add strength, he could have a nice career as a big man off the bench, and his offensive skill-set is very impressive for a 6’11” player.

Coby Karl, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles D-Fenders
18.7 ppg, 2.3 apg, 4.0 rpg

Karl has showed good promise as a triangle player with the D-Fenders. Sharing back-court time with Brian Chase and Devin Green, the rookie has shared time as the initiator of the offense. He has a nice feel for the game and NBA range on his jump-shot, shooting over 50% from the three point line since being assigned to the D-League. Karl’s game has seemed to improve as he becomes more comfortable with making reads in the triangle offense. He will likely never be a primary option in the NBA, but does have the makings of a solid role player who could potentially play at either guard spot.

Ian Mahinmi, San Antonio Spurs, Austin Toros
14.3 ppg, 6.3 ppg, .5 apg

Mahinmi still remains raw, but has shown good promise over the past week for the Austin Toros. Foul trouble remains a problem for the French rookie, though he has adjusted over the past two games and only picked up 4 fouls in each game. This adjustment may have hurt his aggressiveness when it comes to shot blocking, however, since he failed to send back one shot in either game. Offensively, Mahinmi relies on a right handed hook. To take his offensive game to the next level, he must focus on developing some sort of left hand rather than always turning to his left shoulder in the post. Mahinmi must focus on boxing out as well, instead of relying on his superior leaping ability to collect rebounds.

Steve Novak, Houston Rockets, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
17.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.4 apg

Novak has continued to gain comfort with the Vipers, and his three point shot has continued to fall at a 40% clip, an impressive figure considering a high number of attempts. The second year forward has struggled inside the three point line, and his role in the NBA will be limited to shooting specialist. Defensively, Novak has struggled to guard opposing small forwards, but lacks the strength to defend the power forward position at the NBA level. The D-League time is good for his confidence, but Novak will need to be tested against NBA competition at some point.

Kosta Perovic, Golden State Warriors, Bakersfield Jam
9.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, .2 apg

Perovic shows some promise on the offensive end, but has struggled with both rebounding and defense at times while in Bakersfield. Offensively, he has a few moves with his back to the basket, but needs to polish his footwork and develop counter-moves on the low block. He must continue to gain strength as well, and focus on boxing his man out after a shot goes up. Perovic remains raw for an NBA big man, and could potentially spend the whole season with the Jam.

Ramon Sessions, Milwaukee Bucks, Tulsa 66ers
24.8ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.5 apg

Sessions struggled recently in a loss to Rio Grande Valley, going just 1 for 11 from the field while matching up against C.J. Watson. Prior to that, the rookie guard was scoring the ball very effectively from mid-range and getting all the way to the basket, and drawing contact against opposing point guards. In terms of running a team, Sessions has struggled with turnovers, forcing the ball into tight spots and sometimes over dribbling within the offense. He does have the ability to run a team successfully, but needs to further adjust to his teammates and the offensive system the coach wants to run.

Alando Tucker, Phoenix Suns, Albuquerque Thunderbirds
25.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 2.0 apg

Tucker was known for his explosive athleticism and ability to make difficult shots off the dribble at Wisconsin. These qualities have carried over, but he has struggled with the range on his jumper, going just 1 for 7 from behind the three point line in his D-League debut. The rookie small forward has the athleticism and type of game that could be very effective in Phoenix’s run and gun system, but an improved three point shot could go a long way in determining his success at the NBA level. Defensively, Tucker has the tools to lock down opposing wing players, but his understanding of a team defensive concept must improve. Tucker will be an explosive scorer throughout his D-League tenure, but it will be interesting to see if he can improve the range on his jumper.

Brandon Wallace, Boston Celtics, Utah Flash
13.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.2 apg

Wallace has been fairly consistent for the Flash, and made an impact in a number of areas. Though his offensive game can still be described as raw, he picks up his points a number of ways, whether it’s offensive rebound put-backs inside or even stepping out to hit an open mid-range jumper. Great length, quickness and athleticism give the rookie potential to become a lockdown defender in the NBA, and he already shows quick hands and good anticipation defensively. Wallace is a long term project and will need to add weight, but could have a better future than many players that were drafted.

Darius Washington, San Antonio Spurs, Austin Toros
29.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 6.0 apg

An un-drafted free agent who played overseas last season, Washington surprised a number of scouts with a monster showing in the pre-season with the Spurs. He has carried his strong play to the D-League, though there are a few weaknesses he will have to focus on in the coming weeks. Offensively, Washington shows good quickness in getting to the basket, and has a number of crafty moves that allow him to finish inside. Turnovers have been a problem for the rookie, and his focus is more on scoring than distributing at this point. Defensively, his lack of size may hurt him in the NBA, but it hasn’t been a hindrance in the D-League thus far. Washington will likely remain one of the better point guards in the D-League this season, and has a bright future as a back-up point guard.

D-League Team Updates

Idaho Stampede, 5-1

Idaho played two games last week, taking down both Dakota and Sioux Falls at home. Newly acquired Luke Jackson scored 30 points in his season debut against Sioux Falls, while shooting guard Roberto Bergersen is averaging 16.7 points per game this season while shooting 45% from three. Randy Livingston has continued to distribute the ball, and Lance Allred has 3 double-doubles already this season. The Stampede have played the entire season so far without their first round pick, Jamaal Tatum, who is still recovering from a high ankle sprain.

Idaho plays their next game Friday night in Sioux Falls, which will be followed by an 8 day break.

Rio Grande Valley Vipers, 5-1

Rio Grande Valley dropped their first game of the season last week to the Los Angeles D-Fenders, but bounced back with wins over Sioux Falls and Tulsa. C.J. Watson has been a steady presence for the Vipers, and appears to be the steady type of player that could be a third point guard in the NBA. Veteran forward Gabe Muenoke has been a steady contributor as well, doing most of his damage with mid-range jumpers this season. He will have a lot of work to do to prove he can play in the NBA, but he looks to be a top scorer in the D-League this season.

Rio Grande Valley hosts the Tulsa 66ers on Sunday, followed by a home battle of the two Texas teams on Tuesday when Austin heads south.

Austin Toros, 3-1

Austin played a pair of games last week, beating Sioux Falls and Colorado in a pair of home games. The Toros have been led by the strong play of two NBA assigned players in Ian Mahinmi and Darius Washington, as well as guard Keith Langford. A guard out of Kansas, Langford still struggles with his shooting form, both from three and the free throw line. He’s very athletic and create his shot at will in the D-League, however. The Toros have been helped more than anybody over the past week in terms of player movement, acquiring a couple of extremely talented players. Rookie Marcus Williams has become healthy and re-joined the team, while Austin also acquired NBA vet DerMarr Johnson from the free agent pool. With two NBA players on the roster, the Toros look to be on the rise.

Austin plays their next game at home against Tulsa on Saturday, before traveling to Rio Grande Valley next Tuesday.

Colorado 14ers, 3-2

Colorado won on the road in Tulsa last week, dropping a home game against Austin. Elton Brown has been on a tear for Colorado lately. He may lack the ideal size and athleticism to play at the NBA level, but he’s an unstoppable D-League force, averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 assists per game on the season. Julian Sensley has also played very well thus far, despite his lack of conditioning. Kaniel Dickens remains inconsistent for the 14ers, but looks unstoppable at times, showing freakish athleticism inside and decent range on his jumper. With the addition of Justin Cage, Colorado will just have to overcome the lack of a true point guard to compete this season.

On Friday and Saturday nights, the 14ers travel to Albuquerque to play a set of back to back games.

Utah Flash, 3-2

The Flash won at home against Bakersfield last week, before picking up a win in Anaheim on the road. After Gabe Pruitt was recalled, Kevin Kruger started playing well for Utah, racking up a number of free throw attempts and running the team much more comfortably. James Lang has continued to play well in spurts, though conditioning remains an issue. His big body and touch inside could become a real asset for the Flash as long as they are without Fesenko.

Utah plays in Anaheim on Wednesday night, before hosting Los Angeles on Saturday and Sunday night.

Los Angeles D-Fenders, 3-2

The D-Fenders beat Rio Grande Valley and Anaheim last week, but dropped a contest to Bakersfield. Devin Green has played very well for Los Angeles this season, sharing time initiating the triangle offense. Green also plays intense defense, and could be one of the first call-ups this season. Wendell White may lack the size for an NBA power forward, but plays very hard on both ends of the floor, and has been a big contributor for the D-Fenders. Abdoulaye N'Diaye has been solid at times this season, showing a good presence on the defensive end of the floor, but struggling to stay out of foul trouble. Los Angeles still has first waiver position in free agency, and can afford to wait for a top talent to become available to them.

Los Angeles travels to Utah on Friday for a pair of back to back games against the Flash.

Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 3-2

After struggling to open the season, the Mad Ants have won their past three games, winning a pair of games against Iowa followed by a home win against Bakersfield. There has been no better player in the D-League than Jeremy Richardson this season on the offensive end of the floor. Roderick Wilmont has been a nice surprise for the Mad Ants this season. Wilmont struggled with consistency in college at Indiana, but has displayed the ability to make difficult shots off the dribble, and has unlimited range on his jumper. Earl Calloway has also adjusted well, pushing the ball up the floor at every opportunity. Larry Turner has the body and size to make an impact in the D-League, but has struggled with his touch inside and foul trouble.

Fort Wayne plays their only game this week on Sunday at home against Iowa.

Iowa Energy, 3-3

Iowa has struggled over their past three games, after winning three to open the season. After losing a close one at home against Colorado, the Energy dropped a pair of games to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Dwayne Mitchell has continued to play well for the Energy, but needs to focus on using his athleticism inside. He has the potential to become a lockdown defender, but uses his hands too often rather than sliding his feet and properly positioning his body. Nick Lewis has been a steady presence inside, though he has struggled with the range on his jumper so far this season. Transition defense has been a big problem for Iowa, but they should improve once Anthony Tolliver becomes more comfortable with his teammates. The Energy had 5 games in 7 days to open the season, and are in need of some more practice time to build synergy.

Iowa hosts Bakersfield on Thursday night, before traveling to Fort Wayne for a Sunday road game.

Albuquerque Thunderbirds, 2-2

Albuquerque dropped their only game last week on the road in Idaho. Josh Gross has led the Thunderbirds offensively this season, averaging 24.5 points in his 4 games this season. Up front, Ejike Ugboaja has the body to succeed, but still remains extremely raw in nearly all facets of the game. The addition of Alando Tucker will help the Thunderbirds as long as he remains with the team, but they must look to upgrade their depth at the point guard and center positions.

Albuquerque hosts Colorado in a pair of back to back games at home on Friday and Saturday night.

Tulsa 66ers, 2-2

Tulsa dropped both of their games last week against both Colorado and Rio Grande Valley. Adam Harrington has played very well this season, bringing a competitive edge to the floor and a sweet outside shooting stroke. Mike Hall will never be a primary scoring option, but his defensive abilities will make him a favorite of NBA scouts, and it helps that he can hit an open jumper. Jeremy Kelley may be the most improved player in the D-League this season. Though he isn’t exactly the most skilled guy, Kelley is very athletic and plays with a great deal of energy. First round pick Glen McGowan remains out with a knee injury, and it may be a while before he returns.

Tulsa plays a pair of games on the road this weekend, first in Austin and then in Rio Grande Valley.

Dakota Wizards, 1-3

Dakota dropped their only game last week in Idaho, in a very close game against the Stampede. Dontell Jefferson and Maurice Bakers have continued to play very well as a point guard duo for the Wizards. Jefferson has very impressive slashing ability combined with ideal size for an NBA point guard. Up front, Kevin Lyde has been a monster when on the court, but his foul troubles have carried over this season. Rod Benson has averaged 7 rebounds per game this season, Carlos Powell has established himself as one of the better scorers in the D-League. Bench scoring has been an issue for Dakota, and they could look to add another player from free agency soon.

Dakota plays their only game this week on Sunday in Sioux Falls.

Anaheim Arsenal, 1-5

Anaheim won their only game of the season last week in Bakersfield, before dropping games to Utah and Los Angeles. Guillermo Diaz continues to look like a Leandro Barbosa type of player, showing great quickness in getting to the basket. Up front, Steven Smith has been a stable presence, but seems out of his element playing the center position. Kedrick Brown needs another month or two to play his way back into basketball shape, but appears to be headed in the right direction. The Arsenal could use another big on the team, as well as a point guard (as long as they keep playing Diaz off the ball).

Anaheim hosts Utah on Wednesday night, before traveling to Bakersfield for Saturday and Sunday games.

Bakersfield Jam, 1-5

Bakersfield won their first game of the year against Los Angeles last week, but dropped games to Utah, Anaheim and Fort Wayne. The addition of Andre Barrett will help the team greatly as he proved with a 20 point 17 assist effort against the D-Fenders. When on top of his game, Barrett should compete for the D-League MVP Award. Scooter McFadgon provides the Jam with a versatile scorer next to Barrett in the back-court. Up front, Bakersfield could look to add another big man sometime soon to play next to Kosta Perovic and Roderick Riley.

Bakersfield plays a Thursday game in Iowa, before a pair of weekend games against Anaheim.

Sioux Falls Skyforce, 0-4

Sioux Falls is the only winless team left in the D-League after dropping games to Austin and Rio Grande Valley last week. Nik Caner-Medley has averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds per game this season, showing the ability to make difficult finishes while slashing to the basket, and getting to the line 7 times per game. The loss of Antywane Robinson to Pau Orthez (France) will hurt the Skyforce, and it will put more pressure on Damone Brown to perform up to expectations. Sioux Falls could use extra front court help right now, and they will likely look to the free agent pool very soon.

Sioux Falls will attempt to gain their first win of the season this weekend, with a pair of home games against Idaho and Dakota.

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