D-League Showcase: Day 1 Features Plenty Of Talent Vying For A Call-Up

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The first day of the eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase tips off Monday afternoon as the legendary Antoine Walker and the Idaho Stampede face-off against the New York Knicks-owned Erie BayHawks. There’s probably no better way to shake off the cobwebs of the weekend than sneaking out of the office for a late lunch to catch the first of eight D-League games airing live on NBA TV this week when this game tips off at 1 p.m. ET.

The D-League Showcase, as explained earlier, is an annual event where all 16 teams from the NBA Development League converge on one location — this season it’s lovely Reno, Nev. — to showcase their skills in front of scouts from all 30 NBA teams as well as a handful of executives from European and Asian squads looking for a mid-season boost. Knowing that, the players are going to play harder than they’ve ever played, the coaches are going to coach like their jobs depend on it and the fans … well, hopefully they show up considering the hosting Bighorns don’t play until the fourth game of the day.

The Stampede, coached by former NBA draft pick and 1993 Naismith Player of the Year Randy Livingston, have a couple of names that should be familiar to basketball fans in the frontcourt for those that decide to tune-in for the matinee. Walker, best known for his ‘shimmying’ with the Boston Celtics, is playing in his second season with the Boise-based team while 12-year NBA veteran Mikki Moore is expected to play his first game with Idaho after joining the team on Sunday as they make up the oldest frontcourt in the D-League (yes, Antoine Walker is now exclusively a forward as he’s lost a step or three since his NBA days).

Idaho’s opponent, the Erie BayHawks has added some veteran help as well over the past couple of weeks. The Pennsylvania-based tea, bought by the Knicks over the summer, added longtime NBA guard Mike James last week to a roster that already features NBA call-up candidates Devin Green, Chris Daniels and former St. John’s standout D.J. Kennedy.

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The second game of the day will feature the Los Angeles Lakers of the D-League taking on the New Jersey Nets’ Development League affiliate when the L.A. D-Fenders and Springfield Armor do battle in a game scheduled for tip-off on NBA TV at 3:45 p.m. There’s going to be NBA talent at every position on the court when this game gets underway, making it Monday’s must-watch game (if such a thing exists in the D-League).

The D-Fenders, coached by former NBA Coach of the Year runner-up Eric Musselman, boasts a lineup featuring former NBA Draft picks Gerald Green, Mardy Collins and Orien Greene along with NBA call-up candidates Brandon Costner, Elijah Millsap (the younger brother of Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap), Malcolm Thomas and Courtney Fortson. The scouts should be out in full force to watch Los Angeles play this week with former dunk champion Green likely being a focus of plenty of those in attendance.

The Armor rely pretty heavily on their backcourt featuring a pair of Nets training camp invites in JamesOn Curry (learn more about him here) and Jerry Smith, but their man in the middle is bound to get some attention this week as well. Cornell product Jeff Foote is averaging 16.1 points and 9.3 rebounds since the lanky 7-footer enter the D-League following a camp invite with the Portland Trail Blazers.

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The rest of Monday’s action will only be available live on NBA Futurecast, the D-League’s free streaming service, but there are a couple of interesting storylines to follow for those in it for the long haul.

Monday’s third game will feature the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, who recently decided to promote assistant Steve Gansey as the head coach, facing off against the Bakersfield Jam. Both teams have plenty of players with ridiculous upside on their roster, but Fort Wayne might look a little worse for the wear as they were only scheduled to arrive in Reno at 11 a.m. Monday after having travel issues Sunday afternoon.

The final game of Monday’s quadrupleheader will take place between the hosting Reno Bighorns and last year’s Showcase hosts, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. NBA fans will likely be most interested when rookie Tyler Honeycutt, on assignment with the Bighorns from the Sacramento Kings, is on the court at the same time as Marcus Morris, the Rockets’ first round pick currently playing for the Vipers.

For those that aren’t able to catch Monday’s action: Don’t worry! There will be 12 more games the rest of the week with comprehensive coverage continuing here at Pro Basketball Talk.

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.