Posts Tagged ‘D-League Showcase’

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 10


VIDEO: The Fast Break: January 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

A kinder, gentler Bryant? | Lopez doesn’t regret sticking with Brooklyn | Stevens rejoins Celtics | NBA’s Australians looking forward to Rio

No. 1: A kinder, gentler Bryant? For the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant‘s farewell tour has become the focus of their season. Which may be a good thing, since the Lakers otherwise haven’t been very good, compiling an 8-30 record thus far. Yet despite all the losses, Kobe seems to be enjoying himself as he plays out the string, and the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan writes, has Kobe’s legendary burning desire to win faded a bit in this his final NBA season?

It was bad to be a trash can if Kobe Bryant was mad.

This was years ago, back when there were championship expectations, but Bryant booted one clear across the Lakers’ locker room at Madison Square Garden after a rough loss.

It was also sometimes bad to be toilet paper, apparently. Bryant angrily called his teammates “soft like Charmin” during a rant at practice in which he didn’t feel challenged. This was a little over a year ago.

The smoldering Bryant is now replaced by a smiling one, even as the Lakers (8-30) pinwheel toward the worst season in their 68-year history.

They played well Friday but lost a tight one to Oklahoma City. The new, lighthearted Bryant showed up again in the interview room, just like the previous night after a close loss in Sacramento.

The losses don’t seem as devastating to him.

“I just hide it a lot better,” he said Friday.

***

No. 2: Lopez doesn’t regret sticking with Brooklyn Last summer, Brooklyn center Brook Lopez was one of the most talented big men available in free agency. He eventually re-upped with the Nets, and though the team has struggled this season, Lopez has been a bright spot, averaging 19.8 points to go with 7.8 rebounds. The Nets may face an uncertain future, but as Andy Vasquez writes for the Bergen Record, Lopez says he has no regrets about re-signing with the Nets…

The Nets are in the midst of another disappointing season, certainly far from what Lopez envisioned when he re-signed. But the 27-year-old doesn’t regret his decision.

“No, no, no. I’m happy to be here,” Lopez said Thursday at the team’s practice facility.

“Time and time again I’ve said I wanted to see something built here, I see a special opportunity, a great situation to be in.”

The current situation isn’t exactly a bright one. Brooklyn just lost starting point guard Jarrett Jack for the season with a torn ACL.

Rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who showed promise, is at least another month from returning from a broken ankle that has sidelined him since early December.

While the Nets aren’t mathematically eliminated from the NBA playoffs — it’s not even halfway through the season — they may as well be.

Brooklyn is closer (seven games ahead) in the standings to the awful Sixers than to the final playoff spot in the East (nine games behind).

The Nets don’t have control of their first round draft pick until 2019 thanks to the 2013 trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

So the franchise’s best chance is to hope free agents agree with Lopez about there being a special opportunity in Brooklyn.

Despite all the doom and gloom, the Nets do have some things going for them.

They should have about $40 million in cap space next summer, enough to offer two max salaries to free agents.

Barclays Center is still the league’s newest arena and the team’s state-of-the art Brooklyn practice facility opens next month. And then there’s the lure of the nation’s largest media market.

“The opportunity to play in New York, first and foremost,” Lopez said, when asked how he’d pitch the Nets. “The facilities we have. I think, for me, it’s all about potential.”

That potential starts with Lopez and Thaddeus Young, 27, two nice players with several prime years remaining in their careers. Both are having seasons worthy of All-Star consideration.

Meanwhile, Hollis-Jefferson was better than expected when he played. And the Nets have an intriguing young prospect in Chris McCullough, who has spent the season rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered at Syracuse a year ago.

Add the right pieces and the Nets could be a good team next season. And Lopez said that matters more than anything.

“At the end of the day, it’s about winning, regardless of where you are,” Lopez said.

“Whether we’re luring free agents or want people to stay or whatever it is, you’ve got to be able to show them that there’s opportunities here for that. We have to have the right product on the court.”

***

No. 3: Stevens rejoins Celtics Before joining the Boston Celtics, coach Brad Stevens led Butler University to several memorable NCAA Tournament appearances. And with his former Butler player Andrew Smith in the hospital battling cancer, Stevens recently missed a Celtics game in order to spend time with Smith. Stevens rejoined the Celtics on Saturday and, as the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn writes, says the last few days helped put things into perspective…

Celtics coach Brad Stevens returned to the team Saturday, conducting a rather important practice at the University of Memphis in his quest to end the team’s recent doldrums.

He returned from his trip to Indiana with a heavy heart. He acknowledged visiting former player Andrew Smith, who has been suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but wouldn’t offer specifics on his condition, only to say he felt compelled to visit him immediately.

Stevens left the club in Chicago on Thursday afternoon, missing the team’s 101-92 loss to the Bulls.

“It’s very tough, not as tough on me as it is certain on [Smith and his family], but certainly emotionally, very challenging,” Stevens said following practice at the Larry Finch Center. “It certainly puts things in a lot of perspective. The conditions [of Smith] were worsening. I’ll let [his family] talk about his condition. I’m glad that I went.”

Stevens returns to a team that has lost four of five games and fallen out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics have been abysmal shooting from the field in their past two losses — 36.5 percent from the field, 25.5 percent from the 3-point line — and are playing with wavering confidence.

“We could have controlled things to give ourselves a little bit better chance,” Stevens said of the Chicago loss. “I told [the players] this today. We’ve got to get better in a lot of areas. But we usually play hard.

“Sometimes we play a little haphazard but we usually play hard, so we need to bottle that up and play a little more controlled at times.”

Isaiah Thomas, who has made just 11 of 37 shots in the last two games, took full responsibility for the Bulls loss, saying his poor body language and frustrations spilled over to his teammates. Stevens didn’t fully agree.

“I think it says a lot about him from an accountability standpoint,” Stevens said of Thomas. “And at the same time, that’s an overreaction too, because we don’t feel that way. He’s going to have his moments. Other guys are going to have their moments. Other guys are going to have bad moments. We just all have to be in this thing together. We need to improve.”

***

No. 4: NBA’s Australians looking forward to Rio — The NBA has become a global league, followed worldwide and played by athletes from all corners of the earth. Australia, in particular, has become a hotbed of hoops, with its own popular domestic league and several NBA players who originated Down Under. As Roy Ward writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australians in the NBA are looking forward to trying to find Olympic glory this summer in Rio…

The 82-game NBA season engulfs the lives of all players and Australia’s basketballers are not immune from this.

But on planes, buses or in down time, the country’s leading players admit their thoughts turn to the Rio Olympics and the glass ceiling that sits in front of a first men’s Olympic medal.

Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Cameron Bairstow, Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles are all in thick of the action this season while Dante Exum continues to rehabilitate his reconstructed knee.

In Europe, in US college basketball and in the NBL sit the rest of the Boomers aspirants with the final 12-man squad not due to be announced until later in the year.

Since the team qualified for Rio in August last year, they have made public their goal to win the gold medal in Brazil despite Team USA’s long-running dominance in the men’s competition.

What adds credence to the Boomers’ brave stance is Bogut, Mills, Dellavedova and Bairstow are playing on NBA championship contenders while Bogut, Mills and Baynes have won NBA championship rings since 2014.

“There is a lot going on here but while it’s not the every day to day focus it’s always in your mind that it’s coming up and that all the boys are playing well, not just in the NBA but in Europe and the NBL,” Dellavedova said.

“We are all very excited and keep in regular touch through group message, we are going to catch up at All-Star break.

“We are all very excited, focused and committed to trying to do something really special at Rio and we realise the time is now for that.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Atlanta Hawks got a career night from Al Horford last night in a convincing win over the Bulls … Some changes may be in store for the D-League Showcase … Chicago is hoping to get Joakim Noah back from injury this weekRobin Lopez is starting to focus on his offensive post playIsaiah Canaan pays attention to advanced stats … Powerball fever may have been sweeping the nation the last few days, but don’t expect Dirk Nowitzki to get excited about it …

D-League planning Showcase changes

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The D-League will likely have a new home for the Showcase next season after two years in a row on the California coast, possibly in a venue that would accommodate two games at a time and maybe in a city without a team, president Malcolm Turner said in the latest sign of expansion for the NBA’s minor league.

While the process is in the early stages and a decision is many months away, growing from 19 to 22 teams in 2016-17 with the addition of new direct affiliates for the Hornets, Bulls and Nets makes it inevitable the D-League will need a location with two courts rather than extend the event that already lasts five days with games that run from morning until night. The feeling within the league is that if the change is going to happen, it might as well happen next season if officials can reach agreement on a site.

That leaves out Santa Cruz despite receiving high marks as a host, although a new venue would probably happen anyway after 2015 and ’16 at the home of the Warriors affiliate immediately after two years in Reno, Nev. League officials would like to take the event that combines the best in-season scouting opportunity for NBA teams — the one-stop shopping of every team in one building brings dozens of top executives and scouts — with an important marketing opportunity for their own operation to a different part of the country.

That, in turn, decreases chances the Showcase will be in Las Vegas next year, something that had been considered for 2016 and facility wise would be a natural fit with the two arenas at UNLV that are used for NBA Summer League. Las Vegas remains an option moving forward, but is not a match for the D-League’s geographic preferences.

One neutral site remains a possibility, and maybe even a strong possibility: the Disney complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the former home of the NBA pre-draft camp that now takes place in Chicago. The drawback would be losing the potential marketing push of the Showcase in the city of one of its teams, although the Magic have indicated they would like to operate a team close to home, possibly in that immediate Orlando area or possibly in another part of the state, rather than sending players to Erie, Pa.

“I think we’d like to (go to a venue with two courts), only because we know it’s coming,” Turner said. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s when. If we can start to grow into that model and if we identify a solution that allows us to do so sooner, we’ll take a look at that. Is it an absolute requirement or mandate? No, I don’t think so. We’re right there at that line. We’re starting to think about it as this platform approaches in our business, we need to think a little bit differently and little bit bigger.”

The D-League will be tracking the progress of construction in some cities amid the possibility one of the locations with a team will have a facility large enough a year from now. That includes the potential of being in the same general area as the team, as in the case of potential venues in the Dallas suburbs other than Frisco, the home base for the Texas Legends. Or, the Showcase could be held in 2017 similar to the current format, with one court and more days (not the preferred outcome) or the same five days while starting earlier or going later than now, and then shifting to two courts in 2018.

The D-League may also begin announcing sites multiple years in advance, similar to the NBA with All-Star weekend, rather than months ahead of time. That could be with disclosing the same venue two years in a row or two different locations.

“I would say by summer we’d like to have a decision,” Turner said. “I think what we’d really like to do is get a lot more ahead of it in terms of our planning process going forward. The way this property is growing and evolving, it’s not out of the question that, just as you would with an All-Star in terms of really projecting well out in advance your markets and your venues, we have to adapt similarly as we continue to grow. Not only in terms of the number of teams, but in terms of capacity and some of the pure logistics we just talked about. I would say summer we’d like to have a really good handle on what we’re doing for next year and not just for next year.”

D-League considering Showcase in Vegas

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The D-League is considering Las Vegas as a future stop for the Showcase even though the city does not have a team, commissioner Malcolm Turner said, a move that would deepen ties between the parent NBA and the gambling mecca.

The internal debate as conversations increase after the NBA All-Star weekend in mid-February in New York is clear: Continue the Showcase among the 16 locations with teams as a local marketing tool for the host club and the league as a whole or go to a city with a track record of successfully hosting major basketball events. Las Vegas’ relationship with the NBA as the site of the biggest of the three summer leagues — Salt Lake City will join the established Orlando operation — is an obvious selling point. It just doesn’t grow the brand where the D-League needs to grow.

“It’s one that we’re exploring,” Turner said. “It’s too early to say whether or not that is a strong possibility, but I think there are a lot of reasons why we would find it an attractive market to go to. Obviously that would work counter to … our teams hosting the Showcase. But Vegas is an interesting market for a lot of reasons.

“With NBA summer league in Vegas, we’ve had very good and strong experiences in Vegas. And certainly logistically and infrastructure wise, clearly that’s an easy box to check versus potentially some of the markets where we’re playing the D-League clearly there are some logistical hurdles. Las Vegas is set up to host big and significant events. That takes a lot of that (those hurdles) off the table.”

The gathering of every team for several days of games as the premier regular-season event for the D-League has been in Columbus, Ga., Fayetteville, N.C., Sioux Falls, S.D., Boise, Orem, Utah, Boise again, South Padre Island, Tex., Reno two years in a row and now Santa Cruz for the 2015 session that ended Monday. While Santa Cruz earned high marks as a host and has one of the best arenas in the league, Turner, in his first season as commissioner, prefers to move the Showcase around in the model of All-Star games in other sports rather than consecutive visits to the same city.

Also, Turner said the league expects to expand at some point, but not next season.

The Bakersfield Jam, the Suns’ affiliate, won the inaugural Showcase Cup, a tournament held amid the rest of the schedule here. Jam guard Archie Goodwin, on assignment from Phoenix, was named MVP.

 

D-League lacking draft prospects in ’15

hairston

P.J. Hairston is the only player from the D-League drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft (NBAE via Getty Images).


SANTA CRUZ, Calif. —
The D-League appears destined to go from the prominent role of having two players chosen in the 2014 Draft, including one in the first round, to no prospects being selected this June, affirmation of the uniqueness of last year in the NBA minor league than a sign of a setback this time.

P.J. Hairston joined the Texas Legends only because the NCAA barred him, after the season started, from playing at North Carolina. The shooting guard was a first-round possibility before the move to the pros and held the spot after stretches of play that showed a shooting touch with range packaged with the strength to get to the rim. The Hornets took him at No. 26, via a trade with Miami.

And, Thanasis Antetokounmpo was with the Delaware 87ers primarily because younger brother Giannis was in the United States, as a rookie with the Bucks. If Giannis had waited to enter the draft or was selected but spent another season in Europe, Thanasis likely spends 2013-14 overseas as well. Instead, he was in the D-League and selected 51st by the Knicks.

There is no sign of the same level of prospect in the minors this season, NBA executives and scouts here for the midseason Showcase, the gathering of every D-League team for five days of games at the home of the Warriors’ affiliate, agreed. That could change in future years, but it will take similar circumstances as 2014 to deliver a draft-eligible player to the D-League.

“I don’t think we’ll see it happen a lot,” one front-office rep said. “But I think it will happen when a guy can’t play in college or has to repair his image. The D-League or overseas would both be options.”

Prospects would typically choose the overseas route because international clubs will beat the D-League pay scale by a million dollars, as was the case this season with Emmanuel Mudiay, a point guard from Texas who planned to play at SMU as a freshman, only to sign in China and do an endorsement deal with Under Armour once the NCAA began to look into his academics.

Mudiay projects as a top-three pick despite an ankle injury that sidelined him in China. Even before that setback, NBA teams were openly speculating he might return to the United States before the end of the season to protect his draft stock.

Other players might chose the D-League as a short-term option, wanting to stay closer to home and avoid living in a different culture.

D-League Showcase: Day 4

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Tex. — The 2011 NBA Development Showcase came to an end Thursday and D-League president Dan Reed proclaimed the four-day event another success. The seventh annual Showcase was also the first in Texas.

“We had an all-time high in credentials issued for NBA scouts with 93, we had great games and the best talent we’ve ever seen in the NBA Development League,” Reed said. “We’re on a record pace for assigned players, both quality and quantity.

“The only thing that was a little disappointing was it was a little chilly by South Padre standards, but compared to the 12 inches of snow in New York we’re pretty good with it.”

The 16 teams in the D-League each competed in two games during the week at the South Padre Island Convention. Every game was broadcast live, including 10 on NBA TV and another on VERSUS.

“We’ve never had a bigger platform, not only here in South Padre, but around the country and around the world,” Reed added.

The Showcase also introduced dunk and 3-point contests for the first time. Both events are airing on tape-delay on VERSUS on Jan. 15 and Jan. 29. The 3-point event included such new ideas as shooting from distances several feet beyond the arc and a full “money-ball” rack.

Reed said those changes may be discussed at the NBA level.

“We’re always interested in trying new things,” Reed said. “We have a great slam dunk and 3-point contests at NBA All-Star weekend and in our conversations with VERSUS, we mutually agreed that there was great interest in doing an additional event here to accentuate the Showcase.”

South Padre Island is in the running to host the Showcase again next year, and Reed said the evaluation for next year’s event will be soon. Dallas Mavericks general manager and Texas Legends co-owner Donnie Nelson said he would be interested in bringing the Showcase to the Dallas area in the future.

Players also took part in clinics for area schools and community organizations, as well as several life-skills seminars.

The level of competition continues to improve with each passing year, according to the NBA personnel people in attendance this week. NBA teams have assigned 24 players already this season — more than last year — and including 13 first-round picks, with five from the lottery.

“Every year it gets better, absolutely” Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. “Dan Reed and [D-League vice president] Chris Alpert do a great job. It’s getting closer every year to be a true minor league like baseball. It just keeps getting better.”

ALDRICH ON ASSIGNMENT: Oklahoma City first-round pick Cole Aldrich is already on his second assignment with the Tulsa 66ers and is appreciative of his opportunity in the D-League. The 6-foot-11 center went into Thursday averaging 8.6 points and 7.8 rebounds.

“The talent down here is really high,” Aldrich said. “Guys are fighting every day to try to get that call up. With our team we have a great group of guys and it makes it even more fun to go out there and compete.”

Thunder coach Scott Brooks and his staff send Aldrich to Tulsa with marking orders. Oklahoma City owns the 66ers, so the system and terminology are the same for both squads.

“Just to continue to play hard, get that experience and work on the things I need to work on,” said Aldrich, a product of Kansas. “Defensively I really need to keep improving, because that’s one of my strengths right now.”

Aldrich is one five NBA players currently on assignment. The others are Pape Sy (Atlanta), Dexter Pittman (Miami), Jeremy Lin (Golden State) and Hamady N’Diaye (Washington). Aldrich isn’t sure when he’s headed back to the NBA, but that’s ok.

“Whenever my time is right,” he said. “I’m just going to continue to work hard and have fun.”

Thursday Showcase Results/Schedule (times ET)
Idaho 90, Springfield 86
Reno 117, Sioux Falls 93
Texas 119, Iowa 114
Austin vs. Bakersfield, 8:15 pm, NBA Futurecast

D-League Showcase: Day 3



SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Tex. — A pair of NBA general managers from Texas believe that a one-for-one affiliate setup for the D-League isn’t that far off. It probably doesn’t hurt that Daryl Morey (Houston Rockets) and Donnie Nelson (Dallas Mavericks) already operate under such setups.

“It’s a matter of time,” said Nelson, co-owner of the Texas Legends. “It makes too much sense because you have your own development team in place. You always have need for guys, whether they go down in an injury or what have you.

“We’re an evolving development vehicle. And we will become better and we will over time become more attractive. We’ll get better and better players because of forums like [the D-League Showcase] and because this is the quickest, most direct path to the NBA.”

Morey took that a step further, suggesting not only an affiliate for every NBA team, but a system similar to minor-league baseball. Currently four NBA teams — Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Oklahoma City — either own or operate basketball operations for a D-League squad. New Jersey joins that club next season.

“Every year they’ve added teams,” Morey said, “and I think eventually we’re going to get to 30 minor-league teams for 30 pro teams, and I think there might even be multiple minor league levels over time. I really believe that.”

Morey has found the Showcase beneficial from a Houston standpoint.

“My main focus is future Rockets,” he said. “Whether they’re on the Vipers or another team. We like to get as many NBA-potential guys on the Vipers as possible, but we’re looking at every team and every player.”

Nelson nearly called up former NBA first-round pick Joe Alexander earlier this week. The Mavs were in need of frontcourt depth after Caron Butler‘s season-ending injury and with Dirk Nowitzki out. Alexander, one of the top scorers and rebounders in the D-League, worked out for Dallas on Sunday along with Sasha Pavlovic.

Dallas, though, settled on Pavlovic because of his 3-point range and edge in NBA experience.

“Joe was really on par with Pavlovic as far as 3-point shooting goes and that really surprised me that he could shoot 3s like that, but Pavlovic has done it in the NBA Finals and we just haven’t seen Joe in that situation yet,” Nelson said. “And being where we are as a team that can be the difference between making it or not.”

Nelson acknowledges that the Legends, and thus the Mavericks, could be on the verge of having another NBA team call up Alexander.

“We’ll probably lose him,” Nelson said. “You lose your best player, you’re going to lose games, but that’s what we’re here for. If he makes another NBA team’s roster and we can be a small step in his career, we’re proud to do that.”

But his replacement could be here at the Showcase.

“You’ve got every NBA represented and you’ve got scouts and personnel folks from major European teams, Asia and all parts in between,” Nelson said. “This is the second-most athletic league in the world and so everyone no matter what continent they play basketball on is looking for talent. That’s what we’re all here looking for, the next J.J. Barea.

“From a Legends’ standpoint, we have a young Joe Alexander who’s getting better by the game. Sean Williams and before Antonio Daniels went down, he would have been a call up. And there’s Dominique Jones, who from a Mavericks’ perspective has the ability to play point guard in the heat of battle against this level of competition. There’s so many facets and advantages to having a single affiliate. It’s the future for sure.”

SHOOTOUT & DUNK CHAMP: Booker Woodfox of the Texas Legends won the inaugural Showcase Three-Point Contest by holding off Marcus Landry of Reno in the final round. L.D. Williams of Springfield took home the Slam Dunk Contest by outlasting Chris Johnson (Dakota) in the last round.

The other shooters were Robert Vaden (Tulsa), Corey Allmond (Fort Wayne), Chris Lofton (Iowa), Scottie Reynolds (Springfield), Jamar Smith (Maine) and Andre Ingram (Utah). The two other dunkers were Marques Blakely (Bakersfield) and Dar Tucker (New Mexico).

Both the dunk and 3-point contest air on VERSUS on Jan. 15 and Jan. 29.

Wednesday Showcase Results (times ET)
Bakersfield 105, Fort Wayne 93
Reno 111, Maine 102
Tulsa 96, Dakota 92

Rio Grande 124 , Valley Erie 106 

Thursday Showcase Schedule (times ET)
Idaho vs. Springfield, 12:00 pm, NBA TV
Reno vs. Sioux Falls, 2:45 pm, NBA TV
Iowa vs. Texas, 5:30 pm, NBA TV
Austin vs. Bakersfield, 8:15 pm, NBA Futurecast

D-League Showcase: Day 2

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Tex. — Utah Flash guard Orien Greene had a message after Tuesday’s game that a scout from Portland wanted to chat. Greene then received word that representatives from Chicago hoped to catch up at the hotel that night.

That’s what the Showcase is all about.

“I kinda always felt like I was right there,” said Greene, the D-League’s third-leading scorer. “I was always a borderline guy. I felt good coming into the season and doing the D-League thing again. The D-League is good exposure. We get scouts for every game.”

Greene does have plenty of NBA experience, 128 games worth over three seasons with three different teams. But he hasn’t been on an NBA court in more than two years, having spent time in Australia and with the Flash since last suiting up for Sacramento.

A second-round pick by Boston in 2005, Green played his most significant role with the Celtics that season. He backed up starting point guard Delonte West and averaged more than 15 minutes per game. Greene was suspended last in the season for one game and waived in the summer of 2006.

He played sparingly the next two years, first with Indiana and then the Kings. Now 28, Greene is aware of what he needs to improve to impress NBA scouts.

“Shooting the ball a little bit more consistent, taking care of the ball a little bit more, showing I can defend all types of guards,” he sad. “Showing a lot of versatility. I’m sure different teams want different things. I’ve pretty much got to be ready for anything. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do.”

Greene isn’t sure how serious the interest is from the NBA this time around. But it’s there.

“It feels good,” he said. “Maybe this time around I’ll get a shot. I feel like I’m right there. I’ve put in the work over the years. It’s been showing on the court. I’ve put up pretty decent numbers.”

DUNKERS NAMED: Chris Johnson (Dakota), Marques Blakely (Bakersfield), Dar Tucker (New Mexico) and L.D. Williams (Springfield) are part of the first-ever Showcase Slam Dunk Contest, which is taking pace Wednesday night.

The two-round competition allows the dunkers to make up to two in each round, with five judges each awarding between 5-10 points for every made dunk. The two dunkers with the highest composite score after the first round advance to the finals.

SHOOTOUT SPECIALISTS, TOO: The eight players competing in the Three-Point Contest will be Corey Allmond (Fort Wayne), Andre Ingram (Utah), Marcus Landry (Reno), Chris Lofton (Iowa), Scottie Reynolds (Springfield), Jamar Smith (Maine), Robert Vaden (Tulsa) and Booker Woodfox (Texas).

The contest will be three rounds, and features a moveable ‘Money Rack’ and increased points awarded for shots made from deeper shooting spots. Both the dunk and 3-point contest air on VERSUS on Jan. 15 and Jan. 29.

MAD ANTS ADD CHISM: The Fort Wayne Mad Ants acquired Wayne Chism and have waived Obi Muonelo on Tuesday. Chism, a 6-9 forward out of Tennessee, was recently waived from a team in Turkey.

Chism averaged 12.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists as a senior. Muonelo, the Mad Ants’ first-round draft pick, averaged 4.2 points per game in 19 games for the Mad Ants.

Tuesday Showcase Results
Austin 119, Dakota 97
Springfield 95, Utah 89
Maine 98, New Mexico 97
Erie 79, Idaho 74

Wednesday Showcase Schedule (times ET)
Bakersfield vs. Fort Wayne, 11:45 am, NBA TV
Maine vs. Reno, 2:30 pm, NBA TV
Tulsa vs. Dakota, 5:15 pm, NBA TV
Rio Grande Valley vs. Erie, 8:00 pm, VERSUS
Slam Dunk/Three-Point Contests, 10:30 pm, VERSUS (Jan. 15 & 29)

D-League Showcase: Day 1

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Tex. — Othyus Jeffers tasted life in the NBA last season, earning a Gatorade Call-Up and 14 games with the Utah Jazz. He’s back with the Iowa Energy this year and unsure if another trip the big league is around the corner.

And that’s ok.

“I’m not worried about it,” Jeffers said Monday after leading Iowa to an overtime win over the Utah Flash. “If it happens, it happens. If not, I’m here in the D-League.”

Jeffers is going his part to get back, averaging 20.3 points and 9.0 rebounds going into the Showcase despite being a 6-5 swingman playing somewhat out of position. The 25-year-old Chicago native said he’s a more of a perimeter player but forced to play inside for the Energy.

Jeffers knows the drill, though. It’s not so much about his skill set, but what prospective NBA teams are looking for.

“It’s about finding the right spot,” Jeffers said. “I’m grateful to be in position with the Iowa Energy where I can showcase my talents even though here I’m still not playing my natural position, but we have talent here.”

Jeffers said he honed his not so much in college — he attended three — but playing pro-am ball in Chicago against NBA players such as Michael Finley, Antoine Walker and Corey Maggette. And there was the end of last season playing under legendary Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

“The stint with the Jazz — straight execution,” Jeffers said. “I don’t care who you are, we executed.”

His execution was pretty close to perfect to finish off the Flash. Jeffers tied the game with a 3-point play in the last minute and assisted on Curtis Stinson‘s buzzer-beater to win the game.

“The GMs and the teams, they know what we can do already,” Jeffers said. “They’re just trying to see firsthand — a lot of people got cut — and who they’re going to bring in for those spots.”

FRIENDLY PAYBACK: New Mexico guard Dar Tucker spent a few minutes before the Thunderbirds’ opening game visiting with his former coach and teammates. Then he helped beat the Texas Legends.

Tucker scored a game-high 28, knocking down 5 of 6 3-pointers, as New Mexico rallied from 16 down to nip Texas 95-94.

“I had a lot of energy today,” said Tucker, a two-year D-League vet out of DePaul. “Biggest thing for us was our defense. We played excellent defense.”

Tucker began the season with the Legends before being traded in November for a future second-round pick. He appreciated the time in Texas playing for Nancy Lieberman.

“There’s no hard for me or for them,” Tucker said. “I talked to a couple of the guys and to Nancy. She told me to keep my head up.”

COMING UP: The first Gatorade Call-Up of the season beat the opening of the Showcase by one day. The Phoenix Suns signed Tulsa guard Zabian Dowdell to a 10-day contract on Sunday. Dowdell increases the number of current NBA players with D-League experience to 70.

Dowdell (6-3, 190) started all of the 66ers’ first 10 games, leading Oklahoma City Thunder’s affiliate to a Western Conference-best 12-6 record. The Virginia Tech product, a member of the Suns’ Summer League team, averaged team highs in points (14.5), assists (4.6) and steals (2.4) in 29.3 minutes per game.

TOUGH LUCK: The Reno Bighorns have waived point guard Aaron Miles on Monday after the D-League’s assists leader injured his left knee Wednesday. Miles was averaging 8.8 assists per game and also leading the D-League with 2.5 steals per game.

Reno has actually waived two starters in the last two weeks, having waved goodbye to center Nick Fazekas after he hurt his ankle. The Bighorns do retain the rights to both Miles and Fazekas.

Monday Showcase Schedule/Results
Tulsa 103, Sioux Falls 83
Iowa 95, Utah 93 (OT)
New Mexico 95, Texas 94
Rio Grande Valley 100, Fort Wayne 97

Tuesday Showcase Schedule (times ET)
Dakota vs. Austin, 12:00 pm, NBA TV
Springfield vs. Utah, 2:45 pm, NBA TV
New Mexico vs. Maine, 5:30 pm, NBA Futurecast
Erie vs. Idaho, 8:15 pm, NBA Futurecast

2011 D-League Showcase

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — Nancy Lieberman arrived at the last year’s NBA Development League Showcase in snowy Boise, Idaho playing the part of head coach. She just didn’t have any players, her team didn’t have a nickname and she had no idea of what to expect.

A year later at the Showcase — on balmy South Padre Island this time — Lieberman is better equipped on all counts.

“We needed to know the lay of the land, how things work and how important that Showcase was for athletes,” said Lieberman, in her first season as the groundbreaking coach of the expansion Texas Legends.

“I stressed to my players before we left how many NBA personnel people will be there and what this opportunity can and will be like for them. And I could speak from firsthand experience having been there last year and having interacted with so many NBA people.”

More than 100 NBA front office types representing all 30 teams, from general managers to scouts, plus a host of international talent evaluators will descend on the southern tip of the Texas coast for the 2011 D-League Showcase. Billed as the NBA’s premier in-season scouting event, the Showcase tips off a 16-game schedule Monday and runs through Thursday at the South Padre Island Convention Centre.

All 16 teams in the D-League are playing two regular-season games over the four days. Every game will be broadcast live either on television or the Internet. NBA TV has 10 of the games, four are on NBA Futurecast at nba.com/dleague, and AOL Fanhouse and Versus have one each.

The exposure could lead to the break many of these players need. Eight players earned Gatorade Call-Ups during or immediately after last year’s Showcase, including Anthony Tolliver, Sundiata Gaines and Cartier Martin.

“It’s important for the young players to know how fortunate they are to be able to play two games in front of so many people that they could potentially be working for,” Lieberman said. “They’re going to look for that ace in the hole, that sleeper, that guy that they didn’t realize was that good or that consistent. Maybe some team has had a couple of injuries and this guy could help their team.

“It’s an extraordinary opportunity, and we want to highlight and feature these guys. I’ve told my guys that we’re going to feature you and let these guys know how good you are. All you have to do is your part and play to the best of your abilities.”

The current Showcase features a number of players with NBA experience, such as Antoine Walker and Luke Jackson (Idaho), Mario West (Maine), and Joe Alexander and Sean Williams (Texas). Some top prospects: Marcus Cousin (Austin), Trey Johnson (Bakersfield), Chris Johnson (Dakota), Ivan Johnson (Erie), Darnell Lazare (Fort Wayne), Othyus Jeffers and Kyle Weaver (Iowa), DeShawn Sims (Maine), Shane Edwards (New Mexico), Patrick Ewing Jr. and D.J. Strawberry (Reno), Jeff Adrien, Jerel McNeal and Mustafa Shakur (Rio Grande), JamesOn Curry and Scottie Reynolds (Springfield), Robert Vaden and Latavious Williams (Tulsa), and Orien Greene (Utah Flash).

“The NBA D-League Showcase affords NBA teams an opportunity to evaluate all of the NBA D-League’s talented prospects in one location, and we’ve seen a number of NBA teams sign players both during and immediately following past Showcases,” said Chris Alpert, vice president of basketball operations and player personnel for the D-League.

The action on South Padre also includes a Three-Point and Slam Dunk Contest, plus clinics for area schools and community organizations. The players are also taking part in several life-skills seminars.

Monday Showcase Schedule (times ET)
Sioux Falls vs. Tulsa, 12:00 pm, NBA TV
Utah vs. Iowa, 2:45 pm, NBA TV
Texas vs. New Mexico, 5:30 pm, NBA Futurecast
Fort Wayne vs. Rio Grande Valley, 8:15 pm, AOL Fanhouse

Lieberman & Legends tip off D-League

Groundbreaking coach Nancy Lieberman and her Texas Legends tip off coverage of the NBA Development League’s 10th season Nov. 18 on VERSUS. The Legends, co-owned by Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson, are facing the defending D-League champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Lieberman, a Hall of Famer, is making her debut as the first female coach of a men’s professional team on national TV. VERSUS, in its second year with the D-League, will broadcast 11 regular-season games, six playoff games and the 2011 D-League Finals.

The network is also airing one live game from the annual D-League Showcase, in addition to the new slam-dunk and 3-point contests. The Showcase is taking place Jan. 10-13 in South Padre Island, Texas.

VERSUS is going all out this season. Look for micing players and coaches during both games and in-game interviews; coverage of pregame, halftime, and postgame speeches from the locker room; and more camera angles on the court.

There should be plenty of stories to tell. NBA rosters on opening night featured a record-tying 63 players with D-League experience. Some of those D-League vets include Shannon Brown (L.A. Lakers), Aaron Brooks (Houston Rockets), Will Bynum (Detroit Pistons), JJ Barea (Dallas Mavericks), Marcin Gortat (Orlando Magic), and Reggie Williams (Golden State Warriors).

Here’s the D-League broadcast schedule on VERSUS.