Posts Tagged ‘D-League’

Nets’ Anderson Makes It All Way Back

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As vibrant as Toronto is as a sports market, as passionate as its fans are for whichever team is working that night, the feeling among some NBA players remains largely unchanged from what it was 18 years ago  when the Raptors joined the league via expansion.

It’s that place up there, with the funky money, the customs checkpoints and defence that’s almost as tricky to spell as it is to play.

But the Air Canada Centre is Madison Square Garden or Staples Center as far as Alan Anderson is concerned. He learned the hard way the difference between basketball outposts and basketball outposts.

“Well, you go to China and to Italy and Russia and all those places, and you’ll see Toronto as the NBA,” Anderson said in a phone interview this week, after taking his physical and wrapping up paperwork on his two-year contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

He didn’t mention Croatia or Israel, or Tulsa, Albuquerque or Canton for that matter. But he didn’t need to. This NBA dream of his, a dream that nearly died overseas or grinding through the D-League for four seasons and nearly five years that could have been his basketball prime, is alive and well.

What’s dead is any shred of entitlement or arrogance or even self-pity that Anderson might have had about deserving better than what he got from 2007, when the Charlotte Bobcats were done with him, to March 2011 when the Raptors finally called.

The 6-foot-6 wing player from Minneapolis didn’t need much more humility, mind you, after going undrafted out of Michigan State in 2005, landing with Charlotte for a year and a fraction, then getting his passport stamped like Jason Bourne for the next several seasons. But the harder he pressed, the farther away he seemed to get. How often did he doubt he’d get another shot?

“Always,” Anderson said. “Once I left, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, how long is it going to take me to get back? When am I getting back?’ And after a year goes by, two years go by…

“Actually, it was worse for me when I was thinking like that. That didn’t help me out at all. Once I started thinking about where I was at and winning a championship where I was at [in Croatia in 2009, in Spain in 2011], it started getting easier and I started seeing the NBA at the end of the tunnel.”

Anderson is forever indebted to former Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo and current head coach Dwane Casey for the call that finally came. In February 2011, he had come back from a completed season in China with hopes of a 10-day deal in Washington that never panned out. His agent Mark Bartelstein suggested that, beyond his individual workouts, Anderson head back to the D-League to keep his game sharp.

Shrewd move: He joined the Canton Charge, played eight games, averaged 21.5 points and shot 55 percent from the floor while helping them in a late playoff run and caught Toronto’s eye.

“He said to me, ‘Mark, just get me one more opportunity in the league. If you do, I’ll take advantage of it,’ “ Bartelstein said. “And that’s exactly what he did.”

Anderson stuck through two 10-day deals and the few days left in 2011-12 after that. He was back last season, averaging 10.7 points and 23 minutes off the bench, helping the Raptors to a 31-34 mark when he played [3-14 when he didn’t]. He scored 20 points or more eight times, including a 35-point performance against the Knicks on March 22, which might have been all the resume he needed to grab Brooklyn’s attention.

Now, Anderson is headed onto one of the league’s grandest stages, with the newly configured Nets battling the Knicks for New York and Atlantic Division supremacy. He’ll be a relatively anonymous role player on a roster now crammed with marquee names and proven veterans, eager to back up Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson as needed, flesh out a vastly improved Brooklyn bench and team with Kevin Garnett. Anderson first met Garnett back in Minnesota in 1997, when he was headed to De LaSalle High and Garnett was all of 21, working a summer camp.

“For someone growing up in the inner city, where I came from, we loved watching KG play and everything he brought,” said Anderson, who plays with a little on-court edge himself. “When I finally go to meet him, he was talking to me like we already knew each other as friends. That was big for me.”

So many years later, Anderson has a chance to help make Garnett’s twilight time special. He’s no kid himself –- Anderson will turn 31 in the preseason –- but his NBA miles are low and his adrenaline is spiking.

“I don’t think I do anything great, but I think I do everything pretty good,” said Anderson, whose minimum contract includes a player option for 2014-15. “I can spot-shoot, I can rebound, I defend, I can create, I can pass. Me being versatile, it can come down to me –- if we’re in a shooting slump or we need to get to the basket or need to get to the free-throw line, I think I’m capable of doing all of that.”

Anderson calls this gig a “blessing.” Bartelstein considers it a “wonderful story.”

“Alan’s a guy who just wanted desperately to get back to the NBA,” the agent said. “To be on a stage like he’s going to be on in Brooklyn, I’m so happy for the guy. A lot of people counted Alan out and thought his NBA career was over. So, to come back from playing internationally and rebuilding his career to levels that a lot of people didn’t think he could do, it speaks volumes about his perseverance and how hard he’s worked.”

D-League Select Squad: Summer League Underdogs

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LAS VEGAS
– They’re the store brand here at the Summer League, to the point that you half-expect to see a bar code on the backs of their jerseys rather than traditional numbers. The D-League Select squad participating against the 21 NBA teams that sent rosters full of young and hopeful players to the desert is the Acme soup or Brand X cereal that allegedly tastes just like the highly marketed, big-label products, only without the big-label price.

No nickname. Just a generic logo from the NBA’s minor league on their shirts. And unmistakable chips on their shoulders.

Compared to other teams’ coaches and even players who have been grumbling about the new tournament format in the Las Vegas Summer League extending their stays and messing with offseason plans, the guys on the D-League Select team are grateful. Grateful for the chance to keep on playing, to keep on winning, to keep on attracting eyeballs.

The 14 teams on Friday’s scheduled of seven games were essentially done – they had dropped into the “consolation round” in the tournament format and, once they completed their fifth and final Vegas game, they were gone. But the D-Leaguers were 4-0 and still plugging, pitted against Charlotte in a quarterfinals game Saturday evening.

So yes, on Friday morning, they were practicing. Other quarterfinals clubs may have been cheerily wishing each other “Bad luck!” – with each loss came a ticket home – but these guys were hoping to stretch their stay through Monday’s championship game.

“We’re playing to win, whereas the NBA teams, it’s more about their one or two draft picks and their young guys,” said Alex Jensen, the D-League’s Coach of the Year in 2013 with the Canton Charge who is overseeing the summer squad. “Really, you can’t blame them.

“But I told [our players], ‘The best thing that can happen for all you guys is for us to win. Because then people will take notice that ‘You’re just as good as guys on any team that we will play. Believe me, it’s the truth.’ “

Jensen is living the dream that his players still are pursuing; he has joined the Utah Jazz staff as director of player development for 2013-14. Few if any of the guys he is coaching have deals for next season anywhere.

“I just hope I get a job somewhere. Either it’s cross-seas or getting invited to training camp or hopefully be with an NBA team,” said forward Darnell Jackson, who played for the Reno Bighorns after stints with Cleveland (2008, 2009), Milwaukee (2010) and Sacramento (2012). He also has played in China and the Ukraine.

“If not, I’m just blessed to be in the situation I’m in now,” said Jackson, a second-round pick by Miami in 2008 after playing four years (with one NCAA title) at Kansas. “I just guess those guys who are saying they’re ready to go home are having a bad experience.

“With us, we’re all here trying to prove ourselves to the coaches and the NBA teams that we’re willing to be here and to keep working. And we’re having fun at the same time. We’re winning games, we’re playing hard together. We’re gonna keep pushing.”

Dominique Sutton, a 6-foot-5 wing player from North Carolina Central, averaged 10.2 points for the Tulsa 66ers last season and won the Slam Dunk contest at the D-League Showcase.

“We all had a goal at the beginning to try to surprise people, take people by storm,” Sutton said. “A lot of people look at the front of our jerseys and see ‘D-League Select’ and think we’re a bunch of guys that really don’t know the game. ‘It’s the D-League, they’re not playing for an NBA team.’ So we come in with a chip on our shoulders, man. We feel, just play harder and we’ll come up a success.”

In their four games, the D-Leaguers have outscored their foes by an average of 5.8 points, while outshooting and outrebounding them too. Stefhon Hannah, a 6-foot-1 guard from Missouri, the Santa Cruz Warriors and assorted teams in Europe, Asia and South America, was their leading scorer (14.8 ppg), and 6-foot-6 guard Elijah Millsap was next at 14.3.

Millsap is familiar – thanks to his brother Paul, the former Jazz and now Hawks forward – with what life in the NBA is like. But guard Kyle Weaver is one of the D-Leaguers who actually knows, having played 73 games in three seasons with Oklahoma City and Utah. He played in Belgium and Germany, too, and was with the D-League’s Austin Toros last season before being traded to Canton in February.

“A lot of guys are curious to try to get up there,” Weaver said after practice Friday. “That’s why you can see on the court how we’re playing. Guys are scrapping, guys just want to get that opportunity. Grinding with these guys has been good. It’s definitely worth it.”

So the D-League Select team keeps grinding toward the Summer League championship. It’s a crown mostly scoffed at by the established NBA teams but something the D-Leaguers are happy to chase, because it keeps them playing. The auditions aren’t over.

Rose Might Benefit From D-League Rehab

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D. Rose. In the D League. In Des Moines.

The marketing opportunities would be enormous. And it might just help Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls in their long, arduous process of getting the 2011 NBA MVP back onto the court for a real playoff push.

Rose has been painstakingly working his way back through the demanding stages of recovery and rehabilitation from ACL surgery on his left knee. Meanwhile the Bulls have been waiting patiently and playing without excuses – coach Tom Thibodeau would tolerate nothing less – for what most have pegged as a late February or early March return.

Rose finally returned to practice last week, the last stage before he’s on the floor in a Bulls uniform on game night. But it potentially is a lengthy stage for reasons beyond his control, as the team’s executive vice president John Paxson told listeners of a sports talk show on the Bulls’ flagship station.

“We don’t have the defined plan yet because Derrick is still progressing,” Paxson said Friday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “The way he feels and what his body tells him is going to dictate how we do things. But I can tell you one thing – and this is for certain – he’s going to have to have a high volume of practices and contact, and where he’s comfortable on the floor doing things that he used to do naturally. And that takes some time and he’s just starting that process now.

“We can’t sit here today and say he’s going to be back in three weeks or after the All-Star break.

High volume of practices. Paxson knows as well as anyone that the notion is an oxymoron at this stage of an NBA season – particularly for his club in its current condition. Beginning Saturday at Atlanta, the tail end of a back-to-back, they have six games in 12 days before the All-Star break. Upon their return, they play six in the final 10 days of February.

And now the situation is complicated by injuries to others on the roster. Center Joakim Noah sat out Friday in Brooklyn and informed reporters afterward he is suffering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot; the same condition in his left foot cost Noah 18 games in 2009-10. The first-time All-Star might not play again until that showcase event in Houston.

Forward Carlos Boozer might miss his third straight game Saturday with a lingering hamstring strain. The manpower drain has shifted heavier workloads onto Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler, leaving the Bulls not only with a number problem but with tuckered-out players. That’s not conducive, either, to 5-on-5 scrimmaging in the practice gym.

So what’s a fella like Rose to do? How does he get the game conditions he needs? Where does he find teammates fresh enough for near-full-speed practices, the elixir most necessary to his ultimate comeback step?

Go west, young man. Only not too far west, just as far as Des Moines, where the Iowa Energy has a full schedule and players with a different sort of NBA ambition.

Injury rehab assignments are common in baseball, most often used for pitchers trying to work their way back in game conditions. But there’s no reason that NBA players – if their teams are fighting fatigue or ailments – couldn’t do the same thing.

The Bulls could send whatever medical personnel they chose (short of head trainer Fred Tedeschi) to supervise, and a strict minutes limit could be imposed against the Austin Toros or the Sioux Falls Skyforce the same as if it were Philadelphia or Indiana.  Easier, in fact, since Energy fans probably would be thrilled just to have Rose in the building. Folks at United Center will almost instantly begin to weave postseason dreams and bracket possibilities as soon as Rose takes the court, and pulling him out after a prescribed 16 or 22 minutes could mess with those. In Des Moines, every minute would be a hoot.

There’s nothing inherently more risky about playing in the D League – chances are, those opponents might yield a little bubble of safety and respect to Rose that he won’t get against NBA defenders. The idea been brought up on occasion in the past – Elton Brand offered to play for Anaheim in March 2008 while rehabbing from a torn Achilles.

Now the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players allows for such stints for veterans, with their consent. It was suggested in December, for example, that Washington’s John Wall might benefit from testing his knee injury in the D-League.

Look, if the D-League is all about prepping players for the NBA and strengthening rosters, that’s precisely what some brief rehab visits might produce.

Knicks Assign Stoudemire To D-League

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Relax folks, Mike Woodson hasn’t lost it.

The New York Knicks haven’t banished Amar’e Stoudemire to their NBA D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, a move we knew was coming thanks to my main man John Schuhmann.

But the Knicks big man is going to the D-League to continue his rehab by reporting to the MSG Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y. today as he continues to fight his way back from the left knee procedure he had on Oct. 31. He’s been cleared for practice and will work with D-League crew while the Knicks rest between games.

There are still plenty of issues Woodson and the Knicks have to work through where Stoudemire is concerned. Having Stoudemire get in two full practices is the best way to get a proper handle on where he stands going into the Holiday weekend.

The fact that Stoudemire is going willingly, however, is the surest sign that the 10-year veteran is eager to do whatever it takes to fit into what the Knicks are doing right now (last night’s beating at the hands of the Houston Rockets aside). He’s the most high profile player in league history record a D-League assignment.

The Gerald Green Machine (Video)

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Gerald Green‘s gravity-defying ability has been hidden from us for a few years. Detours in Russia, China and the D-League kept the 18th pick of the 2005 NBA Draft off of the radar in recent seasons.

It wasn’t until All-Star Weekend, when he clowned the competition in the D-League All-Star Game, that we were reminded of his penchant for the spectacular with a basketball in his hand and a rim awaiting his assault. The 2007 NBA Slam Dunk champ still has his hops, folks.

The Nets’ swingman gave the world yet another glimpse last night, with one of the best dunks we’ve seen this season against his hometown Houston Rockets:



D-League DPOY Steps Up For Blazers

PORTLAND – After days of playing Dirk Nowitzki on the scout team in practice, Trail Blazers rookie forward Chris Johnson finally got a chance to play against the Mavericks’ All-Star Thursday night in Game 3 of this playoff series.

And he didn’t disappoint.

Johnson joined Blazers star Brandon Roy as one of the surprise heroes of the Blazers’ 97-92 win, playing huge fourth quarter minutes off the bench in relief of both Marcus Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge to help the Blazers pull to within a game (2-1) in the series.

No one was happier for the D-League Defensive Player of the Year than the men he relieved, Camby more than anyone since taking Johnson under his wing when Johnson signed with the Blazers as a free agent March 14. His 6-foot-11, 210-pound protegé looked like Camby-lite, grabbing three rebounds, blocking two shots and altering a couple of others in his six minutes of crunch time action against the Mavericks.

“Chris came in played well and you always get happy for guys like that, who work so hard behind the scenes,” Camby said. “You never know in this league when your number is going to be called. And tonight he played well when his number was called.

Johnson is one 45 former D-Leaguers working in the playoffs, a list that includes Mavericks guards Jose Barea, Roddy Beaubois, Dominique Jones and forward Ian Mahinmi. Johnson has plenty of D-League alumni company in his own locker room with Luke Babbitt, Earl Barron, Armon Johnson and Patty Mills all have logged time in the D-League.

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Cruel Twist Of Fate For Nets’ Gaines

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Basketball’s higher powers dished out a cruel lesson to Nets guard Sundiata Gaines last night, just days after smiling on him.

Gaines fractured his right hip in a freak accident during the Nets’ overtime win over the Cavaliers Wednesday night in Cleveland, ending his season prematurely. This comes just days after Gaines signed his fist guaranteed, multi-year deal after toiling in the D-League and Italy on the road to realizing his NBA dream.

Gaines will be on crutches for six to eight weeks before starting his rehabilitation. He only appeared in 10 games with the Nets this season, averaging 5.5 points and 2.5 assists in 14.6 minutes.

All of the hard work he put in to make it and now he has to deal with this kind of setback.

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