Season Ticket Review – Open Season

Opening night. Sioux Falls is playing its first game as an NBA D-League franchise, in front of a nearly sell-out crowd. Dave Joeger, former Skyforce coach and recent turncoat, is back at the Sioux Falls Arena. We’re sitting closer than our Section P tickets would usually allow us by using the HenkinSchultz company tickets. This game is going to be great.


Game 1: November 24th, 2006

Dakota Wizards (0-0) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (0-0)

And it was. For about 2.75 quarters.

The night started off rather solemnly. There were no fireworks (they were lost in the mail, but promised for the future) and no team merchandise (no explanation given). Even the prospect of slamming a defining victory in the face of their former coach – a coach that suddenly left, feeling either too good to be on the team or too lured by more money to stick around – was muted.

To begin, there weren’t any boos. There were hardly any jeers. This is Sioux Falls. It’s hard to get a crowd to go electric, for some reason. The crowd was dead. They didn’t care that two former Skyforce players – Jerome Beasley and Ronaldo Major – were quietly dismantling the home team’s defense. Or that Dave Joeger, our former coach, was bringing a team back from defeat without anyone on the Skyforce even seeming to notice. Or care.

About this Series

This is the first of a season long Skyforce “season ticket review.” Each home game will be critiqued and celebrated – from Section P, Row 21. I’ll often refer to the Skyforce as “we.” That’s because I own $64 worth of the team – the cost of my discounted Skyforce season ticket.

Until 10:00 into the third quarter, the Skyforce was the best team on the court. They were unbelievable in building up a 16 point lead. I wondered aloud if we were playing really well because we were fired up, or if we were just a bad team beating another bad team – two expansion franchises beating each other up while the big guys waited in the background, ready to blow into Sioux Falls and deliver a 30 whupping.

Then, we squandered the 16 point lead. A few minutes later, we found ourselves down by 10. We became a revolving door. The Wizards played disciplined basketball all night. When the Skyforce fell behind, the Wizards fell back. They played great low post defense, and our jump shots stopped dropping. The boos began. The jeers returned. We were sunk.

Frank Williams was great. He’s our point guard, and he’s the only Skyforce player with any worthwhile big league experience. Williams, with 20 points in the first half, set the pace. Meanwhile, our #1 draft pick Andre Brown scored a quiet 18 with 9 boards, and local white boy Jared Reiner picked up 15 rebounds.

Which brings us to the other local white boy – Joe Dabbert, a favorite among the Arena crowed and easily the Skyforce’s worst player. By far. Without a doubt. I can’t imagine any situation that would warrant Dabbert being successful on the court, especially after his performance last night (0 points, 1 rebound, 3 fouls). Dabbert looked more at home on a football field – he constantly fell over in an attempt to draw offensive fouls, committed stupid fouls, and jumped for the sake of jumping and not for the sake of actually catching the rebounded basketball in his hands and keeping possession of it for longer than three seconds.

Seriously – I saw a half-dozen fans last night wearing their Joe Dabbert t-shirts – loudly, proudly, and without any apology. But here’s the thing – he sucks. Not just tonight – he always has. He’s a college drinking buddy, a friend who you go to the game with – not someone that actually should be PLAYING in the game. And from the looks of the people who wear the Dabbert shirts, he’s not alone.

When Dabbert came out, we held our breath. When he left, we exhaled. From our much-better-much-closer seats, we could really pick out his faults, and they were there, believe me. But he wasn’t the only player at blame for the loss. The entire team played as if they had just met. Andre Brown couldn’t dribble without staring at his hands. Frank Williams looked as if he couldn’t trust his teammates, taking most of the shots over the first ten minutes of the game.

For the Skyforce to get anything going during what could be a very difficult year, they’d better look at themselves a bit differently during practice, during games, at all times in life – as a team, and not as a group of players making yet another stop between international play and the NBA. They need to prove they can play as a team and make their teammates better.

Because God knows, Dabbert needs all the help he can get.

Dakota 114, Skyforce 104

This was lovingly handwritten on November 25th, 2006