Season Ticket Review: From “big time” to Sioux Falls

At the beginning of the season, Skyforce coach Mo McHone made an interesting comment about the difference between NBA D-League players and their more famous NBA counterparts. It wasn’t that D-League players were worse – it’s just that they were less coordinated. Less athletic. Slower. More awkward. Less “specimen” and more “player.”


Game 10: January 12th, 2007

Arkansas RimRockers (6-8) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (10-8)

I suspect this is the reason that there are so many turnover calls in the NBA D-League. I have rarely seen a carrying call in the NBA, but the D-League is rife with them, not to mention the traveling, double dribble, and out of bounds turnovers. The talent is there, no doubt. These players are physically and mentally tough enough to play with on the next level. It’s just that their bodies are struggling to catch up.

We’ve had evidence of this all year. We watched Andre Brown move smoothly around the floor, posting up and floating around players like they weren’t there. Fundamental footwork and an athletic body made him our best player. He couldn’t handle the ball, granted. But he didn’t need to – he was there to make the opposing post players look silly. He was the equivalent of an NBA player among more confused and clumsy D-League teammates.

(Now he is an NBA player. He is currently averaging four points and two rebounds in limited minutes for the Supersonics.)

Likewise – the movements of former NBA players, such as Frank Williams and Jared Reiner, are smooth and practiced. These players seem to have the skills (a great shot, solid passing) but an imperfectly shaped body – too small, not as athletic, etc.

Last night, we watched the Skyforce’s first NBA assignment – Amir Johnson of the Detroit Pistons – and could see the difference. This kid is strong – athletic, quick to move in for a rebound, sure footed and big. He was a star on the court. He had modest stats, but he’s only 19. Give him a few more years and some surer hands, and he could have had 30 points and 15 rebounds. No question.

But most of all, he looked like a man among boys, at times – fighting for rebounds like no one on our team has (with the exception of Brown, of course.) And why was he in the D-League? Because he’s young. Because he’s slightly awkward and not as sure-handed. He has the skills – just like Frank, Jared and Andre. But he doesn’t have the body, the control, the confidence. Not yet.

The Skyforce rode Johnson’s arrival (and the return of former Skyforce guard Stephen Graham) to a relatively easy win. In fact, we held the lead for most of the game, only giving it up for a few seconds midway in the 4th quarter. I’m not saying that the game wasn’t exciting. It’s just that we’ve been conditioned to expect extreme ups and downs, and tonight the Skyforce players must have thought we deserved a night off.

Personally, we were just excited to be so close. This is the fourth time we’ve been in the HenkinSchultz lower level seats this year, but it was the first in a long time. And it was a blast.

Here’s why.

1. The Skyforce players communicate like no other team we’ve seen. The addition of Corey Williams has put a strong spoken leader on the floor – one that is not afraid to bark out plays and discipline players on the court. This is in contrast to the silent demeanor of Frank Williams, a player who leads well but can often lose track of the flow of the game. Corey Williams is the best thing that’s happened to our team all year.

2. Boy – the players are big. Losing Brown and Joe Dabbert (broken finger) gave us a severe disadvantage in the height department. But with Johnson and newcomer Chris Bell (7’0”) we have gained it back. Which is all fine and dandy from Section P. From the lower level, however, these players look twice as large. We were afraid for our lives.

3. Prizes are easier to catch when they’re thrown at your level, and not sixteen rows below. I caught an NBA TV t-shirt! Hooray!

4. We were able to watch first hand, from a safe yet close confine, one of the most bizarre half-time shows we’ve ever seen: The Alexandria Aces, a group of grade school-aged children who spin basketballs and perform Globetrotter-esque tricks. It was surreal. I could just smell the overexposure and too-high-expectations from the parents seated at the end of the court. It was quite creepy, actually, and I’d be fine never seeing it again.

Though, considering the control some of these kids had over their basketballs, they’d probably be better ball handlers than the awkward youngsters of the NBA D-League. Maybe Mo McHone can sign them up for a contract.

I’m sure their parents wouldn’t mind.

Skyforce 104, Arkansas 98

(P.S. – Jared Reiner has updated his NBA D-League blog. Yes, Jared, some of us actually read it.)

This was lovingly handwritten on January 13th, 2007