Season Ticket Review: Meet the new team, same as the old one

Forgive me for being distracted. It goes with the territory, I guess. And, by the looks of the Skyforce last night, it was contagious.


Game 1: November 24th, 2007

Tulsa 66ers (1-0) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (0-0)

Distraction? Well, for the players on the court it was more like exhaustion. As in, boy, that loss was exhausting. As in, wow, we looked exhausted after firing on all cylinders for the first 36 minutes. As in, we’ve exhausted all options, let’s shoot long range shots all night until we piss the game away in the final seconds.

It was opening night, and as Kerrie and I made our way to row three of the Sioux Falls Arena (courtesy a season ticket holder special) there was a sense of excitement. Look, NBA D-League President Dan Reed! Ooh, we’ve got a young, homegrown coach that’s proven himself over the past three seasons as an assistant! Wow, our uniforms have the jersey numbers on top with the names below – how European!

We were distracted – it was a night away from Sierra, and we scoped out the Arena for signs of infant life so we wouldn’t feel guilty dragging our 4 month old to see Development League style basketball.

It was, according to Dan Reed, the first sellout in Sioux Falls Skyforce history. In history! We’ve won two CBA championships, been in the league for 18 seasons (this is the 19th, apparently) and seen several future NBA talents rifle their way across the Arena floor. And this is the first sellout? The traditional Christmas game doesn’t sell out, but this one does? Wha?

It turns out that not only was this the first Skyforce sellout, it was also the most people who witnessed a loss in Skyforce history. In fact, it was a rough game throughout – we looked as if we were still finding our legs.

(Author’s note: as you know, I am a season ticket holder for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. I have followed the team very closely over the five years I’ve been back in town. And because of the loyalty I have shown, I often refer to the Skyforce and myself as the collective “we” or “our.” You’ll have to forgive me – these are the ramblings of a man blinded by fanhood.)

Tulsa played us well. They pushed us around, but did it with finesse. We committed 31 fouls to their 20, and none of them were awful calls. This was not the refs’ fault, for once – this was ours. It also didn’t help that the 66ers had an NBA designee (Ramon Sessions of the Milwaukee Bucks), a player who’s currently averaging 30.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.

This is the development league, and it showed when you looked to the other side of the court. The Skyforce fielded two players from last year – Elton Nesbitt and Antywane Robinson – that barely made the court some nights. Our 11th and 12th man. The development? They’ve become quite competent factors in the Skyforce offense, combining for 46 points in last night’s loss. Last year, they’d be lucky to combine for that many in a month. Nic Caner-Medley turned out to be a decent pick as well – 30 points, 15 rebounds, 2 steals – even though he couldn’t be trusted to make the long shot.

So with new leadership and some good scorers, what happened? Oh, hold in – wait a minute. Are we really running two sub-six-footers out there? Is our tallest guy really only 6’9”? Meanwhile, look at Tulsa – they’ve got some serious height, including one big-haired and freckled oddity that had to be at least 10 feet tall.

Or, at least, he seemed that way against our lineup of midgets. This could be a problem. Sure, coach Nate Tibbets loves the run and gun, but these guys are short. They’re fast, but they’re short. The entire team. There was a time that it seemed like our team was an average of five inches shorter at every position.

But it shouldn’t be blamed on height. If you can shoot, you can overcome a couple inches. Simply put, it was a horrible shooting night. While Tulsa shot 49% from the field, we could barely find the basket with 43% (most of which were missed long range shots – stuff we shouldn’t have been taking in the first place.) We couldn’t make free throw either, missing over a third of our shots.

So over everything, it’s pretty basic – what we saw was a coach who is a spitting image of his predecessor – a guy who loves the run and gun, who lives and dies by the jump shot. And don’t get me wrong – we have some shooters. We led by a considerable amount several times, but even then you’d have fooled us. It seemed we were behind the whole game, not just the last quarter – we looked ugly, and it was an equal ugliness on the opposing side that kept us in the game. All until that last quarter.

What was old last year in Mo’s offense is new again with Nate. We saw the same frustrating meltdown, the same lack of inside presence, the same finesse garbage trying to bang up against a bruising, inside based team. We allowed too many drives, relied too much on the outside shot and lost our momentum when we should have been putting the game away.

It wouldn’t be so upsetting if it didn’t seem so familiar.

Skyforce 109, Tulsa 117

This was lovingly handwritten on November 25th, 2007