Season Ticket Review – Playing like the big league
Oh, what a difference a couple of pros makes.
Game 12: February 1, 2008
Fort Wayne Mad Ants (9-14) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (12-14)
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Force. Three home games have come and gone without mention on the site – one I attended, but didn’t write about; two I missed completely due to other commitments. They had just beat Iowa for the first time all year, and followed that game up with another win, bringing their record to 7-10.
I lost track of them for a while. Unbeknownst to me, they lost four of their next five and looked horrible in the process. Then, the Skyforce turned it on in their habitual streaky way by winning four in a row coming into the game. An added bonus? They were now facing the Mad Ants, who had lost five of six themselves and had put up a horrible showing on Christmas.
The biggest change wasn’t in the standings, though – it was the roster, chock full of NBA power thanks to two NBA assignees: Jermareo Davidson of the Charlotte Bobcats and Chris Richard of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Talk leading up to the game was centered on a displaced annoyance from our two Big League Stars. No one likes to be sent down – to be forgotten among the tumbleweed of South Dakota’s plains and left for dead among players still struggling to don an NBA jersey. Grumblings were rumored, opponents panned. Jermareo and Chris didn’t feel they belonged down here, but down here they found themselves playing. Might as well make a game out of it.
This was different from Amir Johnson, our 2006-7 NBA assignee and all around Skyforce superstar. Amir didn’t just revel in the idea of gaining minutes – he specifically asked to be sent back down a second and third time in order to gain experience and help the Skyforce out. He wanted to be a teammate, to play and learn and lead – and that eagerness to succeed probably helped a lot when it came to contract negotiations at the end of the year.
If Jermareo and Chris didn’t want to be here, they certainly didn’t show it. This was an utter blowout from tip off. I was reminded of how dominating a young big man can be – a rarity on our usually small Skyforce teams – and dreams of having another Amir were answered with the athletic Jermareo Davidson. He was everywhere, and he was taking the spirit of the game into his own hands. He enjoyed himself tonight. He really liked the game, it seemed. He was even boppign his head to Soulja Boy’s “Superman.”
(A quick aside. For a franchise that claims to be incredibly family-oriented and driven to give everyone from 6 months to 106 years a great time, why would they even think about playing “Superman” over the PA? Seriously.
“Superman dat hoe!” it kept repeating, over and over again. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Maybe ownership has no idea what it means, but Urban Dictionary does. It’s pretty dirty, and it’s hilariously not family. Phyllis Heineman – Republican State Representative, mother/wife to the Skyforce owners and front row season ticket holder – would flip if she knew what the song was about.)
If having Amir again this year is impossible, we can take solace in having two worthy players this time around. Davidson is lanky and driven, a tall shooter with an ability to be everywhere at once. His counterpart, Chris Richard, is a balling brute of a big man, physical and intimidating – exactly what we need.
And boy, did it show. Jermareo scored 11 in the first quarter, leading the Force to a 30-13 first quarter lead. The newfound height helped create newfound second chances, as the Skyforce brought down 27 offensive rebounds. Offensive rebounds! That was just six fewer than the Mad Ants brought down all together, offensive and defensive. A 62 to 33 rebounding edge sure helps.
Everything clicked. A 12-0 run in the third was greeted with the first standing applause we’ve seen this year, and it was another 5 points before the Mad Ants could recover and score. Great passing. Great rebounding. Great scoring. Teamwork, from friends, mashed together through a random process of drafting, assignment and free agency, joining together in one common goal – to entertain and to win.
Let’s face it. The last place an NBA player wants to be is Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The prospect of being sent down to the Skyforce can’t be a thrilling proposition.
But regardless of the misconceptions, once an NBA assignee steps onto the court and feels the electricity and excitement that we have for our team, it’s all forgotten. You can smile, and know that while you might not be in the big leagues, you’re at least someplace that truly feels like home.
Amir would have been so proud.
(And, as an added bonus, the Skyforce repeated the slaughter on Saturday. Same team, same result – another home win and a six game winning streak. The score makes it look closer, but it wasn’t – Game 13: Skyforce 123, Fort Wayne 103.)