Life in the D-League Not as Arduous as Young Raptors Suggest
Davis was recalled early last week after a two-game stint with the BayHawks and, upon his return, he told Raptors media that he never wanted to go back to the D-League again. Alabi, who played seven games with the BayHawks, was also recently recalled by the Raptors after averaging 8.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks with the BayHawks, though he made less than 42 percent of his field goal attempts.
Doug Smith, the Toronto Star's Raptors beat writer since the team's inception, wrote when Alabi returned to the Raptors -- in a post titled "Alabi freed from the shackles of Erie" -- that the D-League "seems to be a colossal waste of time."
"Kids go down there and there's no real support system for them," Smith wrote. "Coaches are more worried about their own fates than truly developing players, the kids live in hotels by themselves, they eat who knows what instead of getting some solid nutrition -- Thanksgiving at IHOP? Please! -- they don't have a lot of friends to hang with and life, according to a lot of people, kind of sucks."
According to a lot of other people, particularly BayHawks team president Matt Bresee, Smith's opinion is dead wrong.
"We're not the NBA, and never will be, however we take pride in putting our players in an environment that makes them comfortable and gives them the best opportunity at being successful," Bresee wrote in an e-mail to FanHouse. "Our NBA assignments stay on the lake Erie waterfront at the Sheraton Erie Bayfront hotel and our team practices at the state-of-the-art LECOM Medical Fitness & Wellness facility. Both are places that we've been told rival what many NBA teams offer."
Smith's complaints about the D-League seem rather random (do NBA teams prefer that players live with friends while trying to focus on development in the D-League?), though Bresee was quick to point out that the players were given a solid support system in Erie.
"The evening Solomon arrived in Erie, myself, our coaches and one of owners, Owen McCormick, met Solomon and Alvin Williams (Raptors Director of Player Development) and took them to dinner," Bresee wrote. "It was important to us that we make Solo feel welcome and begin to get him comfortable. We were so impressed with him as he's a great person, had a very positive attitude, and we all immediately could see he was embracing the experience of being in Erie."
Smith didn't see it that way, however, stating that "the raw Raptors rookie returned to the big leagues Thursday after a three-week stint with the D-League Erie Bayhawks and, like teammate Ed Davis, all he really learned is that he doesn't want to go back" without backing up that statement with any sort of anecdotal information from Alabi in his story.
"I thought I was going to go there and play a lot of minutes and get in the game mode, but the coach has his own coaching system. I went out there and played hard whatever minutes he gave me," Alabi told the media scrum assembled in Toronto upon his return, seemingly a bit disappointed that he wasn't able to earn more minutes in the rotation. "Everyone out there in the D-League is working so hard to get signed in the NBA, so everyone tries to show off what they can do. It's kind of difficult for the big guys to get the ball sometimes."
The BayHawks top scorer, averaging over 15 points per game, is a fellow "big guy" in power forward Ivan Johnson, who seemed a bit miffed about Davis and Alabi's attitudes when talking to the Erie Times-News.
"I just play. Just get on the court and play. I'm not trying to hear all that whining," Johnson said. "I'm not saying he's a whiner, but it's about the effort you put in on the court."
For what it's worth, BayHawks coach Jay Larranaga thought Erie did a sufficient job at getting the ball into the big man's hands.
"I think we're one of the few teams that really emphasizes getting the ball inside to our big guys," Larranaga said. "Our guards did a good job of giving him plenty of opportunities."
According to statistics from Synergy Sports Technology, Alabi had 29 post possessions during his D-League stint, the most of any player on the BayHawks to date, though the big man was able to score just 31 points in the low block. Looking at those statistics, Larranaga was probably right in insisting on Alabi earning his minutes with the BayHawks until he was able to develop his game more in practice.
Aside from the on-court performance, the biggest gripe from the Raptors -- mostly from Smith and Davis -- was regarding the Thanksgiving meal at the International House of Pancakes, though Bresee was able to explain that as well.
"The staff at LECOM was gracious enough to treat the entire team to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner the day before Thanksgiving, as we were scheduled to travel to Fort Wayne on the holiday, and attempts at getting a catered meal on the holiday were unsuccessful," Bresee wrote.
Turns out that there are, typically, two sides to every story.