The 2011 NBA D-League Showcase begins Monday with four of the D-League's sixteen teams taking the court on opening day of the league's four-day annual event.
The Showcase, held to allow top executives from the NBA and Europe to scout each of the D-League teams twice in the same locale, is being held in sunny South Padre this year after previous locations included Sioux Falls, S.D., Orem, Utah and Boise, Idaho -- all of which have far less-attractive climates.
With all of the decision makers in attendance, along with the recent availability of 10-day contracts, D-League players have a tremendous amount of pressure on them as they try to prove they're worth an extended look to many in attendance who are seeing the players display their skills for the very first time.
In the first game of the day, shown live at 12 p.m. ET on NBA TV, the Tulsa 66ers will take on the Sioux Falls Skyforce. The 66ers recently lost starting point guard Zabian Dowdell when he was made the first D-League call-up of the season by the Phoenix Suns, and since the Oklahoma City Thunder own the rights to four other 66ers -- Cole Aldrich, Latavious Williams, Ryan Reid and Robert Vaden -- the team is left with Larry Owens (above, left) as their top call-up prospect. Owens, a 6-7 forward out of Oral Roberts, has D-League career averages of 15.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists. The Skyforce are lack many call-up candidate, as their 2-14 record might show, but power forward Raymond Sykes intrigued the Portland Trail Blazers enough this fall to give him a training camp invite. A Clemson alum, the 6-9 Sykes is averaging 12.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks this season.
The Iowa Energy are pitted against the Utah Flash in the second game of the day, and that matchup should get a few more NBA scouts excited than the day's first game. The Energy feature three call-up candidates in former Utah Jazz call-up Othyus Jeffers, former Phoenix Suns call-up Courtney Sims and Kyle Weaver, a 6-6 wing who played the previous two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Weaver is a game-time decision due to a sore ankle, but the other two, along with point guard Curtis Stinson, are more than capable of picking up the slack. The Flash's best NBA prospect might also be it's newest player as they recently reacquired Ronald Dupree after he was cut last week by the Toronto Raptors. In his first game back in the D-League on Saturday night, Dupree came in to score 18 points, grab nine rebounds and dish six assists off the bench.
The third game today is available live on the D-League's Futurecast broadcast as the Texas Legends take on the New Mexico Thunderbirds. The Legends, an expansion franchise led by basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, feature three call-up candidates in former first round NBA picks Joe Alexander and Sean Williams as well as point guard Justin Dentmon, a former standout guard for the Washington Huskies. The Thunderbirds, led by former NBA player Darvin Ham, will feature Shane Edwards and Jamon Peterson. Edwards, a 6-foot-7 forward, played with the Denver Nuggets this preseason and is currently averaging 19.6 points and 7.9 rebounds while Peterson -- the only draft-eligible player in the D-League -- scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in just his second game for the Thunderbirds.
The nightcap, streamed live here on FanHouse, features the Houston Rockets affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers taking on the team with the best mascot in the minors, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. The Vipers are led by Golden State Warriors early-season castoff Jeff Adrien, a 6-foot-6 power forward who scored 31 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in his last contest. The Vipers also boast former NBA players Mustafa Shakur and Antonio Anderson. Point guard Walker Russell Jr. runs a potent offense for the Mad Ants that also includes former NBA call-up Oliver Lafayette, Chris Kramer and Marvin Phillips.
NBA D-League Showcase: Day 1 Schedule
|Monday 1/10||12 p.m. ET||Sioux Falls vs. Tulsa||NBA TV|
|Monday 1/10||2:45 p.m. ET||Utah vs. Iowa||NBA TV|
|Monday 1/10||5:30 p.m. ET||Texas vs. New Mexico||NBA Futurecast|
|Monday 1/10||8:15 p.m. ET||Fort Wayne vs. Rio Grande Valley||AOL FanHouse|