Monday, February 18, 2013

D-League Decoded: All-Star Weekend Recap

A breakdown of the 2013 D-League All-Star game. (

This weekend marks the unofficial halfway point to both the NBA and D-League seasons as they're both celebrating their All-Star weekends. While the NBA is at center stage with their star-studded, three-night event, the D-League quietly had their celebration on Saturday afternoon.

This weekend marks the seventh anniversary of the D-League All-Star game, which started in 2007 when the NBA had its All-Star game in Las Vegas. Since that game, more than a dozen D-League All-Stars have made their way onto NBA rosters, including Othyus Jeffers, Garrett Temple and Gerald Green.

While the All-Star game is the main event of the afternoon, they D-League also has the 3-point contest and Slam Dunk contest to show off some of the best leapers and sharp-shooters the D-League has to offer. This past Saturday was no different as some of the best talent the league has ever seen competed in a game that lacked defense but shined when it came to high flying and entertaining basketball.

Before the All-Star game tipped off, the league held its 3-point contest with participants Marcus Landry (Reno), Micah Downs (Maine), Justin Holiday (Idaho), and Justin Dentmon (Texas). While all four of these guys are solid perimeter shooters, the contest in general was a little sub-par. Sure, these guys probably aren't going to be sharp-shooters like Kyrie Irving or Ray Allen, but I was disappointed in what I saw. Former Wisconsin Badger and current Bighorns forward Marcus Landry defeated Justin Holiday, 13-11, in the finals to win the contest.

One of those strange things I like about the D-League is the fact that it has its dunk contest during halftime of the game, which is better than an awful concert with a girl who lost her voice. The participants of the dunk contest included Glen Rice, Jr., Tony Mitchell, Josh Owens and Dar Tucker, who was a clear-cut favorite after previously winning the contest twice. Tucker probably had the highlight of the competition with a dunk over his 7-foot teammate Jerome Jordan, but Mitchell ended up winning the competition after defeating Owens in the final round.

Moving on to the All-Star game itself, which was contested between the Prospects and the Future rosters. The following is a list of players who were on both teams.

Prospects:                                                  Futures:   

Damion James (Bakersfield)                          Micah Downs (Maine)                             
Tim Ohlbrecht (Rio Grande Valley)                Chris Wright (Maine)
Henry Sims (Erie)                                        DaJuan Summers (Maine)
D.J Kennedy (Erie)                                      James Mays (Maine)
Jerel McNeal (Bakersfield)                            Shelvin Mack (Maine)
Arinze Onuaku (Canton)                               Tony Mitchell (Fort Wayne)
Demetris Nichols (Sioux Falls)                      Courtney Fortson (Los Angeles)
Travis Leslie (Santa Cruz)                            Marcus Landry (Reno)
Justin Dentmon (Texas)                              Jerome Jordan (Reno)
Chris Wright (Iowa)                                   Ron Howard (Fort Wayne) 

It's kind of strange to analyze an All-Star game because it's basically an exhibition game, but I did notice a few things while watching. The first thing I really noticed is how it looked like Travis Leslie was at a level higher than the rest of the roster. Leslie is an extremely athletic player, but also plays at a higher pace than most of the other guys in the D-League. Travis finished the game with seven rebounds and 19 points on 8-13 shooting, which led to him winning All-Star game MVP.

The Prospects won 139-125, but one thing I found both interesting and humorous was Mike Taylor (coach of the Red Claws and Futures team) started and played all five of his Red Claws players. Now that decision was decent because the team played really well together and caught up to the Prospects near the end of the first half. That core of five players featured DaJuan Summers, who had a great 28 point and seven rebound performance that will be forgotten because of his team's defeat.

My last take of Saturday's game was how impressed I was with the overall play of the centers in this game. The center position has been going down-hill in both the NBA and the D-League, but Jerome Jordan and Tim Ohlbrecht shined brighter than some of the guards in this game. I've been a huge fan of Ohlbrecht since I watched him play last month in the D-League showcase and he looked fantastic once again posting double-double numbers of 12 points and 12 rebounds. While those numbers aren't quite impressive, he just looked like a solid player with how smooth he was on the court. 

Even though this was only an exhibition game, Jordan looked like the kind of player that would be worthy of being the top D-League prospect with Donald Sloan heading to China. Jordan has been having a great year but he's been slightly overshadowed by Samardo Samuels, who is his partner in the Bighorns front-court. Jordan had close to a perfect game with 12 points on 6-6 shooting with seven rebounds. 

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