Talking D-League With Blog Talk BayHawk

Monday, June 21, 2010

Check out the Project Spurs podcast today, featuring yours truly! You may recall I spoke with the guys at Project Spurs months ago when Cedric Jackson was called up to San Antonio. Well, they called me back again last week to talk Austin Toros and D-League matters as they pertain to the Spurs. Much thanks to Jeff Garcia and Michael De Leon for inviting me on for the interview.

Things have been quiet around here lately, and it will stay that way for most of the D-League's offseason, but I'll be back with more regular posts as we draw nearer to the season. I may also write an occasional post regarding NBA Summer League action, particularly if there is noteworthy information about Erie BayHawks players.

In the meantime, you can catch me every Thursday at D-League Digest, where I am maintaining my presence with a weekly posting to supplement the great work Steve Weinman does there on a regular basis. Check out my recent articles with the links below:

2009-10 Players in Review: Michael Sweetney

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The addition of Michael Sweetney gave the BayHawks in mid-March provided an interesting stretch run of games. Teamed with the 300-pound John Bryant, Sweetney—listed at a very generous 260—gave Erie another low-post scoring option.

The former NBA lottery pick showed he still has a formidable offensive skill set, including deft footwork in the post and a feathery touch on his 15-18 foot jumper. In 9 games with the BayHawks, Sweetney averaged 13.2 points and 6.9 rebounds in 25.4 minutes per game while shooting a team-best 63.6 percent over that stretch.

He scored in double figures in 7 of his 9 appearances and made it clear that he knows how to handle himself on the offensive end. The problem is simply weight and conditioning. He did not look comfortable in his own jersey. It was tough watching him get up and down the court. And defensively, he really struggled to guard anyone outside of the lane, particularly when teams dragged him out in high pick ‘n rolls.

The bottom line for Sweetney is that if he’s serious about his basketball future, he will spend this summer getting into shape. He could come back as is and put up decent stats for a year in the D-League, but in order to get a look from the NBA, he’s going to have to display a serious work ethic to go with his skill set.

2009-10 Players in Review: Jarvis Gunter

Monday, May 31, 2010

Jarvis Gunter averaged 13.6 minutes per game in 44 appearances with the BayHawks this season. Although he didn't score a lot, he led the team (among those who played at least 10 games) in field goal percentage at 61.2 percent.

Gunter was Erie's most athletic big man, a solid post defender, shot blocker and rebounder. His best game of the year came March 9 against Sioux Falls as he recorded season highs in both points (15) and rebounds (13) in helping Erie to a 116-93 victory.

Offensively is where his game has the most room for growth. He's a great finisher at the rim, but he has questionable hands and lacks a refined post-up game, which prevents him from seeing more playing time.

That said, Gunter brings energy and effort every time he sets foot on the court. Hustle, determination, grit–whatever you want to call it–Gunter has it. His all-out attitude on the court is what earned him minutes on a BayHawks team that started out with a loaded front court and later added the likes of Michael Sweetney. Gunter showed improvements from his rookie to sophomore season in the D-League, but the array of bigs on the BayHawks roster limited his opportunities to make a regular impact.

2009-10 Players in Review: Kyle Goldcamp

Thursday, May 27, 2010

If there was a team award for most improved player from the beginning to the end of the season, the BayHawks' Kyle Goldcamp would likely be named the winner. As the local kid–Goldcamp is from Pittsburgh but played his college ball at Division II Gannon University in Erie–there was a lot of added pressure and attention on Goldcamp during his rookie season with the BayHawks.

Many people thought just making the team was an accomplishment, and early in the season, it appeared like the coaches agreed as Goldcamp saw very little playing time. Then, just as Goldcamp seemed to be gaining some traction and earning some minutes, he was released from the team due to injury on Feb. 5. He was then reacquired Feb. 25, and he went on to log 20-plus minutes in eight of the team's final 12 games, including a season-high 36 minutes in the home finale against Springfield on April 2. In that game, Goldcamp tied his career highs in points (12) and blocks (2) while setting a new personal best with 3 steals. He also contributed with 8 rebounds as Erie won the game 107-90.

Goldcamp started each of the final five games for Erie and made 10 starts in his 32 appearances for the season. He finished the year averaging 3.3 points in 13.4 minutes per game on 50.4 percent shooting from the field.

The biggest takeaway from Goldcamp this season was his hustle and effort. He was a tenacious defender, the type of player that always got under the skin of whomever he was defending. Although he had his trouble with fouls (his 7.3 fouls per 48 minutes was the most among the BayHawks), he brought energy and effort every time he set foot on the court. He was also the best screener on the team, setting ferocious picks to free open his teammates.

Offensively, Goldcamp could benefit from a more polished post game and a better touch a la John Bryant from mid-range. He scored most of his points on put-backs, dunks, and layups. To be fair, though, the team didn't run many plays for him either.

All in all, I think it's safe to say that Goldcamp had a better-than-expected rookie campaign. The transition from D2 to the D-League is not an easy one to make, but after a slow start, Goldcamp adjusted well and made himself into a solid big man for the BayHawks capable of contributing on a regular basis. With the Erie connection, I know there are a lot of local fans hoping Goldcamp returns for a second season with the BayHawks. If he opts to return, I'm willing to bet the team would love to have him back.

2009-10 Players in Review: Cliff Clinkscales

Friday, May 21, 2010

Clinkscales is a solid backup point guard. He joined the BayHawks in late December and helped sure up a shaky backcourt. Clinkscales is an excellent decision maker. In fact, he led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.23).

He's a poor shooter (42.4 percent from the field, 1-9 from 3 for the season), and he lacks an explosive first step and the ability to finish strong at the rim. But he knows his role, and he does it well.

Clinkscales is a facilitator first and foremost. In a three-game stretch starting January 27, Clinkscales amassed 38 assists with just 7 turnovers. His smart play in December caught the eye of D-League Digest's Steve Weinman, causing him to write this high praise article, which inspired an entertaining dialogue in the comments section and throughout the season from other D-League bloggers (Hi Scott).

In truth, Clinkscales' ability level is somewhere between the way it's portrayed in Weinman's article and being the butt of jokes over at Ridicukous Upside. He is a solid backup point guard in the D-League. He won't make a lot of highlight reels, but he will make a lot of smart passes. He doesn't shoot like Blake Ahearn or drive like Cedric Jackson, but he's dependable, consistent performer capabale of giving some quality minutes and setting up a team's scorers in positions where they can be most effective.

2009-10 Players in Review: Ivan Harris

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ivan Harris tied with John Bryant for the most games played as a BayHawk this season with 49. Harris started 29 of those and served as the sixth man in many of his other appearances. His final season numbers were 12.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 32.2 minutes per game.

He finished first in 3-point attempts (183) and makes (66) among BayHawks. (Mike Gansey and Blake Ahearn exceeded his totals, but their numbers were split among two teams.) That works out to 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, which puts him 12th in the league among forwards who had at least 75 attempts. He also shot 55-64 (85.9 percent) from the free throw line, which was second on the team behind Blake Ahearn.

Harris' biggest problem was one of my biggest pet peeves all season long. He has a bad habit of stepping on the line and shooting a long two-pointer. I wish I had kept track of how many times this happened, but even if it was only once per game–and I'm pretty confident it happened more often than–that's 49 points he cost the team.

Foot position aside, Harris is a solid, if streaky, outside shooter. When he gets on a hot streak, he can be a really dangerous offensive weapon. He's a bit of a tweener at the forward position, not quite big enough to be a true power forward and not really quick enough to be a small forward, so that can be problematic at the defensive end.

I don't know if Harris will look to return for a third season with the BayHawks, especially if the role calls for him to come off the bench again. But I think that's what the team would expect of him if he chose to return. He's a good scoring forward, effective coming off the bench when the team needs a spark.

2009-10 Players in Review: Blake Ahearn

Friday, May 14, 2010

Although he played just 13 games as a BayHawk after arriving in a late-season trade from the Bakersfield Jam in exchange for Alade Aminu, Blake Ahearn was one of the most entertaining and productive players the team had this season.

The change of scenery obviously came as a blessing for Ahearn, a former D-League all-star. In 17 games with the Jam, he averaged just 14.3 points per game on 36.7 percent shooting from the field and 27.7 percent shooting from 3. In Erie, all of those numbers improved dramatically. As a BayHawk, Ahearn averaged 25.7 points per game, the most of any BayHawk who played at least 10 games. And his shooting percentages were much better: 43.3 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent from 3.

He also upped his assists from 4.1 to 6.7 per game and became a real workhorse, averaging a staggering 45 minutes per game during his time with the BayHawks.

Ahearn really went off during the month of March. Four times he played the full 48 minutes. Four times he hit at least four 3-pointers. On March 15, he set a BayHawks franchise record with 38 points in a win over the Utah Flash. He followed that up with another 38-point effort that included seven made 3s against his former team, the Dakota Wizards, albeit in a losing effort.

More than anything, Ahearn is a shooter. But he's in a class all by himself when it comes to free throw percentage. Ahearn showed why he is the NCAA's all-time free throw percentage leader. He made all but nine of his 176 free throw attempt (94.9 percent) s this season, including an 11-game stretch when he connected on 54 in a row. The league's second-best free throw shooter, Kevin Kruger, finished at 91.4 percent.

Ahearn and Mike Gansey, affectionately dubbed the Rockers by Ridiculous Upside's Scott Shroeder formed one of the most explosive and entertaining backcourts in the D-League when they were healthy as exemplified by their season-best five-game winning streak in early March.

The future of the BayHawks backcourt is one of the most interesting questions heading into next season. They played well at times with Cedric Jackson at the point. They played well with Blake Ahearn at the point. They did not fair particularly well when the two had to share the backcourt. If Jackson, who earned three call-ups this season, lands on an NBA team to start next season, maybe that issue resolves itself. I know Erie would love to have Ahearn and Gansey together for a full season. But there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before that can happen, namely if Ahearn and Gansey both want to return to the D-League for another season. Consider me squarely in the camp rooting against a Barber Shop moment for this duo of Rockers.

2009-10 Players in Review: John Bryant

Monday, May 10, 2010

John Bryant was one of the top rookie big men in the D-League this season. The 2009 WCC Player of the Year, Bryant averaged 13.4 points per game. He was even more effective on the boards. His 9.5 rebounds per game led the team and placed him eighth in the league. And at 7.4 defensive rebounds per game, Bryant ranked third.

Bryant also finished seventh in the league in double-doubles with 20 and seventh in blocks at 1.49 per game.

Offensively, Bryant has great touch for a big man. One of Erie's go-to plays was the pick and pop with Cedric Jackson and John Bryant. Big Bad John consistently nailed the jumper from the foul line or top of the key. He shot 49.6 percent from the field for the season. The one area of his offensive game that could use more work is down low on the block, where he often takes too long to initiate his move and looks indecisive or slow.

Conditioning is another question mark for the 300-pound Bryant. If he could shed some weight and get into better shape, he could get a look from an NBA team. He played just under 30 minutes per game, so it's not like he's unable to play long stretches, but it's visible to anyone watching that he doesn't have the prototypical NBA body, and he struggled against quicker, more athletic centers.

Defensively, Bryant was a key cog in Erie's defense, which ranked first in the league in defensive field goal percentage at 44.7 percent (thanks to Bob Chaikin for providing that stat.) In addition to the blocked shots, Bryant did a great job of altering countless others. On top of that, the mere presence of a 6'11", 300-pounder in the middle worked as a deterrent to keep players out of the paint in the first place, forcing tougher shots.

Bryant's future will be interesting to monitor. His combination of size and skill makes him one worth watching. As a rookie, he showed flashes of NBA potential. He also seemed overwhelmed at times by the speed of the game against certain opponents. I think if he returns to the D-League next season, Bryant could position himself for a call-up next season, but it will take a serious commitment on his part to improve not just his game but his conditioning and weight as well.

2009-10 Players in Review: Jackie Manuel

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jackie Manuel is the player every coach wants on his team. He hustles, plays great defense, and rarely plays beyond his ability. His fourth season in the D-League and second as a BayHawk featured career high averages in minutes (41.7) and points (13.9) per game. Manuel also started more games as a BayHawk this season (43) than any other player.

Manuel missed a few games due to a death in the family, but he was Erie's Iron Man. He didn't just lead the team in minutes per game, he was second in the entire league, trailing only Iowa's Curtis Stinson. In addition to a spike in his scoring, Manuel boosted his assist numbers by almost a full point from 1.8 per game to 2.7.

Of course, Manuel's most valuable attribute on the court remains his defense. He was the defensive stopper when North Carolina won the 2005 NCAA championship, and he was the defensive stopper with the BayHawks this season, regularly accepting the challenge of guarding the other team's best perimeter player. His defensive range shows in the defensive stat categories as well. He was 25th in the league in steals (1.48) per game and 24th in blocks (0.91) per game.

Manuel is one of the most experienced D-League players. With that in mind, he'll have a tough decision on his hands next season. Does he return for a fifth D-League season? Does he test the overseas market? It's tough to say.

Despite enhancing his offensive game and adding some bulk last offseason, Manuel's improvements were not enough to earn him the NBA call-up he's worked so hard for. Aside from the issue of body size, the biggest question mark with Manuel is on the offensive end, specifically his jumpshot. It went from suspect to streaky this season. His 3-point percentage and free throw percentage both showed marginal gains from last season, but neither is where he needs them to be if he wants to catch the eyes of NBA scouts.Also, his overall field goal percentage dipped from 47.9 to 44.2 percent.

That said, Manuel has one of the most consistent performers for the BayHawks this season, scoring in double figures in 36 of his 44 games. He also probably had more highlight reel plays than any other player, mixing in a fair share of posterizing dunks and big time blocked shots. If Manuel doesn't return to Erie, it won't be because of a lack of interest from the BayHawks.

Frustrated Incorporated -or- Why I'm Not a Betting Man

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

OK, so this is a personal rant. Read at your own discretion. The Rio Grande Valley Vipers just won the 2010 D-League championship. Congratulations to them, but they just drove a stake through my heart as well.

I entered the NBA D-League's 2010 "choose your own" Twitter contest. The rules were simple. Prior to the start of the playoffs, you had to tweet your picks for the D-League finals, who would win and the score of the decisive game. I had Rio Grande Valley over Tulsa in a 221-point finale.

As it turned out, only one other person had RGV vs. Tulsa in the finals. He or she had a final score of just 167 points. I'm not yet sure who that other person was, but I wonder if they were glued to the computer screen as I was, stuck watching a periodically updating box score with the game only being broadcast on tape delay on Versus and not streamed live via FutureCast.

If you do the math between our predictions, I needed the total to be 189 points or greater. The other person needed 187 or less. I was feeling pretty confident heading into the game, but the fluke was on. These were the same two teams that combined for 231 points in Game 1. Yet somehow, they had just 131 heading into the fourth, leaving me to root for one of these three outcomes.

Down the stretch it looked like they might actually make a run at the 189-point mark, but defenses stiffened down the stretch and the game was tied at 91 with 8 seconds left, Vipers ball. A stop from Tulsa and the game goes into overtime where all I would have needed was 9 combined points to cross the threshold. As fate would have it, Vipers guard Craig Winder beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer that won the D-league championship for Rio Grande Valley while simultaneously losing the contest for me...BY A MERE FOUR POINTS.

To put that into perspective, these teams combined to miss 96 shots in the game. Ninety-six! If they would've made two of those 96 and shot just 44.7 percent from the field, I would have won the contest. The teams combined to miss eight free throws. Convert on just half of those misses and I'd be in the winner's circle. Or, if Winder's shot misses and the game goes into overtime, I'm sitting pretty for a prize with an RGV win or a retry if Tulsa were to win.

Instead, I'm left to write this blathering blog post pining about what coulda-shoulda-woulda been had there just been a few more points. Four points to be exact. Of course, had I just predicted a 106-101 finale, this post never would have had to happen. Bummer.

2009-10 Players in Review: Mike Gansey

Gansey was acquired by the BayHawks in a Dec. 31 trade that sent Erie's number one draft pick, Donell Taylor, to the Idaho Stampede. At the time of the trade, I was a bit skeptical since Taylor was a focal point of Erie's offense and Gansey was a sixth round pick by Idaho.

Fortunately, Gansey's arrival in Erie unleashed the player that helped West Virginia make an Elite Eight and Sweet 16 appearance in back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2005 and 2006. In 27 games as a BayHawk, Gansey averaged 18.4 points per game, highest among those who played at least 15 games with the team. He hit 59-181 3s (32.6 percent) and shot 83.1 percent from the line. But beyond the stats, what he gave Erie was the outside shooting threat that they did not have before acquiring him.

For the season, Gansey's 7.1 rebounds per game ranked him second in the D-League among guards. He actually averaged even better rebounding numbers with the BayHawks (8.2).

Gansey's best stretch of play came early in March. In six games, he averaged 26.2 points while shooting 18-37 from 3-point range, 10.5 rebounds, and 2 steals and led the BayHawks to a 5-1 record. He also earned D-League Performer of the Week honors for the week of Jan. 25, which was highlighted by the game against Springfield when he hit the game winning layup with just 8 seconds remaining.

Unfortunately, Gansey's time with the BayHawks was limited due to injury and illness. He missed 10 games in all.

Still, Gansey was one of the most valuable BayHawks this season and that's before you factor in the entertaining and informative blog he wrote over at Ridiculous Upside. After spurning the BayHawks in their inaugural season and choosing to play overseas after they made him their number one pick, Gansey won over the fans and organization with strong play on the court and great personality off it.

He showed glimpses of being NBA-caliber this season. Hopefully he's back in Erie next season to put together that same type of performance on a game-to-game basis and earn a shot at the next level.

2009-10 Players in Review: Cedric Jackson

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rookie Cedric Jackson probably improved more than any BayHawks player from the beginning to the end of the season. His development was duly noted by scouts at the NBA level, too, as he earned call-ups from three NBA teams (Cleveland, San Antonio, and Washington).

At the D-League level, Jackson was one of the league's best point guards. He finished the season third in the league in assists (7.4), 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.25), and fifth in steals (2.06) per game. Jackson was also a force attacking the rim. Using his lightning quick first step to get past his defender, Jackson earned a team-high 249 free throw attempts in his 34 games as a BayHawk while converting at a 72.3 percent clip. His 7.3 free throw attempts per game ranked ninth in the league. His nine double-doubles were also tied for sixth most among D-League guards.

The weak link of Jackson's game was his outside shooting. For the season, he shot 42.6 percent from the field and hit just 27 of 100 3-point attempts.

His best stretch of the season came in mid-January just prior to his first NBA call-up to the Cavs. In five games from January 10-19, Jackson averaged 36.8 minutes, 27 points, 9 assists, and 2 steals per game, and shot 47-55 from the free throw line. The BayHawks went 4-1 over that stretch. They proceeded to go 2-7 after he was called up to Cleveland.

Later in the season, team chemistry wasn't quite the same with Jackson and newly acquired Blake Ahearn in the backcourt, but that should not overshadow Jackson's development as a first-year pro. After three separate stints in the NBA, Jackson has his sights set on making an NBA roster to start the 2010-11 season. Despite limited minutes at the NBA level, I think the odds are at least 50/50 if not better that Jackson does land an NBA gig, possibly in Washington, where he finished the season on a high note.

He has NBA quickness. And at 6'3" he has good length for a point guard. Defensively he has a lot to offer. He was the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year at Cleveland State and was one of the best on-ball perimeter defenders in the D-League. Spending time in San Antonio under Gregg Popovich and in Cleveland under Mike Brown likely helped him learn some more about playing defense at the NBA level and defending the pick 'n roll.

If he doesn't make it, the reason will be shooting. Jackson should be spending hours every day this summer with a shooting coach, working to improve his outside jumper. If he can develop a respectable perimeter game to keep defenses honest, there will be nothing stopping him from earning a backup point guard role. If he remains the player he is today, he may still catch on somewhere in a niche role or he may wind up back in the D-League or playing overseas. It would be somewhat surprising to see him back with the BayHawks next season. He has NBA athleticism. If he can augment the skills he has and continue to work hard to refine his offensive game, he'll have an NBA contract as well.

Filling Out My NBA Playoff Bracket

Friday, April 16, 2010

March Madness left me wounded (thanks a lot, Syracuse!) But the D-League playoffs have me on the rebound with my predictions after going 4-0 in the first round. So, I thought I'd take a stab at the NBA playoffs while I'm at it.

For what it's worth, I hit on six of the eight playoff teams in both my East and West preseason predictions. I narrowly missed on the Thunder (9th) and seriously underestimated Milwaukee, who I picked to finish dead last in the East.

The biggest difference is between the NBA playoffs and NCAA Tournament is that March Madness is one-and-done, which, as we all witnessed this year, opens the door to plenty of unpredictable upsets. In the D-League, the playoffs expanded to a best-of-3 series this season, so upsets are still possible, but it can't happen with just one fluke performance. The NBA model of best-of-7 means the best team usually wins. With that in mind, here are my picks:

1st Round
1. Cleveland Cavaliers over 8. Chicago Bulls in 4
4. Boston Celtics over 5. Miami Heat in 7
3. Atlanta Hawks over 6. Milwaukee Bucks in 6
2. Orlando Magic over 7. Charlotte Bobcats in 6

1. Los Angeles Lakers over 8. Oklahoma City Thunder in 5
4. Denver Nuggets over 5. Utah Jazz in 7
3. Phoenix Suns over Portland Trail Blazers in 6
2. Dallas Mavericks over San Antonio Spurs in 6

2nd Round
1. Cleveland Cavaliers over 4. Boston Celtics in 5
2. Orlando Magic over 3. Atlanta Hawks in 6

1. Los Angeles Lakers over 4. Denver Nuggets in 7
2. Dallas Mavericks over 3. Phoenix Suns in 6

Conference Finals
1. Cleveland Cavaliers over 2. Orlando Magic in 6

1. Los Angeles Lakers over 2. Dallas Mavericks in 6

2010 NBA Finals
Los Angeles Lakers over Cleveland Cavaliers in 7

I know the Lakers are entering the playoffs with several question marks. Their play has tapered off down the stretch. Andrew Bynum hasn't played in weeks. Kobe Bryant is showing signs of wear and tear. Plus, LeBron James has been a force all year long and seems hell bent on winning the title this year before becoming a free agent this summer.

Still, I picked the Lakers over the Cavs way back in October, and I'm a Lakers fan, so I'm sticking with the pick. It's almost impossible for a defending NBA champion to come in under the radar, but this Lakers team is not expected to win. People are talking about them like they're a lost cause. If anyone can perform an instant playoff turnaround, it's Phil Jackson. And if they do advance to the Finals to meet the Cavs, the Phil Jackson vs. Mike Brown coaching dynamic favors the Lakers. And although Kobe-LeBron is no longer a question in terms of athletic talent, LeBron still hasn't gotten it done in the postseason. There is no doubt that Kobe's competitive fire will be at an all-time high if this series materializes because he wants no part of being a torch passer. Not now. Not yet. Lakers in a memorable seven games is my prediction.

All NBA D-League Teams Announced

The official 2009-10 All D-League teams were announced today as follows:

1st Team
Guard: Curtis Stinson, Iowa Energy
Guard: Reggie Williams, Sioux Falls Skyforce
Forward: Mike Harris, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Forward: Cartier Martin, Iowa Energy
Center: Dwayne Jones, Austin Toros

2nd Team
Guard: Will Conroy, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Guard: Mustafa Shakur, Tulsa 66ers
Forward: Alonzo Gee, Austin Toros
Forward: Rob Kurz, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Center: Brian Butch, Bakersfield Jam

3rd Team
Guard: Antonio Anderson, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Guard: Curtis Jerrells, Austin Toros
Forward: Alade Aminu, Bakersfield Jam
Forward: Larry Owens, Tulsa 66ers
Center: Earl Barron, Iowa Energy

Honorable Mentions
Guard: Morris Almond, Maine Red Claws
Guard: Desmon Farmer, Reno Bighorns
Guard: Orien Greene, Utah Flash
Guard: Cedric Jackson, Erie BayHawks
Guard: Coby Karl, daho Stampede
Guard: Keith McLeod, Albuquerque Thunderbirds
Guard: Garrett Temple, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Forward: Romel Beck, Dakota Wizards
Forward: Rod Benson, Reno Bighorns
Forward: Bennett Davis, Utah Flash
Forward: Trey Gilder, Albuquerque Thunderbirds
Forward: Donell Taylor, Idaho Stampede
Center: John Bryant, Erie BayHawks
Center: Byron Mullens, Tulsa 66ers
Center: Greg Stiemsma, Sioux Falls Skyforce

Today also marked the release of the D-League blogosphere's All-D-League selections over at Ridiculous Upside, which included a vote from yours truly. The results can be seen below.

1st Team
Guard: Curtis Stinson, Iowa Energy
Guard: Reggie Williams, Sioux Falls Skyforce (Morris Almond)
Forward: Mike Harris, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Forward: Cartier Martin, Iowa Energy (Rob Kurz)
Center: Dwayne Jones, Austin Toros

2nd team
Guard: Will Conroy, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Guard: Morris Almond, Maine Red Claws (Mustafa Shakur)
Forward: Carlos Powell, Albuquerque Thunderbirds (Rod Benson)
Forward: Rob Kurz, Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Reggie Williams)
Center: Earl Barron, Iowa Energy

3rd Team
Guard: Mustafa Shakur, Tulsa 66ers (Curtis Jerrells)
Guard: Alonzo Gee, Austin Toros (Orien Greene)
Forward: Cartier Martin, Iowa Energy (Romel Beck)
Forward: Larry Owens, Tulsa 66ers (Carlos Powell)
Center: Rod Benson, Reno Bighorns (Brian Butch)

Honorable Mentions
Guard: Curtis Jerrells, Austin Toros
Guard: Donell Taylor, Idaho Stampede
Guard: Blake Ahearn, Erie BayHawks
Guard: Orien Greene, Utah Flash
Guard: Coby Karl, Idaho Stampede
Forward: Romel Beck, Dakota Wizards
Forward: Diamon Simpson, Los Angeles D-Fenders
Center: John Bryant, Erie BayHawks
Center: Brian Butch, Bakersfield Jam
Center: Greg Stiemsma, Sioux Falls Skyforce

Cedric Jackson Finishes NBA Season on a High Note

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It took three teams, four contracts, and 12 appearances, but Cedric Jackson finally got a chance to put his talent on display in the NBA last night in the Washington Wizards’ season finale, a 98-97 win over the Indiana Pacers.

In the game, Jackson set season highs for minutes played (19) and points (8). Granted the game was between two teams long eliminated from playoff contention, and Jackson did commit 5 turnovers to go along with his 4 assists. Still, the rookie point guard made plays down the stretch of an NBA game and scored all 8 of his points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning 3-pointer, the first 3 of Jackson’s NBA career, with 1:31 left to play.

The game was just his fourth as a Wizard and only the third all year in which he played at least 10 minutes. His previous highs of 15 minutes and 6 points each came during games he played as a member of the San Antonio Spurs back on March 13 and 12, respectively.

Jackson, who earned his first call-up from the Cleveland Cavaliers, saw both his minutes per game and points per game increase with each subsequent call-up. He finished his rookie NBA season (12 games played) with averages of 6.3 minutes, 1.7 points, 1.2 assists, 0.9 turnovers, 0.7 rebounds, 0.2 steals, and 0.2 blocks per game. It’s a small sample size, but the fact that three different teams chose to take a look at him is proof that there is interest in the lightning quick point guard heading into next season. The biggest detriment of Jackson’s game is probably his shooting touch. He finished just 6-20 (30 percent) from the field, 1-6 (16.7 percent) from 3, and 7-12 (58.3 percent) from the free throw line.

After spending most of his call-up time with Cleveland and San Antonio riding the bench for playoff-bound teams, it was nice to see Jackson get an opportunity to finally play some legitimate minutes in the season finale for a Wizards team that has some serious questions to answer and holes to plug in its roster as it looks forward to the 2010-11 season.

An 8-point fourth quarter and game-winning 3? As Herm Edwards would say, he can build on this! If Jackson can put together a strong summer—especially if he can find a shooting coach and improve his outside jumper—then I’d say there’s no reason why Jackson shouldn’t be competing for a backup point guard spot in the NBA next fall, possibly even in Washington.

2009-10 Erie BayHawks Season in Review, Part 3: March/April

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This is the third part of my three-part month-by-month review of the BayHawks’ 2009-10 season. Be sure to also read parts one (November/December) and two (January/February). Today's post focuses on the months of March and April as Erie made one final push for the postseason only to come up short.


Record: 6-5 (3-5 Home, 3-0 Road)
Iowa 116, Erie 111 (box | review)
Iowa 120, Erie 127 (box | review)
Sioux Falls 93, Erie 116 (box | review)
Erie 101, Albuquerque 97 (box | review)
Erie 116, Idaho 102 (box | review)
Erie 111, Utah 101 (box | review)
Dakota 109, Erie 105 (box | review)
Dakota 101, Erie 100 (box | review)
Fort Wayne 90, Erie 86 (box | review)
Fort Wayne 82, Erie 95 (box | review)
Fort Wayne 114, Erie 108 (box | review)

March 2: Acquired Blake Ahearn in a trade with Bakersfield Jam for Alade Aminu.
March 10: Cedric Jackson called up by San Antonio Spurs
March 11: Acquired Mike Sweetney
March 20: Darnell Jackson re-assigned by Cleveland Cavaliers
March 21: Darnell Jackson recalled by Cleveland Cavaliers
March 31: Cedric Jackson called up by Washington Wizards

BayHawks C0-Players of the Month
Mike Gansey: 44.3 mpg, 21.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 48.9 percent shooting, 45.2 percent 3-point shooting, 2.1 spg
Blake Ahearn: 45.1 mpg, 24.6 ppg, 6.1 apg, 97.7 percent free throw shooting (85-87), 41.2 percent 3-point shooting

20/20 Hindsight
March was perhaps the most interesting month of the season for the BayHawks. Despite losing their all-star forward Alade Aminu, the BayHawks started the month strong, including a season-high five straight games behind the amazing guard play of Blake Ahearn and Mike Gansey. When Cedric Jackson returned to the lineup, the team suddenly seemed to have too much talent at guard and the team chemistry appeared affected. Mike Gansey then came down with an illness that cost him about two weeks worth of games, and the team ultimately came up short of the playoffs. Still, the team that played for much of the month of March looked like a team that could've been a playoff team had they played the full season together.


Record: 2-0 (1-0 Home, 1-0 Road)
Springfield 90, Erie 107 (box | review)
Erie 105, Maine 97 (box | review)


BayHawks Player of the Month
Blake Ahearn: 45 mpg, 31.5 ppg, 10 apg, 54.1 percent (13-24) 3-point shooting

20/20 Hindsight
The BayHawks closed the season on a high note, winning both of their games in April. The first game was a game they almost had to win, the Fan Appreciation Night home finale against league worst Springfield. The follow-up was much more telling of this team's character. The night after the Springfield game, Erie had to play in Maine in a televised game that the Red Claws needed to win to get into the playoffs. Erie was playing for pride, and yet they prevailed on the strength of Blake Ahearn's hot shooting.

Gansey Part of NBA Contingent Headed to China

Monday, April 12, 2010

Straight press release from me today:

Erie BayHawks guard Mike Gansey is part of a contingent of NBA Legends and NBA Development League players headed to the Sichuan Province to participate in NBA Cares events and play two games in support of Beijing Aoshen basketball team charity efforts April 16-18. The activities are part of the NBA’s continued commitment to support rebuilding efforts in the earthquake stricken Sichuan Province.

Gansey was one of several D-League players that was asked to participate in the events and jumped at the opportunity to travel abroad. “I’ll represent Erie in the best way I can,” said Gansey. “As soon as I was asked I said ‘of course I want to go.’ I’ve been overseas before but never to China. I’m really looking forward to playing and hanging out with guys like Chris Mullin and Robert Horry and the rest of the D-League players,” he added.

Gansey departs Wednesday morning for the weeklong trip. The rest of the roster is still being finalized due to the ongoing D-League playoffs.

On April 17 and 18, Gansey and his teammates through an invitation from Beijing Aoshen basketball team, will participate in two exhibition games to celebrate the successful completion of the Chengdu International Basketball Invitation Tournament. The Chengdu NBA Aoshen Legends Game will be two friendly games that will see the NBA Legends switch sides and play for Aoshen at halftime of each game. The New Jersey Nets Dance Team and Mascot, SLY the fox will also make the trip.

Preceding the games, on April 16, Mullin, NBA D-League players and the New Jersey Nets dance team and mascot will join NBA Cares, the league’s global social responsibility program, to unveil four refurbished courts at the Dujiangyan Qingcheng Mountain Advanced Secondary School. Following the unveiling, the former NBA stars will host a basketball clinic for the students.

One hundred selected students and earthquake orphans from the Dujiangyan School will also be invited to attend the exhibition game on April 17 and 18 and will be recognized on court during the game.

Fans can watch for updates of Gansey’s trip on the team’s website at

2009-10 Erie BayHawks Season in Review, Part 2: January/February

Friday, April 9, 2010

If you missed it, I looked back at November and December yesterday in part one of my 2009-10 season review.

Here now is part two of my three-part month-by-month review of the BayHawks’ 2009-10 season. Today's post focuses on the months of January and February when Erie continued to retool and reshape itself on the fly in an attempt to turn its fortunes around.


Record: 8-7 (3-3 Home, 3-4 Road, 2-0 Neutral)
Erie 86, Maine 94 (box | review)
Erie 75, Springfield 97 (box | review)
*Reno 88, Erie 92 OT (box | review)
*Erie 102, Los Angeles 89 (box | review)
Fort Wayne 89, Erie 87 (box | review)
Fort Wayne 70, Erie 100 (box | review)
Fort Wayne 97, Erie 109 (box | review via D-League)
Erie 91, Tulsa 91 (box | review)
Erie 102, Tulsa 97 (box | review)
Erie 113, Austin 121 (box | review)
Rio Grande Valley 110, Erie 88 (box | review via D-League)
Rio Grande Valley 100, Erie 94 (box | review via D-League)
Springfield 94, Erie 95 (box | review)
Erie 78, Maine 82 (box | review)
Erie 93, Springfield 91 (box | review)

*D-League Showcase

Jan. 4: Acquired Booker Woodfox. Waived Martin Zeno.
Jan. 11: Acquired Frank Tolbert. Waived Booker Woodfox.
Jan. 23: Cedric Jackson called up by Cleveland Cavaliers
Jan. 29: Acquired Tychicus Snow.

BayHawks C0-Players of the Month
Alade Aminu: 33.4 mpg, 16.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1 bpg
Cedric Jackson: 35 mpg, 21.5 ppg, 7.8 apg, 4.7 rpg, 2.4 spg

20/20 Hindsight
January was the month where Alade Aminu flashed his all-star potential with a 30-point, 23-rebound effort in front of NBA scouts in Erie's first game of the D-League Showcase. Unfortunately, the month ended with Aminu playing just 38 minutes combined in two games, foreshadowing the eventual deal that would send him out of Erie. On a positive note, January was the BayHawks' first winning month of the season, highlighted by a 2-0 performance in the Showcase, back-to-back road wins in Tulsa, and Mike Gansey's clutch free throws against Springfield that helped earn him D-League Performer of the Week honors.


Record: 1-8 (1-2 Home, 0-6 Road)
Iowa 101, Erie 87 (box | review)
Erie 94, Iowa 97 (box | review)
Erie 78, Iowa 102 (box | review)
Erie 82, Iowa 85 (box | review)
Erie 84, Fort Wayne 105 (box | review via D-League)
Erie 80, Fort Wayne 91 (box | review via D-League)
Dakota 108, Erie 114 (box | review)
Dakota 108, Erie 103 (box | review)
Erie 95, Maine 102 (box | review)

Feb. 5: Waived Kyle Goldcamp due to injury.
Feb. 16: Re-acquired Cedric Jackson.
Feb. 24: Danny Green adn Darnell Jackson assigned by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Feb. 25: Re-acquired Kyle Goldcamp
Feb. 25: Waived Tychicus Snow
Feb. 26: Darnell Jackson recalled by Cavaliers
Feb. 28: Danny Green recalled by Cavaliers.

BayHawks Player of the Month
Mike Gansey: 39.4 mpg, 14.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg

20/20 Hindsight
February was a month to forget for the BayHawks, featuring a season-long six game losing streak and just one win, which happened to be the night Cleveland assigned both Darnell Jackson and Danny Green. Alade Aminu earned an all-star selection only to regress in his performance and see his playing time diminish. Cedric Jackson earned a call-up that left the team void of ballhandling and movement on offense. Mike Gansey earned my nod for player of the month over the likes of Ivan Harris, John Bryant, and Jackie Manuel, even though February was Gansey's worst shooting month as a BayHawk at 39.3 percent from the field. That about sums it up. February was an ugly month for Erie as game after game they reinvented ways to lose.

2009-10 Erie BayHawks Season in Review, Part 1: November/December

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Erie BayHawks set the bar high by posting a 27-23 record and qualifying for the postseason in their inaugural season last year. The team had high hopes for the 2009-10 season despite an opening day roster that returned just three players from last year’s team. In fact, they were ranked fourth in the initial D-League power rankings.

But after winning the season opener on the road against Fort Wayne, Erie lost seven of their next eight games and never again rose above the .500 mark. The midseason trade that brought in Mike Gansey and late-season trade that brought in Blake Ahearn provided small boosts, but the team was unable to find a consistent winning formula, finishing the season 21-29, sixth in the East Conference and six games back of the eighth playoff spot.

Here now is part one of three of my month-by-month review of the BayHawks’ 2009-10 season, a season that was ultimately disappointing but not without its share of memorable moments.


Record: 1-1 (0-0 Home, 1-1 Road)
Erie 85, Fort Wayne 77 (box | review)
Erie 82, Fort Wayne 93 (box | review)

Nov. 6: Acquired Alade Aminu from Fort Wayne for rights to Rob Kurz.
Nov. 16: Waived Derrick Mercer, Raheem Moss, Jeff Skemp, and Ryan Troutman.
Nov. 18: Waived Joe Jones.
Nov. 25: Waived Oliver Lafayette and Rod Wilmont.

BayHawks Player of the Month
John Bryant: 37 mpg, 15 ppg, 14 rpg, 2 bpg

20/20 Hindsight
Lafayette and Wilmont both signed with the Mad Ants soon after Erie cut them. Both would factor into Fort Wayne victories over Erie later in the season. Kurz pushed for a trade and had little or no interest in playing for the BayHawks, but I can't help but wonder how the season would've played out differently had he been on the roster all season in place of Aminu, who was himself eventually traded to Bakersfield.


Record: 3-8 (1-5 Home, 2-3 Road)
Erie 101, Sioux Falls 110 (box | review)
Erie 109, Sioux Falls 107 OT (box | review via D-League)
Maine 116, Erie 90 (box | review)
Maine 81, Erie 77 (box | review)
Maine 96, Erie 75 (box | review)
Erie 88, Iowa 95 (box | review)
Erie 89, Iowa 99 (box | review)
Erie 108, Springfield 94 (box | review)
Iowa 99, Erie 90 (box | review)
Iowa 100, Erie 95 OT (box | review)
Bakersfield 78, Erie 91 (box | review)

Dec. 18: Acquired Cliff Clinkscales. Waived Zach Sowers.
Dec. 31: Acquired Mike Gansey in a trade with Idaho for Donell Taylor.

BayHawks Player of the Month
Jackie Manuel: 42 mpg, 14.2 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.9 stocks (steals+blocks) per game

20/20 Hindsight
This wasthe month the train got off track. Erie lost its first five home games and sputtered offensively, failing to score 95 points seven times in 11 games. Fairly or not, Erie's offensive disarray was traced back to the failed experiment to play Donell Taylor at point guard. As a result, Taylor was shipped to Idaho for Mike Gansey, which also allowed rookie Cedric Jackson to take over the role of point guard. The Dec. 27 loss at home to Iowa was among the worst of the season for the BayHawks as they blew a 30-point lead before bowing out in overtime.

Final Game Highlights: Erie BayHawks 105, Maine Red Claws 97

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Erie wrapped up the season with a 105-97 win over the Maine Red Claws. It was their first win in seven tries against the Red Claws this season. The Red Claws finished the season with six straight losses and missed out on the playoffs at 27-23. Erie finished the year 21-29 by winning their last two games.

The 2010 D-League Playoffs will begin on Wednesday. The Erie BayHawks season is now over, but that doesn't mean Blog Talk BayHawk will shut down. We'll be transitioning into off-season mode, but not before recapping all of the ups and downs from the 2009-10 season.

Springfield Game Review + Season Finale Game Preview: Erie BayHawks (20-29) vs. Maine Red Claws (27-22)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The BayHawks closed out their home schedule yesterday with a 107-90 victory over the Springfield Armor. Tonight, they finish the season on the road against the Maine Red Claws in a game that will be televised on Versus tonight at 11 p.m.

Erie coming in: Yesterday's win was the second in three games for the BayHawks and their 10th home win of the season (10-15). Blake Ahearn led the way with 31 points, including 6-14 from 3, and 11 assists. Mike Gansey also made a splash in his return to the lineup, shooting 7-12 from the field for 16 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 6 assists. Ivan Harris and John Bryant each chipped in with 15 points, and Mike Sweetney and Kyle Goldcamp each had 12. Abdulai Jalloh was a one-man wrecking crew for the Armor, scoring a game-high 35 points in a losing effort.

Check out the highlights below:

Maine coming in: After sporting one of the top records in the league earlier this season, the Red Claws have fallen off down the stretch. They've lost five straight, including a 102-95 loss at home last night against Fort Wayne, and currently sit in eighth place in the D-League standings at 27-22.

What's at stake tonight?
For Maine, the stakes couldn't be much higher. They need a win plus a loss by Reno in one of the Bighorns' final two games in order to make the playoffs because Reno (26-22) owns the tiebreaker by virtue of going 2-0 against the Red Claws this season.

For Erie, they have a chance to play the role of spoiler in a game that will be on national TV. This is also their final opportunity to break through and get a victory against Maine. The BayHawks are 0-6 against the Red Claws so far this season, but this is the first time Erie has played Maine since acquiring Blake Ahearn and Michael Sweetney. It should be a fun backcourt matchup with Maine's Russell Robinson and Maurice Ager going head-to-head against Ahearn and Mike Gansey.

Home Finale Game Preview: Springfield Armor (7-42) vs. Erie BayHawks (19-29)

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's been a rocky season for the Erie BayHawks. Inconsistent play has led to a disappointing season that will see the team finish with a losing record and miss the playoffs after qualifying for the postseason as an expansion team last year. The season wraps up tomorrow night in Maine in a game that can be seen on Versus (tune in after the Final Four finishes!).

Tonight marks the final home game for the BayHawks. The friendly confines of Tullio Arena have been a bit too friendly for visiting squads this season. Erie is 9-15 at home. The good news is that their home finale opponent is the league's worst team, the Springfield Armor, who are just 7-42 this year. It's Fan Appreciation Night, and I have courtside seats, so here's hoping the BayHawks close out the home slate on a high note!

Game 49 Preview: Springfield Armor (7-42) vs. Erie BayHawks (19-29)

Springfield coming in: The Armor haven't won a game since March 16 when they defeated Albuquerque 108-104. They're currently on an eight-game losing streak. Worse yet, the Armor are 0-24 on the road this season. With tonight being their last game of the season, Springfield is going to be determined to break through and avoid the embarrassment of the 0-fer. It doesn't hurt that the Armor did defeat the BayHawks once earlier this season either, although both rosters are considerably different than they were back then.

Erie coming in: After winning five of their first six games in March, Erie closed the month by losing four of five and being eliminated from playoff contention. Point guard Cedric Jackson was called up by the Washington Wizards and thus will not be with the BayHawks for the final two games. Jackson's departure will shift Blake Ahearn back into the role as the primary ballhandler. The good news for Erie is that Mike Gansey is slated to return to the lineup tonight after missing the past three games recovering from the flu.

BayHawks keys to success: Honestly, there's not a whole lot new to say at this point in the season. Both teams are playing for pride, so I'm not going to get into the X's and O's for this one. But there are three storylines worth following tonight.

  • The Rockers Reunion
    Ridiculous Upside's Scott Schroeder dubbed Ahearn and Gansey as the Rockers. I'm not sure if the Armor is more Iron Mike Sharpe or The Intruder, but you get the idea. When Cedric Jackson was with the Spurs, Ahearn and Gansey were really clicking in the BayHawks backcourt. Jackson returned, Gansey got sick, and production dropped off, but the tandem gets one last chance to shine in Erie tonight, and there will be no Barber Shop Incident that breaks up this team

  • Fan Appreciation Night
    A large crowd is expected tonight in Erie as it is the final game of the season and Fan Appreciation Night. I don't know how much of a difference a packed crowd can make on a game, but I think it's safe to say the BayHawks would like to give their fans a good showing to close out the home schedule.

  • Springfield's Last Hope
    As I mentioned earlier, the Armor has not won a road game all season long. However, one of the Armor's closest calls came during their only other trip to Erie. Springfield led by 8 points with just over four minutes remaining before the BayHawks mounted a late surge, eventually winning 95-94 thanks to two clutch three throws from Gansey. If Springfield loses again tonight, that 0-25 mark is going to stick with them for a long time. On the flip side, Erie doesn't want to be the team that ended that streak, especially in the home finale.

Cedric Jackson to the NBA, Version 3.0

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Yesterday, Scott Schroeder broke the news at Ridiculous Upside that Cedric Jackson is headed back to the NBA for the third time this season. His newest team is the Washington Wizards.

After playing out two 10-day contracts after a call-up by Erie's affiliate, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jackson was more recently called up by the San Antonio Spurs where he spent another 10-day contract. He didn't receive a whole lot of playing time in either stop, but he did have the opportunity to team with the likes of LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal, and Tim Ducan, not to mention learn from the coaching staffs of two of the league's premiere franchises.

Unlike Cleveland and San Antonio, Washington is not a championship contender. Heck, they're not even sniffing the playoffs. They spent this season breaking up the core of their team after the Gilbert Arenas incident. That's good and bad for Jackson. The bad is that there aren't as many people in place to learn from with the Wizards. The good news is, Washington is a place where he could actually play this season or, at least, a place where he could latch on for a longer-than-10-day future.

I spoke at length with when Jackson was brought in by San Antonio, and not much has changed about his game or my opinion of him since then. Listen to part one and part two of my interview for more on what Jackson brings to the table.

There are only two weeks left in the NBA season, so I'm not sure how great of an impact Jackson can make now, but if Washington holds onto his rights, they can get a better look at him over the summer, bring him into camp, and maybe find him a spot on the roster at the start of next season.

Weekend Games Review: Fort Wayne Mad Ants vs. Erie BayHawks

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Erie BayHawks finished their 10-game season series this weekend. Erie won Friday's meeting 95-82, but Fort Wayne claimed the series finale on Sunday, 114-110, to win the season series 6-4.

Highlights from Friday:

Highlights from Sunday:

Both teams have been eliminated from playoff contention and currently sit fifth and sixth in the East Conference, respectively. Fort Wayne is 19-28. Next they have two games at Springfield before finishing the season at Maine on Friday. Erie hosts Springfield on Friday before also finishing the season out at Maine on Saturday, a game that will also be shown on Versus.

There's not a whole lot to take from this weekend other than the fact that the BayHawks continue to be plagued by inconsistency.

Jackie Manuel looked good, scoring 22 and 20 points, respectively, but the team missed the shooting presence of Mike Gansey.

Neither Michael Sweetney nor John Bryant had much of an impact on the two games.

Blake Ahearn thrived with 29 points in Friday's win, and Cedric Jackson starred with 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists in Sunday's loss. Unfortunately, both players seem more comfortable playing with the ball in their hand, which neutralizes their effectiveness when they play together in the backcourt.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the performances of the former BayHawks in Friday's win for Fort Wayne. Oliver Lafayette torched Erie for 33 points and 8 assists (with 4 turnovers). He also hit a clutch jumper over the outstretched arms of Jackie Manuel with 44 seconds left to put the Mad Ants up 3 after Cedric Jackson had cut the lead to 1.

After Jackson scored again to cut it to one, Erie nearly stole the ball. But after a scramble for the loose ball, Rod Wilmont drained a 3 with 8.3 seconds left to put Fort Wayne up 4. Wilmont, who was one of the final preseason cuts by the BayHawks along with Wilmont, scored 16 points and added 8 rebounds for the Mad Ants. After Wilmont's 3, Michael Sweetney scored a quick bucket to trim the deficit back to 2. Erie fouled Lafayette, and he responded by calmly sinking two free throws to ice the game for Fort Wayne.

Short of a playoff berth, this had to be a great feeling for Lafayette and Wilmont to finish out the season with clutch performances against the team that let them loose to start the season.

For Erie, it was another in a long line of tough/disappointing losses on the season. The BayHawks are now just 9-15 at home this season with one home game remaining. That game comes against Springfield, the team with the worst record in the D-League. However, before Erie starts chalking up a victory, they should remember that the Armor did claim one of their seven wins against the BayHawks earlier this season.

Game Review: Fort Wayne Mad Ants 90, Erie BayHawks 86

Thursday, March 25, 2010

OK, so this is pretty skimpy as far as my reviews go, but I'm pressed for time, I didn't get to watch any of the game, and the BayHawks lost (again). Still, it's better than nothing.

Five sentence recap: Fort Wayne scored only 10 points in the first quarter. Following a Mad Ants comeback, the BayHawks rebuilt their lead to as much as 10 with just eight minutes left. The Mad Ants won the star player battle. Rob Kurz scored a team-high 23 points and added 15 rebounds to lead Fort Wayne. Cedric Jackson had 23 points for Erie, but he missed two shots in the final minute that would've given Erie the lead, and had 6 turnovers to go along with just 6 assists.

Player notes

  • Jackie Manuel started at small forward after missing the past three games for family reasons. He scored 8 points on 3-8 shooting in 39 minutes.
  • Mike Gansey missed the game with an illness and remains questionable for this weekend's games against Fort Wayne.
  • Aside from Jackson, Blake Ahearn and Ivan Harris were the only other BayHawks in double figures.
Erie's 86 points were the lowest the team had scored in more than a month and the first time the team hadn't eclipsed the 100-point mark in March. With the loss, the BayHawks fall to 18-28, half a game behind the Mad Ants (18-27). Fort Wayne now leads the season series 5-3 with two games remaining. Those games are the next two on the schedule with the Mad Ants and BayHawks meeting in Erie again tomorrow night at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2.

Game Preview: Fort Wayne Mad Ants (17-27) vs. Erie BayHawks (18-27)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tonight's game is a makeup of a game that was canceled back on February 10 due to weather/travel difficulties. A quick glance at the standings tells you that this game doesn't matter as much as it would have then as neither team is competing for a playoff berth.

However, with their next three games are against each other, Fort Wayne and Erie will be battling for fifth place in the East Conference and to avoid finishing second to last, ahead of lowly Springfield.

Tonight's matchup is the eighth of 10 games these teams will play this season. Fort Wayne currently leads the series 4-3 and has won the past two meetings. The Mad Ants roster includes former BayHawks Oliver Lafayette, who played for the team last season, and Rod Wilmont, who was cut by Erie in the preseason this year.

Game 46 Preview: Fort Wayne Mad Ants (17-27) vs. Erie BayHawks (18-27)

Fort Wayne coming in: The Mad Ants come to Erie riding a three-game winning streak. They have not won more than three games in a row all season, so they'll have that as an additional motivating factor for tonight's game. Starting tonight, each of the Mad Ants' final six games is on the road, so they have their work cut out for them.

Erie coming in: The BayHawks lost two critical games in devastating fashion over the weekend against the Dakota Wizards, ending their playoff dreams and snapping what was a season-high five-game winning streak. Erie is just 8-13 at home this season, but they have a chance to improve on that mark with four of their final five games at home.

BayHawks keys to success:

  • Get the shooters involved.
    The month of March was a great one for the BayHawks until this past weekend when they squandered away back-to-back games down the stretch. The biggest reason for their success was the hot shooting of Blake Ahearn and Mike Gansey. With the return of Cedric Jackson on Saturday (and the assignment of Darnell Jackson from the Cavs), the BayHawks' offense had a whole different focus.

    Touches and shots were hard to come by for both Ahearn and Gansey, and the offense became stagnant, revolving around one or two players. Both Ahearn and Gansey are too good to be underused as they were on Saturday. Darnell Jackson won't be there tonight since he was released by the Cavs yesterday, so there should be additional shots to go around. In my opinion, those shots should go to Ahearn, Gansey, and Ivan Harris, especially when Cedric Jackson drives to the hoop and draws extra attention from help defenders.

  • Limit the Bryant/Sweetney combo
    The Michael Sweetney experiment has been, for the most part, an effective one for the BayHawks. The big man has shown a deft shooting touch and a nice arsenal of post moves. You can see glimpses of why he enticed the Knicks as a lottery pick a few years and a few dozen pounds ago. The one area where I think Sweetney has proven to be a detriment to the team is when they play him at the power forward position beside John Bryant. Offensively, it's tough for other teams to match that kind of front line size, but Dakota exploited them on the defensive end, pushing the ball up after makes and misses and utilizing the quickness and agility of their 4s and 5s. Sweetney and Bryant are each effective on their own, but together, they seem to do more harm than good.

  • Continue to control Rob Kurz
    Rob Kurz is another reason to limit the Bryant/Sweetney combo. Both players would struggle to defend the 6'9" Kurz, who is very comfortable stretching the defense. In four games against the BayHawks this season (he missed three of their matchups earlier this season), Kurz averaged just 9.3 points per game. Aside from the 16-point, 19-rebound effort he had in a 93-82 win over Erie back in November, Kurz has been pretty much a non-factor against the BayHawks. But Kurz was named an all-star for a reason, and this Erie roster is different than the ones that Kurz faced earlier in the year. The BayHawks need to be conscious of where he is on the court at all times. If they can keep his production down, they'll have a good shot to win the game.

Game Review: Dakota Wizards 101, Erie BayHawks 100

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The BayHawks wound up on the wrong end of a March Madness buzzer beater last night, losing 101-100 to the Dakota Wizards in an exciting game that was also featured on Versus.

It was a heartbreaking loss for a BayHawks team that included Darnell Jackson on assignment from Cleveland and Cedric Jackson back from his 10-day stint with the San Antonio Spurs. After Mike Sweetney hit 1 of 2 free throws to give Erie a one-point lead with 3.5 seconds remaining, Dakota's Corsley Edwards found Curtis Withers for the game-winning layup as time expired.

The loss dropped Erie to 18-27. Meanwhile, the Wizards improved to 26-19, ever closer to clinching a playoff berth.

The Jacksons led the way for Erie. Cedric had 22 points and 11 assists while Darnell had 32 points and 11 rebounds in his second game with the BayHawks this season. Sweetney added 20 points for the BayHawks. Unfortunately for Erie, the new and returning additions to the roster seemed to throw their rotations and team chemistry a bit out of whack.

Mike Gansey and Blake Ahearn seemed particularly affected by the changes. With Cedric Jackson dominating the ball at the point and Darnell Jackson commanding it in the post, there weren't many touches to go around for what had been the hottest guard tandem in the league. Gansey was held scoreless for the first time since being traded to the BayHawks Dec. 31. He did pitch in with 8 rebounds and 2 steals, but it had to be frustrating for him to get just six shots after averaging more than 24 points a game coming in.

Similarly, Blake Ahearn, who set a BayHawks team record with 38 points on Monday night in Utah and then tied it with 38 again Friday night, struggled to find his rhythm offensively. One night after hitting 7-11 from 3, Ahearn shot 1-5 from 3 and 4-12 overall, while tying his lowest point total as a BayHawk of 13 points. As a team, Erie shot just 1-14 from 3.

I'm not sure exactly where the last two losses would rank on Bill Simmons' Levels of Losing, but they were among the toughest to take as a BayHawks fan this season. Between Friday night saw Erie blow a 17-point fourth-quarter lead and surrender a 10-0 in the final 2:57 to turn a six-point lead into a four-point loss. And Saturday's follow-up was a lesson in how to silence 5,000+ (reported, more realistically 3,000) free-fries-frenzied fans. A layup at the buzzer? That just can't happen. And let's not forget about missing 11 free throws on the night, including a big one that could have made it a two-point game with 3.5 seconds left.

Jackie Manuel missed his third game since returning home for his grandfather's funeral. His absence was never missed more than on the final possession, where they could have used Manuel's stout perimeter defense.

For another perspective on the game, check out Jon L's review of the BayHawks-Wizards game over at Ridiculous Upside. It's always worth reading the comments over there as well.

Next up for the BayHawks is a three-game set against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. All three games will be held in Erie.

Game Review: Dakota Wizards 109, Erie BayHawks 105

Saturday, March 20, 2010

These highlights really don't tell the story

This D-League game recap does a little better job.

My in-game tweets fill in some of the parts you won't find in the recap.

The bottom line is that Erie led 89-72 early in the fourth quarter and led for more than 22 minutes of the second half. Dakota outscored them 37-20 in the fourth and 10-0 in the final 2:57 to steal the win. Erie had a good look for Mike Gansey, Blake Ahearn, and John Bryant to either take the lead or tie in the final minute, but they couldn't get the shots to fall.

Ahearn was spectacular in the losing effort against his former team. He tied the BayHawks-record 38 points he scored last game against Utah. Tonight he did it on 11-22 shooting, 7-11 from 3, and 9-10 from the free throw line. Ivan Harris also had a big night with 26 points on 9-17 shooting, 6-12 from 3.

The refereeing was shaky down the stretch. Erie was whistled for twice as many fouls as the Wizards in the fourth quarter including a critical phantom foul call when it appeared that Lester Hudson tripped and fell over his own feet in the open court. That allowed Hudson to push Dakota's lead to 2 (he made 1 of 2 free throws) instead of giving the BayHawks the ball down by a point with a minute left.

With the loss, the BayHawks fall to 18-26. Dakota improves to 25-19 and increases their chances of earning a playoff berth. These teams will meet again Saturday night in Erie in a matchup that will air on Versus.

Weekend Games Preview: Dakota Wizards (24-19) vs. Erie BayHawks (18-25)

Friday, March 19, 2010

After a successful but brutal four-day West Conference road trip during which the BayHawks won three games, Erie returns home to host games tonight and tomorrow against the Dakota Wizards. The BayHawks and Wizards split a pair of games last month in Erie. An interesting scheduling quirk: all four of the meetings between these teams this season will take place in Erie.

On February 25, the BayHawks won the first meeting 114-108. That was Erie's only win in the month of February, which came thanks to a monster effort from forward Darnell Jackson in his one and only game on assignment from Cleveland. The Wizards took their revenge the following night, winning 108-103 in Hasheem Thabeet's D-League debut.

Dakota coming in: The Wizards (24-19) are currently seventh in the D-League standings, but they come to Erie having lost two straight and three of their past five games. Hasheem Thabeet is back in the NBA and showing signs of improvement for the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, the Wizards have a new NBA assignee in Lester Hudson. Erie fans may remember him as the guy that averaged 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists while leading the Maine Red Claws to back-to-back wins over the BayHawks back in December. Hudson hasn't played big minites in his eight games since joining Dakota, but he's still averaging 14.5 points per game off the bench.

Erie coming in: The BayHawks (18-25) are riding a season-high five-game winning streak and trying to make a desperate last-minute playoff push. If there's any chance of a playoff berth, the BayHawks need to win out. They'll also need to get some help in the form of losses by the teams ahead of them (Dakota, Utah, Reno, and Idao). Erie just beat Utah, Reno, and Idaho, and now they're presented with a chance to increase their slim playoff odds with a back-to-back against Dakota.

The month of March has been especially good for Erie's backcourt of Blake Ahearn and Mike "Snuggles" Gansey. Ahearn has turned his (and Erie's) season around since arriving in a trade from Bakersfield. This month he's averaging 26 points and 7.2 assists per gane and shooting lights out from 3 (43.2 percent) and the free throw line (96.1 percent). Gansey's numbers have spiked this month as well. He's averaging 26.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 55 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from 3. For selfish reasons, I don't want to see this backcourt get broken up; they play so well together, and the team is fun to watch with them clicking the way they have been the past several games. But if there's an NBA team out there in the market for a shooter, now would be the time to give Ahearn or Gansey the call-up.

BayHawks keys to success:

  • Keep it up
    Call it lazy on my part or a cop-out answer, but I'm not going to bother getting too technical. Let the good times roll. The BayHawks are playing their best basketball of the season, and they know it's going to take that same sustained effort and execution the rest of the way if they're going to sneak into the postseason. Their next six games are at home, so the schedule helps them out a little bit in that regard, but it won't be easy.

March Madness with Blog Talk BayHawk

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I know this is a D-League blog, but that's not going to stop me from getting involved in the wonderful spectacle that is March Madness, specifically the bracketology. If you'd like the opportunity to compete against me, head on over to ESPN's Tournament Challenge. Sign up/log in, fill out your bracket and join my group:

Group name: Blog Talk BayHawk
Password: nbadleague

It's free to enter, and I'm giving away a Blog Talk BayHawk prize pack to the winner, which will include a customized bracket champion T-shirt and a few other items that I've yet to think of just yet. Oh, and 365 days of bragging rights 'round here. So, sign up today and tell a friend.

2010 Erie BayHawks: March Madness Edition

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The NCAA Tournament tips off tomorrow, and it's likely that most, if not all, of the Erie BayHawks will be tuning in to check out some of the tournament action. March Madness is something many of them are familiar with. Four of the BayHawks' alma maters are in the Big Dance this year. West Virginia and Ohio State are both 2-seeds, Georgetown is a 3-seed, and Arkansas Pine-Bluff plays Tuesday against Winthrop in the Opening Round game. Here's a breakdown of all of the BayHawks' NCAA postseason resumes.

Blake Ahearn, Missouri State (2003-2007)
Personal NCAA Tournament appearances: 0
Ahearn's Bears made three appearances in the NIT in his four years at the school. The 2005-06 team was the closest to earning an NCAA Tournament bid. They were No. 21 in the RPI, finishing 20-8 overall and 12-6 in the Missouri Valley, which was rated No. 6 in Conference RPI. The Bears finished 4-8 vs. the RPI top 50 and didn't have a loss outside that category. They lost in the Missouri Valley quarterfinals in a 4-5 game and saw their bubble burst on Selection Sunday.

John Bryant, Santa Clara (2005-2009)
Personal NCAA Tournament appearances: 0
Bryant had just one winning season in his four years with Santa Clara. The Bears posted a 21-10 mark his sophomore year, but lost to Gonzaga in the second round of the West Coast Conference Tournament and did not play in the NCAA or NIT. Despite Santa Clara's 16-17 record last year, Bryant was named the 2009 WCC Player of the Year as a senior.

Cliff Clinkscales, DePaul (2004-2008)
Personal NCAA Tournament appearances: 0
Clinkscales was a limited contributor for two DePaul teams that played in the NIT. In his freshman year, DePaul advanced to the second round of the NIT before being bounced by Texas A&M. Then, in his junior year, DePaul again qualified for the NIT and advanced to the quarterfinals where they lost by one point to Air Force.

Mike Gansey, West Virginia (2004-2006)
Personal NCAA Tournament appearances: 2
After transferring from St. Bonaventure, Gansey made the most of his two seasons with the Mountaineers. In 2005, he helped West Virginia make a run to the Elite Eight as a 7-seed in the West bracket. Gansey's 29 points led the Mountaineers' upset of the 2-seed, Wake Forest, a team led by Chris Paul in a 111-105 double-overtime thriller to reach the Sweet 16. There they knocked off Texas Tech. In the Elite Eight, West Virginia had a 20-point lead and appeared poised to move on to the Final Four before Louisville mounted a comeback for the ages. The Cardinals eventually won 93-85 in overtime.

In 2006, Gansey's final season at West Virginia, the Mountaineers returned to the tournament as a 6-seed, losing in heartbreaking fashion in the Sweet 16. Moments after WVU tied the game at 71, 3-seed Texas raced down the court and Kenton Paulino hit a 3 at the buzzer to advance the Longhorns. Gansey had 18 points and 5 rebounds in the final game of his storied Mountaineer career.

Kyle Goldcamp, Gannon (2007-2009)
Personal NCAA Division II Tournament appearances: 2
Goldcamp's arrival at Gannon sparked the Golden Knights to back-to-back NCAA Division II tournament appearances. Goldcamp's presence inside was one of the main reasons Gannon made it all the way to the Elight Eight.

Jarvis Gunter, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2003-2008)
Personal NCAA Division II Tournament appearances: 0
Gunter's Golden Lions are dancing this year, but Arkansas-Pine Bluff never enjoyed a winning season during his seasons. They came the closest in 2006 when they lost to Southern in the finals of the SWAC Tournament.

Ivan Harris, Ohio State (2003-2007)
Personal NCAA Tournament appearances: 2
In his junior season, Harris and the Buckeyes earned a 2-seed in the Midwest bracket but were bounced in the second round by Georgetown. The following season, the Buckeyes earned a 1-seed. Harris played 20 minutes per game on a loaded team that also featured Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook, Ron Lewis, and Jamar Butler. In the Final Four, Harris scored 9 points and added 7 rebounds as the Buckeyes avenged the previous season's loss to Georgetown. However, the Buckeyes lost in the championship game to Florida.

Jackie Manuel, North Carolina (2001-2005)
Personal NCAA Tournament appearances: 2
The Tar Heels missed the tournament in Manuel's first two seasons. His junior year, they qualified as a 6-seed and defeated Air Force in round one before losing to Texas in the second round. Of course, no one on the BayHawks can compete with Manuel's senior campaign, where Manuel teamed with four NBA lottery picks to win the 2005 national championship. While Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Marvin Williams got the glory, Manuel did the dirty work as the team's best defender en route to the national championship.

Michael Sweetney, Georgetown (2000-2003)
Personal NCAA Tournament appearances: 1
Sweetney's only appearance in the tournament came in his freshman year at Georgetown when the Hoyas advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2001. He averaged 12.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for that Hoyas team. Though his production increased as a sophomore and junior (he declared for the NBA draft after his junior season), the Hoyas did not make the NCAA Tournament. Sweetney did, however, lead the Hoyas to the NIT championship in 2003, where they lost to St. John's.

Frank Tolbert, Auburn (2004-2008)
Personal NCAA Tournament appearances: 0
The Tigers never made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in Tolbert's four seasons. His greatest year of statistical production came in 2007-08 as a senior when he averaged 13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in just over 30 minutes per game.

Cedric Jackon, Cleveland State (2007-2009)
Personal NCAA Tournament appearances: 1
He's currently playing with the Spurs, but BayHawks call-up Cedric Jackson deserves a mention. After playing two seasons at St. John's, Jackson transferred to Cleveland State and sat out the 2006-07 season. He helped the Vikings make the NIT in 2008, but it was last season that he really put Cleveland State on the map. First, he hit this shot to upset Syrcause. Then, he led his 13-seed Vikings past Wake Forest in an impressive 84-69 first round upset with 19 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals. They then lost in the second round to Arizona, but the fans of Cleveland State will always remember the '09 team and Cedric Jackson.

Game Review: Erie BayHawks 111, Utah Flash 101

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Erie BayHawks won their season-high fifth consecutive game with a 111-101 victory over the Utah Flash on Monday night. The win, which improved the BayHawks to 18-25 on the year, also completed a perfect three-games-in-four-days road trip out West.

The Flash, who entered the game holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot, gave the BayHawks all they could handle in this one. The teams battled in an entertaining, back-and-forth game that featured 24 lead changes and 12 ties. Through the first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, neither team led by more than three points. But the BayHawks closed the final three minutes on a 15-6 run to earn the victory.

The crucial sequence started with about two and a half minutes remaining in the game when Blake Ahearn found Michael Sweetney on a beautiful pick 'n roll. Sweetney slammed it home to put Erie up 98-95. Bennet Davis missed a shot at the other end. Mike Gansey grabbed the initial rebound, then had it poked away. Eventually Erie recovered and found John Bryant under the basket at the other end. He pumped, double-clutched, and scored the bucket plus the foul to extend Erie's lead to 101-95. On Erie's next offensive possession, Blake Ahearn hit a 3 from 35+ feet that put the nail in the coffin of the Flash.

Player/team notes

  • Ahearn had a tremendous game. He scored a season-high 38 points (12-22 FG, 3-6 from 3, 11-11 FT), 9 assists, and 5 rebounds in 46 minutes.
  • His tag team partner in the backcourt was on fire as well. Mike Gansey continued his March Madness memorial tour, scoring 33 points (12-17 FG, 4-6 from 3, 5-6 FT) with 7 rebounds and 4 steals.
  • Speaking of tag teams, John Bryant and Michael Sweetney finished the game on the court together, but for most of the game they rotated in and out for one another. Together, they accounted for 33 points and 17 rebounds while shooting 48 percent from the field.
  • In case you haven't done the math, that accounts for all but 7 of Erie's points. Ivan Harris had 4 and Cliff Clinkscales had 3 on a big 3 that he hit to give Erie its first lead of the fourth quarter.
  • Jackie Manuel and Frank Tolbert did not play.
  • The BayHawks shot well in this one: 41-78 (52 percent) from the field, 8-16 (50 percent) from 3, and 21-25 (84 percent) from the free throw line. On the flipside, Utah shot 38-85 (44.7 percent) from the field, 6-20 (30 percent) from 3, and 19-28 (67.9 percent) from the free throw line.
The BayHawks now return home to play back-to-back games against Dakota on Friday and Saturday night. Erie has their next six games at home before finishing the season on the road at Maine on April 3. In order to make the playoffs, the BayHawks need to win out and get some help, but they are not mathematically eliminated just yet.

The Flash, 22-20, next travel to Los Angeles for a game on Friday night.

About this blog/blogger

Blog Talk BayHawk is an unofficial Erie BayHawks blog covering the NBA D-League. It features opinions and information about the NBADL and the Erie BayHawks. Blog Talk BayHawk is written from a basketball fan’s perspective to fill In the gaps left by professional journalists’ coverage of BayHawks basketball and the Erie professional basketball scene.

Matt Hubert is a 25-year-old writer and basketball fanatic born and raised in Erie, Pa. He graduated from Mercyhurst College in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in English and a dual concentration in writing and creative writing. Matt's not wavering from his stance as a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan, but he will cover the BayHawks' NBA affiliates in Cleveland and Toronto when it makes sense to do so throughout the year.

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