Game Review: Erie BayHawks 103, Dakota Wizards 108

Saturday, February 27, 2010

For one night, Erie was the center of the D-League universe as the number two overall draft pick from the Memphis Grizzlies, Hasheem Thabeet, made his D-League debut for the Dakota Wizards.

Thabeet did not get the start for the Wizards and played just 17 minutes, 51 seconds in all, so while he may have been the headline for the game, he was not the story of the game. More on Thabeet in a bit.

The game itself was an exciting one. After a well-played, back-and-forth first quarter, Dakota opened things up with some hot shooting in the second quarter and led 63-44 at the half. Erie clawed back on the strength of Danny Green's shooting in the second half. The Cavaliers guard, wearing the familiar Cleveland uniforms on Cavaliers affiliate night, accounted for more than one third of Erie's points on the night. After cutting the deficit to four with about 5 minutes to play in the third, Erie watched Dakota rebuild the lead to 83-74 at the end of three.

The BayHawks fought back again, getting as close as three points with under a minute to play, but they killed themselves at the free throw line, shooting 6-14 in the fourth quarter. With the win, Erie falls to 13-23 on the year while Dakota improves to 19-16.

Player notes:

  • After a sluggish D-League debut Thursday night, Danny Green came out firing last night, showing exactly why he's an asset for the Cavs going forward. He scored 36 points (6-12 from 3) and added 9 rebounds. One word of caution, though. He had 5 turnovers and 0 assists to go with his 28 shot attempts. He's not a point guard, so those numbers aren't as troubling as they would be for Cedric Jackson, but it's something to watch. That said, his competitive fire was on full display, especially during the first sequence after Thabeet entered the game. The Wizards center swatted Green's layup attempt. Back at the other end, Thabeet had low post position of his own. But when he tried to make his move, Green swung in from the weak side, LeBron-style, and skyed to block the shot attempt of the 7-foot-3-inch Thabeet. The two NBA assignees were talking to one another frequently during the game.

  • Ivan Harris had an impressive game, even limiting his Ivans. He went 3-5 from long range and added 8 rebounds as Erie played a smallball lineup for much of the game with Harris as the 5-man.

  • Mike Gansey had a quiet 19 points on 8-13 shooting, including 3-6 from downtown. My favorite moment, however, was when Gansey grabbed an errant shot at the rim and scored the putback only to here the stadium announcer credit the bucket to John Bryant. I don't think they could look any less alike aside from skin color.

  • On the plus side, Cedric Jackson dished out 13 assists (with 4 turnovers). On the negative side, his shooting numbers were ugly: 1-11 from the field, 0-5 from 3, 4-10 from the free throw line. He also committed a careless foul with 38 seconds left in the game after Erie had made it a 3-point game. Dakota hit the two ensuing free throws, and Erie never got any closer the rest of the way.

  • In a matchup against Hasheem Thabeet, you would expect some focus on the Erie big men. Surprisingly, they were essentially irrelevant in this one. Jarvis Gunter got the start at center. In 9:34 of playing time he recorded one foul and nothing else. D-League All-Star Alade Aminu played even less (6:53) and went 0-2 with 2 rebounds. John Bryant got the most time of the big guys, playing 18:57, scoring 15 points on 6-10 shooting with 8 rebounds.
So, what did I think of Hasheem Thabeet? Well, I was planning to write a full, detailed piece on Thabeet's performance, but Ridiculous Upside's Scott Schroeder really hammered home the points I would have made. He called Thabeet's D-League debut overly unspectacular, and I agree. Here's an excerpt of what he wrote:

In what I assume is the first time in the eight year history of the Memphis Grizzlies Hasheem Thabeet's basketball career, he finally looked like he belonged: he didn't overmatch his opponents, but he wasn't overmatched, either. It seemed, for once, he was playing with his contemporaries.

This doesn't necessarily sound like a ringing endorsement of Thabeet because, well, it isn't. It's also not meant to tear him apart, because again, that's not what I'm attempting to do. He simply looked like an average D-League player, showing that this assignment probably should have come right away in November as opposed to near the end of February. It's quite pbvious that this assignment was necessary: Instead of playing garbage minutes for much of the last four months in Memphis, he could been in his present situation - playing more than ten minutes a game in an NBA system and working on the things he needs to develop.
My assessment is pretty much on par with what Scott said. Or, to channel Dennis Green, Thabeet was who we thought he was. The casual NBA fan may need this disclaimer. The D in "D-League" stands for "Development" not "D-level talent." As Danny Green found out, players in the D-League can play. Thabeet is a raw talent with some rough edges that need polished.

In the brief time he played last night, Thabeet showed flashes of what he does well: a blocked shot on his first defensive possession (and another blocked shot later). And he showed where he needs work: better, quicker post moves. To put it another way, Hasheem could use a little Hakeem on the offensive end. He also needs to limit his fouls (4 in 17 minutes) and be more active on the boards. There's no way someone 7'3" should finish with just 2 rebounds, especially when you consider that Erie actually had Ivan Harris matched up against him for a stretch of time.

Thabeet and the Wizards next travel to Fort Wayne to play the Mad Ants on Sunday. Expect to see more playing time for Thabeet. He belongs in the D-League for now. That's not a knock on him. It's just the truth. It will give him a chance to log some quality minutes against better-than-people-realize talent in an NBA-style game.

As for the BayHawks, they travel to Maine to play the Red Claws on Sunday. Erie is 0-5 against Maine this season. If the Cavaliers do not recall Danny Green, perhaps he could be the piece they need to finally break through against the Red Claws.

Game Review: Erie BayHawks 114, Dakota Wizards 108

Friday, February 26, 2010

I take five days vacation and things go crazy. The BayHawks dropped two stinkers against Fort Wayne, and I returned from the Bahamas to snowy Erie just in time to catch the BayHawks take on the Dakota Wizards with the added bonus of Cavaliers Darnell Jackson and Danny Green.

Add to that the fact that Dakota will suit up #2 draft pick Hasheem Thabeet for tonight's game, and things are suddenly interesting in Erie, even as the team continues to struggle.

Quick notes from last night's 114-108 with for the BayHawks:

  • Darnell Jackson's 34 points and 12 rebounds were an impressive stat line, and he no doubt helped them prevail. But his post game has room for improvement. His go-to move was basically a dip-the-shoulder bull rush, which worked well enough to punish the Wizards last night. But I think he needs to become a bit more polished and develop a counter move or a second post move when bullying and brute strength doesn't work.
  • Danny Green's performance was perplexing to me. First of all, he didn't get the start. He was clearly among the most physically gifted athletes on the court, yet something seemed to be missing. Passion? Desire? I don't know if he underestimated D-League competition or just hadn't played in a long time (a definite possibility), but he looked sluggish at times despite a few highlight reel moments. I'm anxious to see how he responds tonight. (FYI: Darnell Jackson was recalled to the Cavs today, but Green should still be with the BayHawks as far as I know.)
  • Cedric Jackson runs one helluva fast break. He finished one assist shy of a triple-double. He's the engine that makes the BayHawks offense run.
  • Alade Aminu and John Bryant suffered the most from the Cavs' NBA assignments. The talented big man tandem played a combined 14 minutes.
See I told you it'd be quick responses. If you can't make it out to the game tonight, be sure to tune in to NBA FutureCast as Erie will be in the D-League (and to a lesser extent, the NBA) spotlight tonight with Thabeet coming to town.

Which D-Leaguers deserve a medal?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

This week at D-League Digest, I wrote a short post giving out fictional gold, silver, and bronze medals in the spirit of the Olympic Games. Check out the full post here.

Be Jealous

Sunday, February 21, 2010

As you read this, I'm on a boat (I'm on a boat!) cruising to the Bahamas. Seriously. I'm away on a spring break family vacation this week, and won't have my cell phone or laptop. So, basically, I'm going to be unreachable until Thursday, when I'm scheduled to return to Erie just in time to catch the BayHawks' next home game (barring any plane delays, of course).

So don't expect a recap of this weekend's Fort Wayne games because I won't be able to watch them and try not to miss me too much while I'm gone. In the meantime, stay current on the D-League with D-League Digest, Ridiculous Upside, D-League Dime, and D-League Daily.

Game Preview: Erie BayHawks (12-20) at Fort Wayne Mad Ants (10-19)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Get used to this matchup. Erie and Fort Wayne will play five times the rest of the way this season with the first two games coming this weekend in Fort Wayne. The BayHawks lead the season series 3-2 and have won two straight against the Mad Ants.

Game 33 Preview: Erie BayHawks (12-20) at Fort Wayne Mad Ants (10-19)

Erie coming in: The BayHawks haven't played in almost two weeks and lost their last four games prior to the all-star break (all against the Iowa Energy). Point guard Cedric Jackson will return to the BayHawks' lineup for the first time since being called up to the Cleveland Cavaliers and being signed to consecutive 10-day NBA contracts.

Fort Wayne coming in: Like Erie, Fort Wayne has been struggling lately. The Mad Ants have lost six of their past seven games dating back before the all-star break, including a 94-90 loss against Reno on Tuesday in their first game back since the break. NBA-assignee Joe Alexander was traded to the Bulls at yesterday's NBA trade deadline from the Mad Ants' affiliate Milwaukee Bucks, which means Alexander's stint in Fort Wayne is over. Fort Wayne still boats two D-League all-stars, though, in Rob Kurz and Ron Howard.

BayHawks keys to success:

  • Shake off the rust early.
    It's been a while since Erie's played a game. With their first game back coming on the road, all signs point to a slow start. They need to be very mindful of their offensive execution in the early going and not simply settle for quick perimeter jumpshots off one or two passes. If they can find a way to get some easy buckets in transition to shake off the rust, that would go a long way toward winning their first game since January.

  • Work Jackson back into the mix.
    Erie has not had a player assigned to them this season from Cleveland or Toronto, which will make Cedric Jackson the first player with NBA experience this season to grace the court for the BayHawks. Although he's still a rookie, Jackson must take on more of a leadership role now that he's been to the next level. It'll be an adjustment switching back to a point guard with the scoring ability of Jackson, but his assist numbers have been good all season, so I think his return to the lineup will be a welcome one for the team. Jackson will likely square off against former BayHawk Oliver Lafayette and new Mad Ant acquisition and a former NBA player, Dan Dickau.

  • Win the frontcourt battle.
    Erie's John Bryant and Alade Aminu are a formidable 1-2 punch up front, but they've had mixed results against Fort Wayne's big men. Jared Reiner, who is coming off an atrocious 1-12 performance on Tuesday, had a great performance in the Mad Ants' first trip to Erie earlier this year (18 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Rob Kurz is a versatile all-star forward capable of scoring in a variety of ways. Throw in Sean Sonderleiter and Anthony Kent and the Mad Ants may have the edge in frontcourt depth. After waiving Kyle Goldcamp, Jarvis Gunter is the BayHawks' lone big man coming off the bench. Gunter is an energetic player and a very good rebounder. He'll likely have to play some quality minutes to spell Bryant and/or Aminu if Erie's going to be successful down low against Fort Wayne.
For more on Fort Wayne, be sure to check out their two blogs: Potter's New Blog and Martz Madnesss.

As always, the games this weekend at Fort Wayne can be streamed live online with NBA FutureCast. And if you miss a game, many of them are now accessible in the FutureCast archives.

Looking Ahead at the BayHawks Schedule

Friday, February 19, 2010

The BayHawks' 11-day all-star break finally comes to an end tomorrow when they open a two-game weekend series on the road against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Recall that Erie lost its last four games heading into the all-star break and is 2-8 in their last 10 games with the two victories coming by 1 and 2 points against Springfield, the D-League's worst team in the standings.

With just 18 games remaining, Erie is hoping to make a post-all-star break run at a playoff spot, but it won't be easy. The two division winners plus the teams with the next six best records regardless of conference will make the playoffs. As the standings are right now, that would mean and Iowa would be the top seed from the East and Rio Grande Valley in the West with Austin, Maine, Dakota, Tulsa, Albuquerque, and Sioux Falls rounding out the playoff field. Erie currently sits at 12-20, which puts them 12th in the D-League standings. The BayHawks are five games back of Springfield for that eighth and final playoff spot.

As I mentioned last week over at D-League Digest, the BayHawks have the toughest schedule in the D-League. It doesn't let up much down the stretch either. Ten of their final 18 games are against the eight teams currently in playoff position, including two apiece against Iowa and Maine. Erie is 0-13 this season against the Energy and Red Claws so far this season.

Last year, Erie made the playoffs with a record of 27-23. Bakersfield had the worst record of the teams that qualified for the 2009 D-League playoffs with a 26-24 mark. In order to reach that mark, Erie would need to finish the season 14-4, which is quite the tall task for a team that has just one win streak of at least three games this season (they won four straight in mid-January).

Here's how their remaining schedule breaks down:

By team:
5 vs. Fort Wayne
4 vs. Dakota
2 vs. Maine
2 vs. Iowa
1 vs. Sioux Falls
1 vs. Albuquerque
1 vs. Idaho
1 vs. Utah
1 vs. Springfield

By location:
11 at home
7 on the road

By month:
February: 5
March: 11
April: 2

With the return of Cedric Jackson, there is some hope that the BayHawks can make the late-season surge they need. Of course, they'll have to take care of business against Fort Wayne and Dakota (and finally steal a game or two from Iowa and Maine). But it's the three-game, four-day West Conference road trip that looms in March as a potentially crippling or uplifting experience for this team.

In addition to the return of Jackson, the continued development of all-star Alade Aminu will be one of the biggest storylines for the BayHawks down the stretch. With two games on Versus (March 20 vs. Dakota and April 3 at Maine), there will be some added national exposure. There's plenty to look forward to in what has so far been a season marred by inconsistency and frustration. The final push starts tomorrow with a 7:30 p.m. tip off against the Mad Ants.

Talking Call-Ups at D-League Digest

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My weekly column went up this morning over at D-League Digest. If you haven't checked it out already, please do so. This week, I wrote about the players that have been called up from the D-League to the NBA so far this season. Find out which five have made the biggest impact for their NBA teams.

Cedric Jackson Returns to the BayHawks

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yesterday the Erie BayHawks announced the re-acquisition of guard Cedric Jackson. Jackson was on a Gatorade Call-Up with the Cleveland Cavaliers for back-to-back ten day contracts. Although he played a total of just 10 minutes in 5 appearances with the Cavs, the brief taste of the NBA should have Jackson hungry for a return call-up down the line.

The BayHawks undoubtedly missed Jackson's presence in their lineup. Erie had won 4-of-5 and 6-of-8 games prior to his NBA call-up. The team responded by going just 2-7 after he joined the Cavaliers, including a four-game losing streak that remains active.

Through 23 games thus far this season with the BayHawks, Jackson is averaging 14.7 points and 7.6 assists per game. He returned to practice with the team yesterday and will be in the lineup as the BayHawks hit the road for games Saturday and Sunday vs. the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

The reacquisition of Jackson also brings Erie's roster back to the league maximum of 10. Erie had been playing with just nine players since cutting Kyle Goldcamp on Feb. 5.

With Jackson back in the lineup, Erie hopes to make a push to claim one of the final playoff spots despite their current 12-20 record. By teaming the now NBA-experienced Jackson with D-League All-Star Alade Aminu, one-time D-League Performer of the Week Mike Gansey, defensive stalwart Jackie Manuel, and double-double machine John Bryant, the BayHawks have a formidable starting five that give them a fighter's chance of making a late run similar to last year when they strung together a lengthy win streak and earned a playoff berth.

For more on Jackson, check out Duane Rankin's story on

Aminu Scores 4 Points in All-Star Game Loss

Monday, February 15, 2010

After jumping out to an 8-0 lead and leading by as many as 13 points in the first five minutes of game, the East Conference struggled to score, eventually falling 98-81 to the West Conference in the 2010 D-League All-Star Game held Saturday afternoon.

Erie's lone representative, Alade Aminu, played about half of the game (18:43 of the 40 minutes, to be exact) and put up pedestrian numbers: 4 points on 2-5 shooting, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks, and 3 turnovers. Still, it was a great opportunity for Aminu to play against the D-League's elite players. Hopefully it'll prepare him for a stretch run where the BayHawks will need him to be an all-star presence if they're going to make a run at the eighth seed of the playoffs.

Brian Butch of the Bakersfield Jam earned the game's MVP award for his 18-point, 13-rebound performance for the West. Click here for a full recap of the game and head over to D-League Digest and Ridiculous Upside for additional all-star weekend content.

Alade Aminu: D-League All-Star

Friday, February 12, 2010

The D-League All-Star break is upon us. For most of the Erie BayHawks, it's a time to rest up, catch their breath, and prepare for the home stretch of the 2009-10 season. For Alade Aminu, it's a little different.

Aminu, the rookie power forward out of Georgia Tech, is the BayHawks' lone representative in Saturday's D-League All-Star Game, playing for the East Conference. He'll be one of 20 D-League stars competing in the game that will tipoff at 3 p.m. Eastern from Center Court at NBA All-Star Jam Session in Dallas, Texas.

Aminu's all-star candidacy took off in January at the D-League Showcase, where he wowed scouts with a 30-point, 23-rebound effort in the BayHawks' first Showcase game, a 92-88 win over Reno. After averaging just 9.8 points and 4.2 in November and December, Aminu starred in the month of January, averaging 16.9 points and 9.8 rebounds in 15 games.

While his numbers have dipped in February, there's no question that the BayHawks are most dangerous when Aminu is involved heavily in the offensive gameplan. He can also be disruptive for the opposition on the defensive end when he chooses to apply himself. His length makes him a capable shot blocker, but he's had just six games with 2 or more blocks so far this season. Still, his 25 blocks are second on the team behind John Bryant.

Aminu's all-star competition on the West Conference team includes Brian Butch, Dwayne Jones, Carlos Powell, and Diamon Simpson. It'll be interested to see Aminu matched up against the West's bigs because they're opponents he doesn't get to see much during the season. (Self-promotion alert: I tackled the topic of the D-League's unbalanced schedule at D-League Digest yesterday.) Like the Showcase, it's a great opportunity for Aminu to display his talents for an audience that will surely include plenty of NBA scouts.

Though the calls for his call-up to the NBA have quieted a bit due to some inconsistent showings in recent games, a big game against the other elite player in the D-League could vault Aminu back onto the short list of players on the radar of NBA teams for a spring call-up. Tune into NBA TV at 3 p.m. to watch Aminu in action or check back here Sunday or Monday for a recap of his all-star performance.

Read me at D-League Digest today

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I'm pleased to say that my writing was good enough (or at least not bad enough) in last week's debut piece about D-League All-Stars and their NBA doppelgangers that I was allowed back for a second post that went live this morning.

In this week's post, I take a look at the unbalanced D-League schedule (complete with tables proving that I did some research to defend my argument).

I won't give away the whole article because I think it's worth clicking over there to read it, but I will say that my impetus for writing the post/researching the issue in the first place was the BayHawks' seemingly never-ending diet of the Iowa Energy. As it turned out, I was onto something. Erie has the toughest schedule in the D-League. Click on over to D-League Digest to read the full article as well as the other posts the Digest's growing stable of writers.

Game Review: Erie BayHawks 82, Iowa Energy 85

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

From the department of redundancy department, the Erie BayHawks lost to the Iowa Energy 85-82. For those keeping track, the BayHawks have lost four straight (all against Iowa) and are now 0-8 against the Energy this season. They're also eight games below .500 on the year with a record of 12-20.

The final margin was close. This was a winnable game for the BayHawks, but they played down the stretch like a team that had lost seven straight times to the other team. Iowa was in their heads. In the fourth quarter, Iowa seemed to make all the big plays—a key offensive rebound and putback by Earl Barron, an alley-oop from Curtis Stinson to Shy Ely (great name)—while Erie did not.

Erie trailed 83-78 with 2 minutes left when John Bryant was called for an illegal screen. After getting the defensive stop they needed, the BayHawks came down and looked scared. Three or four players passed up open shots before Jackie Manuel finally triggered a jumper and missed. Mike Gansey grabbed the rebound and another two or three players passed up shot opportunities. Again, Manuel finally tried to be the aggressor, but he was called for travelling. He immediately redeemed himself with a steal and dunk to cut the deficit to 83-80.

Again, Erie got the stop it needed with John Bryant gathering the rebound and starting the fast break with an outlet to Cliff Clinkscales. CC, as the Iowa announce team called him, ran it up court and took a floater in the lane that clanked off the rim. Iowa came back down and Curtis Stinson found Ely for the aforementioned alley-oop to put Iowa up 5, effectively ending the game.

The BayHawks won the first and third quarters, but lost quarters two and four by a combined 19 points. Neither team shot well (39.2 percent for Erie, 38 percent for Iowa).

Some quick player assessments from tonight's game:

  • John Bryant led Erie with 18 points, though he had only 7 rebounds.
  • Alade Aminu started but played only 23 minutes. He has 12 points, 9 rebounds.
  • Cliff Clinkscales had 10 assists, but he also shot just 2-10 from the field.
  • Mike Gansey had a team-high 15 rebounds, but his shooting woes against the Energy continued as he shot 3-11, 1-6 from 3.
  • Ivan Harris scored 15 points in 15 minutes off the bench. I guess that's why he was called "The Microwave" in college.
  • Jarvis Gunter rebounds with the best of 'em: 9 rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
Erie was scheduled to return home to host Fort Wayne tomorrow night. However, due to inclement weather, that game has been postponed and rescheduled for Wednesday, March 24. As a result, the BayHawks' all-star break starts early. There next game is not until Saturday, February 20. Cedric Jackson will likely return from the NBA and be back in the BayHawks' lineup for that one.

Game Review: Erie BayHawks 78, Iowa Energy 102

Saturday, February 6, 2010

So that happened.

It wasn't the most lopsided loss of the season for the BayHawks. That would be the 26-point shellacking the BayHawks suffered against Maine in their home opener back in December. It wasn't even the most demoralizing loss of the season. That would have to be the one they lost at Tullio Arena 100-95 in overtime against Iowa after blowing a 30-point lead in regulation.

I don't know what superlative to attach to tonight's loss, but it wasn't a good game for the BayHawks at all. The final score was 102-78, and the BayHawks needed a 29-point fourth quarter just to reach 78. I'll do the math for you: they scored 49 points through the first 36 minutes.

Jackie Manuel returned to the lineup for the BayHawks after missing last night's game, but I don't think he was 100 percent as he finished with more turnovers (5) than points (4). The rest of the team wasn't much better as Erie shot a woeful 36 percent for the night, including just 2-12 from 3.

Alade Aminu struggled yet again: 0-5 shooting, 2 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 3 personal fouls in just 12 minutes of action. If I can paraphrase Seinfeld, what's the deal with Aminu? Since being named a D-League All-Star, his production has swooned. He's averaging 11.7 points and just 4.7 rebounds per game in the past three games against Iowa. I don't know if it's an Iowa Energy thing, a lack of energy thing, or what, but the BayHawks cannot be competitive without a better showing from Aminu.

Jarvis Gunter was a small ray of sunshine for Erie in this one. The reserve forward came off the bench to play 33 minutes, scoring 8 points on 3-4 shooting while grabbing 11 rebounds (8 offensive). Ivan Harris led the team in scoring with 21 points on 8-19 shooting.

The BayHawks are now 12-19 on the season, including 0-7 versus Iowa. The East Conference-leading Energy improve to 25-6. The teams play again in Iowa on Tuesday night.

Game Review: Erie BayHawks 94, Iowa Energy 97

Friday, February 5, 2010

Erie's struggles against the Iowa Energy continued tonight as the BayHawks lost 97-94 on the road. I missed the game because I was at work, but I'll post a quick review of what I can gather from the box score and play-by-play.

  • Erie had two chances to take the lead and a third to send it into overtime in the final 50 seconds, but Mike Gansey missed three 3-point attempts. He was 4-14 from downtown for the game, 9-22 overall for a team-high 26 points. Gansey's no stranger to late game heroics, winning two games in the final seconds last week against Springfield. Unfortunately, the shots didn't fall this time, and Erie missed a chance to steal one on the road. Gansey's been a workhorse for the BayHawks, but you have to wonder if playing all 48 minutes left him drained of energy for those final attempts.
  • The BayHawks actually outscored Iowa in the second half, including a curiously low-scoring fourth quarter that they won 17-13.
  • Alade Aminu scored the ball very efficiently (18 points on 9 shots), but he grabbed just 4 rebounds.
  • John Bryant had another double-double with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
  • Jackie Manuel, fresh off one of his best performances of the year, did not play in the game. Not sure on the reasoning, but consider the thin roster Erie's working with, you'd have to think it was some sort of health issue.
  • Cliff Clinkscales put up solid numbers: 14 points on 6-12 shooting, 13 assists and just 4 turnovers.
  • Iowa connected on 8-16 shots from 3-point range, including 4-6 from Pat Carroll.
  • Cartier Martin returned to the Energy after a stint for the Golden State Warriors. He scored 21 points in just under 30 minutes of playing time.
The BayHawks fall to 12-18 on the season and 0-6 against Iowa. The Energy improves to 24-6. These teams will square off again tomorrow night at 8 p.m.

Read me at D-League Digest

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In case you've been living under a rock for the past few months (do people still use that expression?), there's a great D-League blog out there run by Steve Weinman called D-League Digest. Steve does great work over there, combining the quality reporting you expect from traditional news outlets with the quality opining and observations you expect from blogs. So, when he asked me if I'd be interested in hopping aboard as an official contributor, I jumped at the opportunity.

D-League Digest is part of the ESPN TrueHoop Network (backstory), which means the content on the blog is just three clicks away from ESPN's home know, if you have an aversion to direct hyperlinks or something.

For now, I'll be writing a weekly (Thursday) post for D-League Digest. It does not mean any major changes for Blog Talk BayHawk. I'm having a lot of fun with this blog and following the team this season as a season ticket holder, and I plan to continue writing it. Writing for D-League Digest simply gives me the chance to paint with a broader brush, to expand my thoughts to issues that span the D-League rather than focusing on just one team.

So, without further ado, click on over to read my first post at D-League Digest, "D-League All-Stars as NBA Players" and be sure to bookmark that site for future reading.

Game Review: Iowa Energy 101, Erie BayHawks 87

The Erie BayHawks actually led this game 25-24 at the end of the first quarter, thanks in part to a sloppy quarter from the Energy, who committed 7 first-quarter turnovers. Unfortunately, the BayHawks responded with 8 turnovers of their own in the second quarter, including this godawful sequence to start the quarter:

Possession 1: Missed shot by Aminu, offensive rebound, Gansey's shot gets blocked (Iowa scores 1 point on the other end)
Possession 2: Turnover on a bad pass by Tolbert leads into a fast break resulting in two made free throws for Iowa
Possession 3: Missed layup by Tolbert (Iowa gets a layup going the other way)
Possession 4: Offensive foul on Tolbert (Iowa scores a bucket on the other end)
Possession 5: Turnover on a bad pass by Bryant leads into yet another fast break layup for Iowa.

In less than two-and-a-half minutes, Erie squandered away their 1-point lead and were faced with an 8-point deficit. After cutting it to six on a couple of occasions after a timeout, Erie watched Iowa's lead grow to 59-46 at halftime and as high as 24 in the second half before making a late mini-surge to make it respectable.

If you only look at the box score, you might think that two of the most important BayHawks, Mike Gansey and Alade Aminu had solid performances. Don't let the numbers fool you. Gansey scored 5 of his 15 in the final minutes after the game was in hand for the Energy, And Aminu, who inexplicably did not get the start in the game after he was named as a D-League All-Star, was outplayed by Earl Barron and the Energy front line. He never looked fully comfortable out there offensively.

Jackie Manuel was the lone bright spot for the BayHawks, and even that comes with the asterisk that he shot 4-10 from the free throw line. Erie was 9-20 from the charity stripe as a team. Ouch. Forty-five percent free throw shooting is not part of the recipe for knocking off the top team in the conference.

Ivan Harris shot 0-1 from 3-point range, but he was 4-6 on Ivans. For new readers, that's what I'm now calling the deep-two-point-jumper-from-anywhere-between-the-college-and-NBA-33-point-line shot that Harris is enamored with taking. His counterpart, Jeff Trepanier made a point to keep his toes behind the line, draining 6-9 from 3-point range and leading the Energy with 25 points. It's amazing how he's reinvented himself as a shooter. I miss the high-flying antics from his USC days, but he was deadly from deep in this one.

The BayHawks, who fell to 12-17 with the loss, now travel to Iowa for three more games against the Energy starting Friday night. Erie is 0-5 against Iowa this season. The Energy is now 23-6 on the year, leading the East Conference by four games.

Good News, Bad News: Cedric Jackson Signs Second 10-Day NBA Contract

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's official. Cedric Jackson signed his second 10-day contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kudos for Jackson for extending his stay in the NBA. While Jackson hasn't received much playing time—7 minutes to be exact—he has had the opportunity to practice and travel with a Cavs team that currently possesses the best record in the NBA, not to mention two historically great players in LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal.

One can only hope that the young point guard is making the most out of his 10-going-on-20-day stay in the NBA, gleaning every bit of basketball wisdom he can from the players and coaches in Cleveland. The basketball future for Jackson is bright. Whether he finishes this season in Cleveland, Erie, or elsewhere, this NBA call-up experience should give him great momentum heading into his second year of professional basketball next season.

So that's the good news. Congratulations to Cedric Jackson.

The bad news is that the BayHawks won't be getting Jackson back in uniform for awhile now. With Erie's next four games coming against the D-League's best team, the Iowa Energy, this would've been the perfect time for Jackson to return to the lineup. Instead, as I mentioned in yesterday's piece about the team's fluctuating lineups, it's time to turn to a plan B, whatever that means.

For now, that plan appears to be Cliff Clinkscales, who has missed the past two games with injury. If he returns to the lineup Wednesday night (the team is hopeful that he will) when Erie hosts the Energy, it will certainly help the overall flow of the offense. In fact, Clinkscales leads the league in assists per 48 minutes at 12.7 and is second in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.2. (For comparison's sake, Cedric Jackson ranks third and tenth, respectively).

But while Clinkscales is proficient at distributing the ball to teammates and not turning the ball over, he lacks the explosiveness and finishing ability of Jackson. And, as D-League Digest's Steve Weinman pointed out back in December, he simply doesn't have the same aggressive, attack-the-basket game that Jackson brings to the table. Clinkscales does what he does well; he just doesn't do as much as Jackson did when he was running the show.

The natural move is to rely more heavily on Alade Aminu, John Bryant, and Mike Gansey on the offensive end. That's a good and recommended strategy. The problem is none of those players make their name as a penetrating, attack-the-rim player. The BayHawks don't really have that player on their roster right now, and that makes things easier on the defense. Perimeter defenders are able to play up on the shooters, and low-post defenders are able to body-up their men, knowing they won't have to slide into position to help on many drives.

If Clinkscales is not the solution to Erie's point guard problem, re-signing Maureece Rice might be. As I wrote at the end of last season, re-capping Rice's 2008-09 season with the BayHawks, "The playoff performance against Colorado certainly highlighted Rice’s strengths. He’s got a knack for getting to the rim, which he complements with a pretty consistent stroke from the outside." That's the kind of player the BayHawks need to add if they're going to flip the script and contend for a playoff spot this season.

Unfortunately, Rice's contract situation overseas may prevent that from happening. The news today, as reported by Duane Rankin, is that Rice's Ukrainian club, Azovmash Mariupol, isn't releasing him. "His agent has indicated that the club is holding the release up," Treloar said. "I'm not sure why that is. ... There's nothing we on the club level can do."

With Jackson playing in the NBA, Rice dealing with contractual issues, and Clinkscales battling injury, 5'7" Tyc Snow, who just signed with Erie and has played sparingly in two games for the BayHawks, is the only healthy point guard option left. Snow (has anyone figured out if it's "Tic" or "Tyc" yet?) is a wonderful tale of perseverance—having tried out at every open tryout for the BayHawks only to get cut time and time again—but he's not going to lead this team to the playoffs.

These next four games against Iowa are crucial. If the BayHawks get swept (Erie is already 0-4 versus the Energy this season), they'll drop to 12-20 with just 18 games remaining. And if they don't get quality point guard play against Iowa's Curtis Stinson, one of the D-League's best point guards, a sweep is very much a possibility. Point guard plan B better be good, and they better figure it out as soon as possible.

Assessing Inconsistency: Erie's Frequent Lineup Changes

Monday, February 1, 2010

At 12-16, the Erie BayHawks currently sit in fifth place in the East Conference, 10 games out of first place and four games back in the loss column from the eighth and final playoff spot. Aside from a 12-day stretch in mid-January when they rattled off six wins in seven games, the BayHawks haven’t won back-to-back games all season. It’s been a season marred by inconsistency...

...from players, most notably Alade Aminu, whose game-by-game scoring chart would have spikes big enough to qualify for inclusion on the Legion of Doom's shoulder pads.

...on the roster, which has come via trade (Donell Taylor out, Mike Gansey in), cuts (bye-bye Zach Sowers, Martin Zeno, and the never-really-even-here Booker Woodfox), signings (hello Cliff Clinkscales, Frank Tolbert, Tyc Snow), and NBA call-ups (Cedric Jackson)

...and, most notably, in coach John Treloar’s starting lineups. In 28 games, the BayHawks have used 15 different starting lineups, including seven different variations in the past 10 games. Obviously, some of the lineup changes have been necessitated by the roster changes and injuries, but sometimes the lineup shifts seem arbitrary, unnecessary, and downright detrimental to the team. A little consistency could go a long way. More importantly, on a fundamental level, don’t you typically want your best five players to start the game?

Based on that basic tenant of basketball, I believe the starting five should be as follows:

  • Center-John Bryant
  • Power Forward-Alade Aminu
  • Small Forward-Jackie Manuel
  • Shooting Guard-Mike Gansey
  • Point Guard-?

We’ll get to the “?” in a second, but first let me address the four spots that should be on lockdown.

Center-John Bryant
Big Bad John Bryant—not to be confused with Big Bully Busick (two 90s WWF references? Uh oh, someone’s been reading too much Scott Schroeder lately)—is a walking double-double in the D-League, trailing only Dwayne Jones in that category this season. He’s also one of the best pick ‘n pop big men in the league, so teams should no longer act surprised when he displays his feathery touch from the top of the key and in. Bryant’s 23 starts are second on the team, but just last week he inexplicably came off the bench in back-to-back games against Springfield and Maine. Where's the consistency in that?

Power Forward-Alade Aminu
Aminu is the main reason I’m writing this post. After being touted as an NBA call-up candidate in recent weeks, he was demoted over the weekend, playing limited minutes after starting on Friday and then coming off the bench on Saturday against Springfield. Arguably the most talented BayHawk (and without Cedric Jackson on the roster, I’d put the argument to rest for the time being), there is no reason why Aminu shouldn’t be starting. Furthermore, there’s no reason why Treloar should be averse to the idea of Bryant and Aminu—Erie’s two best frontline players—playing side by side.

For what it’s worth, the BayHawks are 7-8 when Bryant and Aminu start together, 5-7 when one of them starts, and 0-1 when neither of them starts. I understand that 7-8 is nothing special, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Erie had won four of five games with both Bryant and Aminu in the starting lineup before Cedric Jackson earned his NBA call-up. It was working. Jackson vacating the point guard spot was what changed and hurt them, not the Bryant/Aminu combination.

Small Forward-Jackie Manuel
The consummate team player and emotional leader of the BayHawks, Manuel has started a team-high 27 of 28 games this season and played a team-high 1,134 minutes this season. Despite an improved offensive game this season, he remains most valuable as a stout defender who welcomes the challenge of guarding the opposition’s best perimeter player. Ivan Harris is a better shooter, but Manuel’s energy, effort, and intensity warrant him the spot in my starting five every time. His flair for the occasional highlight reel dunk is a nice added bonus.

Shooting Guard-Mike Gansey
This midseason trade acquisition has paid off in a big way for the BayHawks, who are now 6-2 when he is in the lineup. He brings an added element to the offense with his perimeter shooting, which was what Erie knew they were getting in exchange for Donell Taylor. The surprise has been his contributions in other areas as he’s averaging 8.5 rebounds and better than a steal per game. His production has not gone unnoticed around the league as he was just named the D-League Performer of the Week for his late-game heroics in a pair of Erie wins over Springfield.

Point Guard-?
Point guard was a question mark heading into the season for the BayHawks. After their experiment to play number one pick Donell Taylor at the point failed (2.8 assists, 3.5 turnovers per game in his 13 games with Erie), the BayHawks found that their answer was on the roster all along: Cedric Jackson. Unfortunately, it worked out so well that Jackson earned a call-up to the NBA when the Cavaliers needed a fill-in for their injury-depleted backcourt situation. That left the BayHawks with just Cliff Clinkscales. There’s been love and, well...less than love for Clinkscales in the D-League blogosphere this season, but he’s best served as a role player—not running the team full time. With an injury costing him the past two games, the team had to dig even deeper and sign Tyc Snow, a little-known player from Mississippi Valley State.

The point is that if Erie gets Jackson back from Cleveland this week, the question is answered at the point guard position. On the other hand, if he gets signed to another 10-day contract (possible) or for the rest of the season (doubtful) by the Cavs, Erie needs to figure out a plan B in a hurry, whether it’s excavating Maureece Rice from his contract in Ukraine or finding someone else.

Final thoughts: The BayHawks should be riding their best-five the rest of the way. If Jackson returns, a starting five of Bryant, Aminu, Manuel, Gansey, and Jackson gives the team a legitimate chance to win every night with four quality scoring options and a good mix of size and speed defensively. Leave Harris as the sixth man to provide instant-offense off the bench and have Clinkscales, Tolbert, Gunter, and Goldcamp fill in as needed. If they can follow that prescription daily, maybe inconsistency won’t be the storyline of the second half of their season the way it has been so far.

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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