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.


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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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