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NBA D-league: Hard Work Beginning to Pay Off

Nothing worthwhile comes easy or quickly.download

When the NBA D-league started their journey eight years ago, they knew they were undertaking a venture that would take a while to bear fruit. Now, eight years later, the league is starting to see the fruits of its labor. Through various milestones that helped gain the attention of the NBA league and team executives.

While the D-League may never match the popularity of the NBA, it is starting to gain a foothold in the sports landscape.  For the fifth straight year, league attendance has topped the one million person plateau for the regular and post season.

As more people start to follow the D-League, they are beginning to notice the high level in the quality of the level of play.  Along with the increase in the number of eyes beginning to watch the games; CBS Sports Network has decided to throw their support behind the league and joined the NBA and You Tube to televise 400 games, highlights and short form digital content for the next season.

As advertisers start to see more networks getting behind the league, they begin to see the chance to improve the exposure of their products.  This season six teams were able to get jersey partnerships.

TEAM                                              PARTNER

Erie BayHawks                               LECOM

Fort Wayne Mad Ants                    Lutheran, Hospital

Rio Grande Valley Vipers                Lone Star National Bank

Texas Legends                              Veracruz, Mexico

Springfield Armor                           MGM Springfield

Los Angeles D-Fenders                 MGM Resorts International

 

The league’s success was not just limited to off the court.

The league’s primary mission was to provide a place for young players in the NBA to gain playing experience.  This season 62 NBA players (including 10 where first round picks in the 2013 NBA Draft) played for their NBA team’s assigned D-League squads for a record 187 times along with 36 D-League players who got 49 Gatorade Call-ups.

Former D-League players currently comprise a third of the players currently in the NBA and 149 players were on NBA rosters by the end of the season.

NBA teams are starting to see the having their own team that they can use to help develop young players.  This season fourteen of the leagues seventeen teams had exclusive deals to be an affiliate for a NBA teams.  Next season the league will have eighteen teams with the New York Knicks getting their affiliate in Westchester, New York and the Detroit Pistions getting their affiliate in Grand Rapids.

The D-League also announced the players that made up their honorable mention teams.
D-LEAGUE HONORABLE MENTION

Position                         Player                                   NBA D-League Team         

Guard                            Dee Bost                                Idaho Stampede

Guard                            Frank Gaines                         Maine Red Claws

Guard                            Cameron Jones                     Santa Cruz Warriors

Guard                            Mustafa Shakur                     Tulsa 66ers

Forward                         Patrick Christopher               Iowa Energy

Forward                         Ike Diogu                              Bakersfield Jam

Forward                         Courtney Fells                      Austin Toros

Forward                         Damion James                      Texas Legends

Forward                         Darius Johnson-Odom          Springfield Armor

Center                           Melvin Ely                              Texas Legends

Center                           Tim Ohlbrecht                        Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Center                           Willie Reed                            Reno Bighorns/Springfield Armor

So with the thirteenth season in the books, here’s to looking towards the Austin Toros getting back on track to regaining the D-League crown.

Toros close out season with win over Vipers

The Austin Toros closed out their 2013-14 season on Saturday with a win over the RGV Vipers.

The Vipers were playing for playoff seeding, while the Toros came in with an 18-31 record that eliminated them from the playoffs. Previously, the Toros were 1-6 against the Vipers, but a 129-125 win ruined the Vipers’ chances at the Central division title..

The Toros were led by Flip Murray, who scored 32 points, and Courtney Fells, who finished with 28 points and six rebounds.

If you missed the game, you can catch the full replay below.

Toros dogged by Legends 92-92 on Hoops and Hounds night

Toros fans were joined by their pets for the Toros' Hoops and Hounds promotion. (Photos by Ronald Oswalt)

Toros fans were joined by their pets for the Toros’ Hoops and Hounds promotion. (Photos by Ronald Oswalt)

CEDAR PARK– In a close match, the Austin Toros came up short to the Texas Legends 92-93 Sunday evening at the Cedar Park Center. The game was titled “Hoops and Hounds” and fans were allowed to bring their pets to the game.

The game was well received by pet lovers, who had their own section and were featured in several in-game promotions. The announced attendance was 2,945 for the game.

The Toros dominated first half action leading 56-43, but the second half was in favor of the visiting Legends 50-36.

Toros guard Flip Murray led all scorers with 21 points and seven rebounds. Dexter Pittman recorded a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Jonathan Simmons and Courtney Fells added 16 points respectively.

The Legends were paced by Mavericks-assigned Ricky Ledo who scored 18 points off the bench. Marcus Hubbard finished with a double-double of 15 points and 17 rebounds.

The Toros got off to an early lead, outscoring the Legends 30-20 in the first quarter. Luke Zeller was a perfect 4-4 from the field and 2-2 from beyond the arc to record 10 points. Going into halftime, the Toros led 56-43.

The Legends began to chip away at the Toros lead, outscoring them 21-14 in the third quarter and 29-22 in the fourth. With just seconds remaining, former Longhorn Damion James went to the line sinking his second attempt to put the Legends up 93-92 for the eventual win.

The Toros (17-31) play their last home game on April 3rd against the Canton Charge. The Legends (23-25) continue their road trip as they take on the Sioux Falls Skyforce April 4th.

Toros lose to Vipers, near playoff elimination

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers converted 21 3-pointers in the 128-115 victory against the Austin Toros.

Rio Grande scored 126 points in the paint, behind the arc and from the free throw line — the most efficient zones on the floor. The Vipers’ top-ranked offense is averaging 112.8 points per 100 possessions this season, all without a stingy defense. Rio Grande compensates on that end by hoisting a high volume of 3-pointers (they attempted 42 against Austin), pushing the pace and, subsequently, the opposition to their limits.

Rio Grande surpassed the 100-point threshold in the third quarter. The Vipers led 102-89 after three quarters.

Austin drew a tie in the final quarter, just about the only victory in a game Rio Grande led from the very beginning. Five Toros finished in double-figures, including Austin Daye, on assignment from the San Antonio Spurs, who finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Caldwell “Squeaky” Johnson chipped in with 20 points off the bench.

Austin is eight games behind the eight-seeded Iowa Energy. The Toros have eight games remaining, and they are teetering on the edge of playoff contention. They need to win each game and hope for help — a lot of help — just to stay alive.

Toros score season-high in win against Iowa

The Austin Toros scored a season-high 131 points in their 33-point victory against the Iowa Energy.

Through three quarters, Austin led by 43 points. They shot 56.8 percent from the field, along with 10 3-pointers. Austin exceeded 30 points in three consecutive quarters.

Iowa scored 29 points in the final frame, cutting the final margin to 33 points.

Six Toros reached double-digits, and the entire roster scored at least six points in the win. Flip Murray’s 20 points led the team. Jazwyn Cowan (18 points, 13 rebounds) and Dexter Pittman (17 points, 11 rebounds) recorded a pair of double-doubles. Austin outscored Iowa by 35 points in Courtney Fells’ 24 minutes.

Prior to last night, Austin had lost 10 of their last 13 games. The Toros, last in the Central Division, sit seven games behind the eighth-seeded Santa Cruz Warriors.

Warriors defeat Toros for third time this season

The Santa Cruz Warriors scored 74 points in the first half in the 123-103 victory against the Austin Toros.

The Warriors closed the first quarter on a 22-5 run in the last eight minutes, finishing with 41 points and a 25-point lead entering the second quarter. They tacked on 32 in the second, stretching the lead to 30 points.

Austin scored 60 in the second half, outscoring the Warriors in consecutive quarters, but they could not mitigate the Warriors’ first half damage.

Santa Cruz is 3-0 against Austin this season, outscoring the Toros by 53 points in the three contests (17.8 per game). Santa Cruz, the eighth ranked offense in the D-League, is averaging 122.1 points per 100 possessions against the Toros — 10 points better than the Rio Grande Valley Vipers’ top-ranked offense (112.9).

Six Warriors registered at least 15 points, led by Seth Curry’s 21 points. Joe Alexander and Cameron Jones accounted for 37 of the Warriors’ 52 bench points.

Courtney Fells scored a season-high 32 points on 13-of-24 shooting. Fells is averaging 20.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.3 3-pointers, 2.1 assists and 45.8 percent shooting in February. Four of the nine active Toros finished in double-figures.

Austin is 14-20 overall and 5-10 in their last 15 games; the Toros have been outscored by 4.9 points per 100 possessions in this span and their defense has dipped to 11th.

The Toros are 5.5 games behind the eight-seeded Sioux Falls Skyforce with 16 games remaining. Their next trek is a back-to-back on the road against the Springfield Armor.

Murray scores 36 in loss to Skyforce

Cedar Park, TX – After winning their last two contests, the Austin Toros dropped to 13-19 after the 116-104 loss to the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

“We really started with such a huge deficit,” Toros head coach Ken McDonald said. “We were down I think 25-6 in the first quarter. You can’t dig that kind of hole against a good team that executes and they know how to play. Squeaky (Johnson) and some other guys really stepped up in the fourth and gave us a chance. We had our chances but its how we started the game that really did it for us.”

The Skyforce took the lead early in the first half and never looked back, extending their lead to 30 points in the second quarter. Flip Murray led the charge for the Toros as they cut Sioux Falls’ lead to under 20 points, 68-49.

Sioux Falls extended their lead to 25 in the third but Murray’s 3-pointer put the Toros within 20, 76-56, with 7:30 left in the third quarter. The Toros trailed, 93-72, heading into the final frame.

Sioux Falls forward Henry Walker’s three-second violation resulted in a technical free throw — Carldell “Squeaky” Johnson made the free throw throw and knocked down a 3-pointer, scoring four points in 14 seconds. Austin scored the first 13 points of the fourth quarter, cutting Sioux Falls’ lead to 93-84 with 10 minutes left to play.

The comeback was short lived.

Sioux Falls responded with a 14-2 run to claim a double digit lead, 107-86, with 5:16 left. Murray scored eight points in the last two minutes, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit. Murray finished with a season-high 36 points.

“I was just trying to get us back into the game,” Murray said. “We started out real bad. We were in a 25-6 hole to start the game. They had us fighting and trying to claw our back since the first quarter. I was trying to be aggressive, trying to get a spark back in my team and we cut it down to nine but unfortunately we came up a little short.

The Toros will travel to South Dakota to play the second leg of a two-game series against the Skyforce. Tip-off is at 7:00pm this Friday, February 23.

Toros make late charge, lose to Canton

The Austin Toros scored 33 points in the fourth quarter, including a 21-6 run in the final five minutes, but the Canton Charge warded off the late charge for the 98-90 victory.

The Charge led by 23 points with 6:19 remaining, but they missed nine of their next 10 shots, a timely dry spell the Toros used to cut the lead to single-digits with 37.8 seconds left in the final frame.

Canton guard Antoine Agudio split the free throws on the ensuing possession, extending the lead to 10. Jonathan Simmons hoisted a long above the break 3-pointer, hitting every part of the rim before caroming into Jazwyn Cowan’s hands. Cowan was fouled inside, and he made both free throws. Canton inbounded the ball and dribbled the final 11.5 seconds off the clock.

Simmons and Cowan accounted for 20 of the Toros’ points in the final quarter — they converted 6-of-8 shots in the frame, including two 3-pointers.

Cowan recorded his first double-double of the season, finishing with season-highs in points (17) and rebounds (13). Simmons led the Toros in scoring with 18 points, and he was a rebound shy from tallying his second double-double of the season.

Kevin Jones (21), Arinze Onuaku (20) and Sergey Kerasev (15) finished in double-figures for the Charge. Onuaku scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-7 shooting.

The Toros are 3-9 in their last 12 games, and their offense is 14th in this span, only ahead of the Bakersfield Jam, Sioux Falls Skyforce and Delaware 87ers. Austin is tied with the Delaware 87ers for the fewest wins in this span. Austin is 4.5 games behind the Idaho Stampede for the final seed in the D-League playoffs with 23 games remaining.

Here’s where the Toros stand today:

Record: 11-16 (12th)
Offensive efficiency: 105.1 (7th)
Def. efficiency: 104.7 (10th)
Net rating: +0.4 (10th)

Murray scores 27 in Toros’ loss to Tulsa

Cedar Park, TX – Less than a day after beating the Tulsa 66ers by 13, the Toros lost to the 66ers in the second leg of the double-header, 100-88, at the Cedar Park Center.

“A lot of guys didn’t have a lot of energy coming out today,” Flip Murray said. “We just played 14 hours ago. We can’t use that as an excuse. We played against the same exact team and they just played 14 hours ago too but they came out with way more energy than we did today. (Tulsa) came out aggressive, they played way more physical. Hats off to them. “

Murray led all scorers with 27 points on 9-16 shooting, 3-5 from deep and 6-8 from the free throw line. He started the game in rhythm, scoring six of the first eight points for Austin. He scored eight points in the first quarter and 19 points in the second half.

The Toros were down 57-39 at halftime but, due in large part to Murray and Courtney Fells, they reduced Tulsa’s lead to four points. Tulsa maintained a single digit lead, 72-66, going into the fourth but the 66ers scored 28 points in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

“We got 23 games (left) and, if we want to make the playoffs, we got to start putting some wins together,” Murray said. “We need be consistent; we have to have a consistent level of winning games. We can’t do this ‘Win one, lose one’, we need to start winning some back to back games.”

The Toros haven’t won consecutive games since Dec. 20.

Fells tossed in 20 points for the Toros, hitting 7-18 shots. 15 of his points came in the second half. Dexter Pittman added 10 points on 5-7 shooting.

The Toros dropped to 11-15. They have the next couple days off before they travel to Ohio to play the Canton Charge this Tuesday, February 4 at 6pm.

Toros defeat Tulsa in first leg of double-header

Cedar Park, TX- Five Toros scored in double figures in the Austin Toros’ 104-91 victory over the Tulsa 66ers.

Austin came out hot, taking a 36-18 lead into the second quarter. Josh Howard and Myck Kabongo each had six points in the first quarter.

After a 10-point halftime differential, Tulsa reduced Austin’s lead due in large part to Rodney Bartholomew’s strong third quarter performance. Bartholomew scored 11 of his 13 points in the third and helped cut to the lead to just three, 74-71, going into the fourth.

The Toros pulled away in the fourth, outscoring the 66ers, 30-20, in the final quarter.

Kabongo led all scorers with 19 points, while Howard and Courtney Fells were right behind him with sixteen points each. Eric Dawson and Ronald Murray each put up 14 points. Dawson snagged ten rebounds for another double-double. Howard was one rebound shy of a double-double. Former University of Texas center Dexter Pittman was nearly the sixth Toro in double digits. He finished with nine points.

The 66ers also had five players notch double digits, led by Mario Little (15), Andre Roberson and Bartholomew (13), Maurice Sutton (12) and Mustafa Shakur (10). (There is no statistic to support this, but Shakur could have the coolest name in the D-League.)

The two teams face each other today at noon in Cedar Park.