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Following the DLeague

Basketball is almost over for the year. Of course I’m following Derrick Rose and the Bulls’ #1 seed playoff run. Hoping they continue their regular season trend and beat the Heat.  It’s a tall order, but if they play like they did towards the end of the Hawks series, they can do it!  I’ve always been a Bulls fan, even after Jordan. My dad grew up in the Chicago area, so since I’ve been a basketball fan, I’ve been a Bulls fan.

But lately, I’ve gotten more into the DLeague than the NBA even. I like being able to see the up and coming talent and NBA prospects, before they really make it big. They work hard to get those few and elusive call ups.

The last few years I’ve really enjoyed proximity to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers NBA Development League franchise. They are a good hour away from our house, but it’s been fun to drive out for some good basketball. Last year, they won the championship. I was there for most of the playoff games including the sweep of the Tulsa 66ers at State Farm Arena. This year I got a season ticket seat. I enjoyed taking friends and kids and down the stretch my wife liked going with me to the games. With a brand new roster they actually made it back to the Finals (an amazing accomplishment for Coach Finch and the staff). Sadly they lost to the league’s #1 seed the Iowa Energy. I was at the viewing party with my wife and all the dedicated fans for this sad moment!

I’ve blogged a lot about the playoff run (you can read the posts under the “sports” category). Back in January I saw a lot of DLeague action when the annual Showcase was at South Padre Island. This is even closer to me than the Arena, so I took a vacation day and saw as many games as I could that week. It was great.

Among the highlights for me were meeting a lot of people. There were scouts and GMs from all teams. I told Danny Ferry “God bless you”, well because he sneezed a few rows up from me. The cool thing is that you could sit wherever you wanted to. And at most games, it was very open, with the exception of Viper games. So that meant I could be right behind the bench. For one of the Vipers game and others I did just that. I yelled at the players “swing it” and Coach Finch, right in front of me yelled “swing it, swing it” right after I did.

Who else did I see and interact with?…Chris Ford, Randy Brown, Dee Brown, Spud Webb! Of course, DLeague players, and assignees. I sat by DLeague all-star and former Nets first round pick, Sean Williams. He loves popcorn! No really…he LOVES popcorn. He’d down one bag, and go get another. Even the next day, he recognized me in the stands from when I helped turn his iphone from Spanish back to English and sure enough, he had a bag of popcorn he was downing. Popcorn and a gallon of water.

He and his coach, hall of famer, and queen of the DLeague, Nancy Lieberman were cheering on their team’s Booker Woodfox in the 3pt contest.  I saw him hit the game winner against the Vipers earlier in the season on NBA Futurecast so he was my pick, and he won. Earlier I had congratulated the first female coach of NBA players, Lieberman, on a great first season. She thanked me, shook my hand and proceeded to ask me if I played “point”. At this I laughed, and wanted to say “look at me”! My form ain’t what it used to be. That was not necessary since she was joking anyway. But with Antonio Daniels injured at the time, she was being serious when she said she needed players!

It was a great experience seeing  the all-stars, the call ups, the hard-working players showcase their talent. Every one had their phones out taking pictures and video of their favs. I got on my phone and called home, had my wife turn on NBA TV and every time the camera would go to one side they could see me right behind the bench, so once while on the phone I waved at my son. He thought that was so cool! The dunk contest was really good. Dar Tucker kinda had an off night, but Chris Johnson was great and of course LD Williams did his coach, Dee Brown’s dunk, who was in the building 20 years after winning with the same dunk. Here’s my video from this contest which was aired in its entirety on Versus.

The rest of the season was great too. You can follow several players on twitter as well! Through being a season ticket holder, I got to take the fam bowling with the Vipers. I got to meet and bowl with Duke Champion, Jon Scheyer. [Read story]

Clyde Drexler and Moses Malone were in attendance for one of the games. I got their autographs on glossy pictures of them in Rockets action.

So check out the DLeague sometime if you haven’t already. During the season, every game is streamed live on NBA Futurecast, so you can follow teams wherever they are. If you’ve got a team nearby, go catch a game. You just might find a great new hobby, like I have!

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  1. Stanley Mazzeo
    April 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Hey, this was great Thanks, I’m definitely subscribing

    • April 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks, I haven’t blogged much about the DLeague this year. I’m going Friday to my last Vipers game, then we’re moving to Missouri. The closest DLeague team will be the 66ers 2 hours away.

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