Good evening, loves! As you probably know, the Erie Bayhawks have begun their 2013-2014 seasons and the roster features one current Knick and two very possible future ones: Chris Smith, CJ Leslie, and the injured Jeremy Tyler. The D-League schedule is shorter than its NBA counterpart, and I thought some might like to know how the prospects are developing over in the ol' Development League. I'll bring you little recaps of what I see from the younglings. For free! Aren't I sweet?
As mentioned above Jeremy Tyler is still out with a foot injury, but Leslie and Smith started today against the Maine Red Claws. The results were... mixed.
Box Score: 27 mins, 6 points, 4 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 1 block, 1-9 FGM-A, 0-1 3PTM-A, 4-8 FTM-A, 1 TO
CJ Leslie looks about the same as he did during Summer League. Not particularly bad, by any means. It's tough to notice Leslie on the court as he continually fails to make a noticeable impact on the game. He floated through most of it, an issue that has stuck with him since CJ's days at NC State. While Leslie is still not an impact defender, his physical tools helped him deflect quite a few passes and bother a few errant dribbles. On one possession in the third quarter, Leslie poked the ball loose near the baseline and took off downcourt like he smelled a poop. The Bayhawks did not recover the ball after his deflection, but Terrence Jennings was able to block the subsequent Red Claw field goal attempt and get the rock out to Leslie for the dunk on the other end. Gambles like that are inadvisable, but it's nice to see that 7'3" wingspan actually get used for good stuff. Speaking of stuff, Leslie tried to record a highlight block deep in the second period. He launched straight up in the air, and it's pretty exciting how high he can leap. Les just snatched the ball out of the air, which would have been even cooler if it wasn't a goaltend, Nice try, young CJ. Hopefully next time. Apart from those plays Leslie just kind of held his own on defense.
Leslie struggled to make a positive impact on the offensive end, going just 1-9 from the field. He drew several fouls when he put his head down in transition and attacked the rim, but in halfcourt situation Leslie operates more like a small forward. He just can't connect on those perimeter jumpers enough to justify the attempts. Given his limited skillset, Leslie would benefit from plays designed to get him the ball around the basket instead of isolating at the elbow as he is wont to do. We'll see how Coach Cross chooses to showcase CJ moving forward.
All in all: Not a terrible performance from CJ Leslie. He is much the same guy he was last we checked on him. He needs time.
Box Score: 25 mins, 10 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 4-12 FGM-A, 0-3 3PTM-A, 2-2 FTM-A, 3 TO
Smaller Smith looked like a quality player out against a solid Red Claws team. Chris Smith is billed as a defensive-minded guard, and he certainly resembled one against Maine tonight. Smith gave quality minutes defending Abdul Gaddy and generally denied his opponents easy looks. One of the nice surprises about Smith's game is the hustle and energy he brings to the glass, finishing with 14 rebounds (6 offensive) in only 25 minutes of action. For all his weaknesses, Smith legitimately helped the Bayhawks on both ends by diving into the fray and coming up with loose balls and rebounds amongst the trees. JR described his brother as a defensive guard, and CSmith exceeded expectations on that end.
Chris Smith offered a more muted performance on the offensive end. Smith seems to be more of a scoring guard, but lacks the tools to really do consistent damage as a scorer. With only an average first step and a subpar outside shot, Smith does not appear capable of running an offense alone yet. I know: You're all shocked. He scored 4 of his 10 points on little baby hooks in the lane, and actually displayed nice feel once he had the ball in the paint. Unfortunately Smith couldn't consistently get there unaided and found many of his looks after working hard for the offensive board or driving in transition. He shared ballhandling duties with Mustafa Shakur, and Shakur appeared to be a more confident scorer off the dribble. Smith stumbled into three turnovers, which isn't ideal, but he also found his teammates for three assists. He's willing to give up the ball; just didn't appear to be a very skilled creator.
Smith has yet to show the kind of shooting touch, handle, or finishing ability to become a scoring threat in either the NBA or the NBADL. Still, Smith's moxie was not lost on me and I am tentatively interested to see how Smith grows here in Erie.
Other Things of Note
-Jermaine Taylor went down in the second quarter after a collision with CJ Leslie. Taylor's knee buckled, and he appeared to be in a lot of pain. He was assisted off the court by teammates and quickly left the arena for an MRI. I hope you're ok, Jermaine.
-The game started to turn into a rout midway through the third quarter. The Bayhawks offense stagnated while Ricky Davis sat, nobody could hit a three, but the team kept launching long twos leading to tons of transition opportunities for the Red Claws. Not only did the Bayhawks struggle to contain Maine in transition, but they found themselves a step late closing out on opposing three-point shooters allowing Maine to make 14 threes on 50% shooting. It was like watching the Knicks all over again!
-Coach Cross just walked out of a huddle in the fourth quarter. I assume he was disgusted with the general yuckiness and laziness of the team. I don't much blame him. It was yucky.
-On the bright side there were INFLATABLE MASCOTS! Like, six of them. I found myself waiting for breaks in the action just to see them do stuff. The Ostrich kept falling over and collapsing within itself. The Bull was giving out signatures. The Horse was bouncing on its head for a little bit. At one point the Ostrich just started swinging its head around like a flail trying to hit other mascots. From my notes: "I think Squidney Crosby ate a person because he's vomiting pieces of clothing. And... yep. He just finished by tossing up a nearly naked man." Inflatable mascots are the best thing about professional sports, and you're a damn liar if you disagree. I have a new career goal.
And that was the game. It was a fun time, once you get past the terrible offense and gruesome injury and swiss cheese perimeter defense. Really I'm still just thinking about the inflatable mascots. We need more of those. See you next time!