Apr 26, 2014 3:14 AM EDT
In the middle of training camp in October, Troy Daniels listened to the Charlotte Bobcats’ front office inform him of his release. He was a prolific shooter at Virginia Commonwealth, a positive soul and a hard worker, and here was the Bobcats’ reasoning for cutting the undrafted Daniels: Too short, a point guard-shooting guard tweener.
For a night, Daniels justified his standing, draining three 3-pointers and the game-winning three-pointer in the Houston Rockets’ 121-116 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3 on Friday night. This was Houston’s season – a 3-0 series deficit staring them all the way into an offseason filled with regret and questions surrounding coaches and players.
Everyone understood the shooting prowess in Daniels, but no one plucked him out of the NBA Development League like the Rockets in February. They signed him to a non-guaranteed contract through 2015-16, an investment to reward his play with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, whom Daniels remained with in agreement with Houston after it also released him before this season.
Two months later, Daryl Morey’s acquisition paid dividends in the most ultimate way. Daniels isn’t a pure point guard and steady defender yet, but that’s why Houston has Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley.
By releasing Ronnie Brewer to create roster space for Daniels, perhaps the Rockets feared some franchise was bound to beat them to the deadeye shooter. He was their own, too, helping implement a transformative playing style in the D-League, with an emphasis on launching three-pointers because, well, they’re worth more than two.
In the end, the Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic closely monitored Daniels and had interest in him before his deal with the Rockets, leagues sources told RealGM. And yet, these Rockets were the recipients of Daniels’ 3-of-6 shooting from three-point range, honoring his four collegiate seasons and commitment to the Summer League and D-League route to the NBA.
“It’s a dream come true,” Daniels said at the interview podium after Friday's game.
The Rockets have utilized Rio Grande Valley for serious roster development and invest in the minor-league franchise to grow players for the main organization. They sell players on the Vipers’ system, the environment they’ve created with coaches.
Daniels averaged 21.5 points and made five three-pointers while attempting 12.5 with Rio Grande Valley, and this is exactly why Kevin McHale turned to the 22-year-old rookie in Game 3: his shooting is special. The Rockets had been reeling through Games 1 and 2, receiving poor performances from James Harden and the bench, but Harden went for 37 points and Lin and Daniels combined for 22 critical points on Friday.
The Trail Blazers kept coming back, and Damian Lillard was brilliant and took advantage of mismatches. They forced overtime despite trailing by double digits early in the fourth quarter, but LaMarcus Aldridge missed all three shot attempts after regulation. For the Rockets, the Blazers’ frontcourt allows them to use Dwight Howard and Omer Asik together, big men able to provide length on Aldridge.
Suddenly in overtime, Lin probed the lane out of desperation and a scramble situation, when he found a streaking Daniels wide open and aired the ball out to the 6-foot-4 guard. Without hesitation, with Aldridge closing out, Daniels rose, fired his smooth jumper and rattled in the go-ahead shot with 11 seconds left.
One by one, they all mobbed him, Harden and Chandler Parsons, Josh Powell and Beverley. The Rockets were on the brink of an upset to a younger, more inexperienced team, on the brink of a 3-0 hole, and Daniels revived the season and restored their promise in this series.
“A couple weeks ago, [Daniels] was in the D-League,” Harden told reporters. “He saved our season.”
It’s simply one jumper, people will say, but clutch shots in the postseason have enhanced careers and padded résumés in the past, and they’ll continue to.
An inch too short, Daniels had heard in training camp. For him, Friday was all part of his goals. This was his job. Other teams paid close attention as Daniels’ three-point totals flourished in the D-League, but no one made the signing. Season on the line in Game 3, and the Houston Rockets found their hero: Troy Daniels.
Apr 22, 2014 1:03 PM EDT
RealGM’s Player of the Week: Isaiah Canaan (Rio Grande Valley Vipers)
The Houston Rockets assignee split time between Rio Grande Valley and the big league club this week. In three D-League playoff games, Canaan averaged 34.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 44 percent (24-55) from behind the arc. The 6-foot point guard out of Murray State has the ability to score in bunches, shown in his 43-point outburst on Saturday. Murray was a second round pick in last year’s draft and should be a key piece to keep an eye on this summer. He may even see action in the NBA playoffs if Patrick Beverly is unable to play.
Game of the Week: Fort Wayne Mad Ants 113, Sioux Falls Skyforce 111
Despite trailing 91-79 entering the fourth quarter, Fort Wayne mounted a comeback to stay undefeated in the playoffs. Tony Mitchell banked in a runner with 4.2 seconds left to give Fort Wayne the road win.
Sadiel Rojas led Fort Wayne with 20 points and six rebounds while Mitchell added 19 points, seven assists, and six boards.
Sioux Falls received a game-high 24 points from Henry Walker. DeAndre Liggins had a stat-stuffing 19 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists while Tre Kelley finished with 14 points and 10 assists.
Fort Wayne captured game two as well to advance into the 2014 NBA D-League Finals. The Mad Ants will face the Santa Cruz Warriors to crown a champion.
Lance Goulbourne (Santa Cruz Warriors): Goulbourne averaged 17.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game while shooting 60 percent from the field. The 6-foot-8 forward has made his biggest contributions in the rebounding department while his minutes have increased.
Cameron Jones (Santa Cruz Warriors): The D-League’s Mr. Consistent had a nice trio of performances to propel the Warriors to the finals. Jones averaged 21 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 2-of-5 from three. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is a great glue guy for Santa Cruz and will need to continue to perform at a high level to win the D-League title.
Tre Kelley (Sioux Falls Skyforce): Kelley had an all-around quality week for Sioux Falls. The 6-foot point guard averaged 18.7 points and 8.3 assists per game this week on 50 percent shooting. He’s a good shooter who can draw some Summer League intrigue.
Darius Morris (Rio Grande Valley Vipers): The reigning Player of the Week averaged 25 points, eight assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 33 percent (8-24) from deep. Morris clearly has the talent to find his way onto an NBA roster once again. The 6-foot-4 point guard can score in a variety of ways and has the quickness and length to defend NBA guards.
Sadiel Rojas (Fort Wayne Mad Ants): It took a team-effort for the Mad Ants to reach the D-League finals, but Rojas was one of the many standouts. He averaged 20 points and nine rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the field and 38 percent (5-13) from deep. He’s been a key scorer for the Mad Ants all season.
Melvin Ely (Texas Legends): The New Orleans Pelicans signed Ely to play the final two games of the season. Ely played a total of 27 minutes where he had six points, a rebound, and a block.
And One: The D-League announced that the Springield Armor will move to Grand Rapids next season to become a one-to-one affiliate with the Detroit Pistons. Like the incoming team in White Plains, New York, the fans will vote on the future name.
Apr 14, 2014 10:24 AM EDT
RealGM’s Player of the Week: Darius Morris (Rio Grande Valley Vipers)
Morris had an absolutely absurd week to kick off the D-League playoffs. He started with 29 points (11-18 FG, 3-4 3FG), 11 assists, and five rebounds as Rio Grande Valley topped Iowa, 146-135. Morris was even more sensational in the following game with 51 points (17-26 FG, 7-10 3FG) and 18 assists on Saturday, although the Vipers fell 145-142. After spending time with the Clippers, 76ers, and Grizzlies this season, Morris couldn’t find a permanent home and has spent the past month dominating the D-League. The 6-foot-4 point guard out of Michigan was a second round pick in 2011 and should land on an NBA roster next season. He’s still only 23 years old and will have a chance to prove himself over the offseason in the Summer League. Until then, he’ll look to have another big game on Monday to help the Vipers advance past the first round.
Game of the Week: Fort Wayne Mad Ants 97, Reno Bighorns 96
In a tight, back-and-forth contest, the game fittingly entered the fourth quarter with a tied score. Reno opened the quarter on an 11-0 run but slowly watched its lead slip away in the closing minutes. Fort Wayne grabbed a rebound and called timeout with 13 seconds left, trailing 96-95. Tim Ohlbrect’s put back on a missed lay-up with 5.3 seconds left ultimately made the difference as Fort Wayne took a 1-0 lead in the series. After the Mad Ants won again on Sunday, they’ve advanced past the first round of the D-League playoffs.
Matt Bouldin led Fort Wayne on Friday with 20 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Ron Howard added 19 points while Tony Mitchell chipped in 17. Sadiel Rojas had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Reno received a game-high 22 points from Mo Charlo. K.C. Rivers contributed 19 points and Willie Reed added 15 points and nine rebounds.
Patrick Christopher (Iowa Energy): Last week’s Player of the Week stringed together a pair of quality performances for the Energy. Christopher averaged 33 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 47 percent from three. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Cal has made a statement to end the D-League season and has a chance to keep it going if the Energy top the Vipers on Monday.
Seth Curry (Santa Cruz Warriors): Curry had 44 points and seven assists while shooting 15-of-20 from the field and 9-of-14 from deep on Thursday. He went on to score 23 points (7-16 FG, 4-9 3FG), dish three assists, and grab three rebounds to help the Warriors advance into the semi-finals. The 6-foot-2 point guard from Duke played with the Cavaliers and Grizzlies this season but has only played a combined 13 minutes in the NBA. With his improvement as a steady pick-and-roll point guard, Curry should be a prospect to keep an eye on.
Troy Daniels (Rio Grande Valley Vipers): On contract with the Houston Rockets, Daniels split time between the Vipers and the big-league club this week. He averaged 28 points this past week while shooting 32 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc. It wasn’t his most efficient shooting display, but Daniels is a three-point specialist who also made a contribution for the Rockets on Wednesday. He scored 12 points in 11 minutes against the Nuggets while shooting 4-of-6 from three. Daniels is on a two-year deal with Houston and could see extended time for the big league club next season.
Cameron Jones (Santa Cruz Warriors): Jones has always been a rock-solid contributor for Santa Cruz and made a major impact this past week. He averaged 31.5 points, six rebounds, and three assists per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 50 percent (4-8) from behind the arc. The crafty, 6-foot-4 shooting guard is a savvy player with a good feel for the game.
Ognjen Kuzmic (Santa Cruz Warriors): The Golden State assignee recorded a pair of double-doubles this week for Santa Cruz. Kuzmic averaged 19 points and 14 rebounds per game while shooting an extremely efficient 76 percent from the field. The 7-footer has been a monster in the rebounding department and showed why he’s on contract with the major league club.
Othyus Jeffers (Iowa Energy): The scrappy, 6-foot-5 wing signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the remainder of the season after averaging 20.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game with the Energy. He spent four games with the San Antonio Spurs earlier this year, even starting in one game, as they looked to reload an injury filled lineup. Now in Minnesota, Jeffers has played 13 minutes in three games, missing his only shot attempt while grabbing three rebounds. He’s a defensive-minded glue guy who was key for the Energy this season.
Grant Jerrett (Tulsa 66ers): Jerrett was a second round pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder this past season but played exclusively in the D-League. The 6-foot-10 power forward averaged 15.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in Tulsa and received his first contract with the big league club this week. He has yet to see the floor in Oklahoma City but the 20-year-old was seen as a long-term prospect since the draft. Jerrett showed good potential this season as a stretch four-man.
Dexter Pittman (Austin Toros): After the Houston Rockets waived Greg Smith because of a season-ending knee injury, Pittman earned his second NBA call-up of the season. The 6-foot-11, 285 pound center was averaging 11.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in Austin but has not seen the floor for the Rockets. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported that Pittman will be released after signing on Friday.
James Southerland (Los Angeles D-Fenders): Southerland signed a contract with the New Orleans Pelicans for the rest of the season and has shown promise in two NBA games. He scored 10 points (4-7 FG, 2-3 3FG) and grabbed three rebounds in only 10 minutes of action on Friday and followed with three points (1-3 FG, 1-1 3FG) and four rebounds in an additional 10 minutes on Saturday. The 6-foot-8 forward from Syracuse was averaging 14.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in the D-League but seems to be raising eyebrows at the NBA level.
Adonis Thomas (Springfield Armor): The Philadelphia 76ers signed the 6-foot-6 rookie shooting guard from Memphis who was averaging 17 points per game while shooting 47 percent from three in Springfield. Thomas has played eight minutes for the 76ers, scoring four points on 2-of-3 shooting. He has a prototypical body for the shooting guard position with plenty of athleticism. Thomas will be a name to remember this summer.
And One: After Sunday’s set of games, Santa Cruz and Fort Wayne were the only two teams to punch their tickets into the semi-finals. The Rio Grande Valley-Iowa and Canton-Sioux Falls series will require a deciding third game on Monday at 8:00 PM EST. Fort Wayne still looks to be the favorite while Santa Cruz pulled a first-round upset.
Apr 08, 2014
Amidst the D-League hopefuls and marginal talent, a few players have proven themselves as NBA caliber, and deserve to have roster spots either with the Sixers or with another franchise.
Apr 07, 2014
The crucial earning years for a basketball player aren't their early 20's but their late 20's, when they are in the prime physically. At that point, it's not about whether they maximized their draft position but whether they developed their game and maximized their earning potential before they start to decline.
Apr 07, 2014
Great weeks for P.J. Hairston, Patrick Christopher, Justin Brownlee, Ike Diogu, Scott Suggs, Kevin Murphy and more.
Mar 31, 2014
On Micah Downs' great week, along with strong showings from Ricky Ledo, Lance Goulbourne, Josiah Turner and Shawne Williams.
Mar 24, 2014
On the call-ups for Seth Curry and James Nunnally, Ike Diogu's trio of double-doubles, and the five-star performers of the week.
Mar 17, 2014
On the excellent week for Shawne Williams, along with Five-Star performances for Josh Akognon, Frank Gaines, Daniel Orton, Henry Walker and more.
Mar 12, 2014
Developing great basketball players require coaches such as Michael Curry who can see beyond the basketball court and can look at each player as much more than just a basketball player, but a representative of the organization, institution and community.
Mar 11, 2014
On Manny Harris, Tiny Gallon, Damion James, Cameron Jones, Willie Reed and more from the D-League.
Mar 03, 2014
On Jae Crowder's excellent week, a thriller between the Legends and D-Fenders featuring 11 players with NBA experience, several Call-Ups and more.
Feb 24, 2014
On a breakout week for Bo Spencer, strong performances from Dee Bost, Robert Covington, Damion James, Kevin Murphy, Flip Murray, along with notes on the Pierre Jackson situation.
Feb 17, 2014
On Tiny Gallon's outstanding week, Seth Curry, Courney Fells, Darius Johnson-Odom, Kevin Murphy, James Nunnally and a recap of the D-League All-Star activities.
Feb 13, 2014
As the best shooter in the D-League, Troy Daniels could see his NBA dream become a reality very soon. Until then, heíll continue to rewrite the record books while raining threes for a championship contending squad.
Feb 10, 2014
For the second time in three weeks, Pierre Jackson has been named RealGMís Player of the Week. Also, notes on Robert Covington, Devin Ebanks, Grant Jerrett, Adonis Thomas and Shawne Williams.
Feb 03, 2014
On Kevin Murphy's brilliant week, strong performances from Dee Bost, P.J. Hairston, Justin Hamilton, Tim Ohlbrecht, Terrence Williams and more.
Jan 27, 2014
On Pierre Jackson's pair of 40-point performances, Isaiah Canaan's development, Archie Goodwin's shooting, call ups for Vander Blue, Othyus Jeffers, and more.
Jan 19, 2014
P.J. Hairston finished with a team-high 22 points (9-16 FG, 4-9 3FG) and six steals in 28 minutes of action to lead the Legends to a 109-99 victory that wasnít nearly as close as the score indicated. He scored in a variety of ways, including high-flying dunks, mid-range jumpers, and his well-documented deep threes.
Dec 30, 2013
It isnít often that a 5-foot-10 point guard is scoring 40 points at the professional level, but thatís exactly what Pierre Jackson has done this season for the Idaho Stampede. Three times this month, to be exact.
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