The Maine Red Claws, the D-League affiliate of the Boston Celtics and the Charlotte Bobcats, officially began their inaugural season on the road over the weekend. They played the Sioux Falls Skyforce on Friday night in South Dakota and the Dakota Wizards Saturday night in North Dakota. This sort of short road trip is common for the D-League.
I wasn't able to see either game, unfortunately; I don't think either was broadcast locally, although Friday night I was at the Garden, so I'm not sure. My first detailed recap will be after this Friday's home opener in Portland.
The Claws split the weekend, returning home 1-1 after their jaunt to the Dakotas. They fell to Sioux Falls 112-95 on Friday, but defeated Dakota 107-97 on Saturday. In both games Billy Thomas (the first player signed with the team) and Bill Walker led the team in scoring. Walker had a double-double on Friday with 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists, but on Saturday had 18 points, 8 rebounds, and no assists in much less playing time. Thomas had 18 points on both nights.
The Friday night game was competitive despite the final score, with the Claws only behind by five at the half. Sioux Falls pulled away in both quarters in the second half, however, and F Reggie Williams, a VMI product, finished the night with 29 points. On Saturday the Claws seemed to have a much more balanced approach, with points spread across more players.
The Claws will now have four days of rest before the Friday night home opener. This is fairly typical for the D-League, where most games (about two-thirds) are played on the weekend to maximize attendance. When the Red Claws play their first home game on Friday I'll be keeping a close eye on Walker to see how integrated he is with the rest of the team after two games. I suspect he'll see a lot of time on Friday after only playing about 13 minutes on Saturday. This will also work well for the team marketing-wise, to have the one assigned Celtic play more during the home opener.
It will also be interesting to see if Charlotte assigns any players to Maine before the home opener. The Bobcats have four players eligible for D-League assignment: Alexis Ajinca, D.J. Augustin, Derrick Brown, and Gerald Henderson. Ajinca and Brown are the likeliest of these to be shipped up to Maine, as Augustin and Henderson seem to be seeing regular playing time off the bench for Charlotte. Plus, Henderson is a favorite of both MJ and local crowds, so the idea of him being sent to Maine is remote.
UPDATE: Alexis Ajinca, the 7-foot French Center/Power Forward was assigned to Portland.
For Boston, J.R. Giddens and Lester Hudson are the other two players eligible for D-League assignment. Neither have seen much playing time so far this season, and as Tony Allen and Glen Davis return from injury they are likely to be pushed from the bench to the D-League.
It will certainly be an interesting season for the Red Claws. While I'll be paying special attention to Giddens, Hudson, & Walker, I'm also looking forward to seeing all the D-League players, including those assigned by Charlotte. Based on the preseason game and the first two regular-season games, it looks like we'll be getting an exciting year in Portland.