- By MIKE LOWE

Staff Writer

PORTLAND – Courtney Pigram couldn’t remember the last time he didn’t score a point in a basketball game.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe YMCA? I was, maybe, 6?”

But that’s the type of weekend the Maine Red Claws had, when they were steamrolled by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers: 101-83 on Saturday, 104-81 on Sunday.

Pigram, the Red Claws’ leading scorer (18.2 points per game), was held without a point in Sunday’s game, taking just three shots in only 14 minutes.

His performance was merely a reflection of the problems the team as a whole was going through. With four new players in the lineup — and a fifth (forward Lawrence Hill) — expected to join the team on its upcoming trip, the team played out of sync, roles were no longer defined and no one knew exactly what to do.

So the Red Claws attempted to remedy those problems during practices on Monday and Tuesday before heading out for six games in 10 days. Pigram and others said the team took big steps forward, despite having some players out of practice. Anthony Kent (foot) missed Monday’s practice and was limited Tuesday. And point guard Jerome Randle, one of the newest Red Claws (acquired in a trade along with Hill from the Texas Legends last Thursday), was invited to Cleveland to practice. He’s expected back with the Red Claws today.

“It was a good two days of practice, with each other for really the first time,” said Pigram. “We got a better feel of what guys can do and where the sweet spots are for certain guys on the floor, defensively and offensively. We needed these two days.

“It’s not going to make everything perfect, but it will help us turn things around.”

At 4-10, with four consecutive losses, the Red Claws have the worst record in the NBA Development League. Now they play at Austin, Texas, on Thursday, at Tulsa, Okla., Saturday and at Frisco, Texas, on Sunday against the Legends before heading to Reno, Nev., for the D-League Showcase.

“I think we took a step, that’s the best way to look at it,” said Dave Leitao, coach of the Red Claws. “It wasn’t 100 percent of what we wanted but we did compete and we did get some things done. And we were able to clarify some things from a psychological standpoint to clear our heads, which was a big step.

“We didn’t solve all the problems of the world but I think we’re in a better place today than we were on Sunday.”

Like every NBA Development League team, the Red Claws roster has been in constant upheaval this year because of the late start of the NBA season. For a while, the team seemed to be bonding well, especially when five players were invited to NBA training camps.

Then the players started coming back from NBA camps: Antonio Anderson (now on waivers due to injury), Mike Tisdale (since waived), Kenny Hayes and Durrell Summers. Seeking more talent, the Red Claws signed NBA vet Ricky Davis, then traded for Hill and Randle.

With all those new faces, the team struggled simply to run simple offensive and defensive plays. So it was important to have at least two days of practice to get to know each other.

“We worked real hard and I feel we made some big strides from where we finished Sunday to where we are now,” said center Dominic Calegari. “It wasn’t pretty (last weekend) and it didn’t feel real good. When that happens, you can go one of two ways. I feel we all responded well.”

Beyond their team roles, said forward Paul Harris, the players need to simply get to know each other. “And this was exactly what we needed,” he said. “Some bonding time.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH