PORTLAND – When they left Portland on Feb. 11, the Maine Red Claws were still considered one of the best teams in the D-League.
Five road losses later, Maine (19-18) isn’t even in the playoff picture.
But that can change. At least the Red Claws hope so as they begin five straight home games at 7 p.m. Friday against the Erie BayHawks (20-15).
Maine will play the BayHawks again at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Portland Expo.
This will be a different team than the one that left Portland 19 days ago.
“We’re taking steps to move in the right direction,” Coach Mike Taylor said.
Two trades and one injury brought three new players: guards Mark Tyndale, Gabe Pruitt and Jeremiah Rivers replace the traded James Mays and Andre Barrett, and Xavier Silas (separated shoulder).
The Red Claws obtained the 6-foot-9 Mays right before their trip, trading former Celtics forward Kris Joseph to Springfield for him. But Mays apparently never fit in, though he averaged 12.4 points and 9.6 rebounds.
“For one reason or another, the move with James Mays just wasn’t working with the chemistry of the team,” Taylor said.
Joseph is shining for the Armor, averaging 22.5 points.
Tyndale, 6-5, was averaging 10.1 points with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. A product of Temple University, Tyndale played the last two seasons overseas.
Pruitt, 6-4, was a second-round draft pick of the Celtics in 2007 and played on Boston’s 2008 NBA championship team. He has since played in the D-League and was with Sioux Falls when Maine traded Barrett for him.
Barrett, a pure point guard, wasn’t needed as much because Shelvin Mack returned from a 20-day stint with the Philadelphia 76ers.
To replace Silas, one of the Red Claws’ best defenders, Maine activated the 6-5 Rivers off the inactive roster.
Rivers, son of Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, had been shelved since the start of the season, still recovering from surgery on both feet.
In three games, Rivers has averaged seven points and three assists.
“Jeremiah has come in and shown outstanding defensive abilities,” Taylor said. “We think he can be a better complement to Shelvin at the point guard position.”
Defense is one area that needs to improve.
In their five straight losses, the Red Claws allowed 118 points a game. And the offense also has struggled.
“Our shot selection has to improve,” Taylor said. “And we’ve been getting off to these slow starts and that has to change.”
In the East Division, Maine is in third place, behind first-place Canton (21-14) and Erie.
NOTES: Silas is likely done for the season after undergoing surgery Wednesday to correct his separated shoulder. Blues Traveler lead singer John Popper is scheduled to sing the national anthem before tonight’s game.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: