When you watch the Maine Red Claws take to the Portland Expo floor, you watch pro basketball players dazzle with dunks and thrill with long three-point shots.
You also watch them grow up.
This Red Claws team is noted for its youth. Six of the nine players are rookies. They make mistakes.
In Abdul Gaddy’s case, he made his share of errors and for a while lost his starting point guard job.
Now Gaddy, 22, is leading. He recorded a triple-double Sunday afternoon as the Maine Red Claws topped the Austin Toros 113-104 before 2,660 at the Portland Expo.
There was also a national TV audience watching, via the CBS Sports Network.
Gaddy scored 23, while adding 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
“Abdul has been great,” Maine Coach Mike Taylor said. “He listens, is very coachable. He concentrates.
“He’s got more and more confidence in his shooting ability, more and more confidence in his playmaking ability. I love the fact that he’s growing as a leader, too.”
Chris Wright, the veteran leader on the team, put up solid numbers with a double-double (23 points and 12 rebounds). He also had six assists.
Frank Gaines scored his team’s last nine points to total 22. Guard Tyler Brown scored 17, all in the first half. Back-up center Daniel Orton came in and recorded 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.
“A real team effort,” Gaddy said. “My job is making plays, whether I have the open shot or my teammates do.”
Maine (16-21) bounced back from a horrible game Friday (109-91 loss to Canton). Even though the Red Claws still made a lot of turnovers (22), they also outshot Austin 52 to 43 percent.
“We got outside of our structure and that’s where the turnovers come from,” Taylor said. “Sometimes, young players make those decisions. But overall the effort was solid.”
Gaddy, 6-foot-1, hit 9 of 11 shots, including 4 of 5 3-pointers. He also controlled the offense. There were turnovers (Gaddy had seven) but there was also flow.
“I just have more confidence,” said Gaddy, who was playing for the University of Washington at this time last year. “I have a better grasp. The game is slowing down for me.”
And yet Gaddy’s feet were flying in the first quarter on Sunday, scoring 12 points as Maine took a 33-18 lead.
The Toros, however, poured in 36 points in the second quarter to close to 60-54. “Not happy with our defensive effort in that quarter,” Taylor said.
Austin and Maine traded the lead eight times in the third quarter.
The Toros rallied one more time to tie it 88-88 early in the fourth quarter. But a Gaddy drive in traffic, a Wright 3-pointer and three Gaines free throws for an 8-0 run gave the Red Claws a lead they never lost.
Austin’s Flip Murray led all scorers with 30.
NOTES: Gaddy recorded the fourth triple-double in franchise history, joining Fab Melo, Kenny Hayes and Mario West … Center Zeke Marshall had eight rebounds and four blocked shots … The Red Claws return to the Expo Thursday for a 7 p.m. game against Fort Wayne.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: