Sunday, March 9, 2014
Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.
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The Maine Red Claws reduced their roster to 11 as they prepare for their season-opener this weekend at the Portland Expo.
The Red Claws, the NBA D-League affiliate of the Boston Celtics, will commence their fifth season with home games on Friday night at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.
Two players return to the team from last year - forward Chris Wright and guard Jermaine Taylor. Only one draft pick made the team - guard Frank Gaines, who was Maine’s top pick, coming in the second round.
Two players from tryouts made the cut - guard Corey Almond and center Ty Walker.
During the excitement of March Madness, we witness the emotion of college basketball, as players put their heart into the game.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the NBA D-League. Players come and go. You wonder how loyal they can be, how much emotion they can put into the game. They are professional mercenaries.
But they also care.
Listen to guard Curtis Jerrells, recently signed by the Maine Red Claws, and a key player in their 109-102 win over the Erie BayHawks (see today’s story).
With its 90-88 win over the Erie BayHawks Friday night, the Maine Red Claws (20-18) are a game out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the NBA D-League standings.
Erie (20-16) currently holds that eighth spot, which makes Sunday's 1 p.m. game between the two teams a little more interesting.
In Friday's win, Maine showed some of its new look with recently-acquired guard Mark Tyndale coming off the bench to play solid defense. Newly-activated guard Jeremiah Rivers started and also played fine defense.
Another guard that Maine just traded for, Gabe Pruitt, did not play Friday. He just arrived and Red Coach coach Mike Taylor said he wanted to give him time to adapt to Maine's system. Expect him to play Sunday.
The Boston Celtics have bolstered their front line recently with 10-day contracts handed out to 6-foot-9 D.J. White and 6-10 Shavlik Randolph.
That has allowed Boston to send 7-foot center Fab Melo back to the Red Claws, in time for their 7 p.m. game at the Expo tonight. Maine is also playing a Sunday home game at 1 p.m.
The Red Claws are trying to end a five-game losing streak and get back into playoff contention. See today's story.
At one time, the Maine Red Claws had the top point guard in the NBA D-League.
And, it seems, the Boston Celtics could use a point guard.
But it’s unsure if the Red Claws, or any other D-League team, will help the Celtics replace Rajon Rondo, out for the year with a torn ACL.
First of all, the Red Claws no longer have point guard Shelvin Mack - for now. He just re-signed with the Philadelphia 76ers for a second 10-day contract. It is not sure how much Mack figures in the 76ers’ plans. He’s played three games so far, and a total of only five minutes.