April 10, 2012

Satisfying season, but Red Claws still hungry

The Red Claws drew plenty of interest from fans, but missing the playoffs for the third time is a sore spot.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Point guard Kenny Hayes raised his points-per game average from seven in 2010-11 to 17.1 this year. “We were better players at the end of the year than we were at the beginning,” he said.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Press Herald file

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Team President and General Manager Jon Jennings says he’s already starting to put together next year’s Red Claws team.

Gregory Rec/Press Herald file

THE GOOD AND THE BAD FROM THE CLAWS' SEASON

The Maine Red Claws finished their third season with a pair of back-to-back last-second wins over the Tulsa 66ers last weekend. But it wasn’t enough to get them into the playoffs, as Maine finished with a 21-29 record. We asked Jon Jennings, the team’s president and general manager, to list three things that he felt the organization did well this season, and three things it needs to improve upon. Here’s what he said:

ON THE PLUS SIDE:

1. “We continue to do very well on the business side, and that’s a direct reflection of all the fans that come out to our games. So from a business perspective, we continue to do exceedingly well. We’re one, two or three in every statistical category in the league.’’

2. “We did an OK job of replacing players in that chaotic time (when the NBA lockout ended). Guys like (Dominic) Calegari and (Courtney) Pigram were very instrumental in keeping us competitive.’’

3. “Honestly, I think we drafted well. We had a terrific first-round pick (Chris Wright) who was the only rookie signed for the entire year by an NBA team (Golden State). Unfortunately, he didn’t play as long with us as I hoped.’’

ON THE IMPROVEMENT SIDE

1. “We’ve got to focus exclusively, from a basketball perspective, on the playoffs. Three years into this, and I’m a basketball guy, never in my dreams did I think three years into this we wouldn’t be in the playoffs.’’

2. “We’ve got to continue to develop players. We take a lot of pride in our ability to develop players.’’

3. “We’ve got to continue to get even better on the experience that our fans have at our games. I’m not a person who has ever believed in complacency. Just because we’ve done very well, I want to be even better. That’s going to be part of the mission this summer, to further improve what we do for our fans.’’

– Mike Lowe

Then the NBA lockout ended and the roster shuffling began. The Red Claws lost their No.1 draft pick, forward Chris Wright, who signed with Golden State for the season, and never were able to maintain any roster consistency. For the season, they used 29 players.

Even in a league where player movement is almost an everyday occurrence, that's a lot.

So they want a core group that will be not only familiar faces to the fans, but keep the team chemistry together. Guys like Hayes -- who, off his breakout season will surely have other options but said he would "love to be back in Maine" -- forward DeShawn Sims, forward Cedric Bozeman.

"We've got to begin very early the process of determining who we want to come back," said Leitao.

He and Jennings are attending this week's Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational, a camp for NBA wannabees and many D-League probables.

"We're going to start scouting on Wednesday and start putting together a team for next year," Jennings said.

The problem will be convincing many of those young men to stay in the D-League, where they stand to make about $25,000, or go overseas for four times that amount.

Leitao said it should be easier now. The D-League had a record 49 call-ups to the NBA, involving 34 players this year.

"It's about opportunity," he said. "This is now a clear-cut picture."

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

 

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