PORTLAND – And so it begins.

The Maine Red Claws will start their third D-League season Friday night in Springfield, with probably as many questions now as they had when training camp opened two weeks ago.

And that’s pretty much the way it should be at this time of the year.

“The big thing you have to remember is that you’ve got 50 (games),” said center Anthony Kent, a veteran of three D-League seasons. “That first game does not define your whole season.”

But it does give you a starting point. And for first-year coach Dave Leitao, it provides a comparison against another opponent. For two weeks the Red Claws have been going at each other in scrimmages and drills.

Now it’s time to see how they match up against different talent.

“This is where it all starts,” said Leitao. “There’s no way in just two weeks you can be comfortable (with what you’re doing). There’s always something that’s going to keep you pushing forward.

“Even if you win,” he continued, “you’re still going to have so many things to work on and improve. Good or bad, you might see things that confirm what you’ve seen. Or it might be something else.”

What Leitao and the Red Claws have discovered in their two weeks of preseason is this should be a very strong defensive club. Offensively? There are questions.

Even with such talented players as Chris Wright, J.R. Reynolds and Kenny Hayes, the team is still looking for what Jon Jennings calls the “go-to guy.”

“When you draw up the last-second play, that go-to player,” said Jennings, the team’s president and general manager.

And while the Red Claws seem strong in the backcourt, they also acknowledge the need for more inside offense. Mike Tisdale, the 7-foot-1 rookie center, is actually more of a perimeter player. Kent, another big man at 6-10, averaged five points per game last year.

But the players aren’t worried about what they may lack right now.

“We’re still trying to learn each other’s game, we’re still at the beginning,” said Hayes. “But we all like each other, we all hang out together off the court. I think everybody’s mind is focused on (that) this is the journey to a championship.”

NOTES: The Red Claws waived forward Alex Harrington to get down to their 10-man roster. Paul Harris, the 6-5 forward who was the Red Claws’ first pick ever, is expected to report this weekend. But it’s unknown when he will be activated to the 10-man roster. He has been missing for personal reasons. Reynolds played the last four years in Europe. Before that he played for Leitao at the University of Virginia. “That had a big part of me having the opportunity to play here,” said Reynolds, a perimeter scoring threat. Reynolds sees a big difference in Leitao. “For sure, for sure. He’s more laid back, calm. I think he’s a different man than he was before.”


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

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