The whistle blew in practice and Coach Mike Taylor approached a couple of younger players for the Maine Red Claws.

There’s a lot of youth on this team. Half of the Red Claws’ players are rookies, newbies getting their first taste of professional ball.

So you expect mistakes. That’s why Taylor blew his whistle. But there was no chewing out. He offered a 10-second explanation, pointed to a spot on the floor and the players nodded. Comprehension came quickly.

“Even though they’re rookies, they have a high basketball IQ,” Taylor said. “They’re smart, pay attention to detail.

“Really fun group. These guys are receptive and take it in. With that you have intelligent practices.”

OK. But can these honor students play?


The Red Claws will open their fifth D-League season at 7 p.m. Friday at the Portland Expo.

Taylor returns for his second season after leading the Red Claws to their first playoff berth last year.

This year’s team features youth and talent. Of the 10 players, six took part in NBA preseason camps, including four rookies.

“We’re all still learning at this level,” rookie Damon Bell-Holter said. “We’re growing with each other, but we’ve been around different NBA camps so we’ve been able to soak it up.

“I had an opportunity to be around the Celtics for two months. I came into this a lot more experienced.”

Bell-Holter, a 6-foot-9 post player from Oral Roberts, is one of the three players who arrived in Portland from the Red Claws’ NBA affiliate team, the Boston Celtics.


The other two players who tried out with the Celtics are 6-5 guard forward Chris Babb of Iowa State and 6-2 guard Kammron Taylor of Wisconsin.

Taylor is inactive with a sore Achilles tendon but eventually could be added to the roster.

What the Red Claws will not likely feature are actual players on the Celtics’ roster.

Last year Boston had a veteran club and sent two of its 2012 draft picks – center Fab Melo and guard/forward Kris Joseph – to Portland for playing time.

This year’s Celtics team has five players eligible to be sent to the D-League – three rookies and two other players with two years or less NBA experience.

But they are all getting some playing time with the suddenly youthful Celtics.


Two of the current Red Claws do have NBA experience – returning players Chris Wright and Jermaine Taylor.

Wright, at 6-8, plays either forward position. He’s in his third year with Maine; he was called up in his rookie season for 24 games with the Golden State Warriors. Last season, Wright averaged 18.3 points and 9.2 rebounds.

Taylor, a 6-4 shooting guard, played most of his first two pro seasons (2009 through 2011) in the NBA with Houston and Sacramento.

He has played overseas and in the D-League since, including the last 10 games for the Red Claws last year (averaging 24.4 points).

Wright, Taylor and Bell-Holter will be likely starters Friday night, with strong forward Romero Osby (6-8) and point guard Abdul Gaddy (6-1). Both are rookies.

Babb will be one of the first players off the bench. Marcel Anderson will back up at point guard and Frank Gaines at shooting guard. Corey Allmond can play both guard spots, and 7-foot Ty Walker will sub in underneath.


“I think you’re going to see a team that’s played really well together in the preseason,” Coach Taylor said. “Our house is in order. We’ve got really good chemistry. We’ve got really good leadership. Our system is solid.”

Now it will be seen if those young smart guys will be able to come through.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH

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