WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The D-League’s training camp, at 10 days, is truly a crash course. Throw in an ever-shifting roster, with players being called to the NBA and returned, and you begin to appreciate how difficult it is to prepare.

“There are lots of challenges but everyone’s got them,” said Maine Red Claws Coach Scott Morrison. “Putting in your system in 10 days. Dealing with new players that don’t know what you do.”

One thing Morrison didn’t expect was meeting a team that gave more effort, but that’s what he got Thursday night when the Red Claws opened with a 105-103 loss to the Westchester Knicks.

“I felt that the things you should control over 48 minutes – effort and intensity – that’s where we lost the game,” said Morrison. “(The Knicks) were more intense, more energized.”

Point guard Corey Walden’s runner that would have tied the game rimmed out as time expired. The play capped a furious late-game Maine surge.

Trailing 101-92 with 4:04 to play, James Young hit a 3, then executed a give-and-go with Jordan Mickey to pull the Red Claws within 101-99 with 1:19 left.

Walden (19 points) tied the game twice in the last minute, including a runner with 30 seconds left to make it 103-103.

“We’re just learning to play with each other,” said Young, who finished with a game-high 30 points. “We’re going to be good. It’s a process.”

The Red Claws have some new parts and some valuable returning players. Tim Frazier, last season’s D-League MVP, is gone. But in the 6-foot-8 Mickey, the Celtics’ second-round pick, the Red Claws have a strong presence around the rim.

With the Red Claws trailing with under a minute left, Mickey’s crushing block of DeJuan Summers’ shot was ruled goaltending, but showed that Mickey can be a momentum-changer.

“Everyone wants to play in the NBA,” said Mickey, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds. “But (playing in the D-League) is part of development, part of getting better.”

Both Young and Mickey said they would benefit from the reps they receive with Portland.

“It’s basically the me thing,” said Young. “I know all of the (Red Claws) plays.”

Omari Johnson, another returning player, provides another jolt. Johnson (14 points, 10 rebounds), showed a deft outside touch.

Johnson understands the league’s challenges as well as anyone. After participating in training camp with the Portland Trail Blazers, he decided to come back.

“It can be difficult for players because minutes go up and minutes go down,” said Johnson. “It’s that kind of league; players come and players go.”

The Red Claws will look for their first victory Saturday night when they travel to Canton.


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