A whistle blew, the call went against visiting Sioux Falls and the basketball game stopped momentarily at the Portland Expo.

Tim Frazier looked around. He saw Skyforce players shaking a head in disagreement or shuffling back on defense. He raised his eyebrows at a teammate, imploring him to quickly inbound the ball.

Moments later, the Red Claws’ point guard was racing up court, dribbling through taller defenders and attacking the basket. He might finish with a twisting lay-up. He might whip a pass to an open teammate in the corner for a 3-pointer.

With Frazier, you never know.

“He can get into the paint and see through the trees, which is tough for a lot of shorter guards,” said Omari Johnson, who was on the receiving end for a few of Frazier’s 12 assists Sunday night in Maine’s 132-11 victory over Sioux Falls, the team with the best record in the NBA D-League. “So all you’ve got to do is move into (open) space on the 3 and you’ll be alright.”

Johnson knows all about Frazier, having played with him last year as the Red Claws went 35-15 and Frazier received both MVP and Rookie of the Year honors from the D-League. Frazier also earned NBA call-ups from the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers, and remained with the other Portland this season as a third point guard until a trade-deadline deal resulted in him being placed on waivers less than two weeks ago.

He rejoined the Red Claws this weekend, coming off the bench in Saturday night’s 112-95 loss to Sioux Falls and starting and playing nearly 33 minutes in Sunday’s victory that included a triple-double stat line: 24 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.

It marked the fifth time Frazier has achieved that feat, matching everyone else combined in the history of the franchise.

“Great point guard, man,” said Corey Walden, the erstwhile starting point guard who sat out Saturday because of an injured ankle and returned to score 33 points Sunday in his first game with Frazier. “The dude is super fast. He’s crafty. He has great vision, excellent rebounder. … As you can see, when he’s on the court, our offense really clicks.”


Frazier provided plenty of highlights Sunday. Wearing his familiar number 10 with baggy white shorts, close-cropped hair and wide, expressive eyes, Frazier dribbled behind his back at full gallop to avoid a defender’s lunge. He rifled passes to corners or slung them to the wings after driving the lane. He sent bounce passes to big men through traffic. He shoveled leather softly into the hands of waiting shooters.

“The good point guards,” Walden said, “they have that chemistry with other teammates and make people around them better, and that’s something that he possesses.”

Of course, followers of the Red Claws already knew that. Scott Morrison, Maine’s second-year coach, also noticed added maturity from the 25-year-old Frazier.

“He’s a little more of a leader, sets a good example for the guys in terms of being focused in the pregame and the scouting report, things like that,” Morrison said. “He’s still got some things to work on, on the court. He had a few defensive errors (Sunday), got bullied a few times. We’ve got to get him a little more consistent from the 3-point line, but I think he’s capable of it. Hopefully, we can help him get a little bit better at those things while he’s here.”

After the game, Frazier looked past the triple-double and pointed out his six turnovers. He also wants to watch film of his shots to see if any teammates were open for passes instead.

“I’ve got a long ways to go,” he said. “I want to continue getting better every day.”


Frazier developed a tight bond with Portland point guard Damian Lillard. They spent much of the summer together, working out, even traveling. They still speak daily, and in Portland’s first game without Frazier, Lillard acknowledged his friend’s absence with a phantom handshake in pregame introductions.

“We still talk everyday,” Frazier said. “The biggest thing is not being there with him. But life goes on.”

Dave Lewin, the Celtics’ director of scouting and Maine’s general manager, said he is thrilled to have Frazier back in the organization.

“We’re incredibly proud of him, and how well he played here and how much he improved,” Lewin said. “We feel like he did a pretty good job for the Trail Blazers. Now, he didn’t get a ton of opportunity there. I think when he played, he played fine.”

As small and light as Frazier is, defense will continue to be a challenge, Lewin said.

“So he’s got to be really good in the other aspects of his defense – in his positioning, in his effort, in his discipline, to make up for the fact that he’s kind of a small guy,” Lewin said.

Outside shooting is another challenge for Frazier, who hit 1 of 3 from 3-point range Sunday and has worked to make himself a good shooter.

“It’s good, but it needs to be great,” Lewin said. “The skill level that’s required of 6-foot NBA players is really high.”


Frazier’s signing with Portland last March came on the eve of the D-League playoffs, and Maine was eliminated after only two games. The Red Claws have another month of the regular season left, and any NBA team can sign him to a 10-day contract.

Because he was still on the Portland roster in late January, his $845,000 salary became guaranteed, meaning he’s still collecting NBA paychecks. But if money was a driving force for Frazier, he’d be playing overseas instead of back in the D-League.

“I love the game of basketball,” he said, “and if I had to play for free, I’d play for free.

“I started here, so it’s always good to come back home.”