When the Maine Red Claws take the Portland Expo floor Friday night for the home opener of their eighth NBA D-League season, Dallas Lauderdale probably won’t be in uniform.

His attempt to come back from a two-year layoff hit a stumbling block over the weekend in Texas, where he tweaked his Achilles tendon in eight minutes of action following his first start since March 2014, when he played for the Idaho Stampede.

Then again, Lauderdale and the Red Claws knew there might be some stops and starts this season as he eases his way back from major reconstructive surgery on his right foot.

“I sound like an old man,” said the 28-year-old Lauderdale, a 6-foot-8 center. “But you know, in basketball years, I’m getting up there. I definitely have to take care of my body.”

Lauderdale spoke during preseason with the Red Claws, the first real action he’s seen since rolling his ankle over Al Jefferson’s foot two years ago during preseason camp with the Charlotte Hornets. The next morning, Lauderdale woke up, took a step out of bed and collapsed on the floor.

“I had no feeling,” he said. “No nothing in it. I knew something was up.”


A three-year starter at Ohio State who grew up in northeast Ohio, Lauderdale earned a degree in communications in 2011 but was passed over in the NBA draft. He played in Poland for a year, then earned an invitation to training camp with the Portland Trail Blazers. He didn’t make the team but joined Portland’s D-League affiliate in Idaho. A foot injury caused him to miss that season, but he returned to Idaho and played 39 games in 2013-14, including a victory over the Red Claws in Portland.

“I remember him,” said Red Claws Coach Scott Morrison, then a volunteer assistant. “He’s a big, strong dude. He’s going to be a threat above the rim as a pick-and-roll guy, and he’s a solid defender and a good shot blocker.”

Lauderdale averaged nearly eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks for Idaho. Charlotte invited him to training camp in the fall of 2014, when his troublesome foot finally gave out, the tendons and ligaments rupturing severely enough that he wondered if his career might be over.

Dr. Robert Anderson, a Charlotte foot and ankle physician whose patients have included Cam Newton, Derek Jeter and Stephen Curry, examined Lauderdale and explained the need for reconstructive surgery. Otherwise, Lauderdale said of the doctor’s warning, “you won’t be able to walk again, let alone play.”

A different surgeon performed the procedure in November 2014. Two months later the Red Claws traded guard Jermaine Taylor to Idaho for the rights to Lauderdale, who was nowhere near ready to play but was diligently rehabbing at his alma mater in Columbus.

“I was in the training room every day or icing it or in the swimming pool or whatever I had to do to get back to 100 percent,” Lauderdale said. “Sometimes I woke up and I was OK. Other times I woke up and I couldn’t walk.”


Morrison sent encouraging text messages. Dave Lewin, the Celtics’ scouting director and Red Claws general manager, kept in touch with Lauderdale’s agent. Ohio State alums Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger, both Celtics last season, spoke highly of their former teammate, the son of a pastor.

After the rehabilitation stretched into a second season, Maine’s rights to Lauderdale expired. This October, just before the D-League draft, the Celtics brought Lauderdale in for a workout. They were impressed enough to engineer another trade, this one involving Fort Wayne’s sixth overall pick, to bring Lauderdale to Maine.

“It’s a calculated gamble,” said Lewin, who noted Lauderdale’s remarkable 7-foot-6 wingspan. “I doubt he’ll play every game, but we know that he’s got a track record of being a really good center in the D-League. And he’s a quality guy, a character player.”

Morrison said the Claws will be patient and probably restrict Lauderdale’s minutes. It may be a while before he plays back-to-back games.

“We figured it would be a slow process to get him back but he’s a great person to have on the team,” Morrison said. “He’ll make an impact eventually.”

During his two long years of rehabilitation, Lauderdale opened a basketball camp. He called it Direction Up.

“I feel like I’ve made it through the toughest part,” Lauderdale said. “For me to be out here now, running up and down with these guys, I’m just grateful.”

NOTE: Facing the Red Claws on Friday night will be the expansion Long Island Nets, affiliated with Brooklyn. Long Island is coached by former Red Claws assistant Ronald Nored, a Butler point guard under Brad Stevens.

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