AT and the Everywhere Effect
Anthony Tolliver played at a level a far cry from his best in the Idaho Stampede’s 117-114 loss to the Dakota Wizards on Wednesday night. He came out quite cold from the field, needing a late surge to get him to 6-for-16 on the night, and he struggled to protect the ball, turning it over six times. But over the course of a rough night by his standards, Tolliver still left an indelible impression thanks to his apparent ability to simply be everywhere.
I can’t find a word more descriptive of Tolliver’s performance than “everywhere.” At 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, Tolliver is a large man, even by basketball standards. But the seven threes he took weren’t typical of the 21st century pseudo-bigs who hang around the perimeter waiting for kickouts. On several sets, he facilitated the Idaho offense from the top of the circles, displaying his deft ball-handling skills and comfortably creating his own outside shot off the dribble. That he went just 2-for-7 from the three-point line can be forgiven because Tolliver has a fine track record as a bomber from deep: He shoots 40 percent from three for his D-League career and hit a scorching 47.8 percent of his attempts in the first week of the new campaign.
But this was no post-Detroit Rasheed Wallace-type showing either. For as much time as Tolliver spent on the perimeter, he somehow seemed to be involved in everything that went on inside for the Stampede as well. AT routinely established position down low, delivered several great feeds to cutters from the blocks, made a couple of post moves of his own and earned himself eight trips to the foul line. Though he didn’t finish consistently around the bucket, he seemed to constantly materialize wherever the ball came off the rim.
It was Tolliver who sprinted to the sideline to snare long rebounds from unsuspecting Dakota guards and revive multiple Idaho possessions, and it was Tolliver who fought his way to loose balls amidst the pack inside as well. Defensively, we saw more of the same. One second, Tolliver was jumping out to double a guard on a high screen-and-roll; the next, he was waiting at the rim to provide help on penetration or swat a shot out of vicinity of the basket.
There are plenty of guys on the basketball circuit who can fill up a stat sheet, and Anthony Tolliver did his share of box score-stuffing on Wednesday night: 20 points, 17 rebounds (7 offensive), 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and 6 turnovers. But to borrow the type of term Walt Frazier enjoys using, I can remember few other occasions when a player seemed as omnipresent as AT did on Wednesday. Given that he posts a career D-League true shooting figure near 60 percent, to think that he is often most of what he was on Wednesday night plus a considerably more efficient scorer is scary.
Another Stampede member soon to be meriting feature attention of his own in this space: Mike Gansey. Loved watching him during his collegiate days at West Virginia because he and his fellow Mountaineers did a terrific job moving the ball and making textbook back-cuts and curls look very pretty. Gansey is still a knock-down shooter from the outside, and just as was the case at WVU, he never stops moving without the ball. Solid all-around night for him in Wednesday’s loss: 5-for-7 from the field, 2-for-4 from three and 4-for-4 at the stripe en route to 16 points in just 20 minutes. Didn’t hurt that he added four offensive boards and a drawn charge in the paint. Look out for extended thoughts on him in the coming weeks.
One more Gansey note: Count me quite confused with Idaho coach Bob MacKinnon’s decision to have him inbound the ball not once but twice in the final two and a half seconds on Wednesday. The old defensive adage in late-game situations is that the inbounder is the most dangerous player on the court and likely to run off a screen and get the ball back on a basket cut or fade to the corner. But two and a half seconds is hardly enough time to draw up something too elaborate in terms of getting the ball back to the inbounder with time to get a shot off. For someone whose primary asset is his outside touch, it seemed silly for Gansey not to be out on the floor as a catch-and-shoot threat.
That both of the passes went out of bounds strikes me as a secondary issue (and for the record, I would blame Gansey only for sailing the second one high, which is why it ticked off Tolliver’s hands out of bounds). I’m curious about the logic of him inbounding in those spots regardless of the outcome.
Note to the general public: Dakota forward Romel Beck is a superb offensive talent. You want to make time to watch this guy play. His 30-point game on Wednesday that ended with him sinking an in-and-out-and-in jumper for the game capped an opening week in which Beck averaged more than 23 points per game on 70 percent true shooting. With a wiry physique and versatile array of weapons, he is no one-trick pony, either. Beck’s arsenal will be the subject of deeper exploration here sooner rather than later.
The beautiful thing about Wednesday night in the D-League: Both games ended with the court’s most dominant offensive player knocking down a jumper to win it in the final 10 seconds. We mentioned Romel Beck’s in-and-out-and-in shot above, and Mustafa Shakur completed his 26-point night (on efficient 11-for-16 shooting) with the jumper that gave Tulsa a come-from-behind 92-90 win in Austin. Terrific night of minor league hoops.
Numbers bound to wow you from Thursday’s action:
- Former Warrior Rob Kurz continued his hot offensive start, knocking down 10 of 12 shots from the field en route to 26 points.
- In the same game, Iowa’s Curtis Stinson went the distance, playing every second and posting 18 points, 14 assists and 7 rebounds but somehow not getting to the foul line a single time in the Energy’s 102-95 win.
- In Bakersfield, Utah’s Dontell Jefferson followed his 21-point, game-winning-shot-making performance earlier this week against Los Angeles by playing facilitator to the tune of 12 assists to go with his 16 points in the Flash’s 112-92 win over the Jam.
Word from our friends at the NBA is that the league is offering an exciting new opportunity for D-League fans: NBA D-League Virtual Scout. Launched early this morning, the fantasy game offers fans a chance to pick five players each month whom they think will earn promotions to the Association. Looks like there will be monthly prizes awarded as well as a trip to next year’s NBA draft as the grand finale prize at season’s end. More details and chances to play can be found on the NBA D-League site. Any first-impression thoughts from the D-LeagueDigest faithful on who will be headed to the big time soon?
Update on this week’s D-Leaguer of Intrigue, Utah’s Orien Greene: 19 points on 6-for-13 shooting from the field and 7-for-9 from the charity stripe (nine trips to the foul line for Orien?) to go with 7 rebounds in the Flash’s romp. In light of Tuesday night’s performance in the assist-to-turnover department, five assists to four turnovers is a step in the right direction, too.
In any event, once we’re back to Orien Greene, it’s probably time to wrap up. So that will do it for us this morning. Until next time, be sure to follow us on Twitter for live game micro-blogging and pseudo-pithy bits of goofiness along the way. Catch ya on the flip side with extended babbling on a full weekend of NBA D-League hoops.