Conditions are perfect.
Thursday night is the night the Jazz play Phoenix on TNT. But tonight is Wednesday, and the Flash put together a nice win at home over the Idaho Stampede that left me remembering why I love the D-League.
With about two minutes left in the game and the Flash trailing by one point, Utah’s Jordan Brady flew down the middle to thrown down a thunderous follow-up after a Gabe Pruitt miss. On the next possession, Orien Greene stole the ball from Idaho’s Ross Siler lookalike Coby Karl and gave it up to a streaking Brady for a ferocious dunk that put the Flash up by three and essentially put a dagger in the feisty Stampede. The crowd stayed on their feet for the remainder of the game as the Flash closed it out at the line for a 114-107 win.
It was the kind of atmosphere that brings people out with homemade signs and good friends. It was the kind of vibe you feel every once in a while when you look around the room and see nothing but smiles. Flash coach Brad Jones may have had to be restrained a time or two by assistant Mark Madsen, and Stampede player Joe Dabbert may have been ejected for saying magic words, but it was all part of the performance and it seemed like everyone had a great time.
Well, maybe not everyone.
Andre Ingram didn’t play due to flu-like symptoms. He was so sick he was forced to make a visit to the emergency room earlier in the day. “He looked awful,” said Flash coach Brad Jones after the game. Ingram was unavailable to comment on Jones’ appearance.
While Ingram will soon be over his stomach ache, teammate Dontell Jefferson will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. It has to be a disappointing way to end the season for Jefferson, especially with his name being included in call-up chatter in the last few weeks. With Ingram and Jefferson out, the Flash were down to eight players available for Wednesday’s game.
The short bench gave Flash forward Jordan Brady a chance to muscle his way to 15 points in just 21 minutes on the floor. “Down the stretch we went with Jordan Brady,” said Jones. “He came in and changed the game himself. He brought tons of energy for us and did a really good job.”
After dropping a million games this season after having the lead in the fourth quarter, the Flash finally put together a solid finish to a tough matchup. “There are things about the game I’m not happy about, but the bottom line is in the fourth quarter we quit turning the ball over — we only had four turnovers in the fourth quarter. We had 19 going in to the fourth.”
Indeed. The return of point guard Kevin Kruger seems to have stabilized the late-game play for the Flash. He may not look like much, but having a guy who knows how to run a team and makes his teammates look good clearly makes a big difference down the stretch.
So what would coach Jones tell Jazz fans about new addition Othyus Jeffers? The Jazz made the forward from the Iowa Energy the latest D-League call up Wednesday. “I would tell them that they’ll have fun watching the guy,” said Jones. “He’s one of the toughest, if not the toughest guy in our league. He’s an energy guy [Editor's note: no pun intended, I don't think]. He’s a prototypical Jerry Sloan / Phil Johnson guy. There’s not a lot of ‘coolness’ about his game, he’s just a junkyard dog. He’ll play so hard, but you might not notice everything that he’s doing, and then you’ll look at his line and say ‘wow, he really helped us win.’”
With Othyus joining Sundiata Gaines to play for the Jazz, and Hasheem Thabeet on assignment with the Dakota Wizards, it’s clear that the real in the D-League isn’t about the talent, it’s about the great names.
Here’s a little introduction to Othyus Jeffers for Jazz fans:
Love that last line: “You didn’t draft us, but we’re here.” That’s what I love about the D-League. Lots of guys who may not have the talent or the pedigree but they definitely have the heart.
Jeffers was on the D-League select team that beat the Sacramento Kings in Summer League last year, something the Jazz varsity team has had trouble doing during the regular season. Perhaps his major contribution will be reconnaissance.
Tonight was one of those nights where I left the arena smiling, thinking how much I love pro basketball. Like I said at the beginning of the post, conditions are perfect. I don’t get very hung up on wins and losses, and maybe that’s why I enjoy the D-League so much. What basketball junkie wouldn’t love to have a night like tonight? Two teams battling, a crazy crowd, great energy, a big national TV game for the varsity team just a day away. As Hot Rod would say, “you gotta love it, baby.”