It’s good to be back. The 2017 NBA D-League All-Star Break has officially come and gone, and while the days off weren’t a sight for sore eyes, we’re here to play basketball. The Legends (16-18) came out guns blazing and defeated the D-League’s top team, the Los Angeles D-Fenders (27-9), 135-120. The Lakers’ affiliate entered the contest (and exited) with the best record in the league, but were no match for the Legends on Wednesday night.
Led by a monster night from Jameel Warney (30 points, 14 rebounds, 10/14 shooting, 10/15 from the free throw line) and a game-high 32 points from C.J. Williams, Texas set a new season-high in points with 135. You have to go all the way back to, well, their previous game for their now-second place total of 133. Williams made 12-of-17 shots and the sharpshooter netted 6-of-8 three-pointers.
Warney had a huge night following a momentous break. On Saturday he became the first basketball player in the history of Stony Brook University to have his number retired. Back to the grind, he looked better than ever.
The Legends’ starting center had an even seven and seven on the offensive and defensive boards. He had 11 points halfway through the first quarter and totaled 14 points and five rebounds after one.
Stephane Lasme’s third game with the Legends was definitely his biggest. He started and played 37 minutes, 24 higher than either previous two outings and rewarded Coach MacKinnon handsomely. Lasme picked up three first quarter blocks. He would finish the evening with a double-double of 11 points, 10 rebounds and swatted a robust six shots. Between he and Warney, there wasn’t a lot to gain at the basket for the D-Fenders.
Two more Legends –in fact, the two leading scorers in the league– Pierre Jackson (29.6 PPG) and Manny Harris (26.5) had 20 and 22 respectively to round out four players scoring 20 or more in the decisive victory.
Warney, Lasme, Jackson and Harris (third in the league with 2.3 a game) all picked up a pair of steals.
Jackson was playing in his first game since suffering a hamstring injury with the parent club Dallas Mavericks on January 26th. It was his first D-League game since January 14th. He also had 12 assists, his third double-digit passing total of the season.
“It felt good, man,” Jackson says after signing plenty of postgame autographs. “I hate sitting and watching the guys play without me. Obviously for someone that loves basketball it was kind of hard to sit out and watch. It was great to be back and we got the win.”
Jackson began the night in blue shoes and sported a headband, both of which had been subbed out for red shoes and no further accessories by the second quarter.
“Not really a story,” he looks down at his cherry red clad feet. “These felt better.”
“Manny, Jameel and I were joking around in practice. That was my first time wearing a headband ever. But I wasn’t playing to my potential. I’m superstitious though so I got it out of the way. Whole (new) swag,” laughs the 2017 D-League All-Star.
The Legends offense is notoriously high-powered. The team scores 115.4 points a game, third in the league. But with Jackson, the wheels turn even quicker. “I’m just letting the game come to me. We got a lot of great players on our team, I just try to get them the ball when I can. I just decided to get everybody involved, get everybody going.”
An unprecedented eight-game homestand starts off on the right foot for Texas. The two-plus consecutive weeks at home is something new to Jackson and his teammates.
“I don’t think anybody ever has (done this). It’s in our favor. We need a lot of games. People come out and support us. We’re the most comfortable at home so it helps.”
The Legends continue play on Friday at 7:30 PM CT against the Thunder-affiliated Oklahoma City Blue. Texas leads the four game season series two games to none.