(I’ve passed off our weekly Tulsa update to someone much more qualified to comment on it. Kevin Henry authors the excellent 66ers Nation, a Tulsa 66ers blog and also serves as the beat reporter for the 66ers for the Tulsa World. You can follow him on Twitter here.)
In the midst of a five-game West Conference road trip, the Tulsa 66ers find themselves at 14-14 and in desperate search of the chemistry they had at the start of the calendar year.
Roster moves are common in the NBA D-League, and Tulsa has certainly had its share of changes, including big men Byron Mullens and D.J. White being recalled from Tulsa to the Thunder. I’ve talked to 66ers head coach Nate Tibbetts several times about how he handles what can sometimes be a revolving lineup door thanks to injuries, call-ups, and even defections (Zabian Dowdell left the 66ers to join Unicaja in Spain, part of an exodus of D-Leaguers heading overseas in the early portions of 2010). When we’ve talked, he’s always mentioned the importance of chemistry and finding a lineup that works well together. Right now, that’s a key for the 66ers.
With West Conference leader Rio Grande Valley now 7.0 games up on the 66ers, the next two games against the Los Angeles D-Fenders are big for the 66ers. Last night Tulsa dropped a game in overtime at Bakersfield that, on paper, they should’ve won, so the two games in Los Angeles before the All-Star break now loom as even more critical.
OK, there’s the bad side of the picture at the moment. Conversely, there’s plenty of good to talk about as well. Here are three 66ers players you need to know.
Mustafa Shakur is having a tremendous season and was recognized by fans and coaches with an All-Star game nomination. He’s the only 66er that will play in the All-Star game, but it’s certainly a tip of the hat to the former University of Arizona guard who has carried the 66ers at times this season. Last night’s game in Bakersfield was a great example of Shakur’s overall season as he totaled 22 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. For the season, Shakur is averaging 19.6 points and 6.9 assists per outing.
Latavious Williams is progressing nicely. The first high school player ever drafted by a D-League team, Williams was a first-round pick of the 66ers and had plenty of high expectations surrounding him heading into the season. Williams is just now starting to find his stride, including a 19-point performance last night against Bakersfield. Earlier in the season, he had a game of 18 points and 18 rebounds, and is one of the most productive 66ers when it comes to pounding the boards. Despite averaging just under 19 minutes a game, Williams averages 7.0 rebounds per outing. His playing time will only go up as the season goes along, so be prepared to see more impressive numbers posted by the youngster.
Larry Owens can ball. While he doesn’t get the attention of Shakur and Williams, Owens is a guy who can play the three or four position and score from anywhere on the court. He’s quick and his teammates have faith in him to score if they need a big basket. Owens has started all 28 games this season, scoring 15.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
After the All-Star break, Tulsa’s schedule is light with two home games against Maine (Feb. 18) and Springfield (Feb. 25) as the only games in a 12-day span.