Sunday, January 3, 2010

What I learned about the 66ers this weekend

After an impressive two-game sweep of the Sioux Falls Skyforce, here are just a few thoughts about what I saw from Tulsa this weekend.

1. Teamwork. Moses Ehambe told me that the presence of "team" was one of the big differences between this year's 66ers and last year's, and that team concept showed itself this weekend. Mustafa Shakur and Zabian Dowdell personify the point guard position with their abilities to drive and dish. Shakur had seven assists and Dowdell added five on Sunday night, totaling 12 between them versus just four turnovers.

But it isn't just from the point guard position that you can see how the 66ers are sharing the ball more this year. The team seems to be making that one extra pass this year that wasn't being made last year, and it's paying off with some wide-open looks.

2. Shooting. Right now, the 66ers are on fire from the field. The 66ers never trailed in either of their weekend wins, shooting a combined 58.9 percent from the floor in their two victories. Ehambe showed his shooting skills on Sunday, hitting 5-of-6 shots overall and 3-of-3 from 3-point range.

Why the sudden heat? Watching the 66ers practice over the holidays, it's easy to see that practice is making pretty good (can't say perfect there) right now. The drills are not only making a difference, but so is the extra time the players put in after practice on their own. As Coach Nate Tibbetts is fond of saying, it's the little things that are making a difference right now.

3. Latavious Williams. In some ways, you have to feel a bit for Williams, a guy who can't legally drink yet and is learning NBA-style basketball on the fly. Yes, there's pressure. Yes, there are a lot of eyeballs watching to see how Williams does this year in the D-League. Yes, this was his choice to pursue the D-League road. Still ... it's a play that is being enacted in front of a big audience.

This weekend, Williams started both games and looked solid on Sunday afternoon. He hit two medium-range jumpers and scrapped for rebounds. His final numbers? 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, 11 rebounds, and 3 steals. Sunday was his first career double-double, and you get the feeling it's the first of many coming his way.

4. D.J. makes a difference. D.J. White is an animal on the boards. His 17 rebounds, including 12 on the defensive glass, tied a team season high. With Steven Hill and DeVon Hardin both nursing injuries, White played in the middle for both games against Sioux Falls and did a good job controlling the paint.

These are some thoughts. There will be plenty more from Boise. I leave for Idaho in the morning and will give more opinions from Qwest Arena...

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