Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Previewing Maine

It's hard to think that the Tulsa 66ers could've drawn a much tougher opponent to open the second half of the season than the Maine Red Claws. Not only did Maine enter the All-Star break as one of the most talented teams in the D-League, the Red Claws acquired the league's leading scorer, Morris Almond, in a trade with the struggling Springfield Armor (begging me to ask the question of Springfield -- what in the heck were you thinking?)

My friends at Ridiculous Upside did a great article on the talent assembled in Maine right now. Read it by clicking here.

When I asked Coach Nate Tibbetts at practice on Tuesday about the stockpile of players in Maine, he just smiled.

"Yeah, they're talented, but we have to concern ourselves with us. We have to focus on what we do, not what opponents do."

Part of Tulsa's focus coming out of the All-Star break was shaking off the cobwebs from the layoff. It's also an interesting time in schedule when Tulsa will play just two games in a 12-day span before launching into a mad dash toward the end of the season with 18 games in 40 days.

"We've had good practices since the break. Teams can sometimes be sluggish after the break, but our guys really pushed through that," Tibbetts said. "When we start playing so many games in such a short amount of time, we're not going to have much time in the practice gym, so we need to practice well now."

It's still unclear if the 66ers will have Cecil Brown for the Maine game. The guard sprained his ankle in the second-to-last game before the All-Star break and didn't play in the first half's final game. He was hobbling at practice on Tuesday on the sidelines.

"He's day-to-day right now," Tibbetts said. "Deron (Washington) and Moses (Ehambe) really stepped up at guard when Cecil was out. I like that they're continuing to put pressure on me for more minutes because of their play."

With an 11 a.m. start on Thursday, it may be an early start for the fans and officials, but Tibbetts and his team are fine with the time.

"We practice every day at 11, so the time is no big deal. We had a good road trip and we're happy to be back home. We have to be ready to compete, no matter when or where we play."

Tulsa enters the game 16-14 while Maine brings a 19-11 record to Oklahoma.

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