Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Heading into the end of 2010, what I like about the 66ers right now

Taking in the entire year of 2010 (including last season), this has been the best year in the history of the 66ers franchise. With just one game left in the calendar year (Thursday at Austin), let's take a look at what is working right now for Tulsa.

At 8-6, and having won five of their last seven games, there's plenty to choose from, but I'll focus on just three things right now.

1. Jerome Dyson.
He hasn't started any of the 11 games in which he has appeared thus far, but there's no question that he brings a spark off the bench. He's a versatile scorer (13.4 points per game) who hustles and makes things happen. He's been a pleasant surprise ... and he's hit in double-digits scoring in nine of his last 10 appearances.

2. Latavious Williams on the boards.
It's no surprise that Williams is rebounding well. After all, he did that last year, including setting a new single-game record. This year, he's even more of a monster on the boards, averaging a team-leading 8.6 per game. His 21-rebound game against Fort Wayne was a site to watch. He's getting better and better under the boards, and that should be a scary thing for the rest of the D-League.

3. Winning without OKC help. Other than some spot appearances by Byron Mullens and Cole Aldrich, there hasn't been much in terms of Thunder players suiting up for the 66ers. Many said that was the key to Tulsa's success last season (see the numbers for D.J. White, Kyle Weaver, Mullens, etc., from last season) but the 66ers are winning on their own this year. It's a solid team under the watch of the Thunder and will only get better should Mullens or Aldrich return to Tulsa sometime this season.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

66ers win over Fort Wayne with free throws and a historic rebounding night

Latavious Williams rewrote his own record on Thursday night, grabbing a team-record 21 boards and scoring 12 points as Tulsa won in overtime over Fort Wayne, 100-93.

That was impresssive to be sure, but don't overlook what Tulsa did at the free-throw line. The 66ers hit 28-of-30 attempts, including all 24 tries in the fourth quarter and overtime to earn a win on what 66ers head coach Nate Tibbetts called, "a night when neither team had its best stuff."

Seven 66ers scored in double figures as Tulsa won its third straight game to improve to 6-4.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Byron Mullens back in Tulsa

Oklahoma City Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced that the team has assigned Byron Mullens to the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League.

Last season, Mullens appeared in 27 regular season games with the 66ers, the proud affiliate of the Thunder, and posted averages of 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in 31.5 minutes per contest. He received a 2009-10 All NBA D-League Honorable Mention at the conclusion of the season.

Mullens will be in uniform Friday night when the 66ers travel to South Dakota to take on the Skyforce at the Sioux Falls Arena.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Aldrich returns to OKC ... what does that mean for Tulsa?

Oklahoma City Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced yesterday that the team has recalled center Cole Aldrich from the Tulsa 66ers.

Aldrich appeared in five games (five starts) for the 66ers and averaged 7.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots in 27.4 minutes.

So what does that mean for the 66ers? Marcus Lewis saw a drop in his minutes with Aldrich around, so look for him to be back on the court more. Also, with Latavious Williams returning from injury, he'll be looked to more and more on the glass.

Aldrich's departure leaves the 66ers as a height-challenged team (Lewis, Williams, and Ryan Reid are all 6-foot-8 and the tallest players on the team) so keeping opponents off the boards and out of the paint will be key for Tulsa.

The 66ers play next on Friday night at Sioux Falls.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mustafa Shakur's return to Tulsa

It was a strange sight on Sunday night inside the Tulsa Convention Center. Mustafa Shakur ... in red ... running the other team's offense against the Tulsa 66ers.

During Tulsa's magical playoff run last season, Shakur ran the offense to precision from his point guard position. On Sunday night, Tulsa fans saw Shakur once again work his magic, but this time for the other team in Rio Grande Valley's 117-105 decision over the 66ers.

Shakur finished with a typical "Mustafa line" ... 17 points, six rebounds, six assists.

"We're fortunate to have him," said Rio Grande Valley head coach Chris Finch. "He does a lot of things for us and, once we get our team settled around him, I think he's going to be able to do even more. He has a great chance to crack through to the next level."

Shakur was called up by the Oklahoma City Thunder last season after scoring 19.2 points and dishing out 6.9 assists per game. After this year's D-League draft, Shakur was traded to the Vipers in exchange for Robert Vaden, who was selected by Rio Grande Valley in the first round of the draft.

"It wasn't a complete shock when I heard I was traded," Shakur said after Sunday night's game. "Once it happened, it hit me that I was really going to have to start all over. I knew I had to go to a new place and learn a new system."

And how did it feel to go to one of Tulsa's D-League rivals?

"Ironic," Shakur smiled. "But it's been a blessing. I've played for two teams where the NBA franchises are very involved in the teams."

Shakur described Sunday night's game as "bittersweet," knowing he'd be playing against his former coach (Nate Tibbetts) and former teammates Larry Owens, Latavious Williams, Marcus Lewis, and Zabian Dowdell.

"It was a bittersweet night," Shakur said. "I'm glad we got the win, but it was playing against an organization that has done so much for me."

It was also a different kind of night for Tibbetts, watching his former point guard drive, dish, and score like he did so many nights last year inside the Tulsa Convention Center.

"He's a great guy and a great person and we certainly wish him nothing but the best," Tibbetts said.

As for Shakur's future, he believes being a leader will be the key to advancing to the NBA.

"I know I have to work on my leadership and continue to lead the young guys," the former Arizona guard said. "I also have to show some more continuity in my game."

Shakur was one more game against his former team this season, with the Vipers scheduled to return to Tulsa on March 26.