Austin Toros Run to First Playoff Appearance

A preview of the Austin Toros' first-ever playoff home game.

Darvin Ham and the Toros are ready for the playoffs.
Darvin Ham and the Toros are ready for the playoffs. (Photo courtesy of Karen Moore)

The Madness is over, and the NBA playoffs take a long while. You want more basketball, but there's none left in Austin. Well, you're wrong. Because this Saturday at the Austin Convention Center, the Austin Toros are hosting an NBA D-League playoff game for the first time in franchise history. And if you think there's no reason to get tickets because there's not enough talent on the floor? You're dead wrong. Let me tell you why.

What are you looking for in a basketball game. Talent, competitiveness, and experience perks, right? Here's why the game this Saturday has all those things.

1) Talent: You want NBA level talent? Start with the Toros' Spurs rookie assignment, Ian Mahinmi (pronounced "Yawn Maheenmee" or "Will Kill You in the Paint"). He's 6 feet, 11 inches, 230 pounds, with a huge frame and a Euro game he developed in his home country of France. There's another Frenchman in the Spurs' system. You may have heard of him. Tony Parker. Mahinmi has the same attention to detail and offensive refinement, only with a flash of power due to his size and athleticism. There's not a scout in the league that's not saying Ian is the Spurs' future. Then you've got Andre Barrett. A veteran who's played with seven NBA teams, including most recently the Los Angeles Clippers; Barrett lacks the height to be a star in the NBA, but you won't find a faster player in the D-League. He's worked hard to develop his game into a more distributing role, and working with Ian makes him that much better. But he can also score, showcasing both a perimeter game and an ability to get to the basket that may remind you of a certain Mr. Longoria.

From there, we have the crafty veteran Darvin Ham. A recent trade acquisition from Albuquerque, Ham is a 12-year veteran of the NBA and overseas. He was a member of the 2004 NBA champion Detroit Pistons. But you may best remember him from his days as a Texas Tech Red Raider when he did a little…um… renovation to the rim. Ham is 34, but still was one of the last cuts at Mavericks training camp and coach Avery Johnson told him to work on his game in the D-League and possibly get back in the game next year. Ham's veteran savvy and experience is obvious on the court, and he can often be seen displaying veteran post moves, schooling the youngsters guarding him, or giving advice to his younger teammates.

And that's before we get athletic uber-prospect Josh Gross, former Longhorn Kenton Paulino, or productive slasher Justin Bowen. And that's just the home team!

2) Competitiveness: The game Saturday will feature either the Dakota Wizards, or the Sioux Falls Skyforce, and either one will have come out of a dogfight in the first round. Dakota was last year's champion, and has produced two NBA call-ups this season, and feature one of the league's best players in Rod Benson. The Skyforce are just as loaded, having produced the D-League MVP who's currently with the Heat, Kasib Powell, and also have an impressive array of players. D-League or not, this is still the playoffs. The winner of this game is in the Finals, and these guys hate to lose. They don't make as much money as the guys in the bigs, or in Europe, but they're playing their hearts out for their pride, for their careers, and for the scouts that will be in attendance. It's always a high-scoring affair at the ACC, where the Toros have led the No. 2 scoring attack in the league, averaging 109 points a game. They'll be fired up before the home crowd, and you need to be there to support them.

3) You love free stuff. You know you do. And the Toros do tons to give out prizes for their fans. They have in-game competitions, dance contests, and lots of free giveaways. Not to mention the full bar on hand and a play set for the kids.

There's still more basketball to played. Do yourself a favor and come out to watch the Toros run on their way to a championship this weekend.

Matt Moore is the author of the NBA and D-League blog, Hardwood Paroxysm and covers the Toros for The Austin Chronicle Sports blog, the Score, as well as having written for and is a contributing member of AOL Fanhouse.

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