Austin Toros Trimester Essay
On a winning streak, but what next?
By Will Schmidt,
3:15PM, Thu. Jan. 19, 2012
Friendships die fast in the cut-throat teeter-totter of Developmental League dominance. And as bonds are broken, triumphs become more controversial, and our local chapter of basketball greatness, the Austin Toros, find themselves right where we want 'em, rough and tumble, throwing troubles to the wind, and biting victories with colossal teeth.
We've seen every Toros game, each one start to finish, some of them twice in one night (thanks to the invention of the VCR), as we've proudly established ourselves as permanent spectating fixtures, sensationally taking it all in. So let's break down some hot sports opinions about what we've seen, and what we can hope to see as the Austin Toros continue their march towards the post season.
The Toros finish the first trimester of the D-League season on quite a roll, as they've won 11 of their last 12 games, one of the sweetest and most-wicked streaks in D-League history. With his top-dollar juggling act, coach Brad Jones' grasp on his team is fancy and accomplished. While his best players tiptoed back and forth from the Toros roster to NBA training camps during the shortened NBA preseason, Jones stood tall, teaching his dynamic forms, rising above regular old concentration into a higher understanding of building rotations with what you have. First we saw starter-forward Lance Thomas head off to the Hornets in mid-December, joined soon after by starting back court Justin Dentmon and Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson. Then starting center, Luke "Slambuki Luke" Zeller was invited to Spurs camp, where Gregg Popovic uses trusty old military secrets to mold a winning-time mindset into each of his San Antonio Spurs. Even with a completely new group of starters, Coach Jones found the formula to win games, and as a result, the Toros didn't lose a step. They currently sit atop the D-League standings with a 16-4 record, the best in both conferences.
After the Hornets and Spurs decided on a few roster moves, back to the Toros came our favorite guys. One by one the players returned. First Zeller, then Dentmon, and finally the most important guy of all, Lance Thomas. Thomas's positivity and forward thinking are a crucial aspect to what makes Toros basketball the most special institution on Earth. We welcomed him home with open arms, and life can't stop the smiles on our faces now that Austin's favorite son, Mr. Thomas, is back where he belongs. And although we're always going to be rooting for him to become a big star on a great team like the Milwaukee Bucks someday, it's oh so perfect to have him dribbling and shooting at the Cedar Park Center in Toros' silver and black.
Along with the training camp guys, we also welcomed back the unapologetic greatness of Leo Lyons from foot injuries. After his season started with him missing all of training camp and the first 9 games of the year, Lyons was worked back in slowly, and has recently resumed the starting role he had last season. With such a plethora of talent around him, Lyons can focus on taking good shots, on finding his rhythm where it fits, and joining Coach Jones' master plan of ultimate team basketball. The recipe of which leads to mass victories. Lyons, last season's undisputed best player, is loving the depth of his Austin team, a group poised to do big things in the immediate future.
We've seen Corey Joseph lend a hand to the winning ways in Austin Toros Texas. With it all comes the 16-4 record. We mapped out a cohesive plan for our guys to succeed this season, and with it came a goal of winning 2 games for every 1 loss. "The Old 2-For-1." And low and behold, the Toros are giving us one better. They're winning 3 games for every 1 loss. Holy moly!
We've seen the Toros bring in dynamic forward Da'Sean Butler, a guy everybody's been rooting for ever since his West Virginia college hoops team fell in the tournament during his senior year. Butler, having just injured his knee in a very emotional collapse, was soothed emotionally by coach Bob Huggins, and now the young man is getting back to his old tricks. In 9 games with Austin, Butler is averaging 9.5 points while playing hard, trying to regain what made him such a dynamic leader for Huggins' Mountaineers.
We keep an eye on our former point guard and forever favorite, Squeaky Johnson, as he is the lone Toro to remain with an NBA club. He might not be playing a very big role for his hometown New Orleans Hornets, but he's keeping it real, making some dollars, and enjoying the NBA ride. He's a guy who's paid his dues, playing in the D-League for almost 5 years, trying his hardest to find a way to the top of the mountain. Keep on climbing, Squeaky. Keep on climbing and enjoy the view.
The Toros have been having their way with the opposition. In their streak of 11 wins in 12 games, they've outscored their opponents by a average margin of 11.3 points. The lone loss, coming against the Bakersfield Jam, was a nail-biter that Austin probably should have won, but instead, lost by only 2 points, 100-102. Dentmon was just named performer of the week after averaging 26.3 points, 7 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game. His 53% field goal percentage is a shiny reminder of just why we in Toros-Country wanted this guy, and why we traded the number 1 overall pick to get him. Joining Dentmon with a high D-League honor is Thomas, as both were recently named to the Developmental League Showcase Team. Dentmon earned the top honor, with the 1st Team selection (top 5 players in D-League, basically). Thomas found his name on the 2nd Team (top 6-10 players, duh).
With the season always marching onward, the Toros find themselves preparing for a stretch-run that will ultimately decide where they belong in the D-League pecking order. After hours of analyzing the opposition, it's not a far cry to predict that Austin should remain in the top spot for the remainder of the season, as long as they can keep their heads on straight, which should make the playoffs as exciting as any the Toros have ever seen.
Ladies, gentlemen, kids big and little, we're smack dab in the middle of one of those magical seasons, the kind that produce the most fondest of memories. Memories to last a thousand lifetimes. Let's keep winning games, Toros!
Matt Moore, April 15, 2008
Josh Rosenblatt, Dec. 23, 2006
Jan. 4, 2013
Dec. 18, 2012
Toros, Austin Toros, Cedar Park Center, Brad Davis, Lance Thomas, Justin Dentmon, Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson, Luke "Slambuki Luke" Zeller, San Antonio Spurs, Leo Lyons, Corey Joseph, Real Deal Gary Neal, Da'Sean Butler