The Vipers, still without any NBA assignees, have fallen below the .500 mark for the first time this season and. sitting at 5-6, it hasn't looked pretty.
Since last we talked the Vipers managed to snap its three game losing streak with a 135-123 win against the Idaho Stampede (Utah affiliate) but were promptly handed one of its worst losses in franchise history after the Oklahoma City Blue (Thunder affiliate) gave them a 129-89 shellacking. Making matters worse, the Vipers were narrowed out 99-98 last night against the Westchester Knicks (New York affiliate).
Nevada Smith, the Vipers cucumber-cool head coach, will be the first to tell you that the Vipers are filled with mostly rookies and young guys who were still enrolled in college by this time last year. Sure it sounds like an excuse but it's a valid explanation to see this iteration of the Vipers play.
The plays that are usually there aren't. People miss alley-oops, make bad passes and turn the ball over on routine plays. When the Vipers are at its worst it's the worst manifestation of youth and inexperience.
To make things worse, Earl Clark, a guy this space has gushed over a lot, cashed his check, packed his bags and headed overseas to play in China. There was a lot of buzz over Clark as he predictably outplayed a lot of the competition in the D-League. There was some talk that he was going to receive a Call-Up to play for the Los Angeles Lakers but, for one reason or another, that deal fell through. After that it just made sense for Clark to pursue his options oversees. Clark played great for the Vipers but his abilities would probably be served better in China were things are a bit more Pro. Clark is the kind of guy that you can funnel an offense through, he can create his own shot and has a pretty great mid-range game. It's a shame that the Vipers believe that "mid-range" is the area on the court where Satan will emerge from the fiery pits of the Hell we call the Rio Grande Valley. All the same, best of luck to Earl Clark. If things go well for him he'll be able to finish out his season in China and still be back in time should some team need his services for the playoffs.
We try to be optimistic about our respective franchises but its tough to find good things to talk about when the team has lost five of its last six games. However, Tony Bishop and Gary Talton, the teams two returning players have played well through this bad streak of lost games. Talton has lead the team, and the D-League, in assists since the first game of the season and has an affinity for tiny passing lanes. He reminds me a lot of Scott Machado a former Viper who flirted a bit with the NBA as a member of the Warriors. I wonder what he's up to.
Also emerging are these young bucks Travis Threatt, Jeron Johnson and Geron Johnson. No that's not a typo. Jeron came to the Vipers by way of an open tryout so its always nice to see these type of guys try to Vince Papale their way into the league. He got the start against the Stampede once word came down that Clark was going to be leaving the team and rose to the occasion scoring 29 points in the team's only win in the last six games.
Threatt is a speedy point guard that was playing ball at Delware this time last year. He's one of the few guys on the team that can really penetrate the lane when he dips his hips a little and uses a low center of gravity to muscle through defenders who are much bigger than he is. At 6-2, 185 he's not exactly the smallest guy but he's not going to be winning any tip-offs either.
The Vipers will be back in action on Thursday against the Delaware 87ers (Philadelphia affiliate) in one of the more peculiar promotions the Vipers have; Kids day. Once or twice a year local elementary schools bring several busloads of students to State Farm Arena and the Vipers play a game in the middle of the day. Tip off is at eleven AM but you'd think its primetime on a Saturday since the arena is so loud with the shrill screams of thousands of kids. It used to bug me a lot in previous years, but I guess ever since I became a father in June I'm more accepting of kids acting like kids.
Loose Ball Observation
Just one this week. In the process of the horrible drubbing at the hands of the Blue, the Vipers D-League record of 77 games with 100 points or more has been snapped. I don't know why this makes me so sad.
Here's a look at the standings as we've knocked off a fifth of the season. Things aren't good, but not horrible either.