Santa Cruz Warriors Report: Season Preview
The Santa Cruz Warriors, the D-League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors and originally the Dakota Wizards, moved to a beach town called Santa Cruz, CA last year due to its close proximity to the Bay Area (71 miles from the Golden State Warriors practice facility). The Warriors play at Kaiser Permanente Arena (cap.2,500), where they play in front of excellent fan support, selling 24 out of 27 games last year, and has been noted as one of the best D-League venues throughout.
If the D-League had an award for the most marketable team this season, Santa Cruz Warriors hands down would have won the award before the season even began. Santa Cruz Warriors General Manager Kirk Lacob acquired highly marketable and talented players to bring the same hype to city of Santa Cruz as its inaugural season last year if not bigger.
“A goal this year for the Warriors organization: we want to sell out every game in Golden State and every game in Santa Cruz.” Lacob told SBNation’s Nate Parham and Andy Liu at the Santa Cruz Warriors Media Day. “We actually came close this year: we sold out 38 games in Oakland and sold out 24 out of 27 here. So we’re looking to add to that total this year and go full sell out on both.”
The Santa Cruz Warriors seek to not only return to the D-League Finals after finishing with a solid 32-18 record last season, but more importantly assist its players to receive an NBA call-up. Their journey back to the D-League Finals starts this Friday night versus the Austin Toros at Kaiser Permanente Arena.
As soon as the Santa Cruz Warriors unveiled their training camp roster, excitement brewed throughout the Santa Cruz area. High quality NBA prospects seeking an NBA call-up fill this initial Santa Cruz Warriors roster.
However, for fans present in the Santa Cruz area, go watch this edition of the Santa Cruz Warriors while it lasts. The roster turnover should be high this season due to the high talent the team possesses.
For fans who are unfamiliar with the D-League structure, the D-League gives basketball players an additional opportunity to showcase their talents and have the necessary playing time to do so through 50 regular season games and playoffs. All players play under a fixed salary cap which are quite subpar compared to not only playing in the NBA, but also for many European teams. According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, three levels of salaries exist: $25,000, $19,000, and $13,000.
However, the D-League gives NBA executives a direct line to scout D-league players to potentially call them up to their NBA franchise..
Also, NBA teams can send down young players who do not receive much playing time on their NBA team to gain experience and playing time as many times as they wish to. Also, few NBA veterans have used the D-League for rehab assignments to return to their team at full strength.
Dewayne Dedmon: NBA Call-up
Speaking of roster turnovers, one Santa Cruz Warriors already received a call-up before the D-League regular season even began.
Center Dewayne Dedmon, who missed the final cut for the Golden State Warriors this preseason, got called up this Monday by the Golden State Warriors after Jermaine O’Neal suffered a bruised right knee and a strained right groin. Dedmon, who showed tremendous athleticism and defensive prowess during his 2 pre-season with the Santa Cruz Warriors, looks to take advantage of his 2nd chance with Golden State Warriors as an insurance policy behind Andrew Bogut and Maurice Speights.
“I’m just going to come up there, rebound, block shots, and if the opportunity presents itself to score “… if they drop it off to me and if I can hit the shot, I’ll definitely take it,” Dedmon explained to santacruzbasketball.com. “But I’m just trying to bring energy and hard work.”
Yesterday, Dedmon got sent down to rejoin the Santa Cruz Warriors. However, Warriors can move him between the NBA and the D-League since he is now under contract with the Golden State Warriors.
Seth Curry, SG: Lacob brought on Seth Curry, younger brother of Stephen Curry, to the Santa Cruz via the affiliate rule after the Golden State Warriors cut him towards the end of training camp.
Despite battling nagging shin injury throughout his senior season at Duke, Seth still closed out his college career at Duke strong, averaging 17.5 PPG, shooting a tremendous 43.8 percent from the 3-point line. He already made an excellent first impression with the Warriors, averaging 27.5 points during the Warriors first 2 preseason games and making 8-19 three pointers.
Fans should expect Seth to have a very short stint with the Santa Cruz Warriors. While Seth plays as an undersized shooting guard, shooters, especially in this day and age in the NBA are always in high demand.
Mychel Thompson, F: As a younger brother of Klay Thompson and the son of former 1st overall pick Mychal Thompson, Mychel seeks to help further develop his game in hopes of receiving an NBA call-up after short stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks’ training camp roster. After the D-League made the acquisition of Thomson to the Warriors official, look for him and Seth to create a Santa Cruz version of the “Splash Brothers”. However, Mychel downplays that nickname and desires to play his own game.
“I mean, I think it’ll be fun. We’re both our own players, but I guess it’s for the fans if they want to call us that, but we’re both out there to play our own games and just help the team win.” Mychel explained to santacruzbasketball.com.
Thompson would like to improve from a subpar season last year, averaging 11.4 points per game and shooting 32.1% from the 3-point line last season in the D-League. Hopefully, pairing with Seth Curry to create the Santa Cruz version of the “Splash Brothers” should help him regain his confidence on the court.
Kiwi Gardner, PG: Out of all the new Santa Cruz Warriors additions, Kiwi Gardner intrigues the Bay Area basketball fans the most. Garner, who was drafted in the 7th round after an open tryout with the Santa Cruz Warriors, became a famous Youtube basketball sensation by featuring his talents for the Oakland Soldiers AAU team, Manteca High School at Modesto, CA, and Westwind Academy in Arizona. After he could not play due to with eligibility issues at Providence University, Kiwi hopes to make a name for himself again with the Santa Cruz Warriors.
“Really appreciate @DLeagueWarriors giving me a chance ! I’m proud, blessed, excited, & ready to compete” Kiwi said on his Twitter page @kiwis_back.
Kiwi has shown ridiculous raw athleticism and talent. Despite his small stature, standing at 5’6”, Gardner can use his body well to finish inside the rim and uses quick hands to play tenacious defense to cause opposing guards major problems. Playing with the Warriors will significantly benefit Gardner, who definitely needs to learn how to run a half-court offense and made smarter decisions with the ball. Kiwi looks to showcase his talents to fans and hopefully NBA executives who seek to watch him develop into a legitimate point guard in the future..
Forward Cameron Jones, who was cut by the Golden State Warriors, returns to the Santa Cruz Warriors to further impress NBA scouts after improving his shooting game. Jones shot 7 for 13 during the NBA Summer League to lead the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA Summer League Championship. Jones, whose cousin is Toronto Raptors shooting guard Landry Fields, should have a solid chance to receive a call up from an NBA team due to his overall balance as a player and his improved 3-point shooting.
Taylor Griffin, brother of Blake Griffin, seeks to have another solid year for the Warriors after averaging 10.7 points per game along with 6.5 rebounds per game with 25.6 minutes per game last season.
Other notable returnees to the Santa Cruz Warriors include guard Daniel Nwadele, who got cut from the San Antonio Spurs during training camp and previously served in the Air Force, guard Maurice Baker, a savvy veteran combo-guard who can handle the ball and create his own shot.
Other New Acquisitions
Curry, Thompson, and Gardner are not the only acquisitions Kirk Lacob made this offseason.
Joe Alexander, a former 8th overall pick for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2008, is currently recovering from a Tibial Stress reaction in his left leg that sidelined him for the entire training camp for the Golden State Warriors as he looks to make his comeback to the NBA.
Additional newcomers include William Buford, who previously played at Spain, guard John Allen, Paul Crosby, F/C Kevin Kotzur, forward Orion Outerbridge, and guard Earl Pettis.
Note: Along with Dewayne Dedmon, Golden State Warriors rookies Ognjen Kuzmic, a 7′ Center, and Nemanja Nedovic, 6’4” combo-guard to gain more experience through increased playing time.
New Santa Cruz Warriors Head Coach Casey Hill, assistant head coach for the Santa Cruz Warriors last year, to get the most out of his players and give his entire team the playing time necessary to showcase their game. Anything short of a championship would be a disappointment for this organization and its local Santa Cruz fans.
Santa Cruz Warriors vs. Austin Toros
Date: Friday 22, 2013
Venue: Kaiser Permanente Arena (Capacity, 2,500)
Purchase Tickets online at https://www.ticketreturn.com/prod2/BuyClear.asp?EventID=96100&continue=buynew.asp#.Uos3SMSsiSq