Dallas Mavericks: Texas Legends

Legends Latest: Congruency continues

December, 19, 2014
12/19/14
1:00
PM CT
Each week, ESPNDallas.com will take a look at the Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate for the Dallas Mavericks, to see how the two teams are working hand in hand.

It was established prior to the start of their season that the Texas Legends were being built in the likeness of the Dallas Mavericks. There was talk of Petri dishes and other forms of experimentation. When you look at the D-League, it’s the perfect stage to test things out.

While there isn’t a Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Tyson Chandler or Chandler Parsons to be found on the Legends’ roster, they’re operating on the floor much like the Mavs do. Donnie Nelson – president of basketball operations for the Mavs and co-owner of the Legends – certainly believes that.

“Ever year it’s gotten closer and closer,” Nelson said on the framework of the Legends compared to the Mavs. “With the players that come to play with the Legends, we want it to be as congruent as possible with the Mavericks.”

There are experiments happening all of the time in the D-League. Look no further than the Rio Grande Vipers and Reno Bighorns. Those two teams aren’t shy when it comes to taking shots from the perimeter as the two lead the league in 3-point attempts. The Bighorns take the top spot by averaging 51.0 attempts from 3-point range. The Vipers come in second with an average of 41.5 attempts from 3-point range.

Reno is the affiliate for the Sacramento Kings and Rio Grande Valley is the affiliate for the Houston Rockets. While the congruency makes sense for Houston as they lead the league in 3-point attempts, it falters with Sacramento as they rank 29th in the league in 3-point attempts.

Much like the Mavs, the Legends seem to be operating more and more in the restricted area and the mid-range. Both are starting to develop more consistency from striking from the corners for their 3-point attempts, but they both take a vast majority of their long-range shots from above the break. While they could easily follow the growing trend of striking from the perimeter, the Legends continue to work in Dallas’ likeness.

“Congruency matters for us with the Legends,” Nelson said.

While the players may not be the same as the Mavs, the style of attack on both ends of the floor during a Legends game may look very familiar.

Mark your calendars

After eight days off, the Legends get back on the floor for some game action Friday against the Delaware 87ers. They will host the 87ers and then host the Sioux Falls Skyforce on that following Saturday. Both games will be played at Dr. Pepper Arena and will start at 7 p.m. With a three-game homestand ahead, the Legends have a chance to work on protecting their home floor. While they’re a league-best 5-1 on the road, they’re only 2-3 at home.

Each game can be seen live on the D-League's YouTube Channel.

But not least …

Friday’s game against the Delaware 87ers will be Make-A-Wish North Texas Night. Zach Steger, a 16-year-old from Richardson, Texas, has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Despite that, Steger has been a member of the Dallas Junior Wheelchair Mavericks for eight years. Steger and his teammates will be presented with brand new, authentic NBA caliber jerseys during halftime of the game. He will also be designated as the “General Manager” during Friday’s game.

Legends Latest: Ledo inconsistent

December, 12, 2014
12/12/14
1:55
PM CT
Each week, ESPNDallas.com will take a look at the Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate for the Dallas Mavericks, to see how the two teams are working hand in hand.

While it is the NBA’s official minor league basketball organization, the D-League doesn’t operate exactly under the same guidelines. They experiment with rules and personnel decisions. On top of that, they only play 50 games compared to 82 games in the NBA. Two of the games are played in the D-League Showcase, where every team in the league plays two games over four days, giving NBA GMs, scouts and player personnel directors an opportunity to see every player in one setting.

With nearly a quarter of the season done, here are some notes of interest with the Texas Legends.

After Thursday's comeback victory over the Oklahoma City Blue, the Legends had a record of 7-4. The record had them settled in second in the Southwest Division, trailing the Austin Spurs. With a record of just 2-3, the Legends have struggled to capitalize on their homecourt advantage. To their credit, they’ve become the road warriors as they boast a league-best record of 5-1 on the road.

While the Mavs have been pleased with Ricky Ledo’s progression, the swingman has struggled to find his way in terms of consistency. The second-year player is averaging just under 13 points a night, but is shooting under 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range. Ledo has the athleticism to get any shot he wants when he’s on the floor, but he’ll need to continue to develop some overall consistency in order to take his game to the next level.

Despite Ledo’s shooting woes, the Legends rank amongst the league’s elite in field-goal percentage, shooting over 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range this season. To their credit, they’re also amongst the top in the league in opponent field goal percent and 3-point percentage allowed. They do need to work on their ball security as rank sixth in turnovers per game with nearly 19 turnovers per game.

The Legends inked forward Ivan Johnson to a contract last week. The big man has tried to fill the void of center Bernard James, and it appears that he could be on his way to doing so. Fouls and technical fouls have been an issue for Johnson, but he is bringing a bruising presence in the middle for the Legends. The Mavs actually tried to work on his perimeter shooting during the summer league and training camp in an attempt to expand his game. It's still a work in progress as he’s shooting just 22.2 percent from 3-point range early in his time with the Legends.

Mark your calendars

The Legends get a much-needed break this week. The cold and flu season is in full swing, so most of the team is dealing with that, so a break in the schedule comes at a great time. They won’t play their next game until Friday, Dec. 19 against the Delaware 87ers. They will host the 87ers and then host the Sioux Falls Skyforce on that following Saturday. Both games will be played at Dr. Pepper Arena and will start at 7 p.m. CT.

Each game can be seen live on the D-League's YouTube Channel.

But not least …

The Legends opened up registration for their 2014 Winter Camp. This 3-day camp is for boys and girls between ages 6-14 who are looking to improve their game, compete in fun camp contests, and interact with the team. The camp will be hosted at Hunt Middle School in Frisco and will begin on Dec. 29 and go through Dec. 31. More details for registration are on the Legends’ website.

Legends Latest: 'James Gang' going strong

November, 21, 2014
11/21/14
1:45
PM CT
Each week, ESPNDallas.com will take a look at the Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate for the Dallas Mavericks, in order to see how the two are working hand in hand to improve one another.

The Dallas Mavericks released a parody video a few weeks back. In it, the Mavs' trio of Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons dress up like the old-school hip hop group Run DMC -- in this case, Dirk, Monta and Chandler -- and show off their rhyming skills.

The Texas Legends, meanwhile, are rolling to the beat of the "James Gang." That's Bernard James, Damion James and Mike James, who have powered the Mavs' D-League affiliate to a 2-0 start to the 2014-15 season.

Dallas fans are familiar with the work of Bernard and James, both of whom suited up for the big-league squad in recent years. But Damion James, the 24th overall pick of the 2010 draft by the Atlanta Hawks who has also played for the Nets and Spurs, is making the most of his first impression. James is averaged 14.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in the team’s first two games, including an 18-point, 14-rebound performance in the Legends’ recent victory against the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

Mike James, meanwhile, has been the stabilizing influence the Legends were hoping for when they acquired the veteran point guard. James, 39, is averaging 15.5 points and 5.5 assists for the Legends while on his quest for one more shot in the NBA.

Summer-league standout Eric Griffin has also shined, showing off his athleticism by scoring at least 20 points in both games this season. He’s also averaging 6.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals.

Mark your calendars

The Legends begin a four-game homestand Friday with a matchup against the Santa Cruz Warriors. They host the Austin Spurs at Dr. Pepper Arena on Saturday night. Both games start at 7 p.m. CT and can be seen live on the D-League's YouTube Channel.

Here is sales pitch from Donnie Nelson, president of basketball operations for the Mavs and co-owner of the Legends:

“[Fans] will see a high-octane caliber of basketball," Nelson said. "They will be able meet those players afterwards. It’s an opportunity to meet a young Dirk before he becomes untouchable and take pictures with them. It’s an extremely affordable mode of entertainment that is a three-ring circus. We’re blending basketball with Ringling Bros.

“You’ve got a bunch of cool stuff going on in the arena. Even if you’re not a rabid basketball, you’re going to have a great time, watch an incredible game of basketball, and meet all of the players afterwards."

But not least ...

Just as the James Gang was gaining steam, it appears that “the band” may be breaking up. Multiple sources confirmed that center Bernard James will sign a deal to play in China. While that is a loss for the Legends, it presents an opportunity for James to play against international competition and possibly earn a little more money.

The situation with James is the nature of the beast for a team like the Legends. As they perform well and have players perform well, they will find opportunities outside of the D-League.

With the Legends' next four games set in Frisco, Mavs swingman Ricky Ledo has been assigned to the team.

Legends Latest: Meet the team

November, 14, 2014
11/14/14
12:00
PM CT
Each week, ESPNDallas.com will take a look at the Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate for the Dallas Mavericks, in order to see how the two are working hand in hand to improve one another.

After selecting six players in the 2014 NBA Development League draft on Nov. 1, the Texas Legends completed a five-team trade the same day that netted them Justin Jackson, Yuki Togashi, Marcus Melvin and Ish Smith. Who says the D-League is boring?

Smith has four years of NBA experience, and has since been called up and signed by the Oklahoma City Thunder because of the injuries they have sustained.

Four players on the current Legends roster also participated in Dallas’ 2014 training camp. Summer league standouts Eric Griffin and Togashi join Doron Lamb and Bernard James on the Legends this season. They will also have another ex-Mav, 39-year-old Mike James, on the roster. James played with Dallas during the 2012-13 season and will likely serve as the Legends’ starting point guard.

Forwards Jeremy Atkinson and Damion James and guard Booker Woodfox, return to the Legends from the 2013-14 roster.

Don’t be surprised if Mavs swingman Ricky Ledo makes the commute to Frisco in the very near future. The convenience of being “just down the road” will likely be implemented when the Legends return home from their road trip, and Ledo will be assigned to the Legends.

While it’s a safe bet to assume the next Dirk Nowitzki isn’t suiting up for the Legends, there are proven NBA players and very legitimate NBA prospects on the roster.

Mark your calendar

The Legends have their season opener on the road Friday night against the Bakersfield Jam. On Tuesday, just a few days before their home opener, they will host their annual Fan Jam at 6:30 p.m. That will give fans a chance to get a look at the roster via an intrasquad scrimmage. Admission at Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco will be free.

Their first home game is Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. against the Santa Cruz Warriors.

Fans will be able to watch the D-League live on the NBA D-League YouTube Channel (YouTube.com/nbadleague), as well as via the NBA D-League Center Court mobile app -- the league’s free mobile application providing fans with access to NBA D-League content.

But not least…

The Legends announced this week that beloved Mav Eduardo Najera, who is entering his third season as coach of the team, is getting three new additions to his coaching staff. Former Mav Nick Van Exel will make his D-League debut as associate head coach, while former Mav DeSagana Diop and former Legend Fred House will join the staff as player development coaches.

Van Exel retired from the NBA in 2006 and later spent two years in player development with the Atlanta Hawks before joining the Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant coach last season.

Diop retired from the NBA in 2013 after 12 years. He will work with the post players to develop agility under the basket and provide guidance.

House retired from basketball after a 12-year career to join the Legends coaching staff. He was part of the Legends during the 2012-13 season and spent last season in Russia with KB Peja of the Balkan League.

In total, the Legends added 37 years of playing experience to Najera’s staff.

Legends Latest: Mavs use D-League as 'Petri dish'

November, 7, 2014
11/07/14
12:00
PM CT
Each week, ESPNDallas.com will take a look at the Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate for the Dallas Mavericks, in order to see how the two are working hand in hand to improve one another.

This season marks the fifth in existence for the Texas Legends. In that time, Donnie Nelson - president of basketball operations for the Mavs and co-owner of the Legends - believes they’ve established the right kind of basketball synergy, creating a varsity-junior varsity connection between the Mavs and Frisco’s Legends.

"During the existence of the D-League, it’s become much more of a priority to have the affiliation,” Nelson said. "We’re lucky because we’re 20 minutes up the road. It makes it easier to have interaction, players from our training camp here, and our coaching staff.

"With the interactivity for us to continue developing players, it just makes it easier to have the proximity for the assets.”

At the request of the Mavs, the Legends will continue to experiment with different things both on and off the floor.

"There have always been a lot of advantages to having the team in Frisco, but we’re using it more experimentally now,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said.

"There are certain things we’ll hopefully unveil that will be different. We’ve been practicing some things, and hopefully they will work. We want to try some things that will hopefully change things up.”

Whether it is sports science, analytics, coaching, rotations, or management ideas, the Legends will test things out in order to see if the Mavs can use it.

"That’s our whole role, to make the varsity team better,” Nelson said.

Don’t expect test tubes or anything on the basketball court, but the Legends will be a Petri dish, of sorts, for the Mavs.

"I think we’re a very, very advanced Petri dish,” Nelson concluded. "In that, again, we’re not just incubating young talent. It’s proven guys that can help playoff games.”

One of the ways the Legends cater towards improvement of the Mavs is their shifting of their system more towards the likeness of the Mavs. Nelson said they are about “80 percent” congruent with the offensive and defensive systems the Mavs run and that’s with the sole purpose of preparing those who are sent to Frisco for assignments or those who could be called up.

"If we go through an injury or we have a situation where we need someone, there’s a guy who knows our system and is a proven NBA player,” Nelson added. "Across the board, there’s a lot of benefits to have a D-League team this close to us.”

Though they aren’t the Mavs, the experimentation takes shape for the Legends on Friday as their season opens against the Bakersfield Jam.

But not least…

The league is going to go through some experimentation this season, as well. Coaches will also have an opportunity to advance the ball and make substitutions without using a timeout, and the number of fouls before teams shoot free throws will increase. The biggest change allows coaches to call timeout and signal to the referees to that he is challenging a call, which will be reviewed by instant replay and the officials will determine if it should be upheld or changed.

The league announced the series of new rules Wednesday in effort to speed up the game when it opens its 14th season next week.

Mavs near deal with Japanese point guard

October, 14, 2014
10/14/14
1:38
PM CT
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Mavericks are finalizing paperwork to sign Japanese point guard Yuki Togashi.

The plan is for the 21-year-old Togashi, who stands 5-foot-6 and weighs 145 pounds, to spend the rest of the preseason with the Mavs before joining their D-League affiliate Texas Legends.

"It's going to be a great experience," Togashi said.

The Legends will automatically own Togashi's rights in the likely event that he is waived by the Mavs.

Togashi played the last season and a half in the Japanese pro league and was on the Mavs' summer league team.

Larkin rejoins Mavs; Mekel to D-League

March, 15, 2014
3/15/14
1:30
PM CT
The Dallas-to-Frisco shuttle is running again, with Shane Larkin rejoining the Mavericks and Gal Mekel going to the D-League Texas Legends.

The Mavs recalled Larkin on Saturday, a night after the first-round point guard had his best D-League performance, putting up 22 points and 11 assists in the Legends' win over the Maine Red Claws. Larkin has averaged 15.3 points and 8.3 assists in four D-League games this season.

Mekel, a rookie point guard, will switch places with Larkin, having been re-assigned to the Legends. Mekel has played in three D-League games this season, averaging 9.3 points and 6.3 assists.

The Mavs will continue regularly sending their young players to the D-League to get them minutes for the rest of the season.

Mavs recall Mekel from D-League

March, 9, 2014
3/09/14
11:38
AM CT
DALLAS -- The Mavericks recalled Gal Mekel from the D-League after the rookie point guard spent three games playing for the Texas Legends on a rehab stint.

Mekel averaged 9.3 points, 6.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game for the Legends, but he shot only 34.4 percent from the floor during his time in the D-League.

The 26-year-old Mekel has averaged 2.4 points and 2.1 assists in 9.6 minutes per game during his 30 appearances for the Mavs, shooting only 34.5 percent from the floor.

Mekel hasn’t played for the Mavs since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-January. He’s unlikely to get much playing time the rest of the season, as he’s buried beneath Jose Calderon, Devin Harris and Shane Larkin on the depth chart at point guard.

Mekel headed to D-League for rehab

March, 4, 2014
3/04/14
2:00
PM CT
DALLAS -- Mavericks rookie point guard Gal Mekel, who has not played since undergoing surgery in mid-January to repair the meniscus in his right knee, will be assigned to the D-League Texas Legends.

The plan is for Mekel, who averaged 2.4 points and 2.1 assists in 30 games for the Mavs, to play at least two games for the Legends.

“It’s time for him to get some game minutes to continue with his rehab,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I just want to be clear that this is an opportunity for him to continue his rehab and conditioning, and he’s done very well with that.”

Mekel will join fellow Mavs rookie Ricky Ledo, who has spent most of the season in the D-League, with the Legends.

Point guard Shane Larkin, small forward Jae Crowder and center Bernard James -- all of whom have gotten some D-League time recently -- will travel to Denver with the Mavs.

Crowder: Another D-League triple-double

March, 1, 2014
3/01/14
10:38
PM CT
Jae Crowder is apparently the Oscar Robertson of the D-League.

For the second time in two games with the Texas Legends, Crowder messed around and got a triple-double. He had 22 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in Saturday’s 137-126 win over the Los Angeles D-Fenders, following up his 23-point, 18-rebound, 10-assist performance in a victory over the same foe Thursday night.

Crowder, who is shuttling back and forth between the D-League and NBA to get minutes after falling out of the Mavs’ rotation, also had five steals and three blocks.

Some not-so-pretty stats in his box-score line included seven turnovers and 7-of-18 shooting.

Rookie point guard Shane Larkin, the Mavs’ first-round pick, had by far his best statistical outing in his three D-League games. Larkin scored 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. (But it’s worth noting that D-Fenders point guard Manny Harris, who has 89 games of NBA experience, had 30 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals.)

Mavs second-round pick Ricky Ledo, a D-League regular during his rookie season, had an off night with only five points on 2-of-8 shooting. Ledo is shooting less than 40 percent for the Legends this season.

Crowder, James dominate in D-League

February, 27, 2014
2/27/14
9:40
PM CT
Call it the J.J. Barea Rule. If you want to make a case for earning minutes for the Mavericks, you better blow up if you get sent down to the D-League.

That’s exactly what center Bernard James and small forward Jae Crowder did in their cameo appearance for the Texas Legends on Thursday, putting up monster numbers in a 121-103 win over the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

James’ line in the box score looks like it belongs in a video game. He scored 38 points on 18-of-20 shooting, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked four shots. James had 28 points on 13-of-13 shooting and 11 rebounds by halftime.

Crowder’s stats are almost as impressive: a 23-point, 18-rebound, 10-assist triple-double with two steals and a block. There were a couple of blemishes in Crowder’s box score line -- 1-of-5 3-point shooting and five turnovers – but he was physically dominant against a lineup that featured former first-round picks Terrence Williams, Shawne Williams and Xavier Henry.

Point guard Shane Larkin, the Mavs’ first-round pick, had a so-so performance. He scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, dished out nine assists, grabbed five rebounds and committed five turnovers.

The Mavs sent the three young reserves to Frisco to get them some playing time since they aren’t in Dallas’ rotation right now. They’re expected to be recalled for Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls.

Three Mavs to make D-League cameo

February, 27, 2014
2/27/14
2:42
PM CT
DALLAS – Three Mavericks reserves will make a cameo appearance in the D-League to get minutes Thursday night.

Rookie point guard Shane Larkin, second-year forward Jae Crowder and second-year center Bernard James have been assigned to the Texas Legends. They are expected to play in Thursday night’s game against the Los Angeles D-Fenders at Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco and return to the Mavs for Friday morning’s shootaround.

Larkin, the first-round pick who was replaced in the Mavs’ rotation when Devin Harris got healthy, had a similar D-League stint earlier this month. He scored nine points and dished out seven assists in 33 minutes during the Legends’ Feb. 1 loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Crowder has fallen out of the Mavs’ rotation in favor of Wayne Ellington recently. James has played sparingly all season as the Mavs’ fourth-string center.

Rookie swingman Ricky Ledo was recalled from the Legends to make room for the other three Mavs on the D-League team’s roster. An NBA rule limits the number of players a team can assign to the D-League to three.

Mavs recall Larkin from D-League

February, 2, 2014
2/02/14
12:31
PM CT
DALLAS -- Mavericks first-round pick Shane Larkin's D-League stint lasted only one game.

The Mavs recalled the rookie point guard from the Texas Legends on Sunday. Larkin scored nine points and dished out seven assists in the Legends' loss Saturday night to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Larkin was briefly assigned to the D-League because the Mavs wanted him to get some minutes. His playing time has been sporadic with Devin Harris serving as the backup point guard. Larkin played a total of only 11 minutes in the Mavs' last four games, failing to appear in two of them.

Larkin, the 18th overall pick, has averaged 3.6 points and 1.8 assists in 12.5 minutes in his 32 appearances for the Mavs.

Mavs send Shane Larkin to D-League

January, 31, 2014
1/31/14
11:00
PM CT
DALLAS -- Mavericks rookie first-round pick Shane Larkin is headed to Frisco, Texas, for at least one game.

Coach Rick Carlisle said Friday that Larkin will play for the Texas Legends, the Mavs' D-League affiliate, on Saturday night.

Larkin, the 18th overall pick in the 2013 draft, has fallen out of the rotation recently with Devin Harris serving as the backup point guard. Larkin has played a total of only 11 minutes in the Mavs' past four games, not getting off the bench for two of those games.

Larkin’s development was delayed by a fractured ankle he suffered the day the Mavericks' summer-league team left for Las Vegas. That sidelined him through the first two weeks of the regular season. He has averaged 3.6 points and 1.8 assists in 32 games for the Mavs.

Ricky Ledo assigned to Texas Legends

January, 18, 2014
1/18/14
5:05
PM CT
The Mavericks assigned Ricky Ledo to the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 shooting guard has played in nine games for the Mavs, averaging 1.9 points and 3.3 minutes per game.

Ledo will join the Legends and be available for tonight’s game against the Austin Toros at 7 p.m. at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
19.2 4.4 1.9 33.8
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.8
AssistsR. Rondo 6.1
StealsM. Ellis 1.9
BlocksB. James 1.5