Jan 28

A D-League Opportunity

By Kassandra Posted in: Blazers, PattyMills, LukeBabbitt, ArmonJohnson
Playing time. That's what every player needs in order to develop to their potential.

The Blazers feel Armon Johnson needs those precious minutes in order to pull his game to the next level. That's why today they have assigned him to the team's Developmental League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede. Armon becomes the second blazer rookie to be assigned to Idaho this season; Luke Babbitt averaged 18.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in four games back in December.

Upon being called back up to the blazers after that fourth game, Luke said he couldn't get to the airport fast enough for the one-hour plane ride back to the Rose City (which, if you consider the time zone difference, is actually a zero-minute ride!).

Of course, all of these guys want to play on the highest stage in the world, and that's the NBA. That's why Luke was in a rush to get back from his stint in Boise. However, sometimes these guys can use some fine tuning. Luke's numbers look great in his D-League action, but how are they helping him become a better NBA player. True, we haven't seen much evidence of what he may have picked up during those four games because he simply has not played enough minutes to showcase his skills.

Luke saw just under nine minutes in Thursday's game against the Celtics. he was 1-2 from the field with the miss coming from a three-point attempt which appeared to be rushed. He had no rebounds nor assists in the game, but his defense seemed to be pretty decent. The main thing is that he didn't make any major mistakes. maybe that's what he learned with the Stampede.

Many players may consider being sent to the D-League as a punishment. They must have done something wrong for their NBA team not to need them on the bench; even if it's at the end of the bench.

Yes, the Stampede and the Blazers are on two separate levels. Yet, I see the D-League as a very short-term stepping stone for some players to help them adapt to the faster pace of the professional game. For lack of better description, I would say the D-League is at a level between elite college and the NBA.

There are some encouraging signs for players like Luke, and now Armon. Last year's lone Blazer to be assigned to the Stampede, Patrick Mills, had a splendid five games in Idaho; he averaged 25.6 points per game and 5.4 assists, including two starts. Patrick has been a real spark plug for Portland this year and has emerged as the backup point guard. While everyone new he had skills from college and his country's national team, you can't help but wonder if he picked up just one small part of his game from his time in the D-League.

What does this mean for Armon? We don't know how long he will be with Idaho. Luke was called back up by the Blazers due to injury reasons. Armon might play a game, or 10 games for the Stampede.

What it does mean is that Armon should get some playing time, an opportunity to work on his game and perhaps even a chance to pick up a tip or two. My hope is that he seizes the opportunity to get better, and come back to the Blazers stronger and even hungrier than before. 

The only way that's going to happen is with some playing time.

~ Kassandra
Previous Story: tough stretch, celtics


  1. I'm so glad you're here!

    This blog is awesome. I'm a big fan of the D-League. I think Luke looked like a whole new guy when he got back. Now he moves with intent and is taking shots. Before he got playing time he would just pass the ball.

    I'm confident AJ will improve with more minutes under his belt. It'll be GREAT for the team to have more experienced rookies.

    by sarahhecht on 1/28/2011 11:33 PM
  2. awesome blog kassandra...i believe it totally. it like what the majors have had in place for years. a farming team to develop guys who would not get it otherwise. i dont see it as punishment either. armon has a future just right now there is not a lot of room for him to develop and from what i understand the blazers wont be practising much with the four days off before san antonio that is now three days...good job your blogs are great!

    by oregongal47 view (TG) on 1/28/2011 11:50 PM
  3. thanks Sarah and Teresa! i'm finding i like this blogging thing more and more. Armon seems like the type of guy who will take the proverbial bull by the horns and make the most if it. he has a good work ethic and drive to get better; two things that can't be taught. he just needs to work on some areas of his game and put himself in the right position for when his time comes.

    thanks for reading!

    by Kassandra on 1/29/2011 12:11 AM
  4. Hey Kass! I pretty much subscribe to the "what could it hurt?" position regarding D-League. Experience, well you can't buy that. I hope Armon uses his time there (what else is there to do in Idaho I ask you?! j/k) well and hones his skills. His amazing preseason play cannot have been a fluke. He seems genuinely wholeheartedly interested in becoming a better player (#1).

    by minimegstew on 1/29/2011 12:11 AM
  5. I think it will be good for Armon to get some playing time and I am confident he will make the most of this opportunity.

    by RedRudy5 on 1/29/2011 11:58 AM
  6. Nice one Miss Kassandra :)
    I think the D-league will be good for Armon, and though he will probably miss the team (and not find Boise nearly as inviting as Portland), I think he will seize the opportunity to play basketball again regularly and work on honing his skills. Armon showed a lot of promise early in the season, but didn't seem to be able to adjust once teams scouted him. Hopefully, his time watching from the bench, working out with the team, and now perhaps putting some of that to work in actual games will all coalesce into an Armonizer who is more ready for the NBA.

    You know I was a big fan early, so I really have my fingers crossed that this will be a major component to upping his game

    by SisillaRiann on 1/29/2011 4:59 PM
  7. Any chance Patty will make it to the D-League?

    I like the guy... Everybody seems to.. But he could use some play time in a way that doesn't mess with our mojo.. I'm just a little frustrated at his last few performances in which, he runs the floor.. shoots.. misses....... runs the floor.. shoots.. misses.. Repeat X2 or 6..

    It seems to coincide with the times in the game that we are giving our opponent a 10-2 run of some kind.

    He HAS had some big moments.. I acknowledge that..
    Any thoughts?
    Am I far off base?
    Are we just so desperate for players that our understanding of a D-League player is misconstrued?


    by Blazermaniak on 1/29/2011 9:11 PM
  8. @Blazermaniak: i don't see why the blazers would send two pg's to Idaho at the same time. we have to remember that Patty was drafted by the blazers, then sent to Idaho when he was coming back from his broken foot last year. we also need to look at the effect that Patty has had on the players around him. the second unit goes at a faster pace and can cause problems for opposing defense. while your opinion is not off-base, i think it's unfair to accuse Patty of taking the shot every time down the floor. i think he's done a very good job of getting the ball moving amongst his teammates. i would also disagree that our opponents outscore the Blazers when Patty is on the floor. his +/- efficiency rating is +4.82, which would seem to indicate that we are a better team when he is playing. finally, Patty is not a d-league player (neither are Armon nor Luke for that matter). rather, he is an nba player who played some games in the d-league; the "d" in d-league stands for developmental league where players can develop their games to achieve the nba level. Patty is past that. Armon has an opportunity to hone his skills.

    by Kassandra on 1/29/2011 9:55 PM
  9. yes armon will use that work ethic to his advantage. not a put down or punishment to go there. d i think stands for development and how do you develop you get to play and hone your skills. he is our guard of the future and so is patty because dre wont be with us forever...i wish but he is getting older and in his final year contract here. hopefully we can pick up a vet pg over the summer if we dont get to keep dre

    by oregongal47 view (TG) on 1/29/2011 10:38 PM
  10. Valid points.. i was just curious if i was alone in the thought. Apparently I am =)

    Dre has been amazing.. could you imagine if we had made some quick trade back when the hype from Roy emerged? He has definitely had some clutch plays for us. I am hoping that Armon and Patty, if they are to stick around as our PG's will develope more of a passing nature than a scoring one. I think that has been one of the large differences between Dre and them. I like their ability to score.. and we NEED it.. but we also need better ball distribution from them.. AJ was doing well, til he had some bad luck with turnovers on passing attempts. I'm looking forward to the future and getting nervous about all this trade chatter at the same time.. especially with Nate's contract in the mix!

    Thanks for the response, and Go Blazers!!

    by Blazermaniak on 1/30/2011 12:26 AM
  11. @Blazermaniak: agreed about Andre. from what i've seen around here, there a lot of fans who would have pulled the trigger on a trade involving him. most of the talk involves his expiring contract and the fact that he's older (for an nba player). however, he's had no career-shortening injuries and just keeps plugging along. i'm glad we haven't made such a trade yet.

    by Kassandra on 1/30/2011 3:52 PM
  12. Armon going to the D-league is a definite demerit oh his behalf and that of the coaching staff. HIs play during the preseason sent Bayless packing. He was expected to have significant minutes and be the de facto "pg of the future." This has got to be a disappointment towards Armon and the coaching staff.

    by Roland on 2/4/2011 7:31 PM
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