While the Celtics, Cavs, Mavs and Lakers were taking care of business at home last night, so were the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. In front of a sellout crowd of 6,198 (the largest ever to see a Vipers game), the Vipers defeated the Tulsa 66ers in Game 2 of the D-League Finals to take home the title. But in case you didn’t catch the series, here are five amazing things that you missed.
Last night, after the Vipers’ Mike Harris hit a lay-up to tie the game 91-91 with 55.5 seconds left, Vipers guard Craig Winder nailed a three at the buzzer to give Rio Grande Valley their first D-League Championship. There’s really no other way to win a ‘chip. Watch it below:
Harris, who was featured in Dime #55, is the first D-League MVP since Ansu Sesay (Greenville Groove, 2002) to win a Championship. If you didn’t get to see him play, you missed out on one of the country’s most lethal scores. After averaging 25.3 points with the Vipers earlier this season, Harris was signed by the Houston Rockets and played with them on two separate occasions, as well as a brief stint with the Washington Wizards. In addition to him, the Vipers’ Antonio Anderson and Will Conroy have also seen NBA experience.
While much was made about Brandon Jennings‘ journey to Europe straight out of high school last year, the 66ers’ Latavious Williams decided to take another path becoming the first player to ever enter the D-League straight out of high school. While some people were skeptical about his decision, by making it all the way to the D-League Finals, Williams definitely got the exposure he was looking for. It will be interesting to see if he gets drafted this June.
The main reason that guys on the brink of the NBA decide to play in the D-League is exposure. And as I wrote earlier this month, the D-League is bigger and better than ever. Why do you think the D-League Twitter account has almost 150,000 followers after starting the season with 8,000? It’s because people are interested. For the Finals, both games aired on the VERSUS television network, bringing a type of exposure that many of these players have never had. And that’s great for scouts, GMs and most importantly, the fans.
5. Morey Is Better
If you’re unfamiliar with Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, it’s time you become familiar. With his unique style of calculating and finding talent, Morey is the perfect GM to have looking over your D-League squad. And it’s no surprise that because of him, both Harris, Conroy and Garrett Temple earlier this season (who signed with the Spurs for the rest of the year in March) were called up to the Rockets. It’s no coincidence that the Vipers last night became the first single-affiliate D-Leauge team and first expansion team to win a Championship.
Also, in case you missed the game, here are the highlights:
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