D-League showcase: Maurice Baker might help a contender at this point
BOISE, Idaho -- Attention NBA general managers, especially those of you in Cleveland, Boston, Golden State, Toronto and Denver who need help at point guard:
There is a player with the Dakota Wizards, a 6-1 guard out of Oklahoma State named Maurice Baker, who may be the answer to your problems.
And you, Danny Ainge, you may still be publicly denying the obvious, but everyone around the NBA can see you need a ball handler behind Rajon Rondo. If you can't find a way to get Damon Stoudamire, where will you turn next?
And, hey, Chris Mullin, if that Gary Payton backup plan fails after C.J. Watson's next 10-day contract expires, you'll want to read on.
And you, too, George Karl, because your general manager, Mark Warkentien, is liable to return to Denver with some nice things to say about that certain someone referenced above.
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Matched up for much of the night against Bulls rookie JamesOn Curry, who is on a minor league assignment with the Iowa Energy, Baker put up the line of the week Monday night by scoring 41 points, going 12-for-17 from the field and 17-for-17 from the line with six assists (and no turnovers) and six steals.
Two nights later, Baker had 27 points (9-for-18 from the field, 8-for-8 from the line) with four assists, four steals and 15 rebounds -- yes, 15 rebounds from a 6-1 point guard -- while matched up against Cleveland's Shannon Brown, who was on assignment with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
"He has a huge heart, he's not a great shooter but he is a great clutch shooter, and he's one of the best rebounding guards I've ever seen," said Eric Chapman, the Boise-based director of the Chapman Report, a scouting and consulting service that tracks minor league basketball players.
Chapman has been watching Baker up close for the past three years and says Baker seems to be about 80 percent of the player he was before undergoing ankle surgery in the summer of 2006 after playing half of a season in Lithuania, which followed stints in Turkey, Mexico, Syria and Russia.
Baker, 27, also played for the Heat and Nets in 2005 summer leagues and for Phoenix in a 2002 summer league. He had 10-day contracts with the Los Angeles Clippers (one game, no points) and Portland Trail Blazers (four games, no points) in the 2004-05 season, so if he makes it to the NBA, it will not be his first time there.
But it sure has been a long time since he was there.
"Finishing at the rim in traffic, that's the one part of the game he doesn't have anymore since the ankle surgery," Chapman said, "but he keeps getting it back little by little, and you can see it each game."
Other non-assigned players who stood out at the four-day showcase included:
• Center Elton Brown of Colorado, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds Wednesday against Tulsa and 19 points and 18 rebounds Tuesday against Albuquerque. The knock against him is he's undersized at 6-9, with a below-the-rim offensive game, to be an effective low-post scorer in the NBA.
• Swingman Devin Green of the Los Angeles D-Fenders had a near triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks Tuesday against Fort Wayne. He cooled Thursday and put up 16 points (on 7-for-13 shooting) with five rebounds and three assists Friday against Austin, where he had to contend with DerMarr Johnson and Ian Mahinmi on the defensive end.
• D-League stalwart Kaniel Dickens, who had a cup of coffee with the Clippers, Nets and Blazers, shot 10-for-17 on 3-pointers and averaged 23 points in his two games for Colorado.
• NBA vet Jelani McCoy shot 9-for-11 in two games for Los Angeles but failed to impress a scout for CSKA Moscow, which is seeking a replacement for injured big men Alexei Savrasenko and Matjaz Smodis. "Bad body language," the scout said.
• NBA vet Randy Livingston, the D-League assists leader, had 20 points and 11 assists for the Idaho Stampede on Tuesday against Rio Grande, and 12 points and 12 assists in Thursday night's showcase finale.
• Walker Russell Jr., who was on the Knicks' training camp roster and is the son of one of Isiah Thomas' best friends, went 12-for-23 in two games with 18 assists, four turnovers and six steals for Fort Wayne.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.
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