FRISCO -- Texas Legends coach Eduardo Najera got some early tips that the Dallas Mavericks were going to send guard Shane Larkin and center Bernard James down to the D-League to play for his team in Thursday's game against the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
But then Najera got an added surprise.
"When I saw that (Jae) Crowder was coming I was like, 'OK, now I've got the pressure on me, because now I've got NBA players and I've got to get them to the right spots defensively and offensively,' '' Najera said. "I thought it was going to be a lot of fun, and it was.
"Watching them play, it seemed like they were enjoying themselves out there playing basketball. At the end of the day this is a game and they really loved it.’’
James was a force down low as he converted 18 of 20 shots and finished with 38 points, 18 rebounds and four blocked in the Legends' 121-103 victory. Larkin collected nine points, five rebounds, nine assists and two steals.
Meanwhile, Crowder showed his overall game as he finished with a triple-double -- 23 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.
"Obviously they showed that they’re above the D-League,'' Najera said. "Even for them I think this is great just to get out there, because we all know there's a difference between being in practice shape compared to game shape.''
Najera was left impressed by how quickly Crowder, James and Larkin were able to run his offensive sets, since he said they're not the same ones the Mavs run.
"Here I was trying to get creative with the other guys and trying to get them to get layups and different things, trying different things, because at the end of the day that’s what a coach does when the team is not doing well,'' Najera said. "But these guys came in and first of all their basketball IQ is obviously at a high level because they picked everything up right away.
"We don’t really have the same terminology offensively (as the Mavs). Defensively, it’s the same as the Mavericks, of course, but we don’t have a Dirk Nowitzki of course and we have to adjust to that and they picked it up on the go. I was very, very surprised at just how simple a pick-and-roll can get.''
In other words, Larkin, James and Crowder made life very easy for Najera. Even if it was for just one night.
"Hopefully they liked the environment,'' Najera said. 'And hopefully they liked our style of basketball and perhaps we can have them for a few more games.''
-- Dwain Price
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