The Celtics have a new D-League affiliate this year. Last year's affiliate, the Florida Flame, is no longer in existence. When Gerald was sent to the D-League, it wasn't even to our affiliate, it was to the Fayetteville Patriots, because of the number of wing players on the Flame and Danny felt that he would get more chance to play in Fayetteville. This year, with a plethora of 2st and second year players, I believe that we will use the D-League to give some of them playing time rather than keeping them on the end of the bench while Danny searches for the elusive big deal. So, it would be good to know something about the Austin Toros, our affiliate.
This year, the Celtics will be affiliated with the Austin Toros. This team began in 2001 as the Columbus Riverdragons. In mid 2005, the Columbus Riverdragons franchise was awarded to the City of Austin, Texas, and the new name, the Toros, was unveiled on August 10th, 2005. The Toros began play during the 2005-2006 season. Their official colors are red, blue, and gold. The Toros name is currently the only NBA-associated team and first D-League team to possess a nickname of Spanish origin.
They play their home games in the Austin Convention Center. The team is owned by David Kahn and Southwest Basketball, LLC. Their logo design is a Blue bull and red basketball with State of Texas in the background, outlined in gold. The Toros will start the regular season on the road against the defending D-League champion Albuquerque Thunderbirds on Friday, November 24.
The teams affiliated with the Toros this year include the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks, and the Boston Celtics. Under the NBA labor agreement, teams are permitted to assign players in their first or second season to a D-League club. Last year, Gerald Green was sent down to the Fayetteville Patriots and it gave him some much needed experience and confidence. With the over abundance of youth on the Celtics this year, it is highly possible that one or more players could be sent to the Toros to get some playing time and experience.
The Coach of the Toros is very familiar to the Celtics. Dennis Johnson, aka DJ, played 7 years with the Celtics and was part of 2 championship teams. None other than Larry Bird said that DJ was the best player he had ever played with. Who can forget the play in Game 5 of the 1987 playoff series with Detroit where Bird stole the ball and hit a cutting DJ for the game winning basket?
DJ played at Los Angeles Harbor Junior College for two years and then spent one year at Pepperdine before being chosen by the Seattle SuperSonics as a so-called hardship case in the second round of the 1976 NBA draft. Seattle traded him to the Phoenix Suns in 1980. He had a falling-out with coach John MacLeod during the 1982/83 season and was relegated to a backup role. The Suns sent him to the Boston Celtics for journeyman center Rick Robey after that season. It was a great deal for the Celtics.
In Boston, Johnson started for two NBA championship teams, in 1984 and 1986. He retired after the 1989/90 season. A fine all-around player, the 6-foot-4, 202-pound Johnson was best known for his defensive skills. He was named to the all-NBA defensive first team from 1979 through 1983 and in 1987, and he made the second team from 1984 through 1986.
After more than 7 years as an assistant with the Celtics and the Seattle Supersonics, Johnson became Seattle's interim head coach with 24 games left in the 2002-03 season. He had an 8-16 record.
Last year, in his first year as the Toros' Head Coach, he led the team to a 24-24 record. It will be good to have DJ as part of the Celtics' family once again.
Ainge has a big decision to make about who he is going to send down to the D-League.
Gerald is most likely staying put with the parent team since he proved late last season that he is capable of competing against NBA players. Dwayne Jones is a possibility, but with our lack of depth at the PF/C, I believe he will stay with the Celtics.
If Pittsnogle, Ray and Powe stick with the team beyond training camp, they will most likely be the players sent down to Austin Texas to play for the Toros.