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The RGV Vipers start the second half of their six-game homestand beginning tonight after putting together a 2-1 record during the first half.
The Vipers, four-time NBA G League champions and affiliate of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, may have a little different look during these next three games Tuesday against the Texas Legends and Thursday and Friday against the Mexico City Capitanes. All games start at 7:30 p.m.
With two-way players Nate Hinton, Jermaine Samuels Jr. and Jeenathan Williams called up by the Rockets, along with Rockets assignee Cam Whitmore, the 20th pick in the first round of the 2023 NBA draft, a deep roster will now get a chance to fend for minutes, and look to keep the Vipers on a winning trek, with an overall 4-2 record.
During Saturday’s win over Oklahoma City, that foursome combined for 55 of the team’s 127 points, and three of them played 27 minutes, while the other came in for 24 minutes. Other players got more minutes because of the lopsided game. Three of those players have been averaging more than 31 minutes apiece – and 60 points per contest.
The fast and furious moving of players is nothing new to the G League; it’s developed many NBA players with that formula. However, losing four overnight before the second half of a homestand isn’t heard of too often. That is, however, what happens with talent.
It’s something head coach Kevin Burleson has dealt with before, both as coach and as a player.
“This is not my first rodeo; I’ve been in this situation with the NBA. Some players say ‘it’s my time’ and try to do too much,” he said. “I’m definitely going to talk to the team about that because we still have to play the right way. Don’t get too overly excited and play out of your norm – play your game and it will be fine.”
The full team – with two-ways and assignees – have had limited practice time together and Burleson said the team is quickly gaining much-needed chemistry.
“As of now, I think it’s going in the right direction. After the first game in Memphis, I was like, ‘Wow we need to fix some things.’ Trending forward, they are starting to get the concept and my coaching style.”
While it’s a part of the way the league is set up, it’s still a tough task to have players consistently coming and going. Despite those “obstacles,” the Vipers are the only team with more than two championships and have more championship series appearances than any other team with seven. They and the Rockets and seemingly found the right formula.
“That’s always the hard part – we, as coaches, complain, but that’s the entire league, players going up and down,” Burleson said. “We are trying to develop chemistry and it will be very important for some of the guys who didn’t get a lot of minutes because they are going to get more minutes this week. It’s a good chance for this group that hasn’t really played together as a whole to get some chemistry also.”
One of those to keep an eye on is guard Jalen Lecque. Lecque has started in five of the six games this year, averaging 19 minutes and 8.5 points per game, up in minutes from last year with the Vipers. However, he played 26 minutes a game two season ago and averaged 16 points per contest with Wisconsin.
Another is defensive standout Trhae Michell. Last year, Mitchell averaged nearly 30 minute a contest. This year, he’s at 16.2 minutes. He’ll be another looking to get some minutes and chemistry in while the Rockets have the other Vipers.
“It is tough but the guys have got to understand that their time will come,” Burleson said. “That’s always tough for competitors. I was the same way, wanted to play all the time. Obviously, two ways and assignments are going to play a lot but they have to know their time will come.
“They will have an opportunity now – it’s just a mindset. The focus is they have to be prepared and ready to go.”