In his first game for the D-League Ft. Wayne Mad Ants, Cheikh Samb made quite an impression: 12 points, 11 boards and six blocks in 40 minutes of action. Sure, he also had six fouls, but I'm not going to pick nits considering it was his most action in one game since, well, roughly forever.
OK, "forever" is a slight exaggeration, but he played all of 21 minutes in his lone two regular-season games combined and just 102 minutes in the entire preseason -- and never more than 29 in any one game. In five games at the Las Vegas Summer League, he averaged 22.5 minutes -- and never more than 31 in a game. All in all, I think my point is clear: he'll be getting significant burn down in Ft. Wayne, which can only help his development.
The D-League plays at a frantic pace -- the final score of Thursday's game was 122-114 in favor of the Dakota Wizards. The reason is simple: while there are a handful of NBA players assigned to the league, it's mostly a bunch of players trying to get noticed by putting up gaudy numbers in the last column of the box score.
That "I'm getting mine" attitude doesn't always foster team play, but it may instill a bit of aggressiveness to Samb's game. From Krista Jahnke in the Free Press:
Saunders said Samb would have to take some initiative if he wanted opportunities to score.
"It's a different game down there," Saunders said. "Teams aren't used to having very many big guys. The league is very much a small man's league. ... A lot of times, the shot is up and gone before (bigs) can get there."
"He’s obviously a very good defender, shot-blocker, rebounder, but surprisingly I think he’s got a nice offensive game," Ants president and general manager Jeff Potter said during the third quarter. "He is so long. When he shoots a hook, his arm is just straight up, and it can’t be challenged."
Samb, with the wingspan of a pterodactyl and the footprint (size 23) of a T-Rex brings a new dimension to the Ants.
In the first few minutes alone, Samb plucked an offensive rebound out of the sky on Jeremy Richardson’s missed shot, then handed off to Corey Minnifield, whose jump shot evened the score at 2 with 10:51 left.
On the Ants’ next trip down the floor, Samb caught a hard pass from Minnifield – the kind often dropped by centers – then hit a half-hook from the left baseline to give the Mad Ants a 4-2 lead.