On Friday night in Hidalgo, the Texas Legends will face the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the opening round of the 2018 NBA G-League Playoffs.
It’s the second playoff appearance for the Legends, who finished the regular season at 29-21, their second campaign under head coach Bob MacKinnon Jr.
Well, it’s a great thing to have another game,” MacKinnon said. “Our league is all about the opportunity for guys to be seen playing. For now, our guys to get a chance to be seen playing in a playoff atmosphere by these NBA people and by teams from overseas, and this stuff is very important for their careers.”
The G-League affiliate of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, the Legends have made the playoffs one other time, in 2010-11, their first season in Frisco since relocating from Colorado, back when Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Nancy Lieberman coached the Legends.
However, the Legends’ latest trip to the postseason is even more impressive considering that Texas has had 25 different players suit up this season, including six who played NBA minutes this season.
Well, I think our culture is one where guys come in and they work. I think our front office, (President and General Manager) Malcolm Farmer and (owner) Donnie Nelson, when we lose a guy, they get another good player who’s a good person who comes in and fits into our culture, and I think that’s been a big thing,” MacKinnon said. “I believe that there’s no one (in our league who has had) over 21 players other than us, who are .500 or better.”
Rio Grande Valley, the G-League affiliate of the Houston Rockets, is a team MacKinnon and the Legends know well since they faced the Vipers four times in the regular season.
RGV won three of the four matchups, including both games in Hidalgo. The Legends’ lone win this season against the Vipers came on January 20 when Texas edged RGV 144-141 at Dr Pepper Arena.
Well, they’re very talented offensively,” MacKinnon said of the Vipers. “When we played them last Friday, seven of their guys have been either first or second-round picks in the NBA, so they’re one of the most talented teams in our league. They score in bunches, take advantage of your mistakes, and score off turnovers. I think we’re going to see them in attack mode and we’re going to have to sustain our defensive efforts and take care of the basketball.”
However, the Vipers aren’t the only team in this matchup with ample NBA experience on its roster. The Legends have four players, including two with local ties in Jalen Jones, a Dallas native, and Cory Jefferson (Mesquite), who have played in the NBA this season.
Jameel Warney also recently returned to the Legends after completing a 10-day contract with the Mavericks and MacKinnon is happy to have him back in the mix.
Just a great person, great player. I think he showed with his time with the Mavs that he belongs and he’s an NBA player,” MacKinnon said of Warney. “Hopefully he’s going to get another NBA opportunity, either with the Mavs or with another team, and stick. He is a guy who is an NBA-level player, so anytime you get those guys in our league, it’s a bonus.”
Coaching in the G-League Playoffs is not a new experience for MacKinnon, who led the Colorado 14ers, which the Legends franchise was known as prior to relocating to Texas after the 2008-09 season, to the 2009 NBA D-League championship (the league was known as the NBA Development League or D-League prior to last summer when the league rebranded to the G-League to reflect a new title sponsor in Gatorade).
However, the veteran head coach hasn’t even discussed his previous playoff experience with his current team and it doesn’t sound like he has any plans to do so before Friday’s single-elimination game which will tip at 7PM CT and will air on Twitch.
No, we haven’t really talked about it. Again, our goals here never change-it’s come in and get better every day, and that’s all we focus on,” MacKinnon said. “We focus on the next person we’re playing and hopefully it’s good enough that we’ll get to play another day after that.”
But at a time of year when both the Mavs and hockey’s Dallas Stars would hope to be getting ready to start the playoffs in their respective sports but this year both teams will likely be on the sidelines, MacKinnon takes pride in his Legends being one of the few teams in Dallas-Fort Worth to make the playoffs over the past year.
Of course, he’d still like a little company from DFW’s other teams in the future.
Well, it’s a cool thing to say, but I’d rather be saying that the Mavs and the Legends have made the playoffs,” MacKinnon said. “We’re a fan of all the teams around here, so hopefully in years to come we’ll all be in playoff mode.”
Should the Legends win Friday, they will face the Austin Spurs, the G-League affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs, who are the top seed in the G-League’s Western Conference, in the conference semifinals, another single-elimination game.
That game would be played on the Spurs’ home floor in Cedar Park.