There are still games to play in the G League season and Texas Legends coach Bob MacKinnon is certainly not taking the remainder for granted. Nobody is. However, our Tuesday chat detailed events leading up to the date of February 27th and though I’m sure the coach with the most call-ups in the league’s history could forecast the future, I didn’t ask him to.
Last season, MacKinnon’s first with the Texas Legends, saw the franchise produce their best win total ever with 25. Nine games remain on the schedule and the team currently holds at 23-18, boding well for MacKinnon to one-up his own benchmark.
As great as that is, and as cherished as the time in first place or the potential second ever playoff appearance for the Dallas Mavericks affiliate is, the endgame never escapes the mind of the Legends coach.
“What means the most is getting people call-ups. I think the most satisfying thing this year has been Kyle Collinsworth being called up not once, not twice, not three times but four times and then finally being signed to the Mavs.”
As far as the games themselves, the Legends are indeed 23-18 and two games back of the Southwest Division leading Austin Spurs. To be where they are is an achievement in itself given the amount of players that have rotated through the Dr Pepper Arena doors.
“If you told me at the beginning of the year that we would have had 10 different guys play point and still have a winning record, I would have said you were crazy,” MacKinnon said. “And with basically six call-ups, I think it’s been a very successful year.”
Point guard has proven to be a game of musical chairs for MacKinnon, but hasn’t slowed the team down. “I’ve never had this many guys play at the most important position and we’ve had some great performances (at point guard). You talk about Justin Dentmon, who I felt was the MVP of the G League in the first half of the year, he goes down with a season-ending injury. Then you get Donald Sloan and Wade Baldwin, two guys who I feel are NBA level players, we had a good run with them and now they’re gone.”
Maintaining a good record –and even winning seven straight games in January– is a testament to the pieces that have mostly been here for every game since the season began in November.
“To still be five games over .500 (as of February 27th) and in the mix for a playoff spot, I think speaks to guys like Jameel Warney, who missed some time with us playing USA basketball and has had a great year, and is someone I think will get a call-up relatively shortly. Brandon Ashley, who started off slow after spending a year off of basketball, is really coming on and is someone getting a lot of interest from NBA teams as well.”
Warney, who won a gold medal and the MVP award at the FIBA AmeriCup summer games, rejoined Team USA in November to play in the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifiers. This season with the Legends, he is averaging 20.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists as well as over a block and a steal per game. MacKinnon eagerly awaits the day Warney receives the NBA phone call.
“When that guy gets called up, it’s going to be one of the greatest days of my life.”
Not yet having received that call is arguably the most perplexing of stories in the G League this season. Sure, Warney is an undersized big, but it hasn’t stopped him at any level. Whether it was a 23 point, 15 rebound performance against first round prospect haven Kentucky in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the AmeriCup games or in the G League, he’s met every challenge.
“I think sometimes people look at what he isn’t instead of what he is,” MacKinnon speculated. “He’s not 6 foot 9 or 6 foot 10. Well, he plays that way. It’s only going to take one person, one GM, to say, ‘hey, I want that guy on our team because he’s a winner and can help us win at this level.’ I think when that happens, he’s going to be in the NBA for a long time.”
So he’s a great player. But why will the day he realizes his NBA dream be so important to his current head coach?
“Just the kind of person he is. He’s a great person and a great teammate. He’s always looking out for other guys, he’s always trying to do the right thing. He does things with a smile and he works so hard. Guys like that, as a coach you’re not supposed to have favorites, but you love coaching guys who make it fun to coach everyday.”
The affection for the star big man runs deep in the MacKinnon family. “My youngest son, Ryan, was at tryouts for an AAU team and they went around and asked everybody who their favorite player was. All the kids are saying LeBron James or Steph Curry and Ryan says Jameel Warney. When he has that kind of impact on your son, that’s why it will be a great day for me when he gets a call-up.”