Season in Retrospect for the Sioux Falls Skyforce
Coming off a title-winning season, the Sioux Falls Skyforce had some expectations for another banner year. Defining success came a little differently for the 2016-17 edition.
A rocket start out of the blocks lasted all the way to game 26 on the season. Sioux Falls earned 20 wins against six losses capped by a sweep of two games at the NBADL Showcase in mid-January. Three of those losses came to eventual playoff teams. Another loss came as a result of a buzzer-beating three at Salt Lake City.
Part of the early promise resulted in matching the NBADL record for most consecutive home wins. From February 3, 2016 through January 7, 2017 the Skyforce won every regular season game to match the 20 straight the Idaho Stampede won between the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
The game that broke the home winning streak was the last time Okaro White played for the Skyforce before being summoned to the Miami Heat. In the 125-118 setback on January 13 against Erie, White knew an opportunity was missed.
"We've just got to be prepared. Everyone's gunning for us. We've just got to move on to the next one."
The NBADL Showcase proved to be fruitful even without 13-Okaro (more about that in a moment) as the Skyforce crushed Reno and toppled the D-Fenders in a clash of the Western Conference's best. Immediately upon arrival in Miami, the White-Heat tandem reeled off 13 straight wins a record for a team that was 19 games below .500 at the time.
That would prove to be the apex of the season as five straight losses followed the Showcase. The last was a disheartening defeat at Rio Grande Valley where the game was tied in the final minute, but the Vipers prevailed.
A small bit of good news came after the game as Briante Weber learned he had three NBA offers waiting for him. Three potential NBA playoff contenders offered 10-day deals with the guard from Virginia Commonwealth taking the Golden State Warriors up on their offer. Weber was eventually signed to the Charlotte Hornets for the rest of the season locking up his NBA status for the second straight season.
The next nine games were a struggle as Sioux Falls went 3-6 without two of their best players. In retrospect, the 115-98 home loss to Santa Cruz on March 1 turned pivotal. Season series was tied 2-2 and the Warriors played well enough to earn the playoff tiebreaker because of a better conference record.
Every effort to squeeze out enough wins to defend their championship in the postseason was exhausted by General Manager Adam Simon. First Greg Whittington, then Larry Drew II returned from overseas leagues and a couple trades shook the lineup to get that right dose of chemistry.
In the end, a Santa Cruz win on Monday March 27 put the Skyforce out of contention. Still, 29 wins is an excellent season with lots of highlights, struggles, heartache and achievement. We just have to wait until November for the next journey.