EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Springfield Armor guards JamesOn Curry, and Jerry Smith, along with center Jeff Foote, were recognized by the D-League on Wednesday, selected for the 6th annual NBA D-League All-Star Game, which takes place on February 25. Springfield's trio tied the Los Angeles D-Fenders for most All-Stars this season.
When the Nets entered into a hybrid affiliation with the NBA D-League's Springfield Armor, one of the goals was changing the culture of a franchise that had won no more than 13 games in either of its first two seasons.
The Armor topped that plateau in front of their home on Feburary 2, with a 103-96 victory against the Sioux Falls Skyforce, following it up with win No. 15 a day later. In both games, as had been the case all season, guards JamesOn Curry and Jerry Smith teamed with Jeff Foote to make key contributions.
Wednesday, the trio was recognized by the D-League, selected along with 17 others for the sixth annual NBA D-League All-Star Game, which takes place on February 25, during NBA All-Star 2012 in Orlando. Springfield, along with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, placed the most players on the D-League All-Star Team.
"I'm very excited for (JamesOn, Jeff and Jerry), first of all," said Milton Lee, the Nets' general managaer of minor league operations. "They've been very hard workers, very coachable, and have really bought in to the way Bob MacKinnon coaches them. So, secondly, Bob should get a lot of credit, because he's helping them develop.
"I've said before that, from the Nets' perspective, our experience with Springfield has been tremendous on multiple fronts, and one of them is the development of the talent that we have in Springfield. This is a nice benchmark of people doing their jobs well."
MacKinnon praised Lee and his staff for providing him the talent to succeed, and the players for their commitment to developing within the Nets' team concept. Curry and Smith earned invites to Nets training camp, raising the level of competition throughout the preseason, and returned to Springfield confident they were NBA-caliber players.
Curry, tied for second in the league in assists and third in steals, has averaged 16.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.9 steals in 36.6 minutes per game. Smith, the reigning NBA D-League Performer of the Week, has posted a team-high 17.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals in 33.6 minutes per game.
Foote, meanwhile, spent his NBA training camp with the Trail Blazers, and was subsequently acquired by the Armor from the NBA D-League's available player pool; they held the No. 1 position on the waiver wire at the time of his re-entry. Having logged a team-high eight double-doubles, Foote ranks sixth in the league in rebounding. Overall, he's averaging 14.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 31.9 minutes per game.
"It starts with their passion and hunger for the game," MacKinnon said. "Being in the system that the Nets has provided has allowed them to showcase their abilities. But it comes back to the fact that these guys are hungry and come back every day and work extremely hard.
"A guy like Jeff Foote, who's a 7-foot center, he's in games diving on the floor for loose balls and running the court hard and doing the little dirty work things. I think it's a great testament to how good he wants to be and how good the other players want to be."
Lee said that Foote, like Curry and Smith before him, bought into the Nets' vision for player development and team success, turning down other offers to join the organization. All have redoubled their efforts following the taste of NBA experience during training camp, and are setting impressive examples for their teammates.
"Bob and I are lucky with the group that we have," Lee said. "They have bought in to trying to develop, trying to get better (and trying to) be coachable. You don't always find that."