Sioux Falls Skyforce set D-League single-season wins record
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) The Sioux Falls Skyforce have set the NBA Development League record for wins in a season, getting their 39th on Tuesday by topping the Iowa Energy 125-107.
The Skyforce, an affiliate of the Miami Heat, are 39-9 with two games remaining. The previous D-League record for wins was 38, set by the Los Angeles D-Fenders in 2011-12.
''I'm proud of the group,'' Skyforce coach Dan Craig told The Associated Press by phone after the game. ''The guys have done a tremendous job of just buying in and being selfless as a team. Any given night, it could be somebody's night. From day one until now, it's been team-first. And this milestone, I reminded the team it's something no one can take away from you and we certainly don't take it for granted.''
Jarnell Stokes and DeAndre Liggins each scored 23 for Sioux Falls in the record-setter.
''I'm thrilled for D.C.,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said last week when asked Craig, who has been close with for more than a decade. ''D.C.'s one of my closest people on this planet, so I'm absolutely thrilled for him this year. What he's showing is that he's an excellent basketball coach.''
The Heat pay for and control the basketball operations for the Skyforce, who have local ownership led by Greg Heineman and his family to handle their off-the-court business matters. The Skyforce run a system very similar to the Heat, and Craig was a Heat assistant before taking over the D-League club this season.
''What we've set up now in Sioux Falls, and it's been three years in the making, but now it is an absolute mirror of what we're trying to do,'' Spoelstra said. ''It's gotten a little bit better as we've gotten to know (more) each year. And he's bringing a lot of what he wants to do to the table as well. It's awesome.''
At this time last year, Craig was on Spoelstra's staff, flying on charters and staying in five-star hotels with the Heat. The D-League doesn't come close to comparing in that sense, and Craig never complained when Heat President Pat Riley and Spoelstra came to him with this offer.
''It's a healthy challenge for me as a person, as a leader, as a coach,'' Craig said. ''I embraced this opportunity. I'm very thankful to Coach Riley, Coach Spoelstra, (Heat general manager) Andy Elisburg, for those guys to offer me the opportunity. This is a first-class organization. It's funny how similar the Heat and the Skyforce are.''
Craig said the Skyforce have taken a team-first approach all season, which isn't necessarily easy to do in the D-League - with players hoping to get noticed and get to the next level.
He thinks that will continue now, with the playoffs coming and the Skyforce now able to start thinking about chasing a title.
''These guys are excited about that opportunity,'' Craig said. ''They're focused on that, so we can be playing the best basketball going into the playoffs.''