The clock continues to tick and Ghana continues to wait for the historic hour when one of its own steps on to the court to play an NBA game. Delving into matters concerning the slow, stunted and insipid growth of the game in the West African nation would be better off serialized like the second coming of Harry Potter than in the piece. The problems are way just too many to contain in this brief piece and avoiding endless episodes of head scratching inactivity will be best discussed in the corridors of the Ghana Basketball Association.
In light of the ecstatic scenes that greeted Ben Bentil’s draft into the league after Boston Celtics picked him 51st overall in last year’s draft, the path to greatness had never been so clear. After years of grinding his way through high school and Providence College, becoming the first Ghanaian-born player to be drafted into the league was a big deal.
However, the joy ended there as Bentil has struggled thus far in his professional career making stops in China and the NBA’s lower tier, the Development League. Averaging 14 points and five rebounds for Fort Wayne Mad Ants earned him a ten day contract with Dallas Mavericks over the past weekend. But the much vaunted NBA debut never came as Bentil rode the pine with fellow first year player Nicolas Brussino in Dallas’s win over Miami Heat.
Watching former Development League player Seth Curry light up the game on the back off signing a two year deal this season, is worth emulating by Bentil. Unfortunately, for the Ghanaian Forward, Quinn Cook who signed a ten day contract played 17 minutes and dialed in twos across board as he scored two points, grabbed two rebounds and made two assists.
Miami is quite heavy at the Guard position but thin on the wings and that is a strong reason Coach Rick Carlisle countered the Guard threat by playing all Guards on his team including Cook. Willie Reed didn’t play against Dallas, Justise Winslow has been ruled out for the season and Josh McRoberts is too; only ten players were healthy for Miami in Texas. Yogi Ferell, Curry and Cook all had lots of minutes on the court. Veteran Guard Devin Harris played 13 minutes despite coming back from an injury recently. The backcourt situation also helps Cook’s course. Deron Williams has been waived off the team and 2011 Champion J.J. Barea is still battling niggling injuries; Williams has since signed for reigning Champions Cleveland Cavaliers and is almost guaranteed a first ever Conference title and potentially an NBA title.
In the early hours of March 2, the Mavericks move east to Atlanta to face the Hawks at the Philips Arena in a must win game for both sides. The Hawks are in a three way battle with Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards for third spot in the Eastern Conference while Dallas is fighting hard to sneak into the playoffs after a horrible start derailed such playoff ambitions. Unlike Miami, Atlanta has a fleet of wing players with guys like Thabo Sefolosha, Deandre Bembry and Taurean Prince dotting the spot. Atlanta Coach Mike Budenholzer doubled down on his lineup of three point shooting Forwards by making a trade for Ersan Ilyasova from Philadelphia Sixers in the just ended trade season. Facing a team like this is bound to force Carlisle to lean more on his wing players which maximizes Bentil’s chances of making that long awaited NBA debut.
Aside starters Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes, Dorian Finney-Smith, Brussino and Bentil are the options available to play the Small Forward position. One can easily bet on Bentil to feature at some point in the game given the inadequate cover at the position against an opposing side loaded in that department. A ten day contract has proved to be the magic trick for guys of Bentil’s ilk including teammate Ferell to flex their skill and show their readiness to stay and thrive in the league and it could be just enough for Bentil too. This is the best chance for the former Providence star to utilize his versatility in a way Draymond Green has to become an All Star. Should this unique chance slip by, it could well be the mother of all chances missed.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@ YawMintYM on Twitter