SANTA CRUZ — For some, it’s given new life to their careers. For others, it’s given them a much-needed chance to showcase their talents.
For Nemanja Nedovic, it was a way to get back his confidence.
“I needed this,” the Golden State Warriors 2013 first-round pick said after his 31-point outing against the Austin Toros Sunday while on assignment with the Santa Cruz Warriors.
The Santa Cruz Warriors, the NBA D-League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors, has given many players what they’ve needed -- whatever it might be -- during their first year in surf city, and has continued that this season.
“Right now, the development league is starting to lose that stigma,” Santa Cruz Warriors head coach Casey Hill said. “It’s so competitive. The league is getting better.”
In 11 games with Golden State this season, Nedovic had seen just 5.5 minutes per game, and had been in a reserve role behind what many consider as the best shooting back court in the NBA.
So for the combo-guard, whom people have dubbed the “European Derrick Rose,” to come down to the NBA D-League affiliate and get much needed run to get back into the flow of playing basketball was huge.
“I was happy, because I wanted to play,” Nedovic said. “It’s nothing bad that I’m here. I’ll be back with Oakland tomorrow, and be with them on the road trip. Whenever I get the chance to come down here and play, I’ll play.”
The 6-foot-3-inch Serbian basketball player netted all four of his shots from 3-point land and matched last season’s highest single-game scoring output.
Travis Leslie’s 31 points against the Texas Legends a year ago, stood as the franchise’s best, until Seth Curry topped it Friday on opening night.
Curry, younger brother of Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, poured in 36 points in his regular season NBA D-League debut.
The first-year point guard was a star at the highest level of college basketball.
Curry, listed at 6-foot-2-inches and 185 pounds, played three years at Duke University and averaged 14.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
But he was considered too slender and undersized for some teams liking, and went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft before being picked up by Golden State as a free agent.
He was eventually let go by Golden State, and was not ashamed to come down to the D-League ranks.
“Obviously you want to be up there,” said Curry after a 117-103 win over the Austin Toros Sunday to move to 2-0 on the regular season. “You watch games and you think you can play at that level. It’s easy for me to go out there and play basketball. I’m just going out there and playing basketball the same way I would if I was in the League.”
Hill, who is in his first year as a head coach, thinks that Curry and the NBA D-League are on the right track.
“Seth Curry being in the league means it’s getting better,” Hill said. “With the performances that he’s putting in, he’s definitely giving himself an opportunity to get a call-up.”
Last season the Warriors had three players (Chris Johnson, Travis Leslie and Scott Machado) receive a call-up to the NBA.
When Golden State back-up center Jermaine O’Neal went down with a bruised right knee, there was no hesitation in giving Dewayne Dedmon, then with the Santa Cruz Warriors, a call-up to fill the hole.
“I think the fact that Dewayne (Dedmon) got called up when Jermaine (O’Neal) got hurt shows that they believe in this,” Hill said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.”
Hilton Armstrong, who finished in the top three prospects in the NBA D-League rankings, also believes the system that Golden State has set up with the Santa Cruz connection.
The 6-foot-11 center led the NBA D-League in field goal percentage last season, and just missed making the Indiana Pacers final roster after going through their training camp.
“Coming back here, I have high hopes right now,” said Armstrong, who joined Santa Cruz Saturday. “The D-League has definitely built my confidence up. It’s given me a chance and opportunity to get on the floor and showcase my talent.”
Two guys that he shared the court with last season, Cam Jones -- the NBA D-League’s Most Improved Player a year ago -- and Golden State’s Kent Bazemore, are just two players that benefited from time in Santa Cruz.
Jones played on the Golden State Warriors Summer League team, which won the Summer League Championship, and was in training camp with the Warriors before being cut.
The 6-foot-4 guard went off for 31 points on opening night and 19 on Sunday.
Bazemore was in the same role that Nedovic now finds himself.
He joined Santa Cruz for five games and averaged 21.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.4 steals per game last season.
Now, the Golden State fan favorite has given the Warriors solid minutes off the bench and is ready to fill in for injured forward Andre Iguodala.
Even superstar point guard Stephen Curry, who was in attendance Sunday with family in tow to watch his brother Seth, is starting to realize the impact that the NBA D-League is having on the NBA game.
“That’s why they put (the D-League) in place,” Curry said. “For guys to make a name for themselves. To not be that 15th guy on the roster that sits. To be able to get those minutes and to get experiences and play for some great coaches. It makes everybody better. It makes our league better.”
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