Veteran forward David Palmer has made a profound impact for the Ryukyu Golden Kings this season.
Signed after the season began, Palmer made his debut for Ryukyu on Nov. 6, a 93-76 win over the Oita HeatDevils.
Since then, the Golden Kings have gone 8-1 after a rough 2-4 start before Palmer’s first game. Their lone loss in that span was an 84-53 defeat to the always dangerous Osaka Evessa on Nov. 21.
The Golden Kings (10-6), meanwhile, have re-entered the conversation about the league’s elite teams.
Up next: they’ll play host to the Western Conference-leading Shiga Lakestars (12-4) in what looks to be the weekend’s best series.
Coming off the bench in all 10 games, Palmer, Ryukyu’s super substitute, is averaging 14.9 points and 5.5 rebounds while playing just a hair over 21 minutes per contest.
Palmer, a Southern Utah product, played for the Evessa during the team’s first two title season (2005-06 and 2006-07) and returned to Osaka last season after also spending time in the NBA Development League. He’s clearly settled into a comfortable routine for Ryukyu coach Dai Oketani’s club.
Through Sunday, Palmer had nine straight double-digit scoring games after a five-point outing in his first game on Nov. 6. What’s more, Palmer has nailed 15 of 30 3-point shots, a telltale sign he hasn’t lost his shooting stroke.
Simply put, Palmer is one of the league’s most gifted pure shooters, including his textbook catch-and-shoot mechanics.
Or as one league insider told The Japan Times in a recent interview, responding to a question about who’s the league’s best catch-and-shoot scorer: “David Palmer and (Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix’s Masahiro) Oguchi historically are the best.
“Right now, it’s Jumpei Nakama,” he added, referring to the Tokyo guard who’s made a league-best 48.3 percent of his 3-point shots this season (28-for-58; though the Apache have played eight less games than most of the league’s teams due to a wacky schedule).
The source added a fun cinematic reference to explain his theory. ” ‘ Space Jam test: Who takes the catch-and-shoot to save the world from alien destruction? David Palmer.”
Oguchi, the 2009-10 Final Four MVP, has knocked down 41.1 percent of his 3s for the Phoenix, who take a 13-game winning streak into this weekend.
Odd numbers: Only five of the league’s 16 clubs have above .500 records entering this weekend: Hamamatsu (15-1), Shiga (12-4), Osaka (11-5) and Ryukyu and Rizing Fukuoka both with the same record (10-6).
That means the Phoenix are the only Eastern Conference club in that group.
Looking ahead: All of the league’s squads are in action this weekend. The eight series matchups are as follows: Sendai vs. Saitama, Niigata vs. Tokyo, Hamamatsu vs. Akita, Osaka vs. Toyama, Miyazaki vs. Kyoto, Takamatsu vs. Shimane, Ryukyu vs. Shiga and Oita vs. Fukuoka.
Weekly accolade: Susanoo Magic guard Takumi Ishizaki is the Lawson/Ponta Player of the Week, the league announced on Tuesday.
Ishizaki, returning to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 7 due to national team duty at the Asian Games, scored 25 points in an 82-67 win over the 89ers on Saturday and had 13 points in a two-point loss in the rematch a day later.
Interesting topic to debate: Which team has the league’s most dynamic one-two punch?
I posed this question recently to an Eastern Conference head coach, as I’m curious who people think are the second-best players on several of the league’s teams with elite stars. Here are his thoughts on the topic:
“Gary Hamilton to Mikey’s No. 1,” he said, referring to Shiga star Mikey Marshall.
The other top two player combinations with the elite No. 2 member listed first, he said, include Billy Knight and Lynn Washington (Osaka), Reggie Warren and Wendell White (Kyoto), George Leach and Kenny Satterield (Saitama).
As for Ryukyu and Hamamatsu, the coach doesn’t believe there are clear-cut Nos. 1 and 2. “It’s more like A, 1A and 2A,” he concluded.
Did you know?: Toyama guard Takeshi Mito leads the team in assists (39) through 14 games. Indeed, it’s a low number to be the team-high total at this stage of the season. . . . Former Tokyo and Kyoto guard Jun Iwasa is playing for the American Basketball Association’s Shizuoka Gymrats this season. Former Ryukyu guard Yosuke Sugawara is also playing for the gymrats.
The Gymrats are a traveling squad, playing without a true home arena.
Possible change: It appears that there’s a chance the JBL’s Rera Kamuy Hokkaido, coached by ex-Apache bench boss Joe Bryant, could join the bj-league next season, a league source told The Japan Times, speculating that discussions are already taking place about the possible move. Basketball insiders believe the team could play its first bj-league game during the 2012-13 campaign.
Nothing, however, has been been officially announced yet.
But facing financial woes this season, Rera Kamuy has already made major changes in the front office.
By defecting from the JBL, the Sapporo-based club would give the bj-league its first team in Hokkaido. In the bj-league, Rera Kamuy would be able to spend a lot less money to field a team due to the sixth-year circuit’s salary cap (reportedly ¥77 million per team this season).
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