Anytime you lose your leading scorer AND your leading rebounder, it’s going to take time to adjust.
The Santa Cruz Warriors lost Travis Leslie from their lineup on Sunday — officially, at least; he didn’t play in Friday or Saturday’s games. The 6-foot-4 guard, who was called up to the NBA by the Utah Jazz over the weekend, led the Warriors with 16.1 points and 7.4 rebounds this season.
But while Leslie’s services will be sorely missed in Santa Cruz, the team has had to adjust without him before. Leslie suffered a groin injury earlier this season and sat out eight games in which the Warriors went 5-3 — with two of those losses on the road, where Santa Cruz hasn’t played as well as it has at home.
Coupled with the two games Leslie sat out over the weekend, in which Santa Cruz went 2-0, the Warriors are actually 7-3 without their All-Star guard this season.
For the Warriors, it’s a next-guy-up mentality, which is what it has to be when playing in the D-League. They previously lost Chris Johnson to the NBA, and have seen Hilton Armstrong, Mickell Gladness and Taylor Griffin step up inside on both offense and defense (Gladness, especially, on the defensive side).
Guard Darington Hobson took Leslie’s starting spot this past weekend, and he led the team in assists one night, rebounds on the other night.
“The roster changes so much,” Santa Cruz coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “Whether it’s an assigned player or a guy gets called up, you’ve got to keep playing the system and plug the next guy in.”
“It’s something that we’re used to,” he later added.
In the 10 games without Leslie, Santa Cruz had five different leading scorers, including Cameron Jones in four of those games. Jones led the team in scoring in both games without Leslie this past weekend.
The recent addition of Scott Machado, meanwhile, could help Santa Cruz’s inside game. Bjorkgren called Machado a “big-time assist guy who will help us get into the paint and create.”
Machado, a 6-foot-2, 206-pound guard who averaged 10.3 points and 6.1 assists in 18 games with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, has NBA experience and D-League experience.
He was a standout at Iona College, where he led the nation in assists last season (327).
It will be interesting to see what the Warriors do, if anything, with their roster in the near future. They currently have 10 players on their roster, which is the max for the active roster. Teams are also allowed up to two spots for inactive players, though, and the Warriors don’t have anyone on their inactive list.
In other words, everyone on the roster is active — which might be the first time this season that’s happened for Santa Cruz (not sure, but I’ll look into it).