The legend of Ricky Ledo took center stage when, in his first game with the NBA Development League’s Texas Legends, he scored 19 points off the bench in only 24 minutes to lead his team to a 111-106 victory over the Tulsa 66ers.
That game was Nov. 30, a few hours after the Dallas Mavericks assigned Ledo to the Legends and weeks after they couldn’t provide the rookie guard from Providence ample playing time to help with his development. Enter Legends coach Eduardo Najera.
“He won the game for us,” Najera said of Ledo’s Legends debut. “Offensively, he won the game for us, but I don’t know whether it was the best thing for him because he thought he had to score 30 points.
“So then the following game he definitely put [shots] up and then he forgot about defense. But that’s my job to coach him and make him understand all the little things.”
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In the victory over Tulsa, Ledo was 6-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range. But in the next game Dec. 2, Ledo was just 6-of-20 from the floor — 1-of-7 from 3-point range — in 24 minutes during a 145-116 loss to Rio Grande Valley.
Ledo also scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds — he was 9-of-12 from the field and 3-of-4 from 3-point range — in leading the Legends to a 106-97 victory over the Austin Toros on Saturday.
By all accounts, Ledo is talented. The problem is his progress hit a snag after he graduated from high school in 2012 because the NCAA ruled him academically ineligible to play at Providence, and he was forced to sit out his freshman season.
Undaunted, Ledo tossed his name in the NBA early entry hat and was selected in the second round. But the Mavericks played Ledo only an average of 2.7 minutes in six games before deciding to ship him to the Legends until further notice.
For Ledo, that’s the best news he’s had since he left high school.
“I was a byproduct of that decision,” Ledo said. “I asked the Mavericks when the time came if I could come down [to the Legends] just to play.
“I just needed the reps and needed to see the ball go in the basket just to get my confidence back for scoring and things like that. It’s going on two years since I’ve played, and I’m getting my rhythm back.”
Ledo also is getting his joy back.
“I’m trying to walk him through everything, but the best thing is that he has a great attitude,” Najera said. “He came in happy, he’s happy to be here, he’s happy to actually get playing time and he’s willing to learn.
“And that’s the beauty of this kid. He’s so young and he’s so talented, so hopefully he’ll become a great NBA basketball player.”
The adjustments from the NBA to the D-League have been plentiful for Ledo, who averages 13.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in 24.1 minutes in seven games with the Legends. Instead of staying in fancy hotels as the Mavericks do, the Legends stay in modest accommodations.
Instead of flying on Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s private plane, Ledo and the Legends fly commercial. That is, when they fly, because some trips consist of bus rides.
“You don’t stay in the Crescent [hotel], and you don’t fly out right away,” Ledo said. “You’ve got to go through security check and luggage check.
“One bus trip we came back from Austin it took five hours. That’s a trip to California and halfway back. It brings you back to AAU days with buses and traveling a lot.”
Such situations, Ledo said, motivates him to do the necessary things to get back to the bright lights of the NBA.
“I’ve been trying to keep it very similar to the Dallas Mavericks,” Najera said. “But at the end of the day we don’t have a Dirk Nowitzki and a Monta Ellis, so I can’t really do it exactly the same way.
“So a few things are different and he’s just trying to adjust right now. Again, it goes back to his attitude, and he’s definitely happy to be here and he’s happy to learn basketball.”
And happy that he’s getting some valuable minutes.
“I’m doing OK for a guy who hasn’t played in two years,” Ledo said. “It’s a matter of me just working on my game every day and just getting better.
“My whole thing was to come down here and just sharpen up my game and get ready to get back up [to the Mavericks] and do what I can do.”