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No NBA no problem: Heatwave basketball revs up to start season

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While the National Basketball Association is on lockout and preseason and regular season games are canceled, the Heatwave, the Sacramento professional American Basketball Association team, revs up for a full season.

The season will open on Nov. 12 with an exciting double-header against the Richmond Rockets, which defeated the Heatwave in the first round of playoffs last season, and the Bay Area Matrix, last year’s Pacific North Division champions.

“With the NBA lockout, we have a good opportunity to put on some great basketball for the city. We can entertain the people of Sacramento and get them excited about basketball again. No NBA, no problem,” said assistant coach Brandon Smith. “I am looking forward to giving people a reason to believe in basketball again.”

The Heatwave is hosting open tryouts at 10 a.m. on Sunday at Sierra College, 5000 Rocklin Rd., and plans to have its roster put together by the end of October.

The Heatwave has gone to division playoffs for the past two years and is known to have “the noisiest crowds around,” said Reggie Davis, CEO, owner and head coach of the Heatwave. “We are excited about finding new talent and to deliver affordable professional basketball to Sacramento.”

Last year the Heatwave had “a great group of shooters,” Davis said. “This year, we are looking for a balance of defensive and offensive players.”

“We are going to be searching for all kinds of guys this year. We will be looking for maturity, good work ethic, natural leadership, great shooting and some good young legs,” Davis said.

The coaches are looking at players from both Sacramento community colleges as well as players from African and European basketball teams.

“We will put the best professional product on the floor in the region,” Smith said. “Fans can expect high scoring and excitement at every game. People will be on their feet, and it is a family-friendly environment.”

The ABA, founded in 1967, is known for its signature red, white and blue basketball and is the origin of many rules that have been adapted by the NBA, such as the three-point shot.

The ABA also has other unique rules, including the “3D Rule.” This is a rule that rewards a team for having good defense. If a team scores a layup after stealing a ball in the back court, it receives an extra point for stealing the ball before making the shot.

“No lead is ever safe with the 3D Rule,” Davis said. “Even if you are down 20 points, the game can change in the last minutes. Fans stick around until the last seconds of ABA games because a 3-point shot on a stolen ball is 4-points right there.”

The NBA and the ABA serve different markets, Davis said.

“The ticket prices and cost of the overall experience are vastly different,” he added. “You pay $10 for an ABA game and can meet the players and have great seats or pay three times as much to sit in the nosebleeds at an NBA game.”

The Sacramento Kings games start at $13.50 per ticket and go up to $200 while Heatwave tickets start at $5 and go up to $25.

The ABA is less commercialized and more community-oriented. The team hopes to get involved in the community this season and give back any way that they can, said Davis.

Heatwave players teach basketball to students at Setzer gym.

“The skill levels and ages of the players are very similar between the ABA and NBA,” he said. “There are many players and teams from the ABA who have gone on to play for the NBA.”

The San Antonio Spurs, New York Nets, Denver Nuggets and the Indiana Pacers are just a few of the teams that were once ABA teams before becoming a part of the NBA.

NBA players are welcome to come play with Heatwave during the lockout. The coaches hope to have a few join the team for the duration of the lockout, Davis said.

Freshii caters for home games at Natomas High School and will provide healthy food options for customers, including various salads and wraps. Classic game food such as burgers, fries and sodas are also available.

The Heatwave is hosting a meet, greet, and eat event at Laughs Unlimited,1207 Front St., at 1 p.m. on Nov. 6. The community is invited to enjoy free food and drinks as well as meet the dancers and players of the Heatwave before the season starts.

Heatwave tickets can be purchased at the door or online. Home games are held at Natomas High School, 3301 Fong Ranch Road. For more information about the Heatwave and to purchase tickets, visit the website here.

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