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Back in the groove
Back in the groove

Brandon Sampson began his season with the RGV Vipers with several forgetful performances. As the team struggled to find an identity one year after winning its third NBA G League Championship, Sampson struggled to regain the stroke that caught the eyes of the Chicago Bulls last year when he was called up to the NBA. Lately, however, the former LSU standout has turned his season around. He has found his 3-point shooting touch and, with it, some electrifying dunks that have brought crowds to their feet. When you ask him, however, what made the difference, he won’t say it has much to do with himself. “It’s because of my teammates,” he said. “We all know that it could be any one of us who has the big night but when I was struggling they still kept telling me to shoot the ball and they would trust me and look for me to make plays and that was the difference.” Sampson has led the team in scoring in four of the Vipers past seven games and the Vipers are 5-2 during that run, despite an embarrassing 125-120 loss at home to the Texas Legends. Now the Vipers have three straight home games over the course of the next week against three teams with .500 records. A little bit of a hot streak could go a long way as the first half of the season gets near an end and the Vipers find themselves at a dismal 11-20, but clearly playing better. “We just had a bad game,” firs year head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah said after the loss to the Legends. “The effort wasn’t there, the shots weren’t dropping and we just didn’t give the effort needed.” Game after game, win or lose, the word “effort” has been a mainstay in the Vipers performances. Players will say the team put out a great effort in a win and maintain that it was a need for a bigger effort when they fall. The defending champions found themselves at 1-9 after winning their first game at Austin to open the season. Suddenly, Houston Rockets callups Isaiah Hartenstein, Michael Frazier and Chris Clemmons started to appear for games. Management said it was to give them extra playing time. Even then, however, the wins and losses just seemed to alternate. Now, however, with a short bench due to injury and a small lineup due to callups - 6-foot-10 power forward Ray Spalding was the most recent ...

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