If you were watching the NBA Draft on Thursday night and saw Tri-Cities Fever quarterback Houston Lillard there, your eyes werent deceiving you.
Lillard was there to support his younger brother, Damian, who was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers sixth overall.
Now the next question is, obviously, What is Houston doing in Newark, N.J., on the eve of the Fevers Intense Conference Championship game against the Wichita Wild, set for 7:05 p.m. today at the Toyota Center?
The answer is, How could he not go to attend one of the biggest events in his brothers his best friend, mind you life.
Damians agent offered to pay for Houston to come to the draft, Fever coach Adam Shackleford said. Hes flying back (this) morning and will be here at noon. Im not worried.
Lillard said hell be back.
I couldnt miss this, Lillard said late Thursday night. I would regret it if I didnt. And its not taking away from Wichita or the Fever. This is my brother.
Lillard spent the earlier part of this week going over the Fevers game plan against Wichita (9-6), which defeated the Allen Wranglers 43-40 on Monday night.
If something were to happen a flight cancellation or delay Shackleford said hes ready to use backup quarterback Kasey Peters.
But Shackleford is not even concerned about that: He knows Lillard will be here.
His bigger concern is the Wild, which has won nine of its last 11 games after an 0-4 start to the season.
They won a lot of road games this year, said Shackleford. I dont think being on the road scares them one bit.
No it doesnt, said Wild coach Morris Lolar, who put his team through practice at the Toyota Center on Thursday.
Thats what you have to do in this league, Lolar said.
Even when his team started out 0-4, Lolar said he wasnt worried.
It was just a matter of our guys getting older and maturing a bit, he said. We just started taking it one game at a time, one play at a time.
So what should fans look for in tonights game, featuring the top-seeded Fever (13-2) against the No. 3 seed Wild?
The Fever offense versus our defense is No. 1, Lolar said.
Their defense has won them a few games this season, he said.
Led by IFL co-defensive player of the year Mike Moss and linebacker Rashad Washington, the Wild defensive unit has been dominating on the field.
But Tri-Cities offensive unit averages 53.6 points a game, fourth-best in the league.
Obviously, our offense is one of the top units in the league, Lillard said. Theyre an aggressive defense and fly around the field.
Lolar doesnt believe that any individual matchups will be factors, only units.
So I think special teams will be big, and their defense against our offense, he said.
Shackleford believes stopping Wichita running back Tywon Hubbard will be a key, and the Fevers front four players (three linemen and one linebacker) will have to shut him down.
Hubbard, a rookie from Central Missouri, led the league in total yards with 1,963. Yet he wasnt given any postseason honors not even offensive rookie of the year.
I guess I kind of got a huge chip on my shoulder, Hubbard said after Thursdays practice.
Shackleford also is wary of Wichita wide receiver Tim Simmons, last years top receiver in the league playing for Wenatchee Valley.
Simmons against our secondary will be a big matchup, Shackleford said.
Finally, watch the kicking game Tri-Cities Brady Beeson and Wichitas James Chandler.
Both kickers are good, Shackleford said.
Notes: The winner of this game will play in the leagues championship, the United Bowl, in two weeks against the United Conference champion. The Green Bay Blizzard (12-3) visits the Sioux Falls Storm (15-0) on Saturday for that contest. ... Storm head coach Kurtiss Riggs will sit out Saturdays game, his second consecutive one, after being suspended by the Indoor Football League for overcompensating a player. ... As expected, Sioux Falls quarterback Chris Dixon was named the leagues MVP on Thursday. It was the second consecutive season and third time in the last four seasons he has been named MVP. He set records in pass efficiency (133.3), completion percentage (74) and passing yards (3,321). ... Green Bays Robert Fuller was named IFL Coach of the Year for his teams 11-3 mark in the regular season. Fuller also won that award last season while with the Fairbanks Grizzlies.