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By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 1, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Sunday morning's practice marked the first time the Tampa Bay ThunderDawgs set foot on the court in the Times Arena at Bayfront Center.
For two players, the ABA 2000 home opener that night might have been their final appearance on the floor.
After a 114-101 loss to the Chicago Skyliners dropped the ThunderDawgs to 1-3, coach Darryl Dawkins said it is time to retool his lineup.
The ThunderDawgs will add 7-foot-2 shot-blocker Nongo Naydye today and release two players, Dawkins said. He would not name the players.
"I've got to put a better product on the floor than what I have now," Dawkins said. "We'll start doing that (today)."
About 200 turned out for the Florida debut of ABA 2000, which promises a faster-paced game than the NBA.
A 30-second shot clock, unlimited fouls and bonus points for baskets made off backcourt steals are among the innovations instituted to promote a full-court game with better defensive play.
But for much of Sunday's game, the teams did little to distinguish themselves.
Tampa Bay scored 39 points in a first half, in which it fell behind by 20 points and used very little full-court pressure. Dawkins said an ankle injury to point guard Kerry Thompson forced the ThunderDawgs to pull back on defense.
Trailing 54-39 at halftime, Tampa Bay outscored Chicago 37-27 in the third quarter and closed within 82-81 on Nate Higgs' dunk with 10:34 to play. But Chicago scored 17 of the next 22 points to pull away.