Lanny Smith and a handful of other D-Leaguers are headed to Korea and the Philippines for the NBA Asia Challenge.(via images.chron.com)
I first heard about this awhile ago, but the details were just released yesterday: a team made up of former NBA stars and current D-League players is heading to Asia later this week to play against fellow "legends" in South Korea and the Philippines, in what's being called the NBA Asia Challenge. The team will be coached by new Dakota Wizards coach Rory White, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar serving as the "celebrity assistant coach." The other retirees (sorry, "NBA Legends") who will theoretically be playing are Tim Hardaway, Dominique Wilkins, Robert Horry and Vlade Divac. The New Jersey Nets' dance-slash-dunking team and "zany mascot"
Slylock Fox Sly the Silver Fox will also be in attendance. But enough about them. D-Leaguers!
They'll be joined by point guards Lanny Smith and Russell Robinson, shooting guards Billy Thomas and Derrick Dial, forward Chris Ellis and center Marcus Hubbard. I said "theoretically" above because assume that most of the team's plays will consist of Hardaway walking the ball up the court, then passing it off to Dial who will do most of the work, then they'll swing it to Wilkins for a flat-footed jumper. Then Hubbard gets the rebound while Divac falls down. Then in the fourth quarter the D-Leaguers do all the work while the NBA guys sign autographs. Repeat!
Not that they'll be facing a stiff defense or anything (or playing any themselves), but this is a goodwill trip more than anything else - the NBA, I would imagine, is realizing that "expanding into Asia" means more than "drafting Chinese players" and as such is trying to get folks in other Asian countries excited about their product. This is reportedly the largest NBA event in the Philippines to date, for instance. Of course, it would be even better if some of these D-Leaguers made it to the NBA this year so that people who saw them play in Seoul or Incheon or Manila could follow them there, but if nothing else this could lead to more Futurecast viewers, maybe even enough to make up for the lack of Sun Yue.
The games are on September 5, 6 and 11, but I'm not sure what level of coverage we'll have on them. I'm not even sure they'll have boxscores. Then again, it's a slow month for the D-League. If nothing else, this is a good move for the NBA and I'm sure it will be a good experience for the D-Leaguers.