(Sorry, couldn't find a picture so I decided to fuse "perfect" and "basketball" the only way I know how)
At least one former player thinks the headline is true.
Kevin Owens, a 6-foot-10 center who played 136 games in the D-League for the Roanoke Dazzle from 2003-2006, recently chronicled his (mostly) positive NBA Development League experience in his latest blog entry for SLAM. What most interested me about Owens' D-League experience was that he seemed to genuinely like it, even though the league - in my opinion - has come a long way from the days of a small cluster of teams in the Southeast.
Now maybe it's just me...but I'm a simple man (not unlike the Lynyrd Skynyrd song). I don't need the flashy things or the expensive home. That is why the D-League was so appealing to me. The apartments were small and shared with a fellow teammate. The bus rides were long and cramped and the money is, in some cases, less than a teacher's salary. These factors can quickly bring a potential NBA player back down to earth.
Yes, this was a time when the salaries were even less than they are now and they frequently took a bus to away games. Not that salaries are great now (they aren't) and not that riding the bus in the D-League is now unheard of (you'll get some great stories out of D-League coaches if you ask them about their January bus trip from Bismarck to Sioux Falls), but the league has actually improved since Owens' time in Virginia.
The thing I liked most about his narrative, however, was that Owens proved what everyone has said all along: If you go into the D-League with the right attitude, you'll get good things out of the experience.
My first year in the D-League was a learning experience. I spent the better part of the year under the tutelage of two notable NBA veterans in Cory Alexander and Mikki Moore. I perfected how to spin off a defender in the post from Josh Asselin. I gained a great deal of basketball knowledge from my coach Kent Davison. (K.D. was an amazing coach. He brought in guys who not only could play, but were also professionals off the court.) I learned that upsetting a 7-foot, 300-pound assistant coach will likely get you choked out on the bus from Mike King. And most importantly, I learned how to be a professional from my brother Geoff.
While it's great that Owens learned a variety of things as a rookie in the D-League, he seems aware that it was mostly due to him coming in with the right attitude.
But for the rest of us ham-and-eggers, the D-League is perfect. It's a chance to show off our skills in front of a horde of NBA scouts. It's a chance to develop our skills against some amazing competition. And finally it's an opportunity to truly appreciate professional basketball. Now I know a lot of prima donnas think the D-League is below them. The majority of them think that 12-hour trips from small town America to small town America may be a waste of their time, but the way I see it ...even Jordan rode the bus.
I like this guy.