NBA Lockout: D-League Changes Seem Forthcoming

The NBA lockout is pretty close to doom's day once again this week as the players are meeting to discuss the most recent proposal delivered by David Stern and the owners. ESPN's Ric Bucher believes one hang-up is a "D-League clause" the players are vehemently against, and even though I've reported contrary information, it does seem that the NBA's official development league will undergo some changes as a result of the next collective bargaining agreement.

The proposal Bucher has reported is as ugly as everyone that's commented on it says it is: a clause that would allow NBA teams to send players to the D-League for the first five years of their NBA career for a pro-rated salary of $75,000 during their development time. It's easy to see why this was rejected as players aren't even keen on being assigned to the D-League currently and it'd be even worse if they had to take a massive pay-cut along with it. 

An option I have reported is on the table seems a bit more palatable on first glance, but still has its issues: 

One option that has at least been discussed, sources tell SB Nation, would be to allow NBA teams to sign two "development" players at $100,000 salaries -- nearly four times higher than the current D-League maximum -- to allow for a sort of NFL practice squad-type relationship between the NBA and D-League team. It remains to be seen if those two players would count against the 15-man roster.

Under that proposal, the biggest issue would seem to be whether the two players under the reduced developmental salary would count again the NBA team's roster limits. If it applied to the 14th and 15th men on the roster, that would essentially take away 60 potential jobs from current NBA players -- or at least force them to take a pay-cut worth over $350,000.

The upside to that proposal, if it ever is actually put on the table, would be that NBA teams could keep more talent in America -- and under a more watchful eye, to boot. The current maximum contract in the D-League is $25,500, forcing quite a few players with ridiculous upside across the pond in search of more money. Undrafted rookies like Scotty Hopson, Michael Dunigan, David LightyMalcolm Thomas and Jacob Pullen may have decided to develop in the D-League this season rather than taking their talents to Europe and Asia.

Regardless of what happens, it would seem that NBA teams are at least preparing for something to happen as five teams bought into the Development League over the summer, making it nine total teams to be invested in the D-League in some form or fashion.

Smart teams, like the Oklahoma City Thunder, have already found some loopholes that allow for more control of their Tulsa 66ers' roster. That shouldn't have to be the case, however, as it seems teams that are invested in the D-League should also be able to reap more benefits from the relationship.

The biggest key would seem to be NBA teams having at least partial control of players in the D-League that are not assigned by the team, but rather in a sort of NFL practice squad format. As it stands now, even though NBA teams are able to hire their D-League team's coaching staff, they don't have any control over the players on the D-League squad -- allowing them to be called up by any competing NBA team.

It's clear the NBA needs to make the D-League a more official minor league sooner rather than later and, with the current collective bargaining agreement, that time seems to be on the horizon. Now if they could only get over the pesky money amounts so that it makes things like this worth focusing on...

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