For those that know me, they know that I'm one of the most optimistic, glass half full-type people in the world -- I mean, I enjoy watching the NBA Development League games. The NBA lockout has erased a lot of optimism, however, and the latest news seems like it is going to hurt the D-League.
For those unfamiliar with how the D-League works, players sign contracts ranging from $13,000 to $25,500 (plus benefits and housing) to play in the NBA's official minor league this season. That isn't a large salary no matter which way it's looked at -- especially comared to the overseas offers the top D-League players are passing up -- but it has been rationalized that it's worth staying and playing in America for an NBA call-up.
That option is now off the table, however (or will be as soon as the NBA's season is canceled), leaving a multitude of players stuck in low-paying contracts without any chance at achieving the NBA dream this season. Justin Dentmon and Donald Sloan are two players Jonathan Givony of Draft Express singled out, but there are probably at least 10 other guys that turned out decent money in Europe this season for a chance at a call-up when the lockout was over.
Some might argue that the players will at least still be able to develop this season. That is what league's name implies, after all, but it's turned into more of an exposure league than anything else over the past few seasons. Unfortunately that exposure will be all but worthless this year considering players will have to pay healthy buyout if their play is able to impress an overseas team looking for a midseason replacement.
Without an NBA call-up to play for, there's little doubt the play in the D-League is going to suffer this season. It was already difficult getting amped up to play in Bismarck coming off of an overnight bus trip from Sioux Falls, but now that players know the NBA isn't going to come calling regardless of how well they play, there's less reason to play hard for 50 games.
The honorable thing would be to allow players a one-week period where they can opt out of their D-League contract without having to pay the buyout once the NBA season is officially canceled. There hasn't been many chances to use the word "honorable" during the NBA lockout negotiations thus far, however, leaving me pretty pessimistic about that option.
For more D-League / lockout reading: