The NBA Development League has needed new assignment rules ever since they made it possible for the D-League to receive its big league brethren during the last NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. Those changes have been made, too, according to CBS Sports' Ken Berger.
The current rule had been that first and second-year players were eligible to be assigned to a team's D-League affiliate up to three times each season. The new rules, though, allow for unlimited D-League assignments within the first three seasons of a players career (though Berger reports the NBA wanted five years instead of three).
The bigger move, however, is that veterans will now be able to be assigned to the D-League with their consent, thereby allowing the possibility of injury rehab stints as players work their way back toward 100 percent.
Rehab assignments have long been pined for as a step toward making the D-League a more legitimate NBA minor league, a la Major League Baseball. Not only will it help as far as attendance and exposure is concerned when a name-brand player shows up for a pair of games at the Bismarck Civic Center, but it will also help the veterans looking to get back into game shape.
Elton Brand, while he was with the Los Angeles Clippers, is one of the more memorable cases when it comes to established NBA players asking to be assigned to the D-League for a rehab stint.
The guy is working harder than ever to get back to play at the end of this month. He's lean, he's mean, he's in shape, he's working out, he's jumping. All Elton wants to do is get out and practice with his team, the problem he said is that there are too many games - he can never get any practice time. He said he's willing to play with the Developmental League team, the Anaheim Arsenal, the problem is that the team will not let him play for the Arsenal, but all he wants to do is get out and run 5 on 5...
Rehab assignments are something I've mentioned quite a bit as well. In early July, prior to anyone realizing how long the lockout might last, I mentioned that rehab assignments -- with player options -- could be a key change (side note: I may or may not be able to see into the future).
As far as fan interest goes, the best thing the NBA could do for the D-League is allowing injury rehab assignments, a la Major League Baseball. Baseball's success in the minor leagues has a lot to do with the possibility of seeing high-level players at the local ballpark, it seems, even while they're less than 100 percent as they work their way back from injury.
Rehab assignments to Sioux Falls, S.D., might not be something the players would agree to initially, but there really isn't a reason that this isn't already happening. Even if the new rules would make an assignment the player's option, it would be a good start for everyone involved -- including the players with the work ethic needed to know that they might need a few games to warm up before going full bore in an NBA game.
Several NBA teams were hoping for a couple of other possible changes to the D-League in this agreement, but the rehabilitation possibility was one of the big ones. It remains to be seen what else was included as far as D-League rules are concerned, but we should know soon as its likely the entire deal is leaked over the next couple of days.