The Dallas Mavericks are NBA Champions after defeating the Miami Heat 105-95 on Sunday night. Pretty neat, really, and probably not a coincidence that the team was able to win its first championship in the same year that the Mavs decided to go to a single-affiliation partnership with the NBA D-League when Donnie Nelson bought the Texas Legends.
Okay, it probably is a huge coincidence, but there's little reason to be excited as a D-League fan around this time of the year anyway so those who are may as well take advantage of it.
The Mavericks roster included three players with D-League experience -- Jose Barea, Ian Mahinmi, Dominique Jones (and technically, as a publicity stunt, Rodrigue Beaubois) -- with both Barea and Mahinmi coming up a bit clutch in the NBA Finals against the Heat.
Carlisle singled out Mahinmi and Barea (as well as Brian Cardinal, who deserves honorary D-League alumnus status due to his hustle and grit and all of those other things that aren't exactly sexy or typically appreciated in the box score) during his post-game press conference as players that had an impact on the championship-winning performance.
Let's, for fun, take a quick walk down memory lane and look at their D-League experience.
Barea, for one, showed that he was capable of this sort of thing way back during the 2006-07 season with the now-defunct Fort Worth Flyers. In eight games with the team, when he was still going by Jose Juan and having to buy shoes at the local malls, Barea averaged 27.3 points and 7.8 assists while shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc. In the series finale, Barea scored 15 points and dished five assists after receiving his second straight start.
The listed-at-six-foot Barea, by the way, may have played on the most-talented D-League roster ever assembled. Along with the diminutive point guard, future and former NBA players Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Kelenna Azabuike, Luke Schenscher, Kevin Burleson, Ndudi Ebi, Ryan Hollins, Louis Williams and Maurice Ager all appeared on that roster.
Mahinmi spent quite a bit more time at the D-League level, including the majority of the 2007-08 season, after coming over from France a couple of years after being selected by the San Antonio Spurs with their first round pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. In 47 D-League games, Mahinmi averaged 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds while making Matt Moore both love and hate him as a member of the Austin Toros.
Mahinmi is probably the only player that received more playing time as the playoffs went on, due to Brendan Haywood's injury, including 11 minutes of not-terrible play on Sunday night. Plus? He's clutch.
Dominique Jones is the only Mavs player with recent D-League experience as he spent 10 games playing for Nancy Lieberman's Texas Legends this season. In those 10 games, Jones averaged 18.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists while spending time playing both guard positions. He didn't suit up during the playoffs, however.
This doesn't really mean the D-League works, per se, but it does say that players who are assigned to the D-League early in their career aren't destined to be failures, either.