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Stephon Marbury Should Stay Away from the D-League

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If you haven't heard by now, Utah Flash owner Brandt Anderson made some minor news on Wednesday by posting this to his Twitter account:

My two year old holds the record for hoopslite app on the iPhone. This kid has the gift.

Oh wait, that's not it.  This is it:

@starburymarbury I am the owner of the Utah Flash NBA dleague team. Why not come play for us this season. Fans would love having u.

And yes, folks, he really seems serious about this.  Not just because he followed up the next day with

@starburymarbury the people have spoken, they want you in a Utah Flash uniform. I'll meet you in LA in a few days to work out the details.

but also because he talked to Ball Don't Lie's J.E. Skeets, and gave some slightly-more-developed reasoning.  Anderson's arguments include:

  • "Much like his shoes, this would be an opportunity to show that he plays the game for the love and not the money. He has shown with his most recent "all access video streaming" that he wants to be a man of the people. There is no better way to do that than with the Utah Flash in the D-League. Coming here to play will show everyone the true Starbury."
  • "His fans want to see him play basketball as much as they want to see him swallow Vaseline."
  • "Playing for the Flash will give Marbury a chance to connect with those people who will buy his $15 shoes. The people that attend our games will really appreciate that about him. He becomes a true "man of the people" a blue-collar guy we love."
  • "Think of the comeback story ... Marbury ruins any chances of getting an NBA deal with crazy antics over the summer, but then battles his way back through the D-League to get back on a NBA roster. It's a rags to riches to rags back to riches story. The book and movie deals will far surpass any forgone salary he would have received."

I tried to ignore this story.  I really did.  But especially after Anderson went on about it at such length, it probably warrants some form of response, especially from a "D-League blog" such as this one.  If you hadn't figured out from the title of this post, I'm agin' it.  But, we'll give Anderson's arguments a fair shake.  There are some fair points in there, particularly the idea that Marbury will get a chance to prove himself on the basketball court and show that he can be a positive, contributing member of a basketball team.  While unmentioned by Anderson, the Flash also need a point guard, what with Kevin Kruger headed off to Europe.  Eric Maynor may or may not see some time in the D-League this season, but even if he does it's not going to be continuous.

Still, there are some arguments both philosophical and practical as to why this is a terrible idea, arguments that I find persuasive, and you can read them after the jump.

There's a mundane, practical matter involved in whether Marbury will suit up for the Utah Flash.  Remember that D-League players don't sign contracts with individual teams, they sign up with the league.  Brandt Anderson is a rich man, and I'm sure there are many things in life for which he can say "I want that" and then he has it, but a basketball player is not one of those things.  If Marbury wanted to play in the D-League, he'd be placed in a larger player pool, and then teams draft players from that group.  So either the Flash would have to get the first pick in the draft, or all of the teams ahead of them would have to pass on Marbury (which, admittedly, is a distinct possibility). And even then, each team gets a few players allocated to it for "local interest" (not the actual phrase, but it's close enough).  Both Maine (Celtics affiliate) and Springfield (New York affiliate) would seem to have first dibs under that scenario.  Heck, you could argue that the Skyforce could put a claim on his rights since he spent a few years in Minnesota.  But this idea that Anderson can just fly to LA and talk to Marbury and get him to sign with Utah is nonsense.  Let's assume, though, that either the Flash or some other D-League team gets the rights to Stephon Marbury - this is still a terrible idea.

Okay, so let's get back to the fact that Anderson barely mentioned why Utah would want Marbury.  He didn't mention it because he doesn't have to - this is a play for both publicity and for putting fans in the seats.  While Anderson may not believe that Rod Benson moves the numbers, but you can't honestly believe he feels the same way about Marbury, can you?  Which is fine, in the abstract.  The team recently signed an extension on their arena deal, after all.  But let's not pretend that this is anything other than a gimmick.  Marbury's played fine with the Celtics.  Not great, but fine.  Better than some D-Leaguers would've, certainly.  The reason that Marbury is currently not employed by an NBA team, and as far as I know hasn't been invited to any training camp, it's that BRANDT ANDERSON HAS TO SAY THAT PEOPLE DON'T CARE WHETHER MARBURY ATE VASELINE OR NOT.  Stephon Marbury currently has what you'd call "off-court issues."  Are NBA teams going to forget about that in six months?  How do NBA teams know that Marbury isn't going to hop back on Ustream during the season to talk about how it's going, and end up acting out "Mame" in its entirety?  It's entirely possible that the structure of a basketball season will keep Marbury's career-killing impulses in check, but NBA teams haven't really shown themselves to be risk-takers as a general rule.

Even more than whether NBA teams will buy it, what does this say about Anderson's view of the D-League?  When Isaiah Rider wanted to start playing basketball again, he picked the ABA.  When Dennis Rodman wanted to coach, he picked something called the Eastern Basketball Alliance.  The D-League is supposed to be about developing young talent, which is why NBA players have to be in their first few seasons to be assigned there.  There's no more developing for Marbury to do.  Older players who have spent time in the D-League, such as Randy Livingston and Othella Harrington (and, I'm assuming, Billy Thomas), have done so in order to prepare themselves to become a coach.  Marbury has never indicated that coaching is something he's interested in.  To give Marbury a pass on this would be to acknowledge that this is a publicity stunt for the D-League, and it would cheapen all the work that so many people have done to legitimize it.