Ever since the NBA lockout began, your's truly has been a bit down on the prospects of prospects playing in the Development League this season. After all, if there's no chance of an NBA call-up, what's the point of playing for slimmed-down salary in the D-League?
Last week, however, a couple of teams announced that they would be returning players that should have been able to earn bigger paychecks playing in Slovakia rather than Sioux Falls during the upcoming season. Looking for an answer, I called around to a couple of different sources (close to the situation, as they) to see what the allure of signing with the D-League so early in the process might be.
Apparently the majority of the players signing so early with the D-League -- an official Draft date hasn't even been announced, but it typically happens in early November -- were given additional incentive by also being offered the opportunity to represent the United States of America in the 2011 Pan-Am Games in exchange for their early commitment. USA Basketball made the announcement over the summer that, since the lockout was ongoing, they would send representatives from the D-League to the tournament.
The Fort Wayne Mad Ants have already announced that fringe NBA players Chris Hunter, Walker Russell Jr., Ron Howard and Marvin Phillips will all return to the team with my source indicating that both Russell Jr. and Howard will be included on the Pan-Am rosters. The Sioux Falls Skyforce have announced that Anthony Mason Jr. and Greg Stiemsma will be returning, too, having also apparently re-signed with the D-League in order to be added to the Pan-Am rosters.
Other players that have already signed on to return to the D-League that Ridiculous Upside has been made aware of are the Erie BayHawks' Blake Ahearn, Jerome Dyson of the Tulsa 66ers, the Texas Legends' Justin Dentmon, Donald Sloan of the Reno Bighorns and Renaldo Major of the Dakota Wizards.
All of the above mentioned players have NBA-level abilities, and therefore likely entertained offers abroad this summer, but the allure of also being included on the Team USA roster for the Pan-Am games steered at least a few of them to re-sign with the D-League instead. A full roster of Team USA's Pan-Am players is expected to be released on Tuesday.