Antoine Walker. Antonio Daniels. Greg Ostertag. Ricky Davis. Mike James.
All five of the above stated NBA veterans have attempted to use the D-League as their springboard back to The Association.
Each in their mid to late-thirties in age, these veterans could undoubtedly collectively highlight an "NBA All-Comeback" type of squad. Despite all of their efforts, however, it was James who found the most success in the minors last season.
Having not played in the NBA since 2009-10, the guard used a stint with the Erie BayHawks to help prove there was enough left in his basketball tank. In seven contests, James soared by averaging 21.1 points (on 46% shooting from the field) and 4.6 assists per game.
The Amityville, New York native's efforts were enough to get the attention of the Chicago Bulls. The Eastern Conference's top-seeded team, the Bulls were in need of a boost to their backcourt after losing Derrick Rose to an injury mid-season.
Whereas many D-League prospects are young, aspiring players, there's no doubt James' experience played a role in the contending team picking him up over the rest. Showing a level of trust in the veteran, the Bulls called on him to appear in 11 games. Logging steady time as a backup point guard, James averaged 4.8 points and 2.6 assists in 11 minutes per game.
By reaching The Association once again, James achieved what an array of NBA vagabonds fail to do in the minors year after year.
Thus, there's no mistaking that the blueprint drawn up by him is the exact one new Sioux Falls Skyforce guard (and NBA veteran) Troy Hudson should look to use, as he too, attempts to make his way back.
With the D-League season getting underway this weekend, Hudson's first game in the minors turned out to be a very impressive debut. The guard led his team with 25 points, helping them to a 107-98 victory over the Iowa Energy on Saturday evening.
Having last worn an NBA uniform during the 2007-08 season, Hudson played 11 seasons and owns averages of 9 points and 3.4 assists per contest. A year younger than James, perhaps Hudson too has something left that he can offer a big league team this season. He certainly took the first step in proving so this weekend, scoring his points by sinking 9 of his 18 shot attempts, including 3 out of 6 six from deep.
Never too much of a playmaker, Hudson still always knew how to run the floor for his team and push the tempo. His best season came in 2002-2003, when he started 74 contests and averaged 5.7 assists (and not to mention, 14.2 points) per game on a Minnesota Timberwolves team that also featured Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak.
After spending five seasons in Minnesota, ESPN 1500 reported last month that the Timberwolves helped facilitate the guard's move to the Skyforce en route to his attempted NBA comeback.
Though many have failed to do so in the past, Hudson still has a shot at returning to the NBA. As James proved last season, past veterans may have a leg up on some of the D-League's young guns. Contending teams may indeed value experience over promise when it comes time to make a run towards the playoffs.
With a little bit more time in the minors to strut his stuff, Hudson can continue to put on a scoring display to show teams he can still help give them that necessary injection of life off the bench.
Since last playing in the NBA, Hudson has started his own record label and was last seen playing in the Howard Pulley Summer League, where he served as a mentor to Rockets' rookie Royce White.