This season, NBA teams are beginning to assign younger players to the D-League at a higher and more frequent rate. Such a progression can undoubtedly be attributed to the close-knit relationships (now forming ever so rapidly) between squads in The Association and their NBADL affiliates.
A team that got it right quite a while ago, the Houston Rockets have been in direct affiliation with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers for multiple seasons now. One of the more promising teams in the NBA with regard to the abundance of young talent in Houston, the Rockets are continuously looking for ways to progress as they aim to take the team to the next level.
There's no question the Rockets keep the D-League in high regard when it comes to helping them do so. After having previously used the minor leagues to discover, develop, and evaluate talent over the years, Houston's staff is back at it. They've already assigned the likes of Terrence Jones, Scott Machado, and Donatas Montiejunas to the Vipers in the early goings of the season so far.
With a strong staff dedicated helping them grow and furthering the relationship between the two squads, Rockets Vice President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas believes things will only continue to flourish.
Rosas, who also acts as General Manager of the Vipers, spoke with RidiculousUpside.com for an exclusive interview to discuss the progress that is continuing to be made. For more, read on below.
Q: Can you talk about your dual roles with the Rockets and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers? How does one affect the other?
A: My position here is as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, but I do oversee the personnel department and report to Daryl Morey. I think part of that is evaluating and developing talent. For us, there's no better place to do that than in the D-League with the RGV Vipers. That goes for both our staff and players.
It's a natural correlation of playing a role in selecting the players for this team, whether it be through the draft, free agency, or trades. You get an opportunity to structure the process and see these players develop. Our philosophy for young players thus far has been that they've got to develop by playing. There's only so much they can do during practices or individual workouts.
Q: It seems like the staff in Houston believes in the great value that having an affiliate in the NBADL can add.
A: I think our history shows how much the Rockets believe in the D-League and the RGV Vipers. We'll send down our young players if they're not getting an opportunity to play, whether they be previous lottery picks, first-rounders, second-rounders, or undrafted guys too. We've had a lot of success over the years in doing that with players like Aaron Brooks, Steve Novak, Patrick Patterson, or Marcus Morris. We've invested a lot and our staff has a great vision for player development and the minor leagues.
Because of this, we take great pride in selecting our staff and choosing our coaches. Our main priority is developing talent and evaluating players, but we've had the benefit of having been successful. They play at such a high level in the D-League, so it's been very successful all around.
Q: For the Rockets' young players, is playing for the Vipers just a matter of going through the necessary motions with regard to their development? You make it sound as though the staff believes time in the D-League will benefit a player, regardless of who they are.
A: It really does. Our Rockets staff does a great job of developing talent when the players are here, but the staff is also in direct communication with our D-League coaches as well. We put those coaches in place, and we take the selection process very seriously, because they're going to have our young players in their hands.
Because of that, we give those individuals a lot of exposure while they're with us. Those coaches work with us in Summer League, and are also on board with us during training camp as well. They understand our philosophy.
But having them front and center is good for the players too. When our young guys get assigned, it's important that the people they work with are familiar faces. By sending the players down to the D-League, we're just continuing their development on a different platform, which is supported by our own philosophy and objectives.
Q: With the Rockets holding such a progress in high regard, is there a staff in place to make the relationship a seamless one?
A: Developing our players and doing so through the D-League is a group process. Just like we look for ways to improve our team through trades, the draft, free agency, or evaluating talent around the world, the minor leagues is simply another one of those avenues. All of our scouts and guys here have dual responsibilities with the RGV Vipers. That's one of the reasons it makes us so strong. There's a whole group of people in Houston always thinking about what's going on in RGV.
That's with regard to the players and our coaching staff. Whether they be an assignment player or even an RGV roster player, they're all being supported in their development. All of those players are being evaluated to see if maybe one day they can help the Rockets.
That goes for the coaching staff as well. We're very proud that Chris Finch, one of our assistant coaches, was previously head coach of our D-League team. We've had trainers that have come up in the NBA. One of our former interns, Matt Brase, is an assistant coach with the Vipers now. There's a great staff in place that's committed to both teams.
Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of our exclusive interview with Rosas, where he discusses the development of Jones, Machado, and Montiejunas.