As the annual NBA D-League Showcase continues this week, top prospects such as Pierre Jackson, Manny Harris, and Ike Diogu continue to go to work in an attempt to prove to NBA executives that they can make a difference in The Association today.
The D-League certainly has been able to provide them all quite a platform to do just that, as recent years have only proven and confirmed. Currently in its tenth year hosting such an event, the minor league's Showcase has attracted a slew of intrigued NBA executives to town in Reno this week.
Needless to say, this remains not only one of the busiest, but most exciting times, of the minor league season. Still, NBA D-League President Dan Reed found time to speak with the RidiculousUpside.com staff earlier this week for our latest podcast.
But if you'd like to read the interview in its entirety instead, you can do so by continuing below.
What's the atmosphere of the D-League Showcase like? How many NBA executives come to town and watch? What are some of the league's goals in the seasons to come? How does an NBA team go about entering into its own single affiliation with a minor league team?
All of these questions, and more, are answered by the enthusiastic President Reed.
Q: This is the NBA D-League's tenth year of putting on an annual Showcase. How special is such an accomplishment with regard to that round-about number?
A: It's terrific, because as the D-League has continued to grow, so has the Showcase. We're in our thirteenth season. When we started, we had eight teams. Now we have seventeen. 30% of the NBA has D-League experience now, in guys like Jeremy Lin and Danny Green.
The Showcase has certainly played a big role into that. A lot of the players we've had have demonstrated what they can do to NBA executives for the first time right here. If you look around the building, there are representatives from all thirty NBA teams. We have around fifteen guys currently on assignment. It really has become the center of the NBA world for a few days here in January. It's certainly become everything we wanted it to be, when we first envisioned it ten years ago.
Q: Some people don't realize just how many NBA executives are really on hand in Reno to take in all of the action this week. Can you expand upon how well represented each team really is?
A: When we first did the Showcase, you'd see the occasional scout or assistant General Manager around. But now, we're seeing the top guys here. I was walking by, and I saw Kevin Pritchard, G.M. of the Indiana Pacers. Those guys are all coming in. What's aided that is the fact that more NBA teams are acquiring their own D-League teams.
When I started back in 2007, only one out of our fourteen total teams were affiliated with their own NBA team. Now, 14 out of 17 teams are. Those teams are all either owned or operated directly be an NBA team. The management of such teams is indistinguishable from that of the management of the NBA teams.
That's just led more NBA scouts and executives to come and pay attention to what's happening here. It's actually contributed to what is, I believe, our most talent on the floor this season. That brings more personnel people from the NBA to want to come here.
Q: You mentioned how many NBA teams have entered into single affiliations with D-League squads. How does such a process work, and how much are you involved? Does a team approach you and say they want to make something happen?
A: It often starts with conversations right here. With everyone here, inevitably, I'll have conversations with teams here. They'll tell me they're thinking about it, or ask me what the pros & cons are. They're also calling other NBA teams who know what the true value is.
It starts from conversations like that. From there, we'll progress by figuring out whether the NBA team wants to own their own D-League squad, or enter into a hybrid-affiliated model by making a partnership with a pre-existing team. We discuss the pros & cons of that.
Usually, that eventually results in a deal of some sort. We'e had ten NBA teams buy in and acquire their own D-League affiliate in the past three years. There are several other NBA teams that are interested, and that we're having active conversations with. I do expect that number to continue to grow. More and more, I'm convinced we'll have a thirty team league where every NBA team will have its own one-to-one affiliate.
Q: With regard to the league progressing towards a thirty-team, more traditional, minor league for the NBA, how will you handle situations like that of Idaho Stampede guard Pierre Jackson? His NBA Draft rights are still owned by the New Orleans Pelicans. Will NBA teams go on to acquire minor league rights for such players in the future?
A: As much as we spend time on this one, I don't have a complete crystal ball on how it will play out. It's hard to say. A lot of it would have to be negotiated with the NBPA, specifically. That goes for any situation where NBA rights are held for a player currently in the D-League on a consistent basis.
But I think the general gist is that it'll progress in the same way we have. NBA teams will control a team, whether they have rights to every player or not. You'll see more and more assignments; NBA players playing for their team's D-League affiliate. That could be young players, recent draftees, or veterans rehabbing. It'll develop to look very much like people are used to seeing in baseball or hockey, where this is a traditional farm system for the NBA. In many respects, I think we're there already. You'll see more team integration, rather than league integration, which I think is certainly where I think we've established ourselves so far.
Q: Personally, what are some things that you enjoy most and can appreciate about the NBA D-League?
A: I always love when a player gets called up, because it truly is a dream making moment. We've had ten of those already this season. That's exciting for me and the players. I take pride in the fact that more NBA teams are getting involved and using the league. Not just the single affiliates, but we saw Bakersfield play here on Sunday, and they had four assignees from three NBA teams. It goes to show you that not only are the teams who have their own affiliates using the league, but the others are as well.
That's really positive and we take a lot of pride in that. What's also a lot of fun is the ability to experiment and innovate. We put in some new rules this year; we tried to speed games up a bit by eliminating timeouts. It's a little early to tell how that's going so far, but we're interested to see how that plays [out]. I think we'll be doing more of that as the years progress as we try and improve the game.
Q: You say you enjoy when a player gets called up, and of course at the Showcase, that type of call-up is the one most fresh in people's minds. But as the years go on, we're seeing the D-League become a platform for other guys in different roles--front office members, coaches, officials, and others, use the NBADL to help them earn a call-up to The Association of their own, so to speak.
A: No question. That's certainly another point of pride. It's a lot of fun for me to watch NBA games, not just because they're great games, but because I see alumni of the D-League everywhere. More than half of the referees currently in the NBA have experience in the NBADL or were hired directly from there.
We've had forty-four coaches get called up to the NBA. So inevitably, there's a coach with D-League experience that we have either in coaches meetings, sitting on an NBA bench, watching a game.
You're seeing General Managers who have D-League experience get called up to the NBA. Dell Demps of the Pelicans was most recently the G.M. of the Austin Toros. Of course, that creates a cycle, as when more people with D-League experience go into NBA front offices, they're more likely to utilize the league. It's a really good time for the league, we're really thriving as a minor league for the NBA, and I still think our best days are ahead of us.
Q: For casual NBA fans kind of looking at the D-League for the first time, what's the most important thing to remember and be on the lookout for at the Showcase?
A: I think you tune in to any game, and you'll see players you recognize. You'll see college All-Americans, you'll see All-Conference players, players with NBA experience, or current NBA players on assignment. You'll have fun watching basketball. It's high-level basketball with players you'll recognize.
That's the most important thing for an NBA fan. And I think there are players who you'll see that can make an impact for teams this year, frankly. We've already had a guy in James Johnson get called up and make an impact for the Memphis Grizzlies.
We have fifteen players on assignment that will go back up to their NBA teams and make a difference. We've seen that routinely. All of the rest of our games [this week] are broadcast on NBATV, so they're hard to miss. I encourage people to check it out.
Then they can always go to our website at NBADLeague.com, download our mobile device, and watch all of our games outside of the Showcase on YouTube.com using any device. We do our best to get the games out there, because we believe that's our best marketing. Just for people to see how great our players are.