Entering this season, one could have assumed that things were set to get complicated in Fort Wayne as the campaign progressed. With seventeen minor league teams entered into exclusive one-to-one affiliations with NBA squads, the Mad Ants stood tall as the lone independent D-League team.
As a result, the defending 2013-14 D-League champions are shared (to a certain extent, anyway) between the remaining thirteen big league teams without a specific single affiliation.
In order to ensure the various assignments by the multitude of teams goes as smoothly as possible (hopefully not disrupting Fort Wayne's rhythm in the process as well), the league put a select few provisions in place, including the "flexible assignment rule."
The rule, in particular, states, "a flexible assignment system will be utilized when an independent NBA team assigns a player at a time when the Mad Ants already have either the maximum of four NBA players on assignment or two assigned players at the position of the NBA player who is being assigned.
In either event, the NBA D-League will identify to the assigning NBA team any singly-affiliated NBA D-League team that is willing to accept the assigned player, and the independent NBA team assigning the player will choose a team from among those teams to assign the player. If no singly-affiliated NBA D-League team is willing to accept the assigned player, he will be assigned to one of the non-NBA-owned single affiliate teams pursuant to a lottery."
Earlier this month, the provision was first utilized when the Atlanta Hawks wanted to assign big man Adreian Payne to the minor league for some extra seasoning. The Mad Ants had four NBA assignees already in town at the time of the assignment, calling for Payne to be jettisoned to another D-League squad.
The Austin Spurs came calling and stepped up to claim Payne, which, at the time, was widely considered to be a favor of sorts by the organization to longtime San Antonio assistant turned Hawks' head coach Mike Budenholzer. In any event, because the two teams take advantage of similar systems, this clearly benefited all parties involved.
But with the rule set to be utilized yet again as the year 2014 comes to a close, the Spurs are at it once again. The Mad Ants already have two NBA assignees at the wing position in town, meaning recent Hornets' assignee Jeffery Taylor has to be sent elsewhere if Charlotte still wants him to receive minutes in the D-League.
Payne played five games for Austin earlier this month, and now it's Taylor's time to potentially shine for San Antonio's affiliate. While the minor league club may not stand to gain favor with anyone personally for taking in Taylor at this time, the team can always benefit from another talented player hitting the hardwood for them.
The team is currently 11-4, including 7-0 at home and 9-1 in their last ten games to lead their division. They assumedly hope (and believe, for that matter) that taking in a player like Taylor won't disrupt the squad's chemistry much.