Allen Iverson. Delonte West. Rashad McCants. Antonio Daniels. Melvin Ely. Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Each of these aforementioned players have displayed some sort of staying power (and arguably some relative amount of success) on the NBA level, but that's not simply all they have in common. They've all been targeted by and/or played for Texas Legends' uniform en route to playing D-League basketball in most recent years.
The list goes on.
They weren't the first handful of NBA vets who ventured out to Frisco, and they certainly won't be considered to be the last. While an obvious primary goal of D-League teams is to develop talent for the future while exploring those potential diamonds in the rough, the Dallas Mavericks also utilize their minor league affiliate to provide deserving and/or hopeful veterans with a second chance at proving they still have enough gas left in the tank to compete at a high level.
This strategy has proven to be unsuccessful as of late, with the Legends having missed the D-League playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
Nevertheless, a fresh start presents itself with each and every new campaign. At 9-5 through fourteen games, perhaps it appears as though former NBA vet and current Legends Head Coach & General Manager Eduardo Nájera has his team on the right track after all.
The team has received an injection of youth, albeit it a small one, in the form of two players who have sparked the Legends' strong start to the season. In Eric Griffin, the team has its hands on one of the most explosive and athletic forwards in all of the D-League. The stat-sheet stuffer is averaging 19.9 points (on 51% from the field and 35% from deep) to go along with 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, and 1.5 steals. After spending the last three off-seasons with big league squads in NBA Summer League and taking part in training camp with the Mavericks this past fall, Griffin is undoubtedly close to breaking into The Association. Perhaps this time to dominate and stand out on the minor league level is all he needs to further prove just that.
But of course, there are plenty of other talented players supporting Griffin as he leads the way. Former Magic and Bucks guard Doron Lamb is not too far behind his fellow young gun for the scoring lead, currently posting 19 points (on 51% from the field and 43% from deep) through twelve games himself.
As fate would have it, aside from Griffin and Lamb, the Legends have much or less stayed true to their previous identity as a team, but somehow, someway, it's finally beginning to click this season.
Other veterans currently filling out the roster include Damion James, the NBA and D-League journeyman who is leading his team with 10.4 rebounds to go along with 18.4 points. Still just 27 years old, the former college teammate and (still) good friend of Kevin Durant has a shot to earn himself a ten-day contract or two on account of his defensive prowess in the weeks to come, much like he's been able to do in previous seasons.
Renaldo Balkman, who has struggled to stick in the NBA amid a bevy of off-the-court struggles, opted to grace the D-League hardwood this season in hopes of proving he deserves a shot at redemption. Providing quite the versatile boost from off the bench for Texas, the 30 year old has logged 16.1 points (on a team-high 62% from the field) and 9.3 rebounds per contest.
And then there's longtime NBA point guard Mike James, who coincidentally enough, is no stranger to the D-League. He successfully parlayed impressive minor league stints into NBA gigs with the Chicago Bulls and Mavericks in during 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, respectively.
A well known journeyman in The Association for well over a decade, what you see is what you get from James as a dependable backup floor general. Luckily for him, his production hasn't dropped with age. Instead, the 39 year old has steadily averaged 14.4 points (on 42% from the field) and 4.3 assists on the year thus far.
The Legends are known for bringing in veterans into the fold from the outside, but it's worth noting that the team employs a mainstay of Frisco to call their own as well. The sharpshooting Booker Woodfox is now in his fourth year with the Legends, and stands tall as one of the D-League's best long-range shooters with a career mark of 43%. The 28 year old is currently leading the minor league in free throw shooting at 95%, and is also averaging 10.8 points off the pine.
Needless to say, taking chances on NBA veterans hoping for another shot at The Association hasn't always worked out in the Legends' favor. However, they've seemingly finally found the perfect balance between promising prospects and otherwise proven players, resulting in an unique success rate once and for all. They can only hope this level of play continues as the season progresses.