Each and every year, the D-League boasts a rather talented "Select" squad during NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. The team is filled with some of the more skilled players the minor league has to offer, with one common theme; they're usually on the "older" side. As NBA teams focus on the development of younger prospects, some of the veteran players still hoping to break through otherwise go unnoticed.
But have no fear, the D-League Select Team is here to scoop them up instead. What's more, the minor league squad is usually able to give such players a more unique experience that the NBA teams cannot.
"We start with a wish list, but it gets narrowed down pretty quickly as NBA teams start to take a lot of the top guys. I think we were able to attract some guys because we could offer than more than those other teams," Scott Morrison explained in a conversation following the team's narrow 111-104 loss to the Rockets on Friday night. "They can play more with us. A guy like Scotty Hopson is a showcase guy with us. We wanted to get guys who were able to practice with us this week, too."
Bakersfield Jam guard and D-League Select standout Joe Jackson echoed his Summer League coach's sentiments, adding, "I wanted to do this. Last year I was in Orlando Summer League. I could have been here with the Oklahoma City Thunder this year, but I wanted to help these guys win. I like this opportunity."
Coach Morrison earned the privilege of coaching the D-League's squad after winning the "Coach of the Year" award honor for the 2014-15 season. He's brought his staff from the Red Claws along with him. That said, just how much influence does he have on this roster?
"It was a team effort between myself, Chris Alpert, and the rest of the D-League staff guys. Obviously, we scout these players all year. We started with a really big list and then crossed guys off as we went along," he said. "We were adding guys as recently as last week with Romero Osby and Daniel Coursey."
With such a narrow window to practice and help his team develop a rhythm heading into game competition, how much of the Red Claws' playbook from this past season has been adopted?
"We do some of the same stuff. Defensively, it's more of the same, but we've been able to add things to our offense. It's fun to do things in our offense that we weren't able to do in Maine because we run the Celtics' stuff," the coach revealed. "It's nice to try different things, especially since our personnel is different."
On Friday, the Select Team hit the ground running and gained an early lead over Houston. The offense had fluidity early on, but things quickly became stagnant in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the D-League, it showed. The Rockets came roaring back, ripped the game open, and by the time the D-League showed some extra hustle towards the end to narrow the gap a bit, it proved to be too little, too late.
"I thought we looked a lot better when we scrimmaged the Toronto Raptors earlier in the week. We let up and were loose defensively -- I think we allowed nearly 70 points in the second and third quarters," Coach Morrison said. "Offensively, we picked things up and moved the ball in the second half. For us to be successful, that's what we have to do."
And while this week, the players are hoping to garner consideration from NBA teams for big league gigs in the weeks and months to come, Coach Morrison, too, is presented with the unique opportunity to run his own squad and match up against other competing NBA head and assistant coaches.
"It's a big thrill for me. The me from five years ago would be thrilled to be here. But now, I'm looking forward to taking another step. If I get too caught up in it, I may lose focus or get distracted," he concluded. "I'm doing my best to do right by the players that are here, and hopefully I'll get an opportunity of my own at some point."