I recently read the SLAM magazine article on the NBDL. It's not where the NBA would like for it to be at this stage. The competition level is comparable to that in several minor leagues in America, even the ABA and CBA. Many NBA execs aren't too thrilled about this league, though there are some in high places like Timberwolves GM Kevin McHale and Nuggets coach George Karl who do support it. Maybe it's because the NBA is still getting accustomed to having a minor pro basketball league of its own creation instead of aligning with the likes of the CBA in years past. But I, like many, think it's great, despite a bit of what I said on the NBA age requirement controversy months ago, to have an outlet for young, unproven talent to have a consistent go ala minor league hockey and baseball as they pay their dues and develop better skills. But once they get to the big show, they'll likely be the 10th to 12th Man on the roster, and then there's the fierce competition from weary vets in both the NBDL and the NBA. Many of the players there are far from household names. Only a handful have been assigned. Problem is, control issues come into play: many GMs and coaching staffs don't want to see their own young players developing outside their own systems (teams share NBDL affiliates so they have to be neutral, three teams each share an affiliate), most players are reluctant to be sent down there like Ndudi Ebi who's now out of the NBA after complaining wanting to ride pine and reap millions than to play for, to them peanuts. Team can send first and second-year players there but no more three times a season and two at a time. There's no maximum or minimum length of stay there. Since there's no committment from the NBA movers and shakers, fans get a half-assed, mushy result that won't please everyone with low attendance even from its (south)westward expansion teams--Austin Toros, Tulsa 66ers, Alberquerque Thunderbirds (featuring quick Japanese point guard Yuta Tabutse who can't seem to harness it even in the NBDL level, making his brief appearance in Phoenix remarkable), Fort Worth Flyers, and the Arkansas RimRockers--even when they play in modest facilities by NBA standards.

I still call it the NBDL instead of its now current name the D-League. Already several teams have bit the dust over the years--the Asheville (NC) Altitude (despite winning last three NBDL titles), the Greenville (SC) Groove, Columbus (SC) Riverdragons, Huntsville (AL) Flight, North Charleston (SC) Lowgators, and Mobile (AL) Revelers. Only the Roanoke Dazzle and the Fayetteville Patriots still exist from the first season. One of the problems with thses teams was that they were located far beyond to where the NBA teams were based. When it started, there were located in the Southeastern region. The league still has aspirations of having a roster of at least 15 teams (two NBA teams for each franchise), if not 30 (one for each NBA franchise). Why didn't they locate the teams at the beginning, like they seem to be doing now closer to the NBA franchise bases? The Golden State Warriors are reluctant to send their rookie players down to their Fort Worth affiliate.

Then again, the league still has potential but still underdeveloped and in need of time to prove itself. Crowds are small and the atmosphere hokey. But there are some familiar names like Oklahome State's John Lucas III, draft project Ersan Ilyasova from Turkey, Bernard King Jr., former Portland State Viking Seamus Boxley, Peter John Ramos, and Cezary Trybanski. Plus former Altitude and current Toros head coach Joey Meyer, who succeeded his legendary dad Ray at DePaul University in 1984 and later went on to coach the fleeting ABA's Chicago Skyliners. Michael Cooper coaches the Thunderbirds. The league should observe minor league's AHL, who tend to have affiliates of their own in the lower levels. Heard some talk of a merger with the CBA.

More westward expansion is coming: the Bakersfield (CA) Jam arrives at an NBDL arena near you next season becoming the first NBDL West Coast team. (Didn't Bakersfield try to get an ABA team?) www.nba.com/dleague/bakersfield/bakersfield_index.html

Also, Sony's NBA video game series is the only one out of the NBA video games out there that features NBDL teams.

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