Thursday night marked the 2011 D-League Draft, and to little surprise, proven NBAer Jamaal Tinsley went first overall to the L.A. D-Fenders. As much as the league itself is concerned with developing talent, a player of Tinsley’s caliber held obvious appeal to what is, first and foremost, an actual basketball organization. The D coaches up prospects and provides playing time for assignees, but the league’s coaches, players, and managers are all still vying for success on the minor league level in addition to their harbored call-up dreams. Tinsley, more than any other player in the draft pool, gave the D-Fenders the best way to tap into that success.
D-Fenders coach Eric Musselman provided the cut-and-dry explanation for the selection, via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register:
“Our goal all along with the first overall pick was to take the player who we felt gave the D-Fenders the best chance of winning right now,” D-Fenders coach Eric Musselman said. “In this case, we were able to do just that with the selection of Jamaal. The guard position was a point of emphasis for us entering the draft, and Jamaal’s extensive experience in the backcourt provides the D-Fenders with a great foundation as we work towards our ultimate goal of winning a D-League championship.”
Supposing Tinsley has a successful D-League season without giving teams reason to doubt his ability to fall in line, it’s easy to see him filling in on an NBA team hit with injury a la Antonio Daniels. Tinsley is the more talented playmaker among them, and would fit in nicely as a reserve guard on a number of pro-level clubs — injury or no. It’s just a matter of convincing teams that he’s worth the perceived trouble at this point, a tall order considering Tinsley’s dicey reputation. Fair or not, that’s Tinsley’s current predicament.
The rest of the NBA names went early, as Alando Tucker (No. 2 to the Texas Legends), Gabe Pruitt (No. 4 to the Sioux Falls Skyforce), and Jamal Sampson (No. 5 to the Texas Legends) were all taken in short order. Beyond that group, the draftees primarily consisted of middling contributors to major college programs, relative unknowns from smaller schools, and local talent selected as a ticket draw. The D-League draft rarely seems like a gold mine on first glance, but some among these will pan out as capable contributors, with a select group successful enough for legitimate call-up contention.
In its current form, the D-League is a sensible option for any player on the cusp — or targeting the cusp — of making an NBA roster. As Antonio Daniels and Antoine Walker showed last year, that group doesn’t entirely consist of undrafted rookies or former college standouts bouncing back after a few years in Europe; the D is a legitimate landing spot for outcast NBA talent in any form, even players who don’t totally mesh with the league’s developmental goals. It’s a very visible domestic league with explicit NBA ties, showcases for NBA personnel, easily watchable games, and a built-in PR machine in the form of the NBA itself. If those structural advantages don’t make sense for the Daniels’ and Walkers’ of the world, I don’t know what does.
In their vein, another notable NBA name will try their hand in the D-League this season: Jamaal Tinsley. We last saw Tinsley making his initial comeback attempt in 2009-2010, when he suited up as a reserve for the Memphis Grizzlies after not playing NBA ball for the previous year and a half. Now Tinsley will give it another go, this time by entering his name in the D-League draft, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports.
This could be a great opportunity for Tinsley to jump back into the NBA player pool (much like Daniels did last season), but he obviously comes with a few more red flags than the average call-up candidate. Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside explains:
A first round pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, Tinsley was injured often enough that he made it through just more than 53 games just three times during his eight-year NBA career — and that isn’t counting the fact that he sat out the 2008-09 season while exiled from the Indiana Pacers or this past season after not finding an NBA home due to a lackluster comeback season with the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2009-10 season.
This isn’t to say that Tinsley won’t make the most of his D-League opportunity because it obviously takes quite a bit of humble pie to be able swallow one’s pride and announce to the world that the D-League is going to be the league you’re calling home. It does make me wonder if he’ll stick it out, however, knowing he’s been unhappy in much better situations in the past.
That last caveat is important: Tinsley has been through a lot, but none of that is reason enough for a D-League failure. He’s a talented player who deserves an honest shot at a back-up gig somewhere, and he appears to be earnestly striving for that goal. Nothing should just be given to him, but Tinsley deserves as blank a slate as he can get, even if it still holds the faint etchings of his former NBA life. Maybe he’ll burn out on the idea of the D-League. Maybe he’ll be tripped up by another injury. Maybe he’ll just inadvertently drive himself off of whichever team ends up drafting him. Those are all possibilities, but at the D-League level, does it really make sense to tie all of that baggage around Tinsley’s neck as a presupposition?
It’s good to have Antoine Walker news that involves a basketball court and not a court of law.
Walker is about to join the Idaho Stampede for the upcoming D-League season, the team announced Thursday. The former Celtics All-Star averaged 16 points per game in 43 games for Idaho last season. He had a 12-year NBA career but has’t been in the Association since 2008.
“I can’t wait to get back to Boise,” Walker said in a released and certainly cleaned up statement. “It’s a great place to live and I’m hoping I can help this team make the playoffs and win a championship – we’ve got some unfinished business to tend to.”
Walker has had all sorts of off-the court drama, and he has tried to get back to the NBA to make some money and help pay off massive casino debts. But this is not the time to dwell on that. Hopefully he is past it, and he is back on the court where I’d prefer to remember the swagger and the shimmy rather than what followed.
The Dallas Mavericks keep bringing in the big names to coach their D-League affiliate the Texas Legends.
Last season it was the first woman coach in the league, Nancy Lieberman. She decided to move up to the front office, so former NBA coach of the year Del Harris will step in, the team announced, the Dallas Morning News reports (Marc Stein of ESPN was first).
Harris, now 74, won 54.9 percent of his games in 14 years as a head coach in the NBA, was the 1995 Coach of the Year with the Lakers and has spent the last decade as an assistant coach for several NBA teams (including the Mavericks).
For a young team of players looking for a call up to the NBA, he can show them the path. If only there was an NBA season to be called up to. That said, Harris will have their attention. This is a good hire.
The Texans had tried to make a deal with deposed Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, but that fell apart over money.
Yes, there will be a D-League season no matter what happens with the NBA lockout. However, with the potential of no call-ups to the NBA some of the top D-League talent has already signed in Europe.
According to ESPN.com’s Andy Katz, former Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl has turned down a job offer that would have made him the new head coach of the D-League’s Texas Legends:
Less than a week after receiving a three-year, show-cause penalty from the NCAA’s committee on infractions, former Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl has decided to leave the sport and head into the private sector.
Pearl said in a statement Tuesday that he is turning down a job offer to coach the Texas Legends, the Dallas Mavericks‘ D-League franchise, and instead is joining H.T. Hackney Co. in Knoxville, Tenn., as vice president of marketing.
Given the circumstances surrounding Pearl’s departure from his last head coaching job, it’s not surprising that he wants to stay out of the spotlight for a little while. The Legends are currently coached by Nancy Lieberman, who is the first and only woman to have ever coached a D-League or NBA franchise.