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?