Rafer Alston has been unceremoniously dismissed the last two times he’s signed a professional basketball contract, but the veteran NBA point guard and longtime streetball aficionado has decided he wants one more chance to prove he can play in the big leagues. The Los Angeles Lakers’ D-League affiliate, the L.A. D-Fenders, have decided to grant him that opportunity.
The D-Fenders have already had three of their point guards called up to the NBA this season, creating the opening Alston’s planning to fill when Los Angeles hosts the Erie BayHawks on Saturday night. HoopsHype editor Jorge Sierra was the first to report that the Eric Musselman coached team has decided to sign Alston.
The 35-year-old Alston probably couldn’t have found a better spot in the D-League than the D-Fenders. It isn’t likely he’ll be called up to the ‘A’ team — though he is two years younger than Derek Fisher — but Jamaal Tinsley started the season as the D-Fenders’ point guard before being called up and showing out with a career resurgence as the starting point guard for the Utah Jazz on Thursday night.
Alston’s journey to the D-Fenders wasn’t smooth, however. He actually signed with the D-League on Jan. 28, but there were apparently concerns over his playing shape and attitude that caused all 16 teams to pass on “Skip 2 My Lou” when he cleared waivers last Friday. Most recently, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants decided to sign 5-foot-9 point guard Devan Downey as emergency depth instead of plucking Alston out of the available player pool.
The Lakers D-League affiliate has decided to end Alston’s time in purgatory, though, as they add to a roster that currently includes former draft picks Gerald Green, Mardy Collins, Orien Greene and Lakers’ assignee Derrick Caracter.
Alston’s last shot at the NBA came with the Miami Heat during the 2009-10 season and, after starting all 25 games played for the team, their relationship didn’t end amicably. Alston then returned to basketball in early 2011 with a trip to China, but after scheduling a trip home to attend a funeral, he was reportedly told not to return as the team didn’t feel they could trust him. Though Alston has been off the basketball court since last February, he’s still been making headlines: He was sued in August for a fight at a strip club that happened in July 2010 while attempting to redeem his image as head coach at Christian Life Center Academy in Houston, Tex.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of shape Alston came back in and what his attitude is as he comes off of the bench for a D-League team — he wasn’t a fan of coming off of the bench for the New Jersey Nets just a few seasons ago. The fact remains, however, that it’ll be interesting … and shouldn’t that be what the D-League’s all about when guys sign that aren’t there for “development” purposes?