Commentary

Questions and answers about the NBA's official minor league

Originally Published: January 18, 2008
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

BOISE, Idaho -- A lot of folks don't even know what the D-League is, much less why anyone would spend four days in the Cascade Mountains watching every single player in the NBA's minor league show off his stuff.

So we're going to break things down in a Q and A format, and we hope to leave y'all better informed about the NBA Development League than when you clicked on this article in the first place.

[+] EnlargeDarvin Ham
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty ImagesAlbuquerque Thunderbirds forward Darvin Ham, right, reaches for the ball along with Tulsa's Glen McGowan during the 2008 D-League Showcase.
Q: So, what is the D-League?

A: It's the NBA's official minor league, now in its seventh season. Each D-League team is affiliated with two NBA teams, which can send first- and second-year players down for seasoning up to three times per season. NBA players who were in Boise this week included Cleveland's Shannon Brown, who some believed was being showcased in order for the Cavs to use him in an upcoming trade. He averaged 31.5 points, shot 24-of-52 from the floor (including 6-of-16 on 3s), and was immediately called back up by the Cavs after his second game.

Q: What is the difference between the D-League and the old CBA, the one Isiah Thomas owned and operated a decade ago?

A: The old CBA floundered for a couple years after Thomas sold it, then merged with the D-League three years ago. The only surviving franchises are the Sioux Falls Skyforce and the Idaho Stampede, although there is now a new team in Fort Wayne, Ind., known as the Mad Ants, who get the same type of strong local support the Fort Wayne Fury got in the old CBA days.

Q: Who owns these teams?

A: Back when the D-League began, all the teams were owned by the NBA and were located in the southeast United States -- a business model that bombed. Some teams are now locally owned, and two NBA teams -- the Lakers and Spurs -- now own their own D-League franchises.

Q: Who holds the NBA rights to these D-League players?

A: Other than the first- and second-year players on D-League assignments, everyone in the D-League is eligible to be called up and signed by any of the 30 NBA teams. There have been 101 call-ups (of non-assigned players) since the D-League began (the first was Chris Andersen by Denver), and players who have stuck in the NBA include Matt Carroll, Kelenna Azubuike, Mikki Moore, Bobby Simmons, Rafer Alston and Jason Hart. Also, every NBA referee hired full-time since the D-League's inception has been promoted from the feeder league.

Q: How much money do D-League players make?

A: NBA players on D-League assignments get their regular pay, but everyone else makes a comparative pittance: between $13,000 to $25,500. Also, while NBA players get a per diem of $109 when they are on the road, D-League players get just $30.

Q: Any old-timers knocking around down there?

A: Yes, indeed. Darvin Ham is back after a stab at TV commentary and a brief stint playing professionally in the Philippines and is starting for Albuquerque, averaging 9.8 points and 5.3 rebounds. Keith Closs, whose height and shot-blocking potential got him a five-year, $8.5 million contract from the Los Angeles Clippers back in 1997, is coming off the bench for Tulsa (and he now stands 7-5 if you include his blown-out afro). Former Celtics Justin Reed and Kedrick Brown are here, as is DerMarr Johnson, Eddie Gill, Billy Thomas and Jelani McCoy.

Q: What was the highlight of the four-day showcase?

A: From a basketball standpoint, it was the play of point guard Maurice Baker of the Dakota Wizards (see related story). On the lighter side, the Idaho Stampede's mascot tried to dunk himself, just like Hugo the Hornet used to do in Charlotte, and got stuck in the rim.

Q: And the lowlight?

A: JamesOn Curry of the Chicago Bulls, on assignment with Iowa, was arrested for public urination and resisting arrest at 2:25 a.m. Thursday and was booked into the Ada County jail. He posted bond and was released.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.