Commish sees each team allocating players

Updated: May 27, 2004, 4:51 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Speaking at an impromptu news conference prior to the NBA draft lottery, and returning to a subject he broached previously, Commissioner David Stern said he wants the NBA to send some of its players to the minor leagues.

Stern has proposed expanding the National Basketball Development League from its current six- or seven-team structure to 15 franchises, allowing each NBA team to farm out one young player on its roster.

"... If a team has a player below a certain age that it thinks would benefit from playing a lot, assigning the contract of that player to an affiliated team would be a good idea because we have young men playing four minutes instead of 40," Stern said Wednesday.

Stern noted the idea needs the approval of the NBA Players Association, which was against the proposal when Stern discussed it with ESPN.com's Chad Ford at the end of March.

Union spokesman Dan Wasserman did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press Thursday seeking comment.

The NBA's current labor agreement with its players expires after next season.

Stern planned to discuss his idea with the union.

Stern said any player assigned to the minor league would still get credit for time in the NBA, which would not lengthen a player's time before attaining some sort of free agency.

"The most important thing to me, is the word development," Stern said. "There are very talented youngsters with enormous potential and some have the ability to play immediately and some don't. It would be great if they came into the league at a time they were ready to contribute."

An expanded NBDL would also offer some players who might not be drafted a second chance to get to the NBA.

Stern said a minor league would also help teams who are making major investments in young players.

"You pay somebody based on his potential and he winds up sitting at the end of the bench," Stern said. "It would be better for the individual and the team if they were able to look at him at a later and more developed stage, a year or two. It would be better for the sport."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.