Pro hoops gets own version of minors

The General

Another Day, Another Dollar
For the first time, NBA teams will have the option of sending players "to the minors'' for seasoning.

The Warriors could send a young player like 19-year-old point guard Monta Ellis, whom they drafted out of high school, or perhaps rookie Chris Taft, whose minutes at power forward might be limited, to their new affiliate, the Fort Worth Flyers.

On Monday, NBA officials announced the affiliations for the eight teams in the National Basketball Association Development League -- the D-League for short.

Since there are 30 NBA teams, each D-League team will have three or four "parent'' teams. Fort Worth, coached by former NBA guard Sam Vincent, will be fed players by the Lakers, Mavericks and Trail Blazers, as well as the Warriors.

NBA vice president Stu Jackson and D-League president Phil Evans agreed the scheme of affiliations was a work in progress and could be altered depending on how NBA clubs use the system.

"This has been received very positively by the clubs,'' Jackson said. "As our league is continuing to get younger and younger, and our draft is one of drafting potential, this gives them an avenue to develop the player quicker and under game conditions.''

Under the terms of the league's new, six-year collective bargaining agreement, NBA teams can send down only two players at the same time and only players in their first or second NBA seasons are eligible. A player cannot be sent down more than three times in a season, and veterans cannot be assigned temporarily to the D-League to get in shape after injuries, even if they want such an assignment.

Players assigned to the D-League will still receive their NBA salaries and benefits, including per diem of $102.

If too many NBA players are sent to one D-League team, or a logjam develops at one position, players may be sent to other teams. Evans said the system probably will hasten expansion of the D-League, which currently operates mainly in the South.

The decision on whether or not to send a player to the D-League may not be easy, Warriors general manager Rod Higgins said.

"One negative is that you might lose the contact with a player that you'd have if you kept him on your team,'' he said. "You'd lose the contact that a player would have with your veteran players and the coaches."

A player might be sitting on the end of the bench during games, Higgins said, but "he'd be practicing with the best players in the world, as opposed to much younger players.''

The Warriors have four players who would be eligible for the D-League: rookies Ellis, Taft and forward Ike Diogu and second-year forward-center Andris Biedrins, their top 2004 draft pick who averaged 12.8 minutes per game as a rookie.

<HR>Affiliated parties

Which D-League teams serve which NBA teams:

Fort Worth Flyers -- Warriors, Lakers, Mavericks, Trail Blazers

Fayetteville Patriots -- Bobcats, Knicks, Pistons

Austin Toros -- Nuggets, Spurs, Rockets, Clippers

Arkansas RimRockers -- Hawks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Raptors

Florida Flame -- Heat, Magic, Celtics, Timberwolves

Tulsa 66ers -- Hornets, Pacers, Bucks, Bulls

Albuquerque Thunderbirds -- Jazz, Suns, Kings, SuperSonics

Roanoke Dazzle -- Nets, 76ers, Wizards
This will be glorified summer league ball with players trying to put up big numbers and not caring about the team winning or team play.

On second thought, I think I just described the NBA.