By Art Garcia, NBA.com
Posted Jan 7 2009 10:16AM
The NBA Development League descends on Orem, Utah this week. Yes, all of it.
All 16 of its teams and all 160 of its players will set up shop Monday for four days and 16 games at the McKay Events Center, which doubles as the home of the Utah Flash. Helping fill the stands will be player personnel representatives from all 30 NBA teams, including several general managers.
For those looking to assess talent, new and not-so-old, the fifth annual NBA Development League Showcase might as well be Costco. They can get all of their D-League shopping done under one roof.
"It's a unique opportunity for all the NBA scouts to go to one location and evaluate all of our players," said Chris Alpert, the D-League's vice president of basketball operations and player personnel.
The D-Fenders' Joe Crawford, who is averaging 20.2 ppg, is the Developmental League's ninth-leading scorer.
Johnny Vy/NBAE via Getty Images
The event has been a hit with NBA clubs for a number of the reasons. Because the NBA helps stock the league by assigning players to the D-League teams, the Showcase is a chance to track players' progress firsthand.
From the 2008 NBA Draft class alone, nine members are scheduled to participate in the Showcase. They include Joe Crawford (Los Angeles D-Fenders), Patrick Ewing, Jr. (Reno Bighorns), Richard Hendrix (Dakota Wizards), Joey Dorsey (Rio Grande Valley Vipers), J.R. Giddens (Flash), Malik Hairston (Austin Toros), Walter Sharpe (Fort Wayne Mad Ants), Bill Walker (Flash) and Sonny Weems (Colorado 14ers).
Among the other top prospects are Courtney Sims (Iowa Energy), Jermareo Davison (Idaho Stampede), Derrick Byers (Bakersfield Jam), Jared Jordan (Vipers), Chris Richard (Tulsa 66ers) and Marcus Williams (Toros).
Crawford's story is a common one in the D-League. Taken in the second round, the Kentucky product played for the Lakers' summer league team and took part in Phil Jackson's training camp The 6-foot-5 guard, waived 10 days before the start of the season and then assigned to the D-Fenders, believes he has a future with the defending Western Conference champs.
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"I can play with those guys and I know that I am going to improve my game in the D-League," Crawford told the D-Fenders' website. "I haven't had a chance to play like this in a long time. I get a lot of playing time with the D-Fenders and I can try things out and just play free. I am enjoying the experience."
In addition to those with NBA contracts in hand, a number of former NBA players are keeping their careers alive in the D-League. Smush Parker, a former starter the Lakers, is averaging 17.9 points for the Vipers. One-time Knicks first-round pick Frank Williams of the Sioux Falls Skyforce leads the league in 3-pointers. Jam point guard Mateen Cleaves, a five-year NBA vet, is second with 8.2 assists.
"They view our league as the fastest way to get back to the NBA," Alpert said of the former NBA players.
The Showcase purposely coincides with a pair of key dates on the NBA calendar. Tuesday is the first day teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts. By Saturday, all player contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season.
This is a busy time of the season for NBA teams, as 80 percent of call-ups from the D-League have traditionally occurred in January, February and March. The Showcase helps kick off the activity. Dakota's Renaldo Major was signed by Golden State during the event last season.
"It's good from a standpoint of all the teams being in one place," Dallas Mavericks assistant general manager Keith Grant said. "It's a lot of basketball. And not that those guys don't play hard all the time, but they do seem to have a little extra out there."
Fans not able to make it to Orem can catch the action online through NBA Futurecast, which provides video streaming on NBA.com and NBADLeague.com. The entire 16-game schedule will be streamed live online at no charge.
"It's our showcase event for the year," Alpert said. "This is our fifth season, and it's grown each and every year. It's grown not only because of the amount of teams that are involved, but the communities that we've been in have really embraced the event.
"They're really excited in Orem and it promises to be a great week of basketball."
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