Posted Jan 4 2010 2:05PM
BOISE, Idaho -- Most folks in this snowy and thriving outpost are focused on a certain football team playing Monday night in the Arizona desert. But for hoopheads, especially of the NBA variety, the next four days offer plenty of entertainment in downtown Boise.
"We have three scouts attending the entire event," Nuggets general manager Mark Warkentien said. "Coach Karl is a guy that can win games with players out of the D-League and Boise will be our home this week."
The NBA Development League Showcase returns to Qwest Arena in Idaho's capital after a successful run in 2008. The four-day event running through Thursday features all 16 D-League teams, including the host Idaho Stampede, playing a total of 16 games. Seven games will be broadcast live on NBA TV, which is a first, and the remaining nine games will be streamed for free via NBA Futurecast on nba.com/dleague.
"Players, coaches, and scouts all told us they had a great experience here two years ago, so we were happy to come back," D-League president Dan Reed said. "This is probably the highest level of talent we've ever seen in the NBA D-League, so I expect to see top player personnel people for all 30 NBA teams, as well as many international clubs who are scouting our top prospects.
"But I expect to see some truly great basketball, especially since you continue to see top NBA prospects join our league as the season moves along."
There are currently two Gatorade Call-ups in the NBA -- Mike Harris (Rockets) and Chris Hunter (Warriors). The D-League has been instrumental in the career of hundreds of NBA players. League personnel reps will spend much of the week searching for that next diamond in the rough.
"They're looking for the next Will Bynum, Lou Amundson or Ramon Sessions, to name a small handful of our alumni who now represent nearly 20 percent of all NBA players," Reed said. "Some teams will look for an immediate call-up to help them fill a specific role this season, others will evaluate players for a potential call-up, summer league or training camp invitation down the road.
"But while every team is looking for different things, it's safe to say they they'll be evaluating everything that player does on and off the floor. It's not just about scoring, defense, rebounding or ability to play in a team concept. It's also about players' attitudes and how they carry themselves off the floor, and how they interact with coaches, media and fans."
The three call-ups so far this season are ahead of last season's record pace. Anthony Tolliver had a brief call-up with the Blazers before being cut. Among those on assignment, Joey Dorsey (Rockets) has made an impact with Rio Grande Valley and the Celtics' duo of Bill Walker and Lester Hudson are getting significant playing time with the Maine Red Claws. Generally, the numbers of assignments and call-ups increase significantly after the Showcase.
Though it's difficult to quantify in numbers, there's a general feeling that more players have returned from overseas to audition for the NBA through the D-League. In the past few weeks, top prospects have passed on other opportunities to play in the D-League, such as last year's Rookie of the Year Othyus Jeffers in Iowa, all-time D-League scoring leader Will Conroy with Rio Grande and Jared Reiner in Fort Wayne.
"We're seeing more top players choose to play in the NBA D-League this year, and we've seen this trend over the past couple of years," Reed said. "Players are increasingly choosing to play with us, in large part due to our track record of producing NBA players. We've produced four times more NBA players than any other pro basketball league, as well as the level of exposure and development opportunities within our league.
"We had our strongest draft class ever and you can point to two or three guys, if not more, on nearly every team who are outstanding candidates to be called-up to the NBA. And we've continued to attract great talent as the season has gone along."
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