The final chapter was disappointing – losing the 2012 NBA D-League Championship to the Austin Toros in three hard-fought games – but the book on the 2011-12 season for the Los Angeles D-Fenders was a page-turner of the highest order, filled with interesting characters and positive storylines.
After a one-year hiatus, the D-Fenders took the NBA D-League by storm this season, finishing with the best regular season record in NBA D-League history (38-12), en route to a Western Conference Championship and the first overall seed in the 2012 NBA D-League Playoffs presented by BBVA.
Eric Musselman, who boasts head coaching stints with the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, was named the winner of the Dennis Johnson Coach of the Year award, as voted by his fellow NBA D-League head coaches.
During his first year with the team, Musselman oversaw the development of six top NBA D-League prospects who earned a total of eight GATORADE Call-Ups to the NBA this season, including the 2012 NBA D-League All-Star MVP Gerald Green of the New Jersey Nets and Houston Rockets guard Courtney Fortson, who both signed contracts for the remainder of the season with their NBA teams.
“Eric’s deep knowledge of the game and his unparalleled passion have been evident every step of the way for the D-Fenders this season,” said Chris Alpert, Vice President of Basketball Operations and Player Personnel for the NBA D-League. “Not only was Eric able to achieve a level of on-court success our League has never seen before, he was able to do it while developing top NBA D-League prospects into current NBA contributors. I offer my hearty congratulations to him on a season well done.”
Malcolm Thomas, who spent time with the L.A. Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets this season, was named to the 2012 All-NBA D-League First Team, the NBA D-League All-Defensive First Team and the NBA D-League All-Rookie First Team.
Fortson and Elijah Millsap both were selected to the All-NBA D-League Second Team, while Brandon Costner was named to the All-NBA D-League Third Team. Zach Andrews was one of 10 players to earn All-NBA D-League Honorable Mention recognition.
Though he wasn’t with the team long enough to merit postseason award consideration, Green flourished under Musselman, and will have a host of NBA suitors this summer.
Green, who was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the first round (18th overall) of the 2005 NBA Draft, lasted four seasons in the NBA, before continuing his career overseas. He decided to give the NBA D-League a try this season, and formed an instant bond with Musselman.
“The NBA Development is a great league to get exposure,” said Green. “I really have to give a lot of credit to the L.A. D-Fenders organization, and Eric Musselman, who’s a great coach and has really helped me work on my game this year.”
The D-Fenders were also named the 2011-12 NBA D-League Development Champion. The Development Champion is a new annual award designed to recognize the team that best embodies the NBA D-League's goals of developing NBA basketball talent via call-ups and assignments.
The D-Fenders achieved the highest score based on a scoring system established by the Basketball Rules Committee (BRC), which awards points for assignments and call-ups (players and staff), as well as additional points for duration of a call-up.