Five teams in Texas open up the NBADL's five-day preseason, before the regular season tips off on Nov. 25.
When the Texas Legends started planning their second annual NBA Development League preseason tournament, it wasn’t tough assembling a group of four teams.
The only problem was that they wanted to play, too.
So when the NBA D-League preseason opens up with the preseason jamboree on Thursday (2 p.m. ET), it’ll reflect some creativity on the part of the Texas team. Five teams – the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Tulsa 66ers, Austin Toros, Dakota Wizards and the hosts – will all be in action at Integrated Athletic Development (IAD) in Carrollton, Texas, with each of them playing two 24-minute games (half the length of regular-season games) in a tournament unlike any other in league history.
And then, on Saturday, three more teams from the East will do pretty much the exact same thing.
“It’s what the guys are looking for,” said Legends first-year head coach (and one-time NBA Coach of the Year) Del Harris. “It’s a round robin thing, where they’re looking forward to banging up against somebody they don’t know. … They’re just ready to beat up on somebody else, and to see how they’ll do against somebody that doesn’t know them or the plays ahead of time.”
The format of the jamboree (along with the three-team tournament the Erie BayHawks are hosting on Saturday) is akin to an AAU tournament, where teams and – just as importantly in the preseason – players get a chance to show themselves against a range of competition without much of a break between games.
They play. They wait an hour – long enough to fix what went wrong. Then they play again.
And the only real substantive difference between those AAU tournaments and the two tourneys that make up most of this five-day NBA D-League preseason, is that instead of 15-year-olds catching rides to the gym with their parents, this time it’s professional basketball players scrimmaging for their livelihoods.
“You’ll get an idea of maybe some things that you need to work on more, particularly defensively,” Harris said. “You’ve kind of been guarding teammates, running plays that you’re anticipating. All of a sudden you’re against somebody you don’t know anything about … and you have to go out and play basketball. It’s gonna be learning experience for the players, and most importantly for me to see what we need to emphasize more.”
The jamboree opens with five mini-games on Thursday, then five more on Friday. By the end of the two days, each team will have played 96 minutes’ worth of basketball – or, in other words, two full games.
Saturday features another set of shortened games, as Erie hosts the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Canton Charge at Penn State’s Behrend campus.
Each of the three teams will play the two other teams for two quarters apiece, resulting in a full game’s worth of action.
The preseason then wraps up on Monday, when the Bakersfield Jam host Soles de Mexicali, a fast-rising professional basketball team just south of the California border.
All in all, the truncated preseason offers coaches a chance to look at their players in a different light after a week or two of double-sessions, before they have to finalize rosters on Tuesday.
“There is that type of player that all of a sudden does better when it’s a real game,” Harris said. “Even though this is preseason, it’s a real game. The clock is on, they’re keeping score, there are people there, there’s a referee – it’s a real game.
“Some players don’t do as well when it actually counts, but I don’t think we’ll have that latter type of player because you generally can’t get this far if you’re that type of player. Nonetheless you can get this far if you’re the former, when you’re an OK practice player, but when it’s a real game you’re 25 percent better.
“There might be that guy, and well be looking for him”
New Texas Legends assistant coach Sam Perkins watches his team practice on Tuesday. Photo: Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images