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NBA D-League Showcase 2012: Top 10 Things to Know

With 16 games of basketball spaced across four intense days in Reno, get an idea of what's in store at the NBA D-League's premier event.

All eyes turn toward Reno this week, as the NBA D-League Showcase hits the court at the Reno Events Center from Monday through Thursday.
NBAE via Getty Images

From Monday through Thursday, 160 dreams will pack into the Reno Convention Center.

Here’s how to make sense of it.

66 Games in 124 Days

Sure, the NBA season has 16 fewer games than normal. But by the time April 26 rolls around, those 66 games are gonna feel like 20. Normally, the NBA year -- which conventionally opens up in late October and finishes in mid-April -- takes somewhere in the range of 170 days (2010-11 took 169). That comes out to a little more than two days per every game (2.06 days/game last year). This time around? 1.84 days per game, which comes out to one fewer day per every five-game run.

In layman's terms, that means back-to-back-to-back games, long road trips with more stops than a Stones cover band and grueling stretches like the one that’s waiting for the Bulls in late January: nine games in 15 days, starting with the Heat, and a four-games-in-five-nights march mixed in.

What does that all mean? You're already seeing it: minor injuries that would have held players out of the lineup for a game are suddenly taking them out for four or five, as coaches try to limit the chance of the injury turning into a longer-term issue.

And because of that, this is the year for NBA Development League call-ups. Eleven players who started the year in the NBA D-League have already earned spots on NBA teams, and that number is primed to skyrocket soon after Showcase.

The Name 'Blake Ahearn'

Ahearn's turning into the Crash Davis of the NBA D-League. At this point, the league doesn't have anyone else contributing with the sheer mechanical, night-in, night-out consistency that Ahearn brings. But after two brief stints in the NBA (Miami in 2007-08, San Antonio in 08-09), he hasn’t seen an NBA court since.

Playing in front of dozens of scouts and executives on his home court, after getting sent back down from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Bighorns, he’ll be looking to prove that, although he’s a star in the NBA D-League, he’s bound for greater glory.

When the Los Angeles D-Fenders Play

The D-Fenders led all NBA D-League teams with six guys invited to NBA training camp, and became one of eight teams to send a player to an NBA team to start the season, when No. 1 pick Jamaal Tinsley signed with the Utah Jazz.

Now, they’re absolutely stacked.

Guard Mardy Collins is a longtime NBA vet. Forward Brandon Costner, who doesn’t have any NBA experience, was just named Performer of the Month for December. Courtney Fortson’s becoming one of the best combo guards in the league. Malcolm Thomas, whom many predicted as an NBA Draft pick after a great run at San Diego State, nearly made the Lakers squad.

Meanwhile, Elijah Millsap (Paul’s little brother) has vaulted to Elite Prospect status, and shouldn’t be in L.A. for too long (unless the Clippers or Lakers beat other teams to it).

Catch them on Monday against Springfield (12:45 pm PT/3:45 ET on NBA TV) and Wednesday against Maine (10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET on NBA TV). See the full schedule and more here.

Every time Gerald Green, Terrico White and Osiris Eldridge have the ball in transition

Green, who played for four NBA teams during his five years in the league, was the Slam Dunk Contest champ in 2007 and probably would have won again in 2008 had Dwight Howard not taken off from the asteroid belt to win the title. White achieved brief Youtube fame with some crazy dunks during Rookie Orientation, which you can find here:

Bakersfield Jam swingman Osiris Eldridge was a surprise non-invite to NBA training camps. Then, with his teammates away at tryouts, he made sure to keep some attention on himself with the Dunk of the Year. He’s not averse to the spotlight, so look for him to shine – and add a few extra clips to his highlight reel – in Reno.

Expect some fireworks.

The Young Guns

These are the guys from whom the ‘Development’ part of NBA Development League really matters. Players with heaps of talent but a few holes to fill. Skills matched only by question marks.

A few years ago, Jose Barea was this kind of player. Last year, that was Ian Mahinmi. Or Greg Stiemsma – who’s now busy blocking everything that comes his way as a center for the Boston Celtics.

Now, the NBA D-League features names like Edwin Ubiles, an athletic dynamo who needs a little more scoring polish. Or Jarrid Famous or Chris Daniels, big men with power and agility but a few fundamentals that need work. Or even Da’Sean Butler, the former West Virginia University superstar that drove the Mountaineers to the Final Four in 2010, only to suffer a gruesome knee injury that completely derailed his career. He’s here, too. And he’s healed.

We’ll publish a full list of Players to Watch before Monday’s tip-off, but rest assured: there are some players here you’ll next see in an NBA jersey.

The Guys Playing for One Last Chance

Greg Ostertag will be there. So will Ricky Davis. And Mikki Moore, Willie Warren, Mike James (veteran of 10 NBA teams!), Mardy Collins and a smattering of other guys looking for one more chance to make it to an NBA team.

As the New York Times wrote about on Saturday, the league has opened up a new wing for players on the comeback trail. Ostertag himself said that this is his last go-round. Davis said more or less the same thing when we talked to him.

But every one of these guys very recently had what it takes to play in the NBA. Tune in to see which ones still have it.

That It's Never Been Easier to Watch

No matter where you are, the Showcase will be there with you. Whether you're tuning in to the eight games being broadcast live and in HD on NBA TV, using to watch the games on Futurecast or rocking the re-tooled NBA D-League Center Court App to watch (or track) games live on your mobile device, it's never been easier to catch a rising star.

How You Can Weigh In

We'll have live chats on all four days of the Showcase, where fans can interact with other fans around the world via Twitter (using hashtag #showcase) and writers Kevin Scheitrum and Sam Farber. Stay tuned for updates on when the guys will be chatting live.

When Yi Jianlian Hits the Court

Yi’s situation is a little different than that of Ostertag and Davis. In something of a landmark moment, he’s down with the Texas Legends on assignment from the Mavs as the first-ever NBA veteran to accept a rehab assignment in the NBA D-League (a possibility provided for in the new collective bargaining agreement). At 7 feet tall with a dagger for a jumper, he’s a rare talent – and could turn into a legitimate NBA force if he can stay healthy. He’ll play two games in Reno: against Tulsa on Tuesday and Sioux Falls on Wednesday. Here’s your chance to watch him on the way back up.

(and here's your chance to catch our interview with him when he signed with Texas on Friday)

The Dream's Alive

This is, after all, the point of all of this.

In truth, more money can be found overseas. But, like the Hold Steady (a very NBA D-League-esque band) sings, “dreams they seem to cost money, but money costs some dreams.” The 160 guys at Showcase are largely people who turned down more lucrative gigs abroad to chase a dream they’ve carried since they first spun a basketball.

By its nature, the NBA D-League attracts players with history. People for whom things didn’t go as planned. By nature, the NBA D-League attracts characters. And what’s better than that?