Newspaper article International New York Times

2 Weeks in Las Vegas, Seeking Eyes, Minutes and Contracts ; N.B.A. D-League Fields Select Team Giving Players a Stage to Impress Scouts

Newspaper article International New York Times

2 Weeks in Las Vegas, Seeking Eyes, Minutes and Contracts ; N.B.A. D-League Fields Select Team Giving Players a Stage to Impress Scouts

Article excerpt

The N.B.A. Development League has fielded a summer league team for seven years to provide a stage for the league's players and coaches pursuing N.B.A. contracts.

Scott Morrison, the coach of the D-League Select team at the N.B.A. summer league, delivered a pregame speech that was mostly boilerplate. He reviewed opposing personnel, advising his defenders to avoid leaving their feet on pump fakes. But he also reminded them that it was the playoffs, so the stakes were higher.

"The longer we play," Morrison said Thursday in the locker room, "the more eyes are on us."

For many of the N.B.A. Development League journeymen on the 12- player rosters, that was the key takeaway. They knew the bleachers at Cox Pavilion would be cluttered with scouts and executives from professional teams near and far. Contracts were up for grabs, a prospect that was even more vivid because of one player's absence.

Casey Prather, a forward, had agreed to a deal with a club from Australia's National Basketball League, which meant that he would be supporting his D-League teammates from the bench.

"At the end of the day," Morrison continued, "whether it's summer or winter, that's what the D-League is for and that's what we're all here to do: look for the next step. So we're happy for Casey. But that also means there are opportunities for other guys to step up and take his minutes."

The players gathered at the center of the room and extended their arms: One! Two! Three! Together! Then, as independent contractors in pursuit of two common goals -- a victory and, perhaps more important, gainful employment -- they boarded a freight elevator to the court.

At summer league, everyone is searching for something. Recent draft picks want to gain experience and prove their worth. Second- year players hope to solidify their roles. Free agents long for training-camp invitations and contracts. But nearly all players are affiliated, for at least two weeks, with N.B.A. teams -- all of them, that is, except for the D-Leaguers.

"Being an older vet, summer league's not exactly my favorite thing to do," said Taylor Griffin, a 29-year-old forward who spent last season with the Santa Cruz Warriors, who won the D-League championship. "But if it can help you get a job, you'll do it."

Griffin was joined by the likes of Hasheem Thabeet, the No.2 overall pick in 2009, whose well-chronicled struggles had him toiling most recently with the Grand Rapids Drive, and Scotty Hopson, a guard who set a franchise record last season when he scored 52 points in a game for the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Hopson, 25, explained the delicate calculation behind his decision to play for the D-League Select team.

"Best opportunity," he said, "for the most minutes."

The D-League has fielded a team for seven consecutive summers. …

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