Imagine you are Othyus Jeffers.
You played only 17 games in the NBA last year and seemed like you caught on with the Wizards at the year’s close. You started one game and played the final 16 in the nation’s capital and averaged 5.7 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game. Those 38 games you played for the Iowa Energy, where you averaged 21.1 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game, seemed worth playing in random cities and making virtually nothing to play basketball.
You get to live the dream though, even if it is only for a month.
That month is in the rear view mirror for the 20 players that received call ups from the D-League last year. Those players are looking for jobs once again and hoping to land somewhere to play this game.
The D-League is not the most lucrative option. But for many, it is a better option than going to Europe. The D-League is in America, something many players honestly value. It is affiliated with the NBA, which afford many many advantages. NBA scouts are at their game and if a team needs an extra player in a pinch, they can call them up.
There have been several players who have successfully used the D-League to get consistent playing time in the NBA — Lou Amundson, Chuck Hayes, Ime Udoka and Devin Brown. But most of these players continue to toil in anonymity.
For the 20 players though that received call ups, 2011-12 leaves a lot of uncertainty. And the D-League security blanket may not be there for players like Jeffers.
Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside writes that any player who appeared in the NBA last year will not be allowed to play in the D-League this year. This will have some impact on the D-League, which will continue to run through the lockout since those players are represented by a different union, but it will have an even grater impact on fringe players like Jeffers who were happy to get their shot and hopeful for a training camp invite.
These are players who are working their butts off playing in small cities across the country hoping just to make the minimum salary and play for an NBA team for even just a short time. Many of these guys know they are just fillers for a short time. The odds are incredibly long for these guys to actually make it. But the D-League gives them a chance.
In 2011-12, or until the lockout ends, these players will not have this shot. They will seek to play elsewhere.
The D-League’s season is set to begin in December, so there is some time for the lockout to end and these players to return to the D-League. Part of the reason the season starts so late is to give players the opportunity to stick on to NBA rosters and find more lucrative offers overseas. These guys are not going by with no opportunity by any stretch.
But, again, many players value the potential exposure to the NBA that the D-League can uniquely provide. Without that option though, one wonders what players like Jeffers are supposed to do if the European option does not exist.