If a major league pitcher needs a rehab stint following a shoulder or elbow injury, they sometimes report to the minors for a tune up start or two. That’s impossible in the NBA. The Development League has given NBA teams "minor league-like” options, but it’s nothing like baseball’s set-up. Center Robert Swift has been out the past three weeks with back spasms. Swift, though, won’t have the option of a one-game tune up with Tulsa even though that’s Oklahoma City’s affiliate. Only players with two years experience or less can be assigned to the D-League. Why is the NBA different? The Players Association fears a coach might use the D-League as punishment, sending a veteran "down to the minors.” Even if a player with three or more years experience was given the "option” of reporting to the D-League, the Players Association fears that player would feel he has no choice but to "go down” if he wants playing time when he returns to the NBA club. Under the current system, the huge drawback is other players could benefit. Thunder center Mo Sene won’t ever live up to his lottery selection. He’s nailed to the bench but would benefit from D-League playing time. That’s not an option. The only player Oklahoma City sent to the D-League was Steven Hill, a 7-foot rookie center, who returned on Thursday after spending nearly a month in Tulsa. Even if changes are proposed, nothing will happen for at least three years. The Collective Bargaining Agreement runs through the 2010-11 season. NBA Players Association spokesman Dan Wasserman said it’s rare to re-negotiate during the contract. "Last year the leather ball we had to negotiate, but usually we don’t get involved in those things,” Wasserman said. "If it were something as drastic as players rehabbing in the D-League I’m sure the league would come talk to us.” Still, the NBA is inching closer to a Triple-A baseball-like setup. Stu Jackson, the NBA’s executive vice president for basketball operations, said the goal is to have all 30 teams affiliated with a Development League team over the next five to 10 years. Right now only three NBA teams, including the Thunder, have direct affiliations. College programs and overseas leagues technically are the NBA’s version of minor league baseball. It’s not a bad setup. But with younger players joining the league, plus a tune-up following injuries, it could benefit dozens of players if the Players Association was willing to compromise.
D-League detailsThe NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement began with the 2005-06 season and runs through 2010-11. According to the CBA, players can be assigned to the Development League their first two seasons only, regardless of age or when they enter the league. Players can be assigned to the D-League only three times a season. While in the D-League players, are paid their NBA salary and must be one of the NBA team’s 15 roster players.