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NBA: Developing a farm system

By Mike Baldwin Published: December 14, 2008
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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.


D-League details
The 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.

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