Saturday, March 6, 2010

Interview with D-League president Dan Reed

I recently had the chance to interview Dan Reed, the president of the NBA Development League (D-League). Following are his thoughts on the present and future of the league.

Kevin Henry: How would you describe the current state of the D-League?
Dan Reed: The state of the D-League is very positive. Attendance is up during a time when a lot of sports are finding their attendance down. We have a national TV contract with the VERSUS Network which gives us a fantastic platform across the nation. We’ve seen the fastest rate of call-ups this year in our league’s history with 20 so far (there were 12 at this same point last season). We have 80 former D-Leaguers playing in the NBA right now, and that’s about 20 percent of the rosters. Things are very positive.

KH: You mentioned the deal with VERUS. Combine that with the NBA Futurecast and you have to be happy with two strong media outlets that promote the league throughout the country, correct?
DR: Absolutely. We’re very focused on media growth. We have some other deals that we’ll be rolling out shortly as well. We want to continue to let people know the best players in the world outside of the NBA play in the D-League. People who watch our product walk away impressed and eager for more.

KH: Such as is the case with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Tulsa 66ers, do you think you’ll see a trend in the future of more NBA teams owning and operating their own D-League franchise?
DR: We’ve certainly seen it become more prevalent, and we know the Dallas Mavericks will be owning and operating the Frisco franchise next season (joining Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston, and the L.A. Lakers as teams who directly run D-League squads). I think a lot of NBA teams are looking at how these teams are using their affiliates and how it is benefitting them. Look at what Oklahoma City has done this season by sending Byron Mullens, Kyle Weaver, and DJ White to Tulsa. They have all played well, gotten some confidence, and received playing time. I know Sam Presti (general manager of the Thunder) strongly believes that this will help the Thunder.

KH: This season, direct affiliates have an advantage by being able to send four players to a D-League team rather than just two that can be sent to D-League teams that are shared by NBA franchises. Is that a carrot that could help more NBA teams take direct control of an affiliate?
DR: That’s a rule change we implemented this year after hearing feedback. We didn’t want teams with just one NBA affiliate to be restricted. It is a benefit for those teams to be able to send down more than two players.

KH: You mentioned the new franchise in Frisco, which seems to give Tulsa another geographic rival. Are geographic rivalries important to the D-League?
DR: The more reasons you can give fans to become involved, the better. Many fans enjoy the rivalries that close geography brings. From a travel standpoint, it’s also great to have teams close together.

KH: At the start of the calendar year, there were several D-League players who left to play in Europe, including Tulsa’s Zabian Dowdell. What are some of the benefits you see to a player participating in the D-League rather than playing overseas?
DR: As I said earlier, 20 percent of the players on current NBA rosters played in the D-League. That’s four times more than any other league from anywhere in the world. The fastest way to get to the NBA is through the D-League. You know that every night, you’re going to be playing in front of NBA scouts. If they like what they see and you’re playing well, you could be called up immediately. If a team likes you, you could be playing for them the next night. That’s instant gratification. I think people can look at our track record and see why players who want to play in the NBA should play in the D-League.

KH: You also have players from the NBA Draft playing in the D-League, like Friday night when Byron Mullens and Hasheem Thabeet met in Tulsa as the only two centers drafted in the first round of last year’s NBA draft.
DR: I think that’s pretty neat to have the top two centers in the draft facing off. I think it speaks to both Memphis and Oklahoma City to see the benefits of playing these young players in the D-League rather than having them just sit on the bench. It’s a great matchup. Will we see more of this in the future? I think NBA executives are becoming more and more comfortable with making assignments to the D-League. They know that having players get court time is far better than having them sit on the bench.

KH: Where do you want to see the D-League in three or four years?
DR: I want to see the continued evolution of what we’ve been doing. We doubled the number of teams in the D-League over the last three to four years. I don’t think we can do that again, but I would like to see our league have sustainable growth. Our primary goal is to continue to cultivate talented players and coaches for the NBA.

KH: Any thoughts on the upcoming collective bargaining agreement that will take effect in 2011-12?
DR: We’re closely following what will happen. The last collective bargaining agreement (in 2005) allowed NBA teams to send players to the D-League on assignment. We believe the next round could be a real boost for us, but it’s premature to talk too much about it. However, we are very bullish on the possibilities because the D-League system has worked well.

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