The National Basketball Developmental League was created primarily so that young players, drafted or otherwise, could develop their games and improve their chances of staying in the NBA for many years. In recent D-League seasons, though, we’ve seen former NBA players return ply their trade at the lower levels in hopes of finding their way back into the league. Jamaal Tinsley, now starting at point guard for the Utah Jazz, spent 2011 with the Los Angeles D-Fenders after 10 years of NBA opportunities dried up. Going to the D-League can work.
It can also help those same D-League teams drum up some publicity in the process. Last week, the Texas Legends, the Frisco-based affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, reached deals with guards Delonte West and Rashad McCants, two familiar names with hopes of finding their way back to the NBA. It turns out that the Legends aren’t done looking at past NBA guards, because they’re also interested in Allen Iverson. From Marc Stein for ESPN.com:
Sources told ESPN.com that the Legends, who are co-owned by Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, ramped up their season-long pursuit of Iverson on Monday, offering him the chance to resurrect his career. [...]
Iverson has likewise resisted the Legends’ overtures so far this season — as well as a similar offer last season — but sources say that the Legends are trying again now because they’ve moved back to the top of the list in the D-League’s waiver line, meaning they’d have an unobstructed path to signing Iverson if he could be convinced to put his name in the D-League’s player pool.
The Legends’ pitch to Iverson centers around the fact they’ve just convinced NBA veterans Delonte West and Rashad McCants to join their team with similar intentions, after the Legends signed another 37-year-old earlier this month — point guard Mike James — and wound up putting James in position to earn a 10-day call-up to the Mavericks that turned into a guaranteed contract after James completed his second 10-day deal Sunday.
Stein is very well connected in Dallas, so this report is worth taking seriously. On the other hand, if it is true, it also stands to reason that Iverson has little interest in the job if he hasn’t accepted an offer for the past season.
Iverson has never referred to his absence from the NBA as “retirement” — in part because he still wants to play, in part because he could use the money, in part because he didn’t exactly take the most glorious exit from the NBA. In keeping that door open, though, he’s also invited a number of ridiculous and embarrassing offers, including contracts from indoor soccer teams that were extended solely to exploit his name for publicity.
The Legends’ offer isn’t quite that shameless, because they’re connected to the NBA and potentially an avenue for Iverson to return to the league. But it’s also fairly clear that NBA teams don’t really want to employ Iverson, and the Legends already have a backcourt crowded with players hoping to follow this same path. At this point, the team’s focus on adding relatively big-name players to the mix appears to be motivated by money more than a desire to develop players or to give them another shot at recapturing past glory. It’s about ticket sales and little else.
The Legends are a business and have every right to try to sign Iverson. But we should identify a cash grab for what it is.