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NBA D-league: Hard Work Beginning to Pay Off

Nothing worthwhile comes easy or

When the NBA D-league started their journey eight years ago, they knew they were undertaking a venture that would take a while to bear fruit. Now, eight years later, the league is starting to see the fruits of its labor. Through various milestones that helped gain the attention of the NBA league and team executives.

While the D-League may never match the popularity of the NBA, it is starting to gain a foothold in the sports landscape.  For the fifth straight year, league attendance has topped the one million person plateau for the regular and post season.

As more people start to follow the D-League, they are beginning to notice the high level in the quality of the level of play.  Along with the increase in the number of eyes beginning to watch the games; CBS Sports Network has decided to throw their support behind the league and joined the NBA and You Tube to televise 400 games, highlights and short form digital content for the next season.

As advertisers start to see more networks getting behind the league, they begin to see the chance to improve the exposure of their products.  This season six teams were able to get jersey partnerships.

TEAM                                              PARTNER

Erie BayHawks                               LECOM

Fort Wayne Mad Ants                    Lutheran, Hospital

Rio Grande Valley Vipers                Lone Star National Bank

Texas Legends                              Veracruz, Mexico

Springfield Armor                           MGM Springfield

Los Angeles D-Fenders                 MGM Resorts International


The league’s success was not just limited to off the court.

The league’s primary mission was to provide a place for young players in the NBA to gain playing experience.  This season 62 NBA players (including 10 where first round picks in the 2013 NBA Draft) played for their NBA team’s assigned D-League squads for a record 187 times along with 36 D-League players who got 49 Gatorade Call-ups.

Former D-League players currently comprise a third of the players currently in the NBA and 149 players were on NBA rosters by the end of the season.

NBA teams are starting to see the having their own team that they can use to help develop young players.  This season fourteen of the leagues seventeen teams had exclusive deals to be an affiliate for a NBA teams.  Next season the league will have eighteen teams with the New York Knicks getting their affiliate in Westchester, New York and the Detroit Pistions getting their affiliate in Grand Rapids.

The D-League also announced the players that made up their honorable mention teams.

Position                         Player                                   NBA D-League Team         

Guard                            Dee Bost                                Idaho Stampede

Guard                            Frank Gaines                         Maine Red Claws

Guard                            Cameron Jones                     Santa Cruz Warriors

Guard                            Mustafa Shakur                     Tulsa 66ers

Forward                         Patrick Christopher               Iowa Energy

Forward                         Ike Diogu                              Bakersfield Jam

Forward                         Courtney Fells                      Austin Toros

Forward                         Damion James                      Texas Legends

Forward                         Darius Johnson-Odom          Springfield Armor

Center                           Melvin Ely                              Texas Legends

Center                           Tim Ohlbrecht                        Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Center                           Willie Reed                            Reno Bighorns/Springfield Armor

So with the thirteenth season in the books, here’s to looking towards the Austin Toros getting back on track to regaining the D-League crown.

Toros acquire Steven Smith

Austin, TX – The Austin Toros look to bolster their roster with the addition of 6-foot-9 forward Steven Smith. A product of La Salle, Smith played all four of his collegiate years for the explorers from 2002-06. He averaged 18.1 points, and eight rebounds in 107 games with La Salle. He played two seasons at La Salle with former San Antonio Spur and current Milwaukee Buck Gary Neal.

The Philadelphia native went undrafted, but ended up on his hometown team, the Philadelphia 76ers. He played eight games with the 76ers, the only eight games he’s ever played in the NBA.

Smith then went on to play international ball with the Anaheim Arsenal from 2007-2008, the Solsonica Rieti and Kolossos Rodou from 2008-2009, Panellinios 2010-2011, Panathinaikos from 2011-2012 and he most recently played for the Italain league team Virtus Bologna.

Smith played his first game with the Toros in a loss to the Iowa Energy on March 27. He played 9:18 minutes, registering three points on 1-6 shooting, two rebounds and two steals.

Toros dogged by Legends 92-92 on Hoops and Hounds night

Toros fans were joined by their pets for the Toros' Hoops and Hounds promotion. (Photos by Ronald Oswalt)

Toros fans were joined by their pets for the Toros’ Hoops and Hounds promotion. (Photos by Ronald Oswalt)

CEDAR PARK– In a close match, the Austin Toros came up short to the Texas Legends 92-93 Sunday evening at the Cedar Park Center. The game was titled “Hoops and Hounds” and fans were allowed to bring their pets to the game.

The game was well received by pet lovers, who had their own section and were featured in several in-game promotions. The announced attendance was 2,945 for the game.

The Toros dominated first half action leading 56-43, but the second half was in favor of the visiting Legends 50-36.

Toros guard Flip Murray led all scorers with 21 points and seven rebounds. Dexter Pittman recorded a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Jonathan Simmons and Courtney Fells added 16 points respectively.

The Legends were paced by Mavericks-assigned Ricky Ledo who scored 18 points off the bench. Marcus Hubbard finished with a double-double of 15 points and 17 rebounds.

The Toros got off to an early lead, outscoring the Legends 30-20 in the first quarter. Luke Zeller was a perfect 4-4 from the field and 2-2 from beyond the arc to record 10 points. Going into halftime, the Toros led 56-43.

The Legends began to chip away at the Toros lead, outscoring them 21-14 in the third quarter and 29-22 in the fourth. With just seconds remaining, former Longhorn Damion James went to the line sinking his second attempt to put the Legends up 93-92 for the eventual win.

The Toros (17-31) play their last home game on April 3rd against the Canton Charge. The Legends (23-25) continue their road trip as they take on the Sioux Falls Skyforce April 4th.

Spurs recall Daye

The San Antonio Spurs recalled Austin Daye from the D-League after his one-game stint with the Austin Toros.

Daye finished with a double-double (27 points, 13 rebounds) in the Toros’ 15-point loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers last night.

Daye will be available against the Utah Jazz tonight, though he may be inactive if the Spurs decide to play with a full roster.

Spurs assign Daye to Toros

The San Antonio Spurs assigned forward Austin Daye to the Austin Toros.

Daye will be available against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Daye, acquired in a trade on Feb. 20 for Nando De Colo, appeared in two games with the Spurs. In his three minutes, Daye shot 66.7 percent from the field with a 86.4 Player Efficiency Rating.

With the Spurs at maximum health, and the roster at full occupancy, Daye will have ample time to play with the Toros in the meantime. There will be better Dayes (sorry).

D-League players on “draft list” can be acquired by affliate

Beginning with the 2014-15 D-League season, NBA D-League players on a NBA teams’s “draft list” can be directly acquired by the affiliate of the NBA team that holds his draft rights, the D-League announced.

The rule allows D-League players to forgo the D-League draft and waiver wire, while giving them the opportunity to immediately play for the D-League affiliate at any point of the season. If they join the affiliate during the season, the team has 24 hours to claim or renounce his draft rights.

The old rule only protected a few players, specifically the ones cut from a NBA team’s training camp, and even so, the NBA team could not own their draft rights to protect them. The new rule safeguards the affiliate, and perhaps incentives NBA teams to utilize their D-League team effectively.

“More easily enabling an NBA D-League player on an NBA team’s ‘draft list’ to join that team’s NBA D-League affiliate is a very important step in the continued evolution of our development system,” said Dan Reed, NBA D-League President. “As more and more NBA teams are investing in their own exclusive NBA D-League affiliate, this rule change will lead to improved development opportunities that will benefit our players and the league as a whole.”

The NBA plans on adding D-League teams in the future, ideally expanding it to 30 teams, and giving each NBA team an individual affiliate. Until then, the D-League will not be a “true” minor league system, but they are making inroads every year.

Perhaps in the near future, a superstar kid will seriously consider entering the D-League and forgoing a traditional college basketball path.

Toros acquire Ben Strong


The Austin Toros acquired center Ben Strong, who will be available tonight against the Springfield Armor. Strong will wear the No. 23.

Strong, a 6-11 center, has appeared in 114 D-League games. He’s averaged 6.8 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes per game over three seasons. Strong averaged 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in his recent stop with the Delaware 87ers.

Strong, the NCAA’s Division III Player of the Year in 2006-07, averaged 25.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game with Guilford College.

The Toros, with Josh Howard on the inactive list, have nine active players, including Strong.

Austin begins a three-game road trip tonight against the Armor. Live streaming of every Toros game is available on YouTube.

Toros’ Pittman gets call up from Hawks

Apparently Atlanta Hawks coaches Mike Budenholzer and Taylor Jenkins, and GM Danny Ferry still set their D-League sights on Austin as the Hawks called up Dexter Pittman and signed him to a 10-day contract yesterday.

The Toros acquired Pittman earlier this season, and he played in 17 games with the Toro,s averaging 9.5 points, six rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 17.5 minutes.

Pittman should be a quick learner in Atlanta, having played in the same system in Austin that Budenholzer utilizes in Atlants.

Pittman was likely signed for some added frontcourt depth to make up for the loss of Al Horford and the recent injuries of Pero Antic, Gustavo Ayon and Paul Millsap.

Pittman was available for last night’s win against the Knicks, but did not play.

With Millsap day-to-day and Ayon likely soon to return, it’s a safe bet that Pittman could be back in Austin or the D-League once his contract expires. While the Hawks freed Pittman’s roster spot by waiving Antawn Jamison, Pittman maxes out the Hawks roster at 15 and Budenholzer and Co. may want the flexibility an open roster spot gives them in the stretch run of the season.

The loss of Pittman leaves a big hole in the frontcourt for the Toros as evidenced when the Toros used a four guard starting lineup today with Luke Zeller starting at center. Aside from Zeller, the Toros do not have a single activeplayer over 6-8.

D-League announces addition of performance analytic technology

The NBA D-League announced that they will utilize performance analytic devices during games. The one-ounce devices will be worn under the jerseys, affixed to the players chest or inside an undergarment pouch.

Four D-League teams have adopted the technology. The D-League expects the other 13 teams to implement the technology before the end of this season.

Per the official release:

During games the devices will be beneficial for maximizing player performance and health by generating individual player data on cardiovascular exertion, musculoskeletal intensity, fatigue, rate of acceleration and deceleration, number of jumps, and distance run and direction, among other things. Additional NBA D-League teams are expected to adopt the technology before the end of the season.

20 NBA teams incorporate the devices during practices, but they have yet to institute the technology during regular season games.

“As the research and development arm of the NBA, the NBA D-League is the perfect place to unveil innovative performance analytic devices in-game,” said NBA D-League President Dan Reed. “The revolutionary data captured gives teams a new opportunity to maximize on-court productivity while optimizing player health and peak player performance – key elements to player development and team success.”

The NBA’s partnership with STATS, along with performance analytic technology, are just the first baby steps in cultivating a more nuanced understanding of player health — which, up until a few years ago, was an untenable realm of analytics. Now it’s a full-fledged reality.

Toros acquire Cardell Johnson

Austin, Texas – The Austin Toros acquired guard Cardell Johnson, who last played with Austin in 2012.

Johnson has appeared in 232 games with the Toros in five seasons, averaging 7.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He chipped in 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in the 2012 D-League Finals against the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

Johnson is available for tonight’s game against the Texas Legends. The game will be televised on FSSW Southwest and Youtube.

Austin has lost four consecutive games, with a 2-8 record in their last 10 games.