Some Assembly Required

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 27, 2010 under Commentary, News | Be the First to Comment

In an interesting wrinkle for the Texas Legends, Eddie Sefko reported earlier this week that the Legends could inherit the roster of the Los Angeles D-Fenders. The L.A. team will phase out for the D-League’s upcoming season for financial reasons, but reportedly has plans to phase back into the league for the following year. What exactly the league should do with the rights to the team’s players is a difficult question to answer, and it’s one that remains unresolved.

As a precedent, Sefko cited the dissolution/relocation of the Anaheim Arsenal to Springfield, where they then became the Springfield Armor. The comparison makes sense when broken down into its most simplistic components: one team ends, another begins, roster transfers. But all indications point to both scenarios being incredibly complicated, which makes a comparison a bit dicey. For one, the exact circumstances that dictated the Arsenal’s move are a bit…fuzzy. The roster ended up moving to Springfield as a new team started there (along with a new ownership group, I might add), but the situation wouldn’t exactly mirror a potential move from L.A. to Frisco.

For one, the general D-Fenders infrastructure, as I understand it, is to remain in place. The team will phase out rather than disappear forever, with the intent not to end operations but to cease them while the model is reworked. Obviously the players will not be retained in the meantime, and the D is still unresolved as to best handle the situation with player rights.

As if the D-Fenders’ one-year hiatus wasn’t enough of a complication, their ownership situation makes things extra interesting. The D-Fenders are owned by the Lakers, and as one of the few D-League teams owned by a mothership NBA franchise, Dan Reed and the D-League have great incentive to make this work. Team ownership has to maintain its allure for other NBA outfits, and to see L.A. run a team for so long and then lose out on its entire roster would certainly qualify as a disconcerting sight. Still, it’s not like the D-Fenders can just put hooks on all of their current players and reel them back in once the organization is stable again.

It’s the one-year break for the franchise and ownership incentivisation that make the outcome of this ordeal incredibly fuzzy for the Legends and the D-Fenders alike. Maybe, as Sefko described, the Legends will inherit the D-Fenders roster. In such a scenario, the Legends would still be able to benefit from the expansion draft, which would allow Nancy Lieberman, Del Harris, Spud Webb, and Donnie Nelson to further customize their roster. Essentially, the Legends would have the right of first refusal on any of the D-Fenders’ former players, and should they choose to cut every one of those players loose, they’d be entitled. Again, this is only if the D-League does indeed decide to move the L.A. roster to Frisco, because otherwise Texas would be forced to build their roster solely through the expansion draft, the D-League draft, and by using undrafted talent and NBA assignees.

That could be a rougher road, but perhaps one fitting for an expansion team just setting its roots.