The Texas Legends’ brass have a blueprint for how they’d like to proceed with the team-building process, but in truth, such a schematic is no more helpful than a post-it note full of handy tips. Those at the top of the ladder know what they’re doing, but creating a D-League team from scratch isn’t necessarily a straightforward or predictable process. So much depends on what happens between now and Monday, when the final NBA training camp cuts are announced, and the pool of available players begins to take shape.
The Legends aren’t willing to wait through the weekend, though, as they’ve gotten a head start on constructing their roster thanks to a little institutional help. The D-League’s new player allocation rule allows NBA teams to effectively call dibs on up to three of their final training camp/preseason cuts, which has opened the door for a number of teams to make late camp additions in the name of securing those players’ D-League rights. It’s a terrific strategy for encouraging affiliate utilization, and the Mavs, well-run franchise that they are, have recently tabbed two prospects by way of the D-League’s new allocation system.
Rashad McCants is the first such prospect. McCants has been signed by the Mavs to a non-guaranteed deal, and he will likely play in Dallas’ final preseason game on Friday, primarily as due process for securing McCants’ rights for the Legends. He’s had a pretty strange run since being drafted with the 14th pick in the 2005 draft, and has become a bit of a league punchline for an attitude problem that he may or may not actually have. Still, McCants is an effective scorer by NBA fringe standards, and it’s not hard to envision a day in which his services are again needed. Dallas has worked out McCants before, and this recent signing is likely a product of both McCants’ NBA résumé and that particular workout. He didn’t scare Dallas off then, and could blaze his comeback trail to the NBA from within the Mavericks organization, even if he has to do so from the D-League.
The Mavs are also interested in Sean “Not Shawne” Williams, though it’s unclear if Dallas has officially added him to their preseason roster. Williams’ bad rap is a bit more deserved, as a series of off-court incidents have decorated him in warning labels. Despite his athleticism and shot-blocking success (he’s averaged 3.0 blocks per 36 minutes in his three-year career), Williams couldn’t find an NBA home last season after being waived by the New Jersey Nets. He’s apparently trying to work his way back into the league, and provided he’s willing to play nice — which should hardly be assumed, as Williams’ effort, production, and attitude were all problematic during his first tour through the D (link via Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside) – he’d be a terrific get for the Legends.
As Marc Stein noted in his report for ESPN, Adam Haluska and Dee Brown are also eligible to be allocated to the Legends should the Mavs deem it so. Personally, I’d go with Brown by default, as he’s managed to do with more his preseason opportunities than Haluska. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Brown seek a bigger paycheck overseas, though.
That’s the kicker. With McCants, with Williams, with Haluska and Brown — all of these players will only play for the Legends if they want to play in the D-League at all. Maybe McCants and Williams are convinced that they can wow the Mavs in a single weekend, and have no intent on ever hitting the court in Frisco. It’s a possibility, even if it’s a bizarre one.
Regardless, the Mavs and the Legends are making an effort to take advantage of league rules to the best of their ability. McCants and Williams are legitimate NBA prospects, even if recent developments have nudged them out of their previously cozy roster spots, and the Legends will hold their rights should they get the Mavs’ stamp of approval.
Rick Carlisle collapsed to the ground during practice on Friday, went to his office later that night, and was back on the sidelines by Monday. A head coach’s work is never done, and though Carlisle denies that job-related stress brought about his literal downfall, it’s reasonable to think that the two may be related.
A coach in fine health and excellent shape who suddenly buckles at the knees doing nothing but standing? Sometimes these things happen, but I think it’s unreasonable to disregard Carlisle’s high-pressure line of work altogether. He’s “fine.” There’s “nothing to worry about.” But this isn’t an average working stiff with a 9 to 5, but a man in a profession of long nights, early mornings, plenty of travel, heavy expectations, and very public successes and failures.
Here’s Donnie Nelson’s take, as expressed on 103.3 FM ESPN Radio, and transcribed by Sports Radio Interviews:
“It was just really, they were kind of going through warmups and there was nothing out of the ordinary. Like I said, it’s pretty commonplace. My wife has probably fainted four or five times. It happens and when it does happen, it certainly catches you off guard and you have to take every precaution…It’s something that you have to take seriously, and we did, and everything’s checked out. So we just turn the page and move on from here.”
The reality is perhaps a bit more unfortunate than Nelson indicates, though not completely bleak. The coaching profession isn’t about to change, and while no one involved is willing to chalk Carlisle’s brief scare up to his job title, Art Garcia of NBA.com made note of some of the perils of the gig:
Still, his episode does bring into mind the correlation between coaching and stress-related issues. Several college football coaches have been in the headlines recently due to health scares. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio suffered a mild heart attack last month. Florida coach Urban Meyer was hospitalized last season after experiencing chest pains. Citing the mental and physical demands of the job, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy vowed last season to get outside or exercise at least once a day. The long hours, pressures of the job and anxiety take a toll. Coaches have been known to sleep in their offices before important and not-so-important games. The lifestyle can lead to poor eating habits and sleeping patterns if coaches aren’t careful.
“It’s obviously a hazard of the job,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said Saturday. “When you look at the things that football coaches go through, for them it’s a 16-week schedule. But you look at what [basketball coaches] go through, it’s five games in eight nights in five different cities. You’re getting on a plane and eating at 12:30 at night, you’re arriving in a city at five in the morning and you’re meeting at 7:30. There’s just a lot of things that you got to try to manage a little bit. Obviously, when you see something like what happened to coach Dantonio and Rick, you gotta be concerned.”
We should all be concerned. For Rick, and for every coach who isn’t quite so meticulous in their morning workout routine. Yet the event is already behind us, as Carlisle has returned to us in his professional and most immediately relevant capacity. There are no significant health issues to worry about, but shouldn’t the institutional evil — or even the suspicion of one — be a little bit of a bigger deal? Or are coaches bound with the same pseudo-contractual obligation that professional athletes are to surrender their body for the sake of their craft?
What matters most is that Carlisle’s fainting spell wasn’t indicative of something more serious, but the undertones here are worthy of discussion, and as Kelly Dwyer noted at Ball Don’t Lie, worth keeping an eye on for the future. These kinds of events may not have the causality of high jump + awkward landing –> ankle injury, but with the coaching lifestyle acting as a logical impairment to the health of many of our clipboard-wielding leaders, should some kind of measure be taken to protect them? Just as importantly: with expectations and media coverage spiraling to new heights and the need for further preparation heightened with an influx of all kinds of new data, can we do anything at all?
UPDATE (4:30 PM CST): From the AP:
Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has been released from the hospital after collapsing at practice.
Team president Donnie Nelson said Carlisle was released from Baylor University Medical Center on Friday afternoon and “is doing good” after fainting on the practice court at the American Airlines Center. The 50-year-old coach was conscious and responding to questions as he was carried by stretcher to an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital. Team personnel were with him. Nelson says he is unsure whether Carlisle will travel to California for an outdoor exhibition game Saturday against Phoenix.
UPDATE (2:00 PM CST): From ESPN’s news service:
Team spokeswoman Sarah Melton says Carlisle “was apparently lightheaded” and fainted on the court Friday at the American Airlines Center. The 50-year-old coach was conscious and responding to questions as he was carried by stretcher to an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital.
Melton says members of the Mavericks’ front office staff are with him at the hospital and report that the coach “seems to be feeling better.”
Also, from Earl K. Sneed:
Donnie Nelson just walked by me and gave two thumbs up, saying that Coach fainted but he’s doing well.
Some distressing news, via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: Rick Carlisle collapsed at practice today, and was taken to the hospital by medical personnel shortly thereafter. From Sefko’s report:
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle collapsed on the team’s practice court this afternoon and was taken from the court on a stretcher. It was unknown what happened to Carlisle, who was sitting up on the stretcher when he was wheeled toward the loading dock at about 12:38 p.m. An ambulance was waiting. At 12:50 p.m., the ambulance left the loading dock. Carlisle was moving his arms when he was taken out of the arena and seemed to be alert.
The fact that Carlisle was alert and had control of his arms are obviously good things, but it’s entirely too early to make any kind of proclamation on the severity (or lack of severity) of this incident. More information, either from the team or otherwise, will be relayed as it becomes available. Of course, my thoughts go with Rick on his way to Baylor Medical Center.
Yesterday we found out that Sonny Xiao would become co-owner of the Texas Legends, and the first Chinese owner of an NBA-affiliated team. Today brings some equally interesting news regarding the business side of basketball, as the Legends have brought in Hewlett-Packard to sponsor their court this season. Not the arena. The court. From the press release:
The Texas Legends and Hewlett Packard have partnered to build a bridge to China, and now, a co-owner will help that cause. The franchise has announced earlier today that the Chinese-born Sonny Xiao purchased a minority ownership of the Legends. The Legends and Hewlett Packard have agreed to brand the center circle with the HP logo, deeming the court “HP Court at Dr Pepper Arena.” The branding of the center circle on the court is the first of its kind in the NBA’s 64-year history. Furthermore, the utilization of the Mavericks logo marks the first time a team in the NBA or NBA D-League has placed a logo inside the free throw circle.
“The Legends are proud to team up with Hewlett Packard in this ground breaking event,” Legends co-owner Donnie Nelson commented. “They’re truly innovative global leaders that understand the value of relationships whether it’s employees here in North Texas or partners from China and abroad.”
The ground-breaking partnership with Hewlett Packard was spearheaded by Vice President of Human Resources Shawn Williams. The partnership represents a unique engagement of Hewlett Packard employees. “I am thrilled to announce this partnership with North Texas’ newest sports franchise, the Texas Legends,” Williams stated. “This is an investment in our employees, and in our North Texas footprint as it is one of the largest in our global operation. It will be a pleasure for our employees to be able to attend games at ‘HP Court’.”
We’re still a bit away from this being a viable option for an NBA team, but as top-line franchises look to get more creative with their sponsorship opportunities, this is a definite big league possibility. I was once doubtful that the sentimentalists running NBA franchises would ever allow the league’s more prestigious jerseys, for instance, to be printed up with ads, but this is an arena in which the United States is lagging behind and will likely look to surge forward. Adorning one’s court with a corporate logo at center circle isn’t exactly the same, but it’s certainly similar in principle.
Ike Diogu has spent five years in a bottle. During four of those years he was a natural force waiting to be unleashed; Diogu played limited minutes for multiple Warriors iterations, landed in Indiana, was sent to Portland, and wound up in Sacramento, all without regular playing time or a role worthy of his talent. He’s been around, and yet in spite of impressive per-minute production, Diogu has yet to find a proper gig. He wasn’t a starter. He wasn’t a sixth man. He wasn’t even a utility big, really. He has filled in minutes here and there, but his career hasn’t been more than a series of sublets.
Now, despite being linked to the Mavs as a training camp prospect, it’s seems Diogu will have no lease in Dallas, either.
In some ways, it’s hard to blame the Mavericks’ brass for passing on a chance to sign Diogu. He is, after all, coming off a season lost in its entirety. The dreaded microfracture surgery saw to that, and it’s on such a note that I hope the Mavericks hesitated. When healthy, Diogu was a contributor. In better days, he was everything that Mavs fans found so endearing in Brandon Bass, but with sharper interior scoring and superior rebounding. He was capable of having that type of impact, on good teams or bad, on fast teams or slow. Ike Diogu was a player, and yet because of a few bad hands, this post reads like an obituary.
If Ike’s injury really has grounded him, Dallas was right to pass. However, should Diogu show for another team in another camp? I won’t quite understand the Mavs’ logic. Brian Cardinal and Steve Novak (among others) will be joining the Mavs on unguaranteed deals, but both are niche players. Each has a role and fills it well, but if Dallas is looking for a candidate to play consistent frontcourt minutes, I fail to see Diogu’s (non-injury) downside.
He obviously has weaknesses in his game (Defense and court sense, ay, caramba!), but Diogu can hit the boards and create on the offensive end, even if he often does so with blinders on. That’s something otherwise lacking among the Maverick reserves. His game offers more than a neat little trick, or token court balance; Diogu is a certifiable low-post option, particularly against second-string bigs. He’s capable of being something the Mavericks need, whether they acknowledge that to the public or not.
Or at least he was capable of being something the Mavericks need, last we saw him. Back then, Diogu was dropping big-time double-doubles in meaningless games, a plea for observers to raise his projected ceiling. The proper headroom does give the Diogu estate the appropriate character, but now, right or wrong, that very ceiling’s structural integrity has come into question. Diogu’s career marks of 17.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes should speak for themselves, and I hope they do. More importantly, I hope that the Mavericks listened. I hope they honestly and truly considered Diogu, only to find him slowed to the point of ineffectiveness by his injury, unfortunate though that may be. I hope that there is something going on here aside from a determination that “Ike Diogu is no Brian Cardinal.”
There has to be.
Tim Thomas officially re-signed with the Mavericks almost a month ago, but today Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reported that Thomas will not be a Maverick in practice this season, even if he’s currently one in name. Thomas’ wife’s health again demands his attention, and he will not be playing for Dallas (or conceivably any NBA team) this season without a substantial change in her status. Sefko also noted that it’s possible Thomas could retire from basketball altogether.
First order of business: my thoughts and prayers go out to Tim, Tricia, and the rest of the Thomas family.
In terms of how this will affect the team, the specifics of what will happen with Thomas’ deal (and roster spot) have yet to be determined. According to Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas, the Mavs are currently working with league officials to void Thomas’ contract.
It’s a pity. Thomas functioned well with Dallas, and he gave the Mavs a solid reserve last season during his limited time with the team. In Thomas’ stead, the Mavericks could find more playing time for Ian Mahinmi, who brings size, athleticism, and rebounding to any lineup he’s in. Mahinmi’s skills aren’t ideal if he’s playing alongside Brendan Haywood or Tyson Chandler rather than behind them, but he can defend opposing bigs and produce a bit without using many possessions. Considering that we’re talking about a candidate for leftovers, I think Rick Carlisle can live with that.
Another option is for Dallas to bring in another big for a look in training camp. Many of the more promising fringe NBA prospects have already found training camp homes, but should Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle feel compelled to add another big to the roster, there are still a few candidates available. Recently added to that bunch of available big men is former Maverick Pops Mensah-Bonsu, and while Pops doesn’t have any concrete (or even rumored) links to the team at present, he’s the cream of the remaining crop. Otherwise, you’re looking at a pool of D-Leaguers (though keep in mind that some have already accepted training camp invites from other teams), barely productive vets, or candidates for playing time in Europe.
Some fantastic news out of Frisco: the Texas Legends may soon add Greg Ostertag in some official capacity, and it could be as a player.
Let me say that again. Greg Ostertag may play for the Texas Legends next season. Buy your season tickets today!
According to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, Donnie Nelson has indicated that there’s no chance of Ostertag becoming a Maverick, and that’s fortunate. Big O has made a few comeback attempts in the past, and to hear that the Mavs aren’t buying what he’s selling is a relief. Plus, another center (never mind one who hasn’t played in the NBA since 2006, and was, well, Greg Ostertag) on a roster with Brendan Haywood, Tyson Chandler, Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca would be a tad redundant.
Sefko indicates that there’s a chance Ostertag won’t play for the Legends either, but could serve in some kind of coaching/developmental capacity. That’s all well and good, but hardly as entertaining.
For those not in the know, this isn’t all that unusual. Lower profile NBA vets sometimes function as a player-assistant coaches in the D-League, as both a way to offer coaching experience in a slightly less formal capacity to the vet (keep in mind that the D isn’t just for developing players), and to provide a former NBAer in-roster as an example. That would likely be Ostertag’s aim here, and though Sefko’s report doesn’t paint O landing in Frisco as a certainty, there does appear to be some legitimate interest from the Legends’ side.
2006 second rounder and former Illinois standout Dee Brown will join the Mavs for training camp, as Brown announced on Twitter yesterday. It’s a news-worthy development, but only barely; Brown will come to camp with a fully non-guaranteed contract, and Dallas has but one roster spot remaining.
A few things:
- This isn’t the first time the Mavs have brought in another point guard for camp. Though the roster was a bit full last year (Dallas had 16 guaranteed contracts going into their ’09 camp, before trading away Nathan Jawai), the Mavs signed Keith McLeod to a similar non-guaranteed deal for ’08 camp. He did not make the final roster.
- For the past two seasons, Brown has played for the Italian Basketball Federation’s Air Avellino and also for Maccabi Tel Aviv, one of the top clubs in Europe. He averaged 17.2 points and 5.1 assists per game for Avellino last season.
- Brown’s inclusion is a bit interesting considering Rodrigue Beaubois’ injury status. If Beaubois is progressing on schedule, that would give the Mavs four point guards. Five if you count Dominique Jones. This is complete conjecture, but might it be the subtlest of hints that the Mavs are bringing in Brown in the first place? Either to indicate something about Beaubois, or possibly the team’s positional hope for Dominique Jones?
- The Mavs have opted to keep one roster spot open during previous seasons, even when they could have used some depth at one position or another. That trend could continue this season, especially if Brown doesn’t fill a particular need.
The Texas Legends participated in a peculiar one-team, ten-round expansion draft on Monday, in which Nancy Lieberman and her staff had their pick of the L.A. D-Fender litter. The Legends now own the rights to 10 former D-Fenders. Those 10 players are, according to a release from the team:
|Frank Robinson||6-4||220||Cal-State Fullerton||26
|Diamon Simpson||6-7||230||St. Mary's (CA)||22
For those keeping track at home, the D-Fenders not selected were: Lawrence McKenzie, Ray Reese, Rodney Webb, and Horace Wormely.
The Legends still do not have a roster. Though they now own the rights to the selected 10, not all of those players will be in the D-League next season, much less in Frisco. As Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside noted last week, Diamon Thompson, Michael Fey, Ryan Foreham-Kelly, and Frank Robinson have already signed contracts to play overseas next season, and thus will likely pass on the opportunity to play for the Mavs’ affiliate. Of the remaining six, some will at least make it to Legends camp, though it’s unknown how many of those players will actually make the final roster.
The Legends have begun to take shape. Even if, for the moment, that shape is something of an amorphous blob.
UPDATE: Here’s Schroeder’s take, again from Ridiculous Upside.
We knew that the genesis of the Texas Legends’ roster could somehow be connected to that of the now-defunct Los Angeles D-Fenders. We also knew that an expansion draft could be an important formative step for the Legends. What we didn’t know is that those two would methods of acquiring players would actually be one in the same, as the D-League announced on Thursday. There will be a D-League expansion draft for the Legends benefit after all…with a 14-player pool comprised of solely former D-Fenders.
From the team release:
The roster for the inaugural Texas Legends season, which tips off in November, will begin to take shape by way of an Expansion Draft, it was announced today. The 14-player expansion draft pool is made up of solely of the returning players from the 2009-10 Los Angeles D-Fenders, which will be on hiatus for the 2010-11 season. Included in the pool are guard Dar Tucker and center Michael Fey, two of the 30 players invited to the 2010 NBA D-League Elite Mini-Camp, held in June in Chantilly, VA.
…“This is another step towards our inaugural season,” Legends Owner Donnie Nelson commented. “The D-Fenders had a number of very talented players who have a real chance to develop into NBA athletes. The opportunity to draft their rights is the first step towards forming our team.”
Essentially, the Legends will have the right of first refusal on all of the D-Fenders, and there should be plenty of refusing. L.A. had the worst record in the Western Conference last season (and the second-worst record in the D overall), and the overall talent of the roster reflects that. I’m sure some of the D-Fenders will end up with the Legends to start the season, but don’t mistake this for anything more than the most basic of starter kits.
Available for the picking are Dar Tucker (also known as he who did this), Michael Fey, Joe Crawford, Diamon Simpson, Ryan Forehan-Kelly, Gabriel Hughes, Lawrence McKenzie, Frank Robinson, Horace Wormely, James Wright, Keith Clark, James Peters, Ray Reese and Rodney Webb. You can view all of their statistical information here, but keep in mind that someone has to produce on every team, even the second worst in the D-League.
UPDATE: Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside ranked the top 10 D-Fenders and described them in greater detail. I’m inclined to defer to him on these matters. Follow along with Schroeder as he briefly explains each of the top 10 options, their relative standing, and why it makes sense to draft the rights of some players that have already signed deals to play overseas.