D-League Digest

Dishing info and insight on the NBA Development League

Dreaming of a different type of call-up in LA

Mike Dunleavy Sr.’s coaching tenure with the Los Angeles Clippers ended yesterday, and he has been replaced in the interim by assistant Kim Hughes. At some point during the day-dreaming portion of Thursday (virtually the entire day prior to breaking out the DVDs for “The Wire,” a show that requires undivided attention*), it occurred to me that it would have been really cool to have the Idaho Stampede’s Bob MacKinnon fill the open-for-a-split-second coaching vacancy in LA.

The 2009-10 Clippers sit 18th in the NBA in pace, and there hasn’t been much to show for playing below the league average tempo seeing as the Clips rank 25th and 17th in offensive and defensive efficiency respectively and are less than comfortably perched in the standings at 21-28.

This is a team with Baron Davis running the point. The same Baron Davis who is at his best when he has the keys to play freewheeling, fast-break basketball, the same Baron Davis who played a key role in making the Nellieball system go to the tune of a playoff upset in 2007 and then 48 wins in 2007-08 in Golden State. MacKinnon’s go-go-go style that has the Stampede averaging 104.3 possessions per game would have Davis at his most fun to watch, if not his most effective as well.

It’s hard to imagine sophomore off-guard Eric Gordon would be too disappointed about the chance to take that many more shots per game. Marcus Camby played in George Karl’s uptempo system in Denver. Ricky Davis never minds the chance to gun a little bit. Perhaps getting up and down the floor would give DeAndre Jordan a chance to utilize his freakish athleticism in a way we haven’t seen yet.

Three disclaimers: One, I mean no disrespect to Kim Hughes, who has a playing, scouting and assistant coaching background, and I wish him the best of luck with this opportunity. Two, I’m also aware that neither MacKinnon’s success level nor the full extent of his tempo would necessarily translate any more directly to the NBA than do the skills of many D-League players. Three, I’m not even completely sure on how D-League coaches’ contracts work and whether considering MacKinnon would have been logistically possible for the Clips (still looking into that for my own edification).

But Bob MacKinnon’s players love playing for him and bust their tails on a regular basis. He has sent three players to the NBA this season alone and has somehow kept his team above the .500 mark in the face of constant roster juggling due to call-ups and injuries. And his team is incredibly fun to watch.

Given the Clippers’ personnel and the fact that they don’t have a whole lot to lose at this point, it sure would have been intriguing to see Coach Mac at the helm.

Some days, especially the ones devoid of live D-League action, a guy just ends up California dreamin’.

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From the Department of Shameless Self-Aggrandizement: Empty the Bench‘s Brian Spencer apparently so enjoys torturing his readers that he chose bringing me back for Part II of a Q-and-A session instead of simply running his nails across a virtual chalkboard. An excerpt of our chat:

ETB: Is the NBA not overly concerned with attendance? And if they are, shouldn’t there be more teams in bigger markets, as well as more marketing dollars behind the league? If you asked 50 NBA fans off the street to name three D-League teams, I’m guessing most of them couldn’t even name one.

Weinman: I’m sure the NBA would love to see D-League attendance increase, and I wouldn’t doubt that eventually, putting more money toward marketing the league will be a part of that. But while I’m sure I sound like a broken record on this, I think part of it is time. Remember, nine years isn’t a long time for a sports league to exist.

The league totally overhauled itself after spending its first years based largely on the Southeastern seaboard, and several of the league’s teams have only been in their current location for a very short time. As the number of call-ups increases and the number of productive former D-Leaguers at the NBA level increase—and likely as single-team affiliations increase—the D-League will gain prominence, and I think that will be big in helping attendance grow.

As for the issue of big markets, I would be cautious of getting too wrapped up in that. This country has supported minor league baseball in a lot of areas that didn’t exactly come next on the list after New York City, LA, Boston and Chicago. For a pertinent D-League example, the folks up in Portland, Maine, are selling out every night and absolutely killing it in merchandise sales.

More than just finding big markets, I think it’s important to find locations close enough to a parent team to have a strong connection to a NBA fan base but far enough away to make going to D-League games not only more affordable but a significantly more convenient alternative to having to travel all the way to the NBA team’s city.

You can check out Part I here, or if you’re interested in some eloquent voices that don’t ramble as I do, be sure to check out the coverage throughout the rest of Empty the Bench. Much thanks to Brian for having me on.

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Just in case you missed it, the Digest welcomed a new contributing writer on Thursday. Matt Hubert of Blog Talk BayHawk fame made his debut yesterday with a piece comparing some D-League All-Stars to current NBA players. Matt will be providing a welcome breath of fresh air from my verbose babbling each Thursday, and we at D-LeagueDigest (read: all one of me) are excited to have him on board. Read some of his work, and you will be, too!

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*I’m not fixing for a run to usurp Bill Simmons’ title as worldwide leader in references to “The Wire” in otherwise unrelated writing, I promise. But after beginning the series for the first time last week courtesy of DVDs of my buddy Mays, I’m one episode away from finishing the first season and utterly hooked. The people that put this show together are brilliant. If you haven’t watched, you’re going to want to start (it’s an HBO show, by the way, so insert disclaimer for content here)…after the D-League’s Saturday game on VERSUS, of course, which features Reno and Rio Grande Valley this week at 11 p.m. ET.

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