February 3, 2010
By Brian Spencer
Last week we hit you with Part I of our two-part interview with D-League Digest brainchild Steve Weinman, who had just returned from this year’s D-League Showcase in Boise, Idaho, with a fresh perspective on the state of the NBA’s “minor-league system.” This time around, Weinman talks attendance, potential for growth, and the possibility of the NBADL one day attracting premier overseas talent.
Empty the Bench: You spoke with a number of NBA team presidents during the Showcase. Who stood out as the most enthused about the D-League’s potential and what did you talk about?
Steve Weinman: While all the people I spoke to were (predictably) quite positive about the D-League, Daryl Morey likely set the record for most uses of “great” and “fantastic” in a 3-minute span to describe the Rockets’ relationship with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, with whom the team shares a hybrid affiliation (the Rockets don’t own the team, but do oversee the basketball operations).
The most intriguing point that came out of my discussion with Morey was his confirmation of something I discussed with Vipers Head of Basketball Operations Alex Del Barrio: the idea that Joey Dorsey wasn’t in the D-League to expand his game so much as he was to focus on becoming more consistent at what he already does.
I think a lot of time there’s a tendency to think of the D-League as a place for players to expand their skillsets, and certainly that’s a big part of it for a lot of players. (I know I’m guilty of thinking of it this way.) But some guys simply need to be more focused on doing what they do best. Dorsey is who he is: a banger who hammers the glass, plays defense, and will be capable of getting his share of points off second chances. As Morey said, “We’re never looking for him to shoot a mid-range shot or have any post moves. That’s not something we see in his role at the NBA level.”
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, 9 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—dand 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 NBA team’s city.
More from D-League Digest’s Steve Weinman after the break…