After a wildly successful season that saw the NBA Development League grow to 16 teams as well as get 31 player assignments and 29 call ups, NBA D-League president, Dan Reed is the guy we wanted to talk to. In his first year at the helm he has brought both success and awareness to the league while putting his plans for the future into action.
Getting to speak with Mr. Reed about the success of the NBA Development League’s seventh season as well as their prominent exposure at the NBA Summer Leagues was a pleasure and his main goal is clear: Get people to recognize the wealth of talent within the D-League.
A transcript of our conversation follows:
SLAM: We’re coming off of an NBA draft that saw the NBA Development League graduate its first player into the NBA through the NBA Draft. Mike Taylor went from the D-League to the NBA Draft. Do you see this continuing for the league?
REED: I certainly think we will continue to produce NBA players. We’ve had 119 call ups in our history, we’ve helped many NBA signed players get a good strong foothold on the league to the point where 15% of nba players are former D-Leaguers and I think Mike Taylor is another example of that. Mike took a slightly different road, in that he came through the draft rather than his being called up or on assignment, but I think it’s just his being drafted that is proof of the depth and talent in this league. That a backup point guard could be a second round draft pick in the NBA and that we are continuing to fulfill our mission which is through competition, through development resources, playing NBA rules and by playing against the best players in the world not already in the NBA in front of NBA scouts every night. I think Mike proved that and so did Kelenna Azubuike, Matt Carroll, Mikki Moore and everyone else that has gone from the D-League to successful careers in the NBA.
SLAM: The league set new records this season for call ups (29) and assignments (31). This coincides with your first year as president. Can you talk about the success of this past season for the league as a whole?
REED: On end of season rosters for 2007-2008, former NBA Development League players numbered 75, so a little over 15%.
We had a tremendously successful season this year, both on and off of the court. We added four new teams to the League, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Iowa Energy, Utah Flash and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, who all performed very well. Our overall attendance went up 20%, so the business is very healthy and our team franchise value went up as a result. On the basketball side, as you mentioned, we had an all-time high in terms of call ups and assignments and we’ve produced an all-time high number of NBA players, in our 15%.
This is something that has evolved over time, NBA General Managers are getting more and more comfortable with the system, NBA teams and their NBA Development League affiliate teams are doing a better job at communicating and using the system more for mutual benefit. That is something we’ve put a real focus on in the past year, helping those relationships to blossom, and I think the higher call up numbers and assignment numbers is partly a result of that, but partly just out of a referendum of increasing talent levels in the D-League and the natural progression of the system that was built just three years ago.
SLAM: The D-League showcase will be in Orem, Utah this year. What are some of your goals for the event, from a league perspective and for the players?
REED: The showcase truly is our showcase event. You’ll see 160 NBA caliber prospects competing to be called up to an NBA team. In fact, we’ve had 10 players actually called up during the showcase, so they haven’t even made it to the second game because an NBA team wanted to call them up. It’s an opportunity for us to provide continuing education resources to our players while they will all be in Utah and we will have a great community service presence there in Utah County where we will try and leave a lasting legacy. It really encompasses everything that is great about the D-League and we expect that it will have a pretty strong financial economic impact on Utah.
SLAM: Speaking of Utah, the Rocky Mountain Revue is underway and for the first time you’ve got a team comprised solely of D-Leaguers, the Ambassadors. How has this experience been and do you see this continuing in future summer leagues?
REED: Yes. I see that continuing. Players sign with the D-League primarily because of the exposure that we offer them to NBA teams. They play the majority of their games in front of NBA scouts, we are routinely on the phone with NBA General Managers and they know that. That’s why we are the only professionally basketball league to produce NBA players in seasons over the last three years. We see developing a D-League summer league team as a natural extension of that. That if a player doesn’t have the opportunity to be called up perhaps in-season, we want to be able to continue to give those players the opportunity to show their wares in front of NBA teams and we think that offering a D-League team that offers a good amount of playing time and opportunity to compete directly with NBA teams is a great opportunity for those players.
SLAM: There has been some press recently about the Iranian National Team taking part in the Rocky Mountain Review, including two exhibition games played against the Ambassadors. How did the D-League come to be a part of their tour, and what do you hope to gain from the experience?
REED: You know, we saw it as an opportunity to help the Iranian National team prepare for the Olympics, prepare for the Summer League and really, the NBA and NBA Development League have a history of trying to offer goodwill through sport. On a people to people basis, it was a wonderful experience. Funny story, the Iranian team members, when they met with our D-League members, discovered that they both have a love of shoes in common. The Iranian National team members, as I understand it, went to the mall a couple of times to pick up some basketball shoes. People are people. We were really excited to have the opportunity to host an event like that and broaden the experience for our players.
SLAM: Can you elaborate on your plans for expansion in the near future?
REED: Sure. We will continue to look to expand, but we want to ensure it is at a steady and sustainable rate. We’ve doubled the size of the league in the past three years, going from eight to 16 teams. I don’t expect it will double again in the next three years. I do expect us to add a couple of teams here and there in the next few years.
SLAM: As a Canadian I’ve got to ask you your thoughts on expanding to Canada in the future?
REED: I wouldn’t rule it out. We’ve had geographic issues and some operational issues with regards to evaluating Halifax as a particular opportunity, but we continue to believe that Halifax in particular is a strong potential market. There are others that we are evaluating and as the league continues to expand and as our business continues to mature, there may be opportunity going forward. We are primarily focused on expanding the North East in the short term and filling out the current geographic area of our teams.
SLAM: Your attendance is up 21%, you have increased awareness of the league and the talent within it through live webcasts of all games. What is next on your list of goals for the league this upcoming season?
REED: We want to continue to expand the D-League’s influence in the NBA. Not only in terms of players and expanding on our 15% number in terms of call ups and assignments, but also through coaches. Continuing to make sure we are putting a great product onto the floor and the fans in our markets are having a great time, which they are and that’s reflected in our growth. You will continue to see us webcast our games through NBA Futurecast, we’re focused on continuing to improve that product and make it easy for fans to follow the great talent that is in the NBA D-League and I think you will see more from us on a community service end this year. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to positively impact the communities where we live, work and play and you’ll see us take a more focused effort on that in this coming year.
SLAM: Moving beyond players for a moment, talk about the opportunity the league provides for coaches looking to advance their careers.
REED: Sure. Our coaching positions are in very high demand in the coaching profession because of our track record of producing NBA coaches. Our coaches are being plucked for the very best coaching jobs in the world. Sam Vincent was our first head coach in the NBA, Michael Curry, who was an executive here in the D-League is now our second head coach. We have a litany of assistant coaches and up and coming coaches in the NBA and we have excellent coaches in the D-League right now that are looking to take that next step. We also offer a coaching consultant, Terry Stotts, who was a former head coach in the NBA was our consultant this past year and he worked with all of our coaches and our coaches really value that as well as the opportunity to coach NBA-caliber players and the results show.
SLAM: Being a league that embraces the blogging and online community, can you speak about the publicity that both Rod Benson and Morris Almond’s blogs have given the league?
REED: As an aspiring blogger myself, I love that our players blog and are so accessible. We pride ourselves on being accessible to our fans, helping them to understand what we’re doing. Our guys are great guys who are working hard to achieve their dream and when they tell their story I think it is fantastic. I think you will continue to see, even more blog activity from us, more online activity from us because we think that is the best way to tell our story and get fans to feel like they can access our product and frankly, it is a great way for me, on my blog, to get feedback directly from fans. We are always looking for good ideas and some of the best ideas come from fans so please, keep them coming, we welcome them.
SLAM: Obviously an issue within the league remains that some players will choose Europe because of the lure of the bigger paycheck. During this offseason there has been a bit of this happening in the NBA as well. What are your thoughts on this issue?
REED: You know, I can only really comment on the D-League perspective of this and our perspective is we feel we offer the best opportunity to make the NBA for players who are on the cusp of making the NBA. We’ve shown we are a great resource to do that. Many players are interested in maximizing their short-term financial goals, in which they find better opportunities in Europe and we accept that. I think we are a great alternative place to play for players to achieve their big goal and I think we’ve become extremely competitive over time in doing that. We’ve actually produced five times more NBA players than any other professional basketball league in the world. So those players that are interested in making the NBA, and incidentally cashing an NBA paycheque, we are increasingly becoming the choice for them.
SLAM: Finally, for an SLAM reader who has yet to experience the D-League, what should they know about it?
REED: You will find that it is an extremely high caliber of play. You will be surprised at how great the basketball is. It’s made up of all-conference and all-american performers from college who for whatever reason haven’t made it to the NBA, so you’ll not only be very pleasantly surprised at the quality of play, you will also see players that you recognize, if you followed college basketball and if you follow high school basketball. The arena environments are great, you sit right on top of the action, prices are very, very affordable and the games are a lot of fun. There is a lot of interactive entertainment both for a basketball junkie and for families alike. It is really a combination of the best elements of college basketball, minor league baseball and the NBA. I think it’s a great time so if you happen to live in a D-League market, or find yourself in a D-League market to check it out and if not, log in to NBA Futurecast on nba.com/dleague and watch a game online. I promise, you will want to come back and watch again.
SLAM would like to thank Dan Reed for taking the time for this interview as well as encourage all readers to check out the NBA D-League. If you are a basketball fan, you won’t be disappointed.