Sources: D-League's Legends lobbying Finley

January, 5, 2012
1/05/12
9:08
PM CT
Khloe and Kim Kardashian didn’t cause the only commotion in the building Wednesday night when Dirk Nowitzki played in his 1,000th career regular-season game.

Former face of the franchise Michael Finley sparked a bit of a stir himself sitting in a baseline seat next to longtime Mavs courtside fixture Neil Hawks for Dallas’ 98-89 victory over Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns.

Catching a Dirk vs. Nash duel, though, is not the only reason Finley’s in town this week. The 38-year-old has worked out for the past two days with newly signed Mavs forward Yi Jianlian under the watchful eye of Texas Legends coach Del Harris, as Finley continues his comeback after a year away from the game.

Yi’s time in Dallas will begin with a rehabilitation stint under Harris with the D-League’s Legends so China’s top player -- as he’s known in the wake of Yao Ming’s retirement -- can ease into his return from a knee injury sustained during the lockout while playing in a league game back home.

But team sources say that the Legends are also trying to convince Finley to play a few games for them to show NBA teams that he’s fully shaken the ankle problems that restricted the two-time All-Star to a limited role with the Boston Celtics in the 2010 playoffs.

Finley, according to sources, is determined to land one last NBA job but is still weighing whether he wants to go the D-League route.

If he does decide to submit his name into the D-League player pool, Finley is not guaranteed to land with the Legends, since they would not be at the front of the line to claim him. But it’s believed that Finley would eventually land in Frisco because his agent (Henry Thomas) would presumably inform teams ahead of the Legends in the waiver process that Finley is only willing to play in the D-League if he winds up with the team just 25 miles up the road from the American Airlines Center.

Should he indeed decide to sample D-League life, Finley would join a growing number of NBA veterans following the same route to try to make it back to the big stage. Antoine Walker, Ricky Davis, Luther Head, Mike James, Damon Jones, Keith McLeod, Mikki Moore and Duncanville’s own Greg Ostertag, who recently joined the Legends, are all on the comeback trail in the NBA’s official minor league. Next week’s D-League Showcase in Reno, Nev., which brings all 16 of its teams to one venue to play two games each, is typically attended by executives and scouts from every NBA team.

Finley is unlikely to join the Legends that quickly even if they can convince him to emulate Ostertag. Harris, furthermore, says he won’t be surprised if Finley makes it back to the NBA this season with or without a D-League stint.

“Mike looks very good,” Harris said Thursday. “He’s in shape and shooting the ball well. He could play somewhere and help someone.”

Finley, in an interview last week with HoopsHype.com, said, "When I went to Boston, my ankle wasn't 100 percent. So after that season, I got my ankle worked on. I've been working hard to get that at 100 percent. I feel a lot better than during my time in Boston.

"With the lockout and the shortened season, I wouldn't be surprised if there's more injuries than usual since there's been not much of a training camp. I'm just working hard to be in shape and prepared in case an NBA team calls me."

Asked about his current relationship with Mavs owner Mark Cuban, Finley added: "I still talk with him very often -- stuff on the business side and on the personal side. We're still good friends. A lot of people tried to put us against each other because of the way I left the team (via the NBA’s first amnesty clause in the summer of 2005). I've never had a harsh word to say about Mark. I've always respected him. I consider him one of my better friends."

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Dalembert 6.8
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2