Each week, ESPNDallas.com will take a look at the Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate for the Dallas Mavericks, in order to see how the two are working hand in hand to improve one another.
The D-League has become a platform for people other than players to earn their own kind of call-ups. Coaches, front office personnel, officials and others are joining players as members of the D-League in making that move to the NBA.
"It's a lot of fun for me to watch NBA games, not just because they're great games, but because I see alumni of the D-League everywhere,” D-League president Dan Reed told RidiculousUpside.com recently. "More than half of the referees currently in the NBA have experience in the NBADL or were hired directly from there.
"We've had 44 coaches get called up to the NBA. So inevitably, there's a coach with D-League experience that we have either in coaches meetings, sitting on an NBA bench, watching a game. … It's a really good time for the league, we're really thriving as a minor league for the NBA, and I still think our best days are ahead of us.”
Once a beloved Mav and current head coach of the Legends, Eduardo Najera could be the 45th coach that gets called up. Donnie Nelson – president of basketball operations for the Mavs and co-owner of the Legends – is very adamant that Najera is already worthy of taking a coaching gig in the NBA.
"With players that come to play with the Legends, we want it to be as congruent as possible with the Mavericks,” Nelson said. "At the same time, we’re developing head coaches. Eddie is a viable NBA coach that could be an assistant at the drop of a hat. He’s had opportunities to do that, but he likes it here and he’s chosen to be here.
"He’s done that because it’s in the best interest for his development as a head coach. The net net is we’re developing coaches and players. As a coach, I don’t want Eddie to be a robot. He’s got to be able to have his own creative slant."
Time will tell if Najera will get that opportunity again to become an assistant of an NBA team. Until then, the Legends will reap the benefits.
Mark your calendars
After their victory against the Austin Spurs on Thursday, Texas (13-10) has a set of back-to-back games to deal with. They head to New York to face the Westchester Knicks on Jan. 24 at 6:00 p.m. CT. They then head over to Newark to take on the Delware 87ers Jan. 25 at 4:00 p.m. CT.
Fans will be able to watch the D-League live on the NBA D-League YouTube Channel (YouTube.com/nbadleague), the Legends’ website, as well as via the NBA D-League Center Court mobile app -- the league’s free mobile application providing fans with access to NBA D-League content.
But not least …
Speaking of the officiating and advancement of the game, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle recently spoke about how Mavs owner Mark Cuban has helped influenced on the officiating.
“Mark’s had a great influence on the way now that referees are graded on a game-to-game basis, a lot of the processes that are in place for accountability with officiating, and he’s had a great influence on the recruiting program for officials,” Carlisle said. “The NBA is much more aggressive in recruiting high-level prospects into the NBA. The reason we have such a great game is because it’s a free-flowing game that’s beautiful to watch. The players are in 3D, nobody is wearing hats or helmets. The personalities are front and center. There’s a lot at stake. It’s important to have the best officials.
“One of the things that makes this game beautiful to watch also makes it one of the most challenging to officiate. You’ve got a great, artistic game that has to be refereed in a scientific way. We need to have the very best officials. Mark has done a lot to bring up the quality of our officiating and the quality of our recruiting of our top-level young officials.”
Cuban’s influence over his 15 years as an owner can certainly be felt in the NBA, but it can also be felt in the D-League.