The D-League has a lot going on -- they'll tell you every chance they get that 20% of NBA players have D-League experience. It's worth watching for the basketball.
But it's also an incubator of ideas that may be coming soon to the NBA.
For instance, this year NBA players are wearing tighter, lighter uniforms. I'll give you one guess where those came from.
Trying out ideas that are being considered for the NBA is an acknowledged role of the D-League.
So it is with some interest that I notice the NBA's announcement that two basic rules of basketball will be different in the D-League this year:
Overtime will be just three minutes, instead of five.
The NBA goaltending rule (where you can't touch the ball when it's on the rim) will be replaced with the international one (where you can).
I am optimistic about both. A close game reaches a fever pitch in crunch time. Then when overtime starts, the energy level in the arena falls off a cliff. With the timeouts and everything, you know you're safe to go to the bathroom, because this thing won't be decided for a while.
But a three-minute overtime -- that just takes crunch time and more or less continues it. It also diminishes slightly the effect of foul trouble -- now a team would be asked to play two fewer minutes without its key player, for instance.
Grabbing the ball off the rim, meanwhile, is an exciting play. That's by definition an "above the rim" play, and those are fun to watch. Right now, a lot of the time the ball is available above the rim, the finest athletes in the world are, by rule, standing around and watching it. Now, they'll be jumping. Hard to see the downside in that.
The D-League has also been home to various other things that may be coming to the NBA one day. For instance, they let the teams that win their divisions in the regular season pick their playoff opponents, which is brilliant. They also have every game streaming online for free, and they have also experimented with various different Spalding balls, one of which may one day replace the standard leather NBA ball.