Spurs Find Loopholes to Keep Talent System in Place
One of the primary issues with the NBA D-League is that if you invest in a D-League team, as the Spurs (who own and operate the Toros) do, you risk investing in a player's development that may end up benefiting a rival. Unless a player is on assignment with a D-League team, he can be signed by any team in the NBA. So, you spend all this time working with a guy to develop a post game, he starts to put it together, starts rocking people, you're ready to call him up, and ... the Clippers swoop in and sign him. Even if they only pick him up for a 10-day contract, it messes with his mindset in terms of the long-run and disrupts a team's plans.
This is one of the central reasons teams often don't invest in the D-League. Why put resources into something which you can't control, and which may end up helping out your competition? It's a major quandary and one I'd bet will get considerable attention during the brief D-League talks as a part of the CBA negotiations next year.
In the meantime, the Spurs are working around the problem.
Sports contracts and minor league site Sham Sports reports that the Spurs gave Jerrells a $75,000 contract for training camp, which is kind of a lot. Jerrells didn't make the team but signed with the D-League and was placed on the Toros, where he's averaged 20.5 points and 5.7 assists per game.
On Wednesday, the Spurs officially signed Jerrells for the rest of the season, but instead of bringing him to San Antonio to sit on the bench, they immediately assigned him back to Austin to continue playing. So what's the story? The Spurs are investing long-term in Jerrells, using the means they have to monitor his development without signing him to a full contract. This is as close as it gets to a team rewarding a player for playing for their D-League team.
D-League contracts are managed through the league office, so money can't be filtered down through affiliates. The Spurs have essentially paid Jerrells not to go elsewhere, but to stay and learn in their system. That's how you build a strong, long-term, minor league development system, and why the Toros are undoubtedly the D-League Team of the Decade.
More on that next week.