The Frisco Legends, a team owned by Dallas Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson and coached by Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, is looking at Ostertag to join the team either as a player or an assistant coach -- and possibly both -- according to a report from the Dallas Morning News.
Ostertag has been working toward a comeback for some time, as the first mention of it came a year ago this week when the center best known for his work with the Utah Jazz auditioned with the Portland Trail Blazers following three years of NBA inactivity. At that time, he told the Lawrence Journal-World that he was still attempting to get back into shape.
"I have some cobwebs. The more I play, the quicker I'll get it back. Now I'm trying to get in good shape and get stronger. The basketball will come," Ostertag said. "I've been working hard since June to get weight off to where I can be productive. I'm in the mode I don't want to work this hard for nothing. I want to get my feet planted somewhere, get in veterans camp, and in the preseason maybe somebody will like what they see."
Keep in mind those comments date to June 2009, so provided that he stuck with it through the winter, Ostertag is probably the most in-shape 7-foot-2 37-year-old currently trying to make a comeback to professional basketball. While it may sound ludicrous for an 11-year NBA veteran to attempt to play in the D-League four seasons after he retired, it isn't frowned upon by the league's higher-ups. D-League president Dan Reed explained the Development League makes sense for a player like Ostertag during an April 2009 interview when then-35-year-old Othella Harrington joined the league:
In general, we look to sign talented players who are in the "development" stage of their careers, and whom NBA teams have expressed interest in evaluating further. This usually means we sign younger prospects (and we do have an 18 year old age minimum), however periodically there is an accomplished veteran who wants to continue playing for a shot to get into the NBA. As long as said player can still compete and a few NBA teams tell us they're interested in seeing him play, we'll usually offer him a slot.
We also think a player like this can play an important role as a mentor and advisor to our younger prospects -- for example, does Mike Taylor from the Idaho Stampede become the first NBA D-League player drafted to the NBA without learning from an 10-year NBA veteran like Randy Livingston every day in practice? Finally, players like Othella and Randy are sometimes interested in participating in the D-League in order to start a transition into coaching, and as you know another objective of ours is to help develop coaches for the NBA. Randy is an example of a guy who has managed this transition quite successfully.
Though there hasn't been any indication that Ostertag is looking to get into coaching, there is no doubt Ostertag knows all of the little tricks it takes to stick in the NBA. If Ostertag was able pass on what he learned during his 11-year playing career to his younger brethren, that could be just the key to what makes one of his teammates a bona fide NBA player.
And maybe, just maybe, Ostertag could join them on an NBA bench as well.