Pacers Don't See Value in D-League
The Indiana Pacers have had rookie Lance Stephenson (right) on the inactive list for all 17 of their games this season, and the team that has never assigned or called up a player in the league's 10-year history doesn't have any immediate plans to change that with Stephenson.
"Not right now, because I think he needs to be here," Pacers president Larry Bird recently told the Indianapolis Star. "We do a lot of stuff in practice that he needs to learn. (Pacers coach) Jimmy (O'Brien) stays on him pretty tough. I'm very high on the kid. I want him to be part of the team whether he's dressing or not."
Typically one might think that 17 games into the season, NBA teams probably are working more on refining things than teaching new things, but the Pacers apparently are the outlier.
O'Brien agrees with Bird that the D-League might not be the best fit for Stephenson.
"That's going to be Larry's call," O'Brien told the Indianapolis Star. "I don't know if getting playing time in the D-League is necessarily going to be that dramatic of an improvement for him. He might be getting playing time down there, but he's not getting playing time learning what we're trying to teach them."
It seems many teams would disagree with O'Brien's assessment judging by the current amount of call-ups just two weeks into the season being more than half of the record 24 that were assigned all of last season. New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson was the latest to voice his opinion on the matter.
"If a guy is going to play six or eight minutes a game, why not?" Johnson told SportsNet New York. "I think it's a great tool, sometimes even if it's just for a week."
Johnson recently assigned Terrence Williams, a lottery pick last season, to the Springfield Armor.
D-League president Dan Reed, not surprisingly, agreed with the value of assigning players not currently getting playing time in the NBA.
"Given our success of producing NBA players, developing NBA players and all the call-ups from the past year, there's a new kind of confidence that teams and players hold in utilizing the D-League to help develop first-round draft picks and really a highly regarded talent like Patrick Patterson, like Ed Davis, like Cole Aldrich, and that's a really positive thing for the league."
Whether the Pacers eventually see the light is anyone's call, but until they do, they'll be playing catchup to most of the other teams in the NBA.