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What's up with the D-League?

Springfield Armor

Back in May, Billy King and Brett Yormark wrote fans about what was happening with the team's two big projects, the HSS Training Center and a  D-League strategy.

""We also want to update you that our world-class HSS Training Center is on pace to open during next season, which will give our players and coaches a state-of-the-art practice facility in Brooklyn. You can also expect to hear about our D-League commitment in the coming weeks, which would provide our young players with continuity in our system."

While there's been regular updates on progress at the training center, other than a quick comment from King a few days later, there's been silence on the D-League plans. King did fill in some details in June, saying the process had begun but it will take "a couple of years." The description of the start date was suitably vague, but other league sources said the Nets expect to field an expansion team --in Brooklyn-- during the 2016-17 season. Still, there's been no official word on the plan.

Of course, there was never any expectation that the Nets, who had a hybrid relationship with the Springfield Armor for three years, would get back in the D-League this season.  Originally, they intended to work again with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, which was the only independent D-League club, with no NBA affiliations. Then, the Pacers bought the Mad Ants, leaving the 11 teams, including the Nets, with no D-League relationship.

So, with a young roster and a rookie who could use a rehab tour before joining the Nets, is there anything the Nets can do?  There is.  It's called the "flexible assignment" system, which the Nets used briefly last season, sending Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson to Portland, Maine, to play with the Celtics affiliate when the Fort Wayne roster was full.

It is by no means ideal. When the Nets had their relationship with Springfield, they hired the coach, assistant coach and trainer. The Armor ran the same plays, with the same play calls, as the Nets.  With players assigned to other clubs' affiliates, that doesn't happen. Development suffers.

Now, without the Mad Ants, "flexible assignment" is the order of the day and it's even more complicated.  Here's how the league describes the way it works. Warning, it's written in legalese...

With the acquisition, the NBA D-League’s flexible assignment system which was instituted prior to the 2014-15 season will continue to enable the 11 independent NBA teams to assign players to the NBA D-League for development or rehabilitation from injury.  Upon receipt of an assignment from an independent NBA team, the NBA D-League will identify any NBA D-League team willing to accept the assigned player.  The assigning independent NBA team will then choose the destination for assignment between those teams.  If no NBA D-League team is willing to accept the assigned player, he will be assigned to one of the hybrid affiliate teams pursuant to a lottery. The 19 NBA teams with single affiliations will be able to assign players to their NBA D-League partners.

Bottom line: the Nets are dependent on the kindness of strangers at a time when the roster has three rookies and four others eligible for assignment.  Again, not ideal. If there's one comfort in all of this, the Nets will have Willie Reed, who was developed under their affiliation with Springfield. So, it can work.