Nelson Signs With Bulls
Well, I’ve lobbied on behalf of 4 Toros this season: Malik Hairston, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Marcus Williams, and DeMarcus Nelson.Â In each case, their strong, promising play was rewarded with a contract, unfortunately not always with the Spurs. DeMarcus Nelson was signed by the Chicago Bulls late yesterday afternoon. I’m happy that he got his contract; I’m disappointed it wasn’t as Jacque Vaughn’s replacement. Disappointed, not crushed. Even if San Antonio had extended a training camp invitation DeMarcus Nelson’s way, he might not have made the team.
Three quick thoughts, and then I’ll put this one to bed. Promise.
To start, DeMarcus Nelson was an ideal Spurs training camp invitee for three reasons. First, youth and athleticism are needed in San Antonio, and the Spurs should it take anywhere they can get it. Second, Nelson has the ability to be a good defender in the NBA—he basically has the same body as George Hill and is a former ACC Defensive Player of the Year.Â Finally,Â he can score. The Spurs simply do not have enough players who can create a shot, and he can.Â But without having any way to protect DeMarcus Nelson from another team’s call-up, this is the price the Spurs play for making the Austin Toros a hotbed of player development.
In the past two seasons, there have been a little more than 50 call-ups (the number is changing by the hour with late season contracts, such as Nelson’s). 11 of those call-ups have been Toros. Think about it: 1/5 of the D-League players who received NBA contracts did so via Austin. This is not counting former Toros such as Andre Brown and Charles Gaines who moved on to European clubs. Many of those call-ups have gone to San Antonio, but not all of them. They’re obviously doing something right in Austin.
Finally, why would the Bulls, or anyone, sign a prospect like DeMarcus Nelson so late in the season? What good is there in such a signing? The obvious answer is twofold: he either helps their playoff roster (think Marcus Williams’ post-Ginobili call up) or they want to develop a relationship with DeMarcus Nelson prior to summer league and training camp.Â For NBA front offices, the next season has already begun. They’re all at the Portsmouth Invitational, thinking about the draft and what their ’09-10 rosters will look like.Â They’re well on their way to shaping their summer league squads. In fact, did you notice who the Spurs sent to Portsmouth? According the DraftExpress, Dell Demps and Dennis Lindsey are in attendance. If you didn’t know, Dell Demps oversees the Toros on behalf of the Spurs–he is often seen in Austin with–you guessed it–Dennis Lindsey. Given the kind of talent available at Portsmouth, I’d surmise that these men are there scouting as much for the Toros as they as the Spurs. But, as I’ve been attempting to demonstrate, seperating the Spurs and Toros is, in one sense, a distinction without a difference.