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.  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.  Finally,  he can score. The Spurs simply do not have enough players who can create a shot, and he can.  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.

The second thought is related to the first. But know that I’m paraphrasing Bruno from SpursTalk who wrote in response to a recent 48MoH post.  The thought is his.

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.  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.  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.

  • Ridiculous Scott

    They’ve more than likely signed him for the remainder of the season rather than a 10-day. This will allow them to put a team option in for next season. Basically, the majority of these final call-ups are actually Summer League signings.

  • NickyDubs

    As I mentioned in response to an earlier post, it doesn’t help the Spurs to develop and showcase talent in the NBDL and then have them sign with other teams. Do you know how the NBDL contracts work? Is there a way to sign them to the organization for a season (or more) while keeping them on the DLeague team? Or are they fair game for any team wanting to poach young talent from opposing teams’ DLeague affiliates?

  • Timothy Varner


    Don’t know if you saw, but one of your previous comments played into my 16th to 15th post.

    As to your questions…

    Keep in mind that the only 3 teams who own their affiliate are the Lakers, Thunder, and Spurs. The Spurs approach to the D-League is unique. They’re the only teams that are actually using the D-League as a proper farm team, imo.

    The only way for a team to control a player’s rights is to sign him to an NBA contract. After this is done, the player has two seasons of D-League eligibility. This is what the Spurs recently did with Marcus Williams, and have done with players like Blake Ahearn, Malik Hairston, and Pops Mensah-Bonsu. If a Toros player is not signed to a Spurs contract, he’s fair game for a call up by anytime. This is an issue that needs to be sensitive to owners and players. It would not be an attractive situation for players–who therefore would not want to play in the D-League–without as much opportunity for NBA call ups as possible.

    So, yes, there is a lot of poaching, and it’s legal. I had a recent exchange with D-League Commissioner Dan Reed and he tells me that this is an issue that is in on league radar in advance of the next CBA, but in a private, backroom brainstorming way. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I will post the substance of that exchange early next week. Give the NBA/D-League time. They’ll figure out how to make this more mutually beneficial for players and franchises. But it’s already a system that is working very well. In other words, this is not a broken/fixed issue. The conversation is more about how to make an already good thing into a better thing.

    Does that help?

  • NickyDubs

    Awesome. Thanks, Tim. Always very informative. I’ll keep my ears peeled.

  • melly55

    but, what about young guys out of high school who want to get involved in the d-league with really good work ethic who arent sure if they will be taken seriously

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