When the NBA started its developmental league in 2001, many teams were slow to realize the potential for a minor league system. Teams were kind of hit or miss in terms of utilizing their designated NBDL teams, but now the entire NBA has awakened to the fact that a strong farm team can be critical to a team’s success. The Texas Legends, for example, have their coaching staff running Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle’s offense so their players can step right into the NBA when called upon.
“We are running most plays, if not all what coach Carlisle is running,” said Al Whitley, Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Legends. “That way when a guy gets called up it is a seamless transition and he won’t be a deer in headlights.”
One way the Legends approach preparing young players for a potential NBA career is by surrounding them with people who have had extensive experience in the league. Former NBA coach Del Harris is the team’s vice president, former Dallas Maverick and NBA Champion Jason Terry is an assistant GM, former NBA point guard and college coach Eric Snow is on the coaching staff and the President of Basketball Operations is former NBA point guard and slam dunk champion Spud Webb.
“The more NBA connections reach out and tell the Texas Legends that they are on the bubble but they have to keep their head down, keep grinding, work hard, do the right things, be a great teammate, that type of stuff coming from guys that actually did it, I think it is important to have ex Mavericks around. To help motivate the Legends and help develop them,” said Whitley. “You never know we might see one of these guys play in Dallas one day.”
Back Sports Page recently caught up with two Texas Legends with a lot of NBA potential, Cameron Payne and Yudai Baba.
Cameron Payne is no stranger to the NBA and has played with Oklahoma City Thunders, Chicago Bulls, and Cleveland Cavaliers. Back Sports Page asked Payne what it would take to get back to the NBA.
“The main thing is consistency and winning, winning to help the whole team,” said Payne. “Being consistent defensively and offensively, I think that goes a long way and I think the NBA notices that a lot.”
Yudai Baba is a fan favorite in Japan and has quickly become a fan favorite for the Texas Legends giving his dunks a nickname- Baba Boom. Baba is the FIRST Japanese professional player playing in the United States without having any prior basketball experience in an American highschool or college. Baba may not have had experience playing in the States but he has proven that in these few months playing with the Legends, he has what it takes to be able to take his talent to the NBA. Back Sports Page asked Baba what is the difference between playing in Japan versus playing basketball in America.
“In Japanese style basketball everyone looks for a good pass,” said Baba. “American guys are more aggressive.”
Back Sports Page asked the players what it was like for them to be in Texas.
“It is a fun atmosphere here,” said Payne “It’s a great state, Texas has everything. The fans here are great. They come out every game and cheer us on, you don’t get that everywhere and I am appreciative of that to have fans cheer you on every game.”
“The Toyota company is here in Texas and there are a lot of Japanese restaurants around here that I am trying,” said Baba. I asked him what American food he has liked so far to which he responded “I like barbecue and I have been using yelp to look for good restaurants here.”
Frisco Texas has warmly welcomed and has become home to several players coming from all over the world, with an array of basketball experience. The Texas Legends players have the skill, mindset, and tenacity to further their basketball career and Frisco has the perfect mentors and fans to encourage them to do so.