The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement is set to expire soon, and though everyone seems optimistic a lockout can be avoided, there are still some items that the players and owners need to hash out. Revenue splits and contract restrictions are the big ones everyone talks about, but Carmelo Anthony is pushing for something else — an overhaul of the D-League, the NBA’s unofficial minor league which pays its players a relative pittance but is still depended on by many teams to foster the development of young players.
“If I had it my way, I’d rebrand the whole D-League,” Anthony told ESPN. “I’d rebrand it so it’s not seen as a punishment.”
Anthony said a major issue he has been emphasizing in collective bargaining talks is increasing the number of “two-way contracts” that allow players to play for both D-League and NBA teams, thereby creating 44-60 more jobs. He said he also has been addressing increasing pay for D-League players to make it as lucrative to play domestically as abroad, and language that will encourage all 30 NBA teams to have a D-League affiliate.
The D-League will grow from 19 to 22 teams this year, but the players eventually would like to see all 30 teams with their own affiliate, Anthony said.
The move to make the D-League a more official minor league, akin to AAA in baseball where players often shuttle back and forth depending on roster need, seems inevitable, but Melo is right that it needs more support and a more official status within the league. As far as increasing pay, they can certainly do better, but baseball minor leaguers aren’t exactly paid well either. To make the D-League preferable to a stint in Europe, making players harder to scout, harder to bring back and harder to communicate with, is key for its long-term viability.
The salaries will probably be a sticking point at the negotiating table — they always are — but with plenty of teams already seeing the benefit of having a D-League affiliate, it’s likely that there will be some common ground on this issue.