PORTLAND – As the NBA labor dispute heads to court and a season teeters on the brink of cancellation, players in the NBA Development League are looking at the lockout as a chance to state their case.

There are some concerns that with the NBA shut down and no longer an option, some of the top players in the D-League may head overseas to sign lucrative contracts. The Red Claws, though, view the lockout as an opportunity.

“I really do think it’s a blessing in disguise,” said Kenny Hayes, the Red Claws’ second-year point guard. “We’re here, we’re here for a reason and we want to develop as players.

“Right now, all eyes are on us. (The NBA lockout) gives us a chance to show what we got better at when the (NBA general managers) come to watch us.”

Hayes reasons that without NBA games to watch and scout, the D-League stands will be filled with NBA suits looking for players to fill their rosters. And he doesn’t think going overseas is going to benefit any player, except maybe financially.

“I think some players might do it, but I feel that’s the wrong thing to do,” he said. “What I love about this team we have here is that no one is thinking about themselves first. No one is saying, ‘there’s no NBA, we have to go overseas.’

“We talk about (the lockout) but then we say, ‘Forget it.’ We’ve got to worry about our season here. We’ve got to worry about winning here. That’s what’s on everyone’s mind.”

There were many basketball people who thought Chris Wright, a 6-foot-8 highlight-reel forward from Dayton (and Hayes’ first cousin), would have been drafted by the NBA last June. He wasn’t and is now playing for the Red Claws.

“To me this is a blessing because I’m still playing,” he said. “This is my focus. This is the next step for me in my career. It’s the D-League first and then whatever happens next, happens next.”

Even if the NBA season is canceled — and whether it will be played is anyone’s guess — Hayes said playing in the D-League this year could have long-term benefits.

“Even though there is a lockout, a GM might see you,” he said.

“And when the lockout ends, he might want to bring you into training camp or to the summer league because he saw you and liked what you did.”

NOTES: Justin Brownlee, a 6-foot-7 forward from St. John’s, joined the Red Claws’ training camp Tuesday and spent the last two days catching up. He missed the first three days of camp for personal reasons. Brownlee, who averaged 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds his senior year, was discovered in the Red Claws’ Philadelphia tryout camp, impressing team officials with his athleticism, versatility and strength.

Forward Paul Harris, who played half the season last year for the Red Claws before leaving to play in the Philippines, still hasn’t arrived at training camp.

The Red Claws’ practice at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Portland Expo will be open to the public.

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at [email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH