November 30, 2012

Red Claws turn Celtics green

It's the first year of partnering only with Boston, a 'dream scenario' for Maine's team

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Danny Ainge, president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, visits the Maine Red Claws front office last June in Portland. Under a new single-affiliation agreement, the Celtics run basketball operations for Maine’s team.

2012 Press Herald file/Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Fab Melo
click image to enlarge

The 7-foot Fab Melo is one of two Celtics rookies playing for the Red Claws to begin the year. His college teammate at Syracuse, Kris Joseph, is the other.

The Associated Press

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PUTTING TOGETHER A D-LEAGUE TEAM

NBA D-League basketball teams have a minimum of 10 players on their rosters. A maximum of three NBA players can be added to a D-League team, for a total of 13. This is how a team is assembled (including players on this year’s Red Claws team):

Returning players: Teams can invite players from their rosters in previous years (Justin Brownlee, Champ Oguchi, Xavier Silas, Chris Wright).

Tryout players: Teams can invite players from open tryouts held before the season (none on Maine’s team).

Draft: The league conducts an eight-round draft of available players who have signed D-League contracts (Shelvin Mack, Omar Reed, Scott VanderMeer).

Trade: Deals for players can be made with other D-League teams (Chris Ayer).

Affiliate players: A player who is cut from his NBA team in the preseason can join that team’s D-League affiliate (Brian Cusworth, Micah Downs).

Assigned players: NBA players with two years of experience or less can be assigned to the affiliated D-League team (Kris Joseph, Fab Melo).

FOR MORE

Stories, photos, bios and more on our Red Claws page.

When Sea Dogs fans watched Ellsbury leg out a triple, they didn't have to worry about the Yankees taking notice and signing him away.

An NBA team controls only the 15 players on its roster. A player on an NBA D-League contract can leave his team at any time if an NBA team wants him.

For example, Chris Wright starred for the Red Claws last year, but left when the NBA's Golden State Warriors offered him a contract.

Wright played 24 games for Golden State. He eventually was let go and is back with Maine this year, but he could be gone again if another NBA team comes calling.

The only Red Claws players that the Celtics control are those from their roster who they send to the D-League. Boston rookies Fab Melo and Kris Joseph are now with the Red Claws.

THE LURE OF OVERSEAS

Another way basketball differs from baseball is international competition. There are professional basketball leagues all over the world. Annual salaries range from $50,000 at lower levels to six figures.

D-League salaries range from $13,000 to $25,500 (plus housing, insurance and $40-a-day meal money).

Guard Jamar Smith played for the Red Claws in 2010-11, then went to the Czech Republic last year. Smith was in the Celtics' preseason camp this fall, but was cut from the team. He could have gone back to Maine, but opted for a professional league in Israel.

"You can't play basketball forever," Smith said. "I want to try to make as much money off the game" as possible.

Red Claws coach Mike Taylor, who has coached in England and Germany, said players have to make a choice: stay close to the NBA or make money.

"We'll tell players (that Maine) is a fantastic place. You'll enjoy playing there," Taylor said. "You're going to be constantly visible with the NBA teams, including the Celtics. So that call-up (to the NBA) could be any day.

"The issue is, you're not going to make a lot of money doing it. So you have to respect and understand the fact these guys might go to Europe, because they can make different money," he said.

Red Claws center Brian Cusworth has played in Estonia and Spain. He's in the D-League for the first time.

"I always thought of myself as a potential player in the NBA," he said, "so I thought this was the best road to give it a shot."

Austin Ainge once coached the Red Claws. Now he is the Celtics' player personnel director.

"Most of the guys who stay (in the D-League) feel like they are close (to the NBA)," Ainge said. "It's a risk, but it's an investment. Guys have a chance to make a lot of money if they make the NBA."

The NBA minimum salary for rookies is $473,000. The average salary is $3.4 million.

WHAT THE CELTICS GET OUT OF IT

Eleven of the 16 D-League teams have sole NBA partners (five of them are actually owned by their NBA affiliates).

The other five D-League teams have three or four partners, operating much as the Red Claws did for their first three seasons.

Ainge said the goal is to have 30 D-League teams -- one for each NBA team.

For the Celtics, there is a definite advantage to being the sole affiliate of the Red Claws, and being in charge of basketball decisions.

"I like it now that we have more control over it," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "It's a good fit."

While it doesn't have control over the players on D-League contracts, the team is watching them carefully, noting which ones adjust to the Celtics' style of play ... just in case the Celtics want to call a player up.

(Continued on page 3)

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