Hadlock Field was filled when David Ortiz played with the Portland Sea Dogs during an injury rehab in 2008. And fans at the Cumberland County Civic Center are accustomed to seeing NHL players skate with, or against, the Portland Pirates.

Now, fans of the Maine Red Claws may be able to see NBA stars at the Portland Expo.

As part of the new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can assign veteran players — with their consent — to the NBA Development League. It means that the Boston Celtics’ Ray Allen, Paul Pierce or Rajon Rondo could play at the Expo.

The agreement was signed this week, ending a months-long labor dispute that forced the cancellation of the start of the season. Training camps opened Friday, and the 66-game regular season will begin on Christmas Day.

“I think the new CBA puts us in an extraordinary position,” said Dan Reed, president of the NBA Development League. “With more flexibility in the rules regarding player assignments, this will lead to more NBA players developing their game in the D-League, more NBA involvement in the D-League and a much better fan experience for fans not only in Maine, but throughout the league.”

Under a rule that will take effect for the 2012-13 season, there will be no limit on the number of times that NBA players with three years of experience or less can be assigned to their teams’ D-League affiliates. The current rule limits NBA players with two years or less experience to three assignments to the D-League.

Jon Jennings, president and general manager of the Red Claws, said the changes will have significant effects on the D-League.

“I think the new rules further enhance the strength of the league and further the momentum we have gained with the NBA in the last couple of years,” he said. “This is a very big step for the league. It further integrates our league into the NBA.”

NBA President David Stern called the new rules “a vote of confidence in the D-League” in a statement released Friday. “I think (it) will increase the number of players in the NBA who have spent time on Development League rosters.”

Last year, about 20 percent of players on NBA rosters spent some time in the D-League.

In essence, the rule regarding veteran NBA players makes the D-League a true minor league, where teams can assign players to get back into playing shape after injuries. And in allowing players with three years of experience or less to have unlimited assignments to the D-League, the NBA is furthering their development as players.

“These are extremely positive steps for our league and the NBA,” said Reed. “Players develop at all stages of their careers. And by increasing it to three years, the NBA is giving those players that much more opportunity to develop and to achieve their dream of playing in the NBA.”

Jennings likes the rehab rule simply because he thinks basketball has needed it for a long time. In the past, NBA players with at least two years of experience could not rehab in a true game setting until returning to their NBA lineup.

“When I was coaching (as an assistant with Boston), there were many times (when) a player came back from an injury and you wanted to send him somewhere to get him into playing shape,” Jennings said.

Now that’s possible. And Jennings chuckled at the possibility of one of the Celtics’ Big Three — Pierce, Allen or Kevin Garnett — playing at the Expo, which seats just over 3,000.

“That would be a wonderful problem to have,” he said. “I hope it happens.”

Overall, the rule changes are expected to increase the talent level in the D-League.

“We’re definitely moving in the direction of more movement between the NBA and the D-League,” said Reed.

Jennings said he and his coaching staff, including head coach Dave Leitao and assistant Donyell Marshall, will visit the training camps of the Red Claws’ three NBA affiliates — Boston, Philadelphia and Charlotte — to scout potential players.

The D-League now has a roster shortfall because more than 50 players have been invited to NBA training camps, including four Red Claws: Chris Wright (Golden State), Kenny Hayes (Cleveland), and Antonio Anderson and Mike Tisdale (Philadelphia).

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH