There is this perception that the NBA Developmental League (NBADL) is where the failures and dregs of basketball are sent to exhale out their final basketball breaths. Our perceptions are brought on by the means of our senses -- which by in large is the reason why we feel this way about the more commonly know "D-League."
In the ongoing debate of perception verses reality this is another casualty no matter how false our perceptions are.
Last night Kendall Marshall made his NBADL debut playing a very sound 31 minutes of basketball for the first time since the 2012 NCAA Tournament against Creighton (March 18th, 2012). That is exactly what the NBADL provides young players not getting a chance to play significant minutes early in their careers in the NBA.
That is three less minutes than he has seen in six total games in the big leagues.
Marshall took full advantage of the opportunity scoring 21 points on 7-18 shooting (6-8 free-throws) to go along with 8 assists and 2 rebounds. He took over in the fourth quarter scoring 13 of his 21 points in the final period.
No chance that happens this year, no matter how bad the Phoenix Suns are.
He managed the game like he was back in Tar Heel blue with only two turnovers and some very good passes that reminded you just how good Marshall really is.
This summer and through the first quarter of his rookie year Marshall has worked hard to get better as a basketball player. His time in the Summer League was not eye-poppingly amazing, but he gained some experience. Then at training camp he was deduced to the third point guard as incumbent back-up Sebastian Telfair and new heir to the thrown Goran Dragic positioned themselves ahead of Marshall on the depth chart. That was to be expected.
That notion is a gift and a curse for Marshall because he is not getting any action in the NBA so his confidence will naturally slip, but a good thing because he gets to learn from different veterans.
Marshall is a very cerebral player that plays the game out in his head. He is a sponge that, whether he realizes it or not, is reaping the rewards of being around Alvin Gentry, Corey Gaines, Lindsey Hunter, Dragic, Telfair, and now the NBADL staff in Bakersfield.
One of those names, Hunter, accompanied Marshall to Bakersfield as he joined the team this weekend as part of the Player Development Staff of the Suns.
Hunter has been working with Marshall from day one, whether that is the 150 minutes before tip-off getting shots in or after practice as they go over techniques with ball-handling and more. He has been an iatrical part in the development of where Marshall is today.
"It has been amazing how he has grown in such a short period of time," said Hunter. "It is all attributed to how hard he works. The kid works tirelessly on his craft and he is passionate about it. It is gratifying to see that there are still young guys that care and are passionate about the game."
That would be an empty statement if Marshall was hanging out at the end of the bench with Luke Zeller and Diante Garrett right now, but with his play for the Jam last night he has clearly developed his game since the Summer League.
Marshall was not the only first round pick sent to the NBADL as Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III, Royce White, Terrance Jones, Fab Melo, John Jenkins, Tony Wroten, and more have all spent time there this season.
Perception is everything. Hopefully the NBADL can improve that perception to let the fans know this is a farm system used to help develop players, not a demotion.
The time Marshall spends here is invaluable as his season was basically practice and warm-ups before the switch. That was a confidence shaker and Hunter knew that.
"It is really hard, because he is a different kid who takes things to heart. The biggest battle is talking to him about no matter how many minutes you play; sometimes your games are going to be working out before the game. That will be your game so you have to treat that hour like it is your last. If that happens the entire season then that is your focus, getting better. Do that every single day and by the end of the year you will have a jump start on everybody heading into the summer."
Now Marshall will have that jump and some experience playing with and against NBA talent heading into the summer. Even more important, he has Hunter there along for the ride.
Below is the video of the game provided by the NBA D-League via Youtube: