Now entering its 15th season, the NBA Development League – the NBA’s minor league established to develop talent across all disciplines for the NBA – is designed to help grow the sport of basketball both domestically and internationally by offering NBA-quality basketball and fun, family entertainment at affordable prices.
In July 2006, the Los Angeles Lakers became the first NBA franchise to own its own NBA Development League team. Starting in the 2006-07 season, the Los Angeles D-Fenders franchise began playing its home games either prior to or following Lakers home games at STAPLES Center. Beginning in 2011-12, however, the D-Fenders started to play all their home games exclusively at the Toyota Sports Center, the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo, CA.
On three separate occasions during the D-Fenders inaugural season, the Lakers utilized their minor league affiliate by assigning rookie guard Jordan Farmar to the team and recalling him following each game. Furthermore, the Lakers made history on April 1, 2007 when Farmar became the first player in league history to play in an NBA and NBA D-League game in the same day. Joining Farmar, Coby Karl became the 2nd player in league history to accomplish the feat in 2007-08. In 2008-09, rookie guard Sun Yue became the third Lakers player to play for the D-Fenders on assignment. With no D-League assignments in 2009-10 and a one year hiatus from the D-League in 2010-11, the D-Fenders returned to competition in 2011-12, posting the best regular season record in league history (38-12) and receiving the first ever NBA Development League Champion Award (an annual award given to the team that best embodies the D-League’s goals of developing NBA talent via call-ups & assignments). Beginning in 2011-12, the Lakers have utilized their D-League team extensively, assigning 10 different Lakers players to the D-Fenders over the past three seasons (Darius Morris, Devin Ebanks, Derrick Caracter, Andrew Goudelock, Malcolm Thomas, Robert Sacre, Darius Johnson-Odom, Elias Harris, Ryan Kelly and Xavier Henry). Additionally, the 2013-14 season saw the D-Fenders capture their second Western Division title while making history by developing the first ever players to be called-up from the D-Fenders to the Lakers (Manny Harris and Shawne Williams). The trend continued in 2014-15, with Jabari Brown and Vander Blue earning call-ups to the Lakers. Since the 2006-07 season, the D-Fenders have produced 21 NBA call-ups (16 different players) and six NBA coaching call-ups. Included in the list of coaching call-ups are current Lakers Assistant Coach Mark Madsen, Assistant Coach/Director of Basketball Strategy Clay Moser, and Player Development Coaches Larry Lewis and Thomas Scott.
Of the 19 NBA D-League teams playing during the 2015-16 season, 10 are fully owned and operated by their NBA affiliates: the D-Fenders (Lakers), Austin Spurs (San Antonio), Canton Charge (Cleveland), Delaware 87ers (Philadelphia), Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Indiana), Idaho Stampede(Utah), Oklahoma City Blue (Oklahoma City), Raptors 905 (Toronto), Santa Cruz Warriors (Golden State), and Westchester Knicks (New York). The Bakersfield Jam (Phoenix), Erie Bayhawks (Orlando), Grand Rapids Drive (Detroit), Iowa Energy (Memphis), Maine Red Claws (Boston), Reno Bighorns (Sacramento), Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Houston) and Sioux Falls Skyforce (Miami) are the eight NBA D-League teams with ‘hybrid’ single-affiliation partnerships, where NBA teams control the NBA D-League affiliates’ basketball operations. The Dallas Mavericks remain solely affiliated with the Texas Legends.