Three NBA teams, two D-League teams, and a broken foot all in one year tested the mental fortitude of Jeremy Tyler. At the moment, dripping in sweat, proudly wearing a Knicks practice jersey, it’s easy to understand why a strong sense of happiness overwhelms the 22-year old while he recalls the roller coaster of events that led to a roster spot on his favorite team.
“I’m an emotional guy. I feel, sometimes I just want to cry in joy,” Tyler revealed.
Tyler took an unconventional path prior to suiting up for one of the marquee franchises in the NBA: The San Diego native decided to forgo his senior season of high school in an unprecedented move overseas to play international basketball. By skipping the year of college action, Tyler became eligible for the 2011 NBA Draft. Following seasons in Israel and Japan, the forward was selected 39th overall by the Charlotte Bobcats before being dealt to the Golden State Warriors.
A stop in Atlanta, a trip back to Golden State, a stint in the Summer League and ultimately the D-League was not the NBA dream Tyler once envisioned.
“You get to the NBA and it’s so much, so much going on and off the court and even on the court. It can be tough to handle,” Tyler explained.
Tyler realized the D-League was the perfect place to hone his skills at the time – not Israel, Japan, or even the NBA. The D-League offers a commodity the NBA lacks for prospects out of the rotation: playing time. As an assignment player for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Tyler drove to the games, played 40 minutes and drove right back home while returning to the Golden State Warriors. In contrast, he was also a member of the Santa Cruz club when not designated on assignment. The new CBA allows for a player to be sent down as many times as possible during the season as opposed to a limit of three times as stated in the previous CBA.
“I think the D-League is one of the hardest leagues to play in as far as mentality wise but I think guys that just work hard, that really work hard that accept where they are and don’t view it as a negative, they can easily find that niche they had to get them where they were at initially” Tyler disclosed.
Here’s where the conundrum exists for players in the D-League: They have to balance playing well enough to be noticed as an individual while adhering to team principles in order to win games. There was a period of time when Tyler fell into a natural trap of trying to score 25-30 points a game in the D-League but he eventually discovered the right mindset to achieve future success in the NBA.
“You have to fulfill a role and that comes with being a professional and not minimizing your talents but understanding where your talents can best help a team and then maximize that,” Tyler insisted.
He added, “For me, I can go out and score but right now the Knicks organization needs someone with energy, that runs the floor hard, plays defense, rile up the team, is young, just flying all over the place. And that’s exactly what I viewed the team needed when I was in the D-League.”
The D-League created a space for Tyler to find his role. According to nbadleague.com, more than 30 percent of current NBA players have experience in the NBA Development League. Notable players with stops in the D-League include: Jeremy Lin, Chris Anderson, Marcin Gortat, Matt Barnes, and Toure Murry, Shannon Brown, and Tyler for the Knicks.
“A lot of those guys are kind of teetering the fence being able to play at this level in our league and some of them just need that break,” responded Knicks head coach Mike Woodson.
On Monday morning, the NBADL, New York Knicks, and Westchester County announced the formalization of an agreement to bring a New York Knicks affiliated NBA Development League franchise to Westchester, New York. The move from Erie to Westchester will provide prospects close proximity to the Knicks Training Center, which is located in Tarrytown, New York. The relationship between the affiliates and NBA franchises should continue to grow stronger as more and more teams utilize the D-League to develop their players.
Tyler and the Knicks are one glowing example of a team and player reaping the rewards of the D-League. He traveled the world searching for a basketball career but his D-League experiences in Santa Cruz and Erie ultimately provided the development needed to reach the NBA.