Sports

We could do the D-League, right?

It's time to bring Billy Thomas home.

If you're under 30, you may not remember Thomas, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who played on some of Roy Williams' greatest teams at Kansas.

The 34-year-old was on the conference all-freshman team — for the Big Eight!

What's he doing these days, you may wonder?

He's still playing basketball for something called the Maine Red Claws, in the well-hidden secret that is the NBA Developmental League.

Yes, after stints with three NBA teams (Nets, Wizards and Cavaliers), and stops in the Philippines (for the Tanduay Rhum Masters), Italy (Coop Nordest Trieste), Serbia (Red Star Belgrade) and Greece (EKK Kavala), Thomas is back in the premier minor basketball league in the United States — the poorly-named DL.

For a league which is fully funded by the NBA, the D-League receives less attention than its much-more hyped and financially struggling WNBA cousin.

Looking for former Big 12 stars JamesOn Curry, Martin Zeno and Curtis Jerrells? Check out the DL. How about Kevin Pittsnogle, that goofy, tattooed dude from West Virginia, who seemed to have better range than Jerry West? He's averaging 10.9 points for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds.

The league, which has 16 teams, stretches from Portland, Maine, home of the lobster-themed Red Claws, to Los Angeles.

All the teams are affiliated with at least one NBA team, which allows them to store players like Kansas State's Bill Walker, who was called up to the Celtics this week after a month-long stint in Maine.

So, with less than two weeks until Intrust Bank Arena opens, I ask this: Where is our D-League team?

Couldn't we be just as good, if not a better, host city as places like Portland, Maine; Bismarck, N.D.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Hildago, Texas or Orem, Utah?

Need rivals? How about the hated Iowa Energy, Austin Toros or Tulsa 66ers — I mean, isn't it a given that anything Wichita vs. Tulsa is a reason to get excited and buy tickets? (Or at least adult beverages?)

Think we're too small for the D-League?

Currently, teams play in some places as small as 5,500-seat venues, and in gyms which come close to the James Naismith peach basket era in terms of amenities.

Wichita would be a shining star in this league.

What about other basketball leagues, like the CBA or USBL?

The venerable CBA hasn't played a season in two years, and USBL, which had teams in Salina and Dodge City, hasn't contested a season in three years.

The new ABA, which boasts 54 teams, is a joke, as teams fail to show up to complete games and it's more of a glorified pickup schedule.

That league's Web site ranks its top teams, offering these instructions: "There are a lot of new teams in the Top 24. If you fell out, a win or two will get you back. And the best way to do that is to play your games and win them. We think we're getting a pretty accurate picture."

Uh, yes. An accurate picture of a league which has more credibility issues than the Wichita Aviators' American Professional Football League debacle.

So back to our guy Thomas. Hey, if he were willing to play for the Kansas Cagerz for parts of three seasons, we think he'd be amicable to the second-generation Wichita Outlaws (no 'z' required) or Pilots, or Bombers or AirCaps (my personal favorite from the name the team contest a few years ago by the Wingnuts) or whatever.

I'm ready for some hoops. D-League, are you listening?

Let's go to the highlights — A special R 'n' G memorial goes out to sportscaster George Michael, who died this week.

Michael's weekly syndicated highlight show, the George Michael Sports Machine, has been described as Sportscenter for those without cable.

While I'm saddened by our loss of Michael, who was a nice guy and a professional, I can't say I was a big fan of the GMSM. It was on par with Sportscenter the same way Sam's Club cola is equal to Coke. If you never had tasted the latter, you'd think the former was a great soda.

For years, I remember watching the GMSM for highlights of my baseball team to be shown.

Yeah, not so much. George was a pioneer in the field of showing bull riding and NASCAR. While I may have developed an appreciation for both sports eventually, I just remember thinking as a kid, wait, who is this King Petty guy? And why can't I find out if Kirk Gibson got a home run?

Of course, you may have the same reaction now to watching Sportscenter, in between the Budweiser Hot Seat, the profiles of athletes' cribs and screaming analysts arguing about the BCS: Did Billy Butler get a home run or not?

Run 'n' Gun is The Eagle Sports staff's weekly look at the offbeat side of sports.

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