Should the D-League be concerned about an upstart semipro league out of Las Vegas?

Feb 27, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Miami Heat guard Henry Walker (5) questions a referee during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Rusty Costanza-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Miami Heat guard Henry Walker (5) questions a referee during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Rusty Costanza-USA TODAY Sports /
Mandatory Credit: Rusty Costanza-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Rusty Costanza-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA Development League is on the rise, with popularity among basketball fans reaching an all-time high in 2014-15. However, even with the recent growth and success, the elephant in the room continues to be the low salaries — players top out at $25,500 and the lowest paid players rake in $13,000. Some context is missing from the discussion as exposure is the name of the game for D-League prospects hoping to take the next step. But even with reports that NBADL pay could triple in 2016-17 once the NBA’s new TV deal kicks in, there are always players looking for a better payday.

Could a semipro league based out of Las Vegas really make a dent in the D-League? One man is certainly trying to find out.

Cerruti Brown is shrouded in mystery. In a time where information on seemingly anything or anyone is at our fingertips, there is not a single thing to be found on the man. Yet, with so little information out there, he’s reportedly got private backing up to $10 million for his new venture, AmeriLeague.

Brown made headlines earlier this year when he told Fox 5 News the league would be offering $700,000 for McDonald’s All-Americans to join the Las Vegas Dealers. That was five months ago. Things have changed. At that time the Dealers were the only team planned and Brown was trying to line up games against Euroleague competition to showcase his team.

The league is set to debut in November, will run for three months and now has six teams who will play each other. All six teams are based out of Las Vegas. They announced earlier there would be eight teams, however, two folded before the season even began, leaving the Vegas 702, Las Vegas Dealers, Las Vegas High Rollers, Las Vegas i15, Las Vegas Westerners and the Las Vegas Wild Aces as the ones involved.

Brown is not only the CEO of the AmeriLeague, but also owns the LV Dealers, which seems like a conflict of interest but there are plenty more questions than answers right now.

The league has been successful in signing some recognizable names, albeit for salaries lower than the lavish $700,000 to $2.5 million that Brown has touted in the past. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that former NBA players David Harrison and Royce White are both set to make $200,000. The league has yet to hit its real goal of signing a McDonald’s All-American, however, with Ted Kapita being the only high school player reportedly signed. Kapita had committed to Arkansas, but was ruled ineligible for this season. Rather than sit out, he decided to roll the dice and sign with the AmeriLeague for an undisclosed salary. Kapita was ranked No. 71 on ESPN’s top 100 coming into this season.

Brown, himself, acknowledged that signing the elite high school players this season would be difficult with most having already committed and signed letters of intent with their future universities. Next off-season the league will make its push to poach some of the nation’s top high school talent, so we will see if these monstrous salaries really come into play.

Back in May, Brown spoke to Kami Mattioli at Sporting News regarding the funding for the league. He was coy but offered up this response when asked about the financials: “When we physically open up shop in two weeks in Vegas, we actually are already gonna have $10 million to play with.” He declined to mention anyone specific.

A closer look into the league’s website will show you that they are not willing to divulge much of anything. They have some quick newsy write ups regarding recent signings, no sponsors listed (but they’re willing to have you as one!) and every story is from an outside website.

While the names they have signed are familiar — Henry Walker, Josh Selby, Terrence Williams and Dajuan Wagner — many people I reached out to about the league are skeptical.

“The guy running it has no resume at all,” one agent told U&M. “No experience. I will be shocked if it lasts more than a month and I suspect players will never be paid. Those contracts are worthless, unfortunately. Likely lawsuits coming.”

“It will fold before it starts,” another prominent agent responded. “From what I understand, [Cerruti Brown] has already had issues with investors.” When U&M asked if he would have any of his players sign there considering all the money being thrown around, he said, “I would not. I’m highly skeptical.”

Now, understand these are just two opinions, but the stigma surrounding the league when you talk to basketball people is that it’s not kosher.

Even Brown seems skeptical. In that same interview with Sporting News back in May, he said, “The million-dollar question everyone should be asking — and I even ask myself this — is (the team) going to happen? Will it work and it won’t be a ‘fly-by-night’ operation?” If he is the savvy businessman he lauds himself as, perhaps Brown is simply toying with us by creating an aura of curiosity around his upstart venture; and maybe he’s telling the truth.

This league has a long way to go before it can even be sustainable, let alone challenge the NBA D-League for minor league supremacy. My only hope is that these players get their checks before it all goes up in smoke.

Upside & Motor attempted multiple times to secure an interview with a representative of the AmeriLeague, but received no response to our requests.