(above : Toros mascot Da Bull modeling his throwback duds while scanning the NBDL standings in what Quinn Snyder likes to call “The War Room”)

In what might’ve been the biggest minor league sports innovation since the XFL put a hidden camera in Jerry Lawler’s underpants, the D-League recently announced that for their 2009 playoffs, the league’s 3 division winners could select their own first round opponents from the teams seeded 5-8 (best overall record has the first selection, and so on).  With Austin Toros and the Colorado 14ers in a tight battle for the Southwest Division crown, the San Antonio Express-News’ Mike Monroe wonders “what will the team’s basketball staff do if the Toros win the division and earn the right to name their first-round foe?”

œEverything will be on the table, said Dell Demps, the Spurs’ Director of Pro Player Personnel, who doubles as general manager of the Toros. œWe’ll sit down with the coaching staff and weigh everything.

Included in the decision-making process: The outrage factor.

œJust think if you pick a team with a better record than the one you would have been slotted to play, Demps said. œYou think that’s not going to give them a little added motivation?

Matchups will be a big factor, too. So will history. The D-League’s first round is a one-and-done, with the team with the best record playing at home. If the Toros have a perfect home record against one of the potential opponents, that will weigh heavily.

It’s intriguing to imagine how the system might work in the NBA. Since divisions were realigned in 2002 (when the Hornets moved from Charlotte to New Orleans), Stern and Jackson have sought a way to add value to division titles. Giving the winners a choice of first-round playoff opponents would accomplish that goal.

Imagine the choices in the Western Conference.

As of Monday morning, the Pacific-leading Lakers would be able to choose among the Hornets, Trail Blazers, Jazz and Mavericks. The Spurs, leaders of the Southwest Division, would get choice No. 2, with the Northwest-leading Nuggets getting third choice.

The No. 4 seed would be stuck with whichever team was not selected by the division champs.

The Lakers probably wouldn’t pass up playing the No. 8 Mavericks, but if the Trail Blazers were to slide to No. 8, it might be a different story. The Lakers have lost seven straight games at The Rose Garden. That might be cause for pause.

And if the Spurs were to choose among the Blazers, Jazz and Hornets?

There is no good answer, unless one of those potential foes had a key player out with injury.