So far, five NBA teams have an exclusive affiliation with an NBA Development League team with the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder owning the Austin Toros and Tulsa 66ers respectively while the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and New Jersey Nets have all bought into the hybrid system. It sounds like more are on the way.
The hybrid system, in case a refresher course is needed, is a new ownership system where the NBA team buys only the basketball side of a D-League team while the existing ownership continues to worry about selling tickets and the other day-to-day operations of running everything but the basketball side of a basketball team.
Through the lovely D-League rumor mill, Ridiculous Upside has learned that there are now even more teams that are interested in buying into the Development League for next season with the biggest public rumor being the Iowa Energy being bought out by an NBA team as tweeted by Marty Tirrell. That could be a definite possibility with the Energy being close in location to multiple NBA teams, but as of Wednesday evening, Energy general manager Chris Makris denied the rumor.
"We talk with numerous nba teams about numerous topics," Makris said in an e-mail to Ridiculous Upside. "At this time, there are no immediate plans to change the structure of our championship organization."
According to two league sources, both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers have seriously looked into buying into the D-League while the New York Knicks are also still being batted around as a team that is interested in signing on with a D-League squad (something that's been rumored for years).
The Cavaliers make plenty of sense as they will probably be rebuilding with young players over the next several seasons and the Erie BayHawks are just over 100 miles away if they choose to go that option. Youngstown, OH, is also a rumored destination for a Cleveland-owned D-League team if the rumors prove to be true.
As far as the Pacers are concerned, two people contacted on Wednesday told Ridiculous Upside that Indiana has contacted at least one D-League team about interest with the idea being to begin a hybrid affiliation. This is quite surprising considering Indiana's previous usage of the D-League (read: none aside from the hiring of Vitaly Potapenko following his one season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants as the second assistant), but if they were able to instill their own coaching staff, I can see why the Pacers would find it as a low-cost opportunity to develop this year's NBA Draft picks along with Lance Stephenson and any other young players that join the team for next season.
The Knicks are another team that hasn't ever seemed to care much about the D-League, but with D-League supporter Mark Warkentein currently on staff, the team is rumored to be looking at taking at least part-ownership in a D-League team rather than switch it's D-League affiliate for a third time in three years following the loss of the Armor when New Jersey bought in.
In the end, if three (or) more teams end up buying into the D-League, I'm not sure what direction the D-League will go. Of course
every nearly every team is interested in having the NBA teams pick up half the bill each year, but if half of the 16 Development League teams are NBA-owned, that leaves just eight franchises for the 22 other NBA teams to assign players to get minutes and develop in the D-League.
Until all of this becomes a reality (and then a possible problem), however, I'm sure D-League president Dan Reed is quite happy as more NBA teams find positives in his Development League.