The Sioux Falls Skyforce will not be leaving their fans anytime soon - Dave Eggen/NBAE/Getty Images
NBA teams are realizing the benefits of establishing a single affiliate relationship with their D-League counterparts. 'One-to-One' affiliations whether they be hybrid, or not, appear to be the direction that the D-League landscape is heading towards. In certain cases this may force teams to relocate and not everyone is on board with that idea.
It was recently reported that the Sioux Falls Skyforce had received an offer to be purchased by an undisclosed NBA team this past off season, and the deal entailed a plan to relocate the franchise which ultimately led the owners to reject the offer. Owners Greg and Mike Heineman refused the offer, which allegedly was a lucrative one. The father/son duo want the franchise to remain in Sioux Falls, and plan to move the team into a state of the art facility titled the "Pentagon" starting in the 2013-2014 season.
The direct involvement trend continued in the D-League this past off season, as the Idaho Stampede and Maine Red Claws ramped up the total of single affiliates to 11 teams. This movement will likely continue, but may force an ultimatum upon teams who are seeking a 'One-to-One" relationship of relocating closer to their NBA affiliate, similar to what the newly formed Santa Cruz Warriors did this past off season.
A relocation of a franchise is an opportunity to start fresh or anew, and also a chance for NBA teams to better connect with their affiliate by having a closer locale to the team. It also opens the door for fans to alienate that particular franchise, many of these teams have been set up in smaller towns or cities and sports fans in those locations have associated with that team, thus generating a strong connection with the team due to the intimacy that is generated at the minor league sports level. This is the difficulty by simply picking up and moving a franchise, but may be necessary for more teams to achieve a single affiliation status as the NBA D-League further develops itself.
Heineman is seeking a hybrid single affiliation with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and that move would make a lot of sense in terms of proximity. The driving distance between Sioux Falls and Minneapolis is just over 4 hours. The Idaho Stampede and Portland Trail Blazers, whom formed a hybrid affiliation entering this season, are separated by a 7-plus hour drive. It is important to consider proximity in forming these future single affiliation relationships, for logistical reasons, but also in terms of broadening while further solidifying fans of both the D-League and NBA team involved in the partnership. Support is more likely to be strengthened by keeping D-League teams within reasonable geographic distance with their NBA affiliate.
The refusal by both owners to sell the Skyforce should be applauded, and due to the fact that one of their four affiliates is positioned so close geographically, it only makes sense for them to continue pursuing a hybrid single affiliation with Minnesota. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the ball club, but for now it looks like they will remain in Sioux Falls, much to the delight of it's local basketball fans.