The Idaho Stampede and Portland Trail Blazers are struggling with 'hybrid' affiliation concept - Gino Pilato
Over this past NBA D-League offseason, two teams created 'hybrid' single affiliations, the Idaho Stampede (Portland Trail Blazers) and Maine Red Claws (Boston Celtics). Recently, Idaho Stampede managing investor Bill Ilett voiced his frustration concerning aspects of their hybrid relationship. With the worst start in Idaho's history, Ilett is wondering what can be done to help cure the Stampede's struggles?
Only 5 teams out of the total 16 teams that make up the NBA Development League have established 'hybrid' single affiliations with their NBA affiliates. Maine, Erie, and Rio Grande Valley are in the top 8 teams of the D-League's overall standings, all of which have a 'hybrid' single affiliation with their NBA affiliate. Half of the top 8 teams are fully owned by their NBA affiliate, and Bakersfield (the top team in the league) is the only team with multiple affiliates. The top 8 teams at the end of the season qualify for the playoffs.
Based on those current standings, almost half of the teams in the top 8 have a 'hybrid' affiliation. The other 'hybrid' affilates (Idaho Stampede and Springfield Armor) are the two worst teams record-wise in the entire league. Stampede managing investor and staple at every Idaho home game, Bill Ilett, recently voiced his frustrations on his club's slow start, and wants a better dialogue between them and their NBA affiliate, the Portland Trail Blazers.
After Ilett made his comments public with the Idaho Statesman's Brian Murphy, Ilett continued to use local media platforms in Boise by going on a popular afternoon sports talk radio show, "Idaho Sports Talk with Caves and Prater" to further voice his opinion. On the show, Ilett mentioned that " (we) tentatively have at least a phone call coming on later this week." Illett hopes to sit down with the Portland Trail Blazers and come up with a solution for his team's slow start.
When Ilett and the Portland Trail Blazers organization do sit down (if they actually do), they could use Maine, Rio Grande Valley, and Erie as examples of how 'hybrid' relationships can benefit both parties. In fact, if any 'hybrid' single affiliate should be complaining, it should be the Springfield Armor. The Brooklyn Nets' affiliate are (5-13), and have only seen two assignment players for one game and lost that contest . The Stampede have had four total players assigned.
Ilett stated that he wasn't looking to "villainize" the Portland Trail Blazers, but hopes the Blazers "give us a little more opportunity to let them (players) be apart of our community and team." Ilett expressed his solution as, "when they send their players down, my suggestion is leave them just a little bit longer. Let the community get to know who these guys are."
While Ilett's concern is reasonable, the current NBA D-League setup under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement simply won't cater to his wishes. Now that NBA teams are allowed to assign players in their first three years an unlimited number of times, NBA affiliates will assign and recall players to what best suits their team, not their D-League affiliate. NBA D-League locker rooms may need revolving doors with the amount of traffic that is being seen, and will undoubtedly continue.
The franchise which has seemingly figured out the formula best, has been the Houston Rockets and their relationship with their 'hybrid' affiliate Rio Grande Valley. Rio Grande Valley has assigned five players including no show Royce White, and participated in six trades thus far this season. Terrence Jones, who's been assigned twice and played in 9 total games, averaged 35.6 minutes during his time with the team, in which they went 5-4. Not exactly a noteworthy record with Jones, but it's about the total activity that the Vipers have participated in that has led them to a respectable 10-8 record. Patrick Beverly (3 games), Donatas Montiejunas (4 games), and Scott Machado (4 games) have all spent time with Rio Grande Valley as assignment players.
The Maine Red Claws, who joined the 'hybrid' affiliation club shortly after Idaho this past offseason, have the assignment player with the most logged games this season, Fab Melo. As apart of Ilett's suggestion to build some sort of "chemistry" by perhaps allowing assignment players to stick longer, Maine could be an example for him.
Melo has played in 14 games with Maine, and the club is 9-5 with the big man in their lineup. However, with Kris Joseph being assigned six different times himself, and a Call-Up for point guard Shelvin Mack, Maine hasn't exactly had a sturdy roster themselves. Yet, Maine remains the second best team in the league and will ride another wave with Mack as their point guard until another likely Call-Up occurs for the former Butler guard. It appears that sturdiness in hopes of better "chemistry" is almost impossible in the D-League, as seen by Maine this season. But the Red Claws have still been successful in providing their "Crustacean Nation" with reason to cheer.
Part of the problem for the lack in roster activity with Idaho this season has been Portland's rather thin bench. Portland is a younger team that uses and depends on nearly every player currently on their squad. It doesn't seem the flexibility for Portland to send a player on an extended assignment is either possible, nor beneficial for them. For the Stampede, a change to their roster in hopes of more success will need to come by way of a trade.
The Stampede have two trades to their name thus far, and their most recent transaction in which the team acquired Carlon Brown from Springfield in exchange for Paul Carter, has seemed to be a trade that wound up in their favor. In Idaho's last game, a win over the Reno Bighorns, Brown scored 21 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, dished out 3 assists, while accumulating 2 steals and 2 blocks. Brown has increased his season average from 5.5 points per game with Santa Cruz, to 10.7 points per game in a Stampede uniform.
For first year head coach Mike Peck, and the rest of the Idaho Stampede front office including Ilett, success will likely come. However, the team will need to be more active with assignments, and even more so, willing to explore trade possibilities in order to ease the "frustrations" and start piling on the wins. However, will Portland cater to this need, or will they continue to be patient and allow players to develop on their own watch while Illett and the Stampede's frustrations grow?