I knew something fishy was up when TrueHoop mentioned that all the new trademarks for the new OKC team were registered for the D-League.
Now just across the wire comes word that D-League President Dan Reed is in Tulsa for a "major announcement."
Does this mean that the Tulsa 66ers franchise, long considered one of the worst in the D-League, is being moved to OKC? Will the new OKC team have a D-League team IN town? The "team formerly known as the Sonics" already had their D-League affiliation switched to Tulsa before they moved out of Seattle. It looks like the Bennett ownership group is committed to a D-League affiliation on a higher level.
I'll have more on this as it breaks.
Odd timing, I have to say, since the new Reno name is also supposed to be announced this evening.
UPDATE: A look at the Tulsa 66ers blog indicates that they've got a new arena built, so it would be weird if they pulled the plug on the 66ers franchise. But I can't figure out why they'd make the announcement in Tulsa if it's a new OKC D-League team. And that's pretty close for comfort for two D-League teams. Maybe Bennett's bought the club?
UPDATE2: This is the first time I get to use this phrase, so let's all enjoy it. An unnamed D-League source tells us that the announcement is that Tulsa's owner, David Kahn, has sold the team to Bennett for a little over $2 million. Kahn also owns two other teams, including the Reno team, and was the owner of the now defunct Fort Worth Flyers. The League's office is not commenting at this time. More updates as they come. The official announcement is at 1PM.
UPDATE3: Another interesting wrinkle of this story is that Bennett has said that he wants the Oklahoma City Whatchamacallits to play in Tulsa. So it's conceivable that he's looking to set up both teams to play in both cities. It would certainly increase statewide interest if the team plays in both cities. It would be a logistical nightmare, one would think, but it's still kind of interesting.
UPDATE4: Confirmed, OKC is now the third team to own its D-League affiliate. I'll try and find out what the ramifications are for the Bucks, who were supposed to share the D-League affiliate with the Sonics. From the league office:
"OKLAHOMA CITY NBA FRANCHISE TO
PURCHASE TULSA 66ERS OF NBA DEVELOPMENT LEAGUE
Third NBA team in three years to own an NBA D-League team
NEW YORK, July 31, 2008 – The National Basketball Association announced today that the Professional Basketball Club, LLC, owner of the Oklahoma City NBA franchise, has reached an agreement in principle to purchase the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League from Southwest Basketball, LLC. Oklahoma City becomes the third NBA team to purchase an NBA D-League affiliate, joining the Los Angeles Lakers (L.A. D-Fenders) and the San Antonio Spurs (Austin Toros) as sole owners of their affiliates.
“As owners of the Tulsa 66ers, we will be able to oversee the team's business operations and provide a valuable developmental vehicle for some of our young players,” said Clay Bennett, chairman of Professional Basketball Club, LLC. “We have received tremendous support from Tulsa for our NBA team in Oklahoma City and we are excited to be a part of the NBA D-League in the Tulsa area. It’s going to be a great partnership.”
Oklahoma City will oversee all aspects of the organization, including implementing the offensive and defensive systems the 66ers run in practices and games, and hiring all business and basketball staff. Oklahoma City will also have exclusive rights to assign its players with one or two years of NBA experience to the 66ers. The 66ers will play their home games in the new SpiritBank Event Center in Bixby, OK.
“As the third NBA team in as many years to purchase its own NBA D-League team, Oklahoma City and Clay Bennett are demonstrating the value the NBA D-League is creating for fans and NBA teams alike," said NBA D-League President Dan Reed. “Fans and families in Tulsa will enjoy the affordable, NBA-caliber entertainment experience resulting from the deep integration with a nearby NBA team, while Oklahoma City will benefit greatly from the ability to closely manage its top prospects’ development with the 66ers.”
The 66ers saw meaningful contributions from NBA-assigned players Nick Fazekas (Dallas Mavericks) and Ramon Sessions (Milwaukee Bucks) last season. Following his time with the 66ers, Sessions became the first player with NBA D-League experience to earn an NBA monthly award when he was named April's T-Mobile Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. Head coach Joey Meyer, who is the winningest coach in NBA D-League history with 175 regular season wins, guided the 66ers to a 26-24 record during the 2007-08 season.
Prior to moving to Tulsa, the 66ers were known as the Asheville Altitude, one of the founding NBA D-League teams which began play in 2001. As the Altitude, the club won NBA D-League Championships in 2004 and 2005.
“We are excited to have an exclusive affiliation with our NBA D-League team in Tulsa. It provides a unique and valuable opportunity to have consistency and synergy in how we develop some of our young players, coaches, and staff,” said Sam Presti, general manager for the Oklahoma City NBA team. “Its close proximity will also provide us great convenience and flexibility.”
The acquisition of the 66ers by the Professional Basketball Club, LLC signals another success on the heels of the three-year old NBA/D-League assignment system. Since the inception of the NBA/D-League assignment system prior to the 2005-06 season, NBA teams have assigned 84 players a total of 130 times, including 19 NBA teams assigning 31 players to D-League rosters during the 2007-08 season.
Additionally, 30 percent of the 2007 NBA Draft class has spent time in the NBA D-League, including first round selections, Daequan Cook (21st overall), Morris Almond (25th overall), Aaron Brooks (26th overall) and Alando Tucker (29th overall), who were assigned to their respective team’s D-League affiliate, while a total of 18 players earned Gatorade Call-ups from 11 NBA teams last year.
The NBA Development League is the NBA's official minor league, and the first-ever basketball league with direct affiliations to NBA teams. Having recently completed its seventh season, the NBA D-League’s goals are to provide affordable, NBA-caliber entertainment to fans of its 16 teams, as well as continue to develop players, coaches, referees and front-office personnel for the NBA. As the single source for in-season player "call-ups" to the NBA, fans of the D-League enjoy the highest caliber of basketball played outside the NBA. In fact 15 percent of players on 2008 end-of-season NBA rosters spent time honing their skills in the League. In addition, it has produced current NBA coaches and 25 percent of the NBA’s referees. The NBA D-League is an innovative and rapidly growing sports property that also serves as an experimental testing ground for new initiatives like NBA Futurecast, the live web-streaming of all games available free at nba.com/futurecast. The League also provides continuing education and professional development resources for its players, and is committed to serving its local communities through D-LEAGUE CARES and grassroots efforts."
No word on the acquisition of the other team name domains.
UDPATE5: Waiting on word back from the front office on the Bucks, who currently have no D-League affiliate, even though they have a major contributor who spent significant time in the D-League last year (Ramon Sessions). They also have no statement regarding the acquisition of the OKC domains as previously reported on TrueHoop.
UPDATE6: Source was right on the money, CBS reports Bennett confirmed the sale was for $2.25 Million.