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The Rockets Are Apparently Serious About This Affiliate Thing

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Updated: I've gotten some new information/found some errors in what I wrote here, so I've made some corrections and addendums. - JL

Yes, I'm back everybody.  After spending the weekend in Houston watching one of the guys in Explosions in the Sky fall down from playing the guitar too hard and a bunch of high school kids put their hands up when Devin the Dude asked where the grown people were, I decided to write about...Houston.  Specifically the news that came out on Friday that the Houston Rockets are "extending" their affiliation with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.  I put extending in quotes because I don't know why they couldn't have done this anyway (other than the fact that the Rockets have committed through 2012), but the gist of it is that the Rockets will be playing an exhibition game in Hidalgo, TX in each of the next three years.  They'll also be practicing in McAllen for a few days before each game.  There also are mentions of some further marketing/business partnerships, but those aren't spelled out.  What follows are portions of the press release, with my comments.

The NBA D-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers and the NBA Houston Rockets announced today in a press conference that they are extending their partnership and as a result, the Rockets will hold a portion of their pre-season training camps and host an exhibition game in the Rio Grande Valley in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The extended partnership also encompasses areas of marketing and business development. The Rockets and Vipers anticipate that under the partnership, the Vipers will gain greater understanding of the business operations of an NBA franchise. These opportunities include developing and integrating marketing campaigns, learning from different NBA-level executives and professionals, and sharing ideas designed to benefit both organizations.

We won't really know what this means until it happens, I guess, but I'd imagine some sort of game promotions partnership and more stuff like "the Vipers wear Rockets jerseys" night, only without the awkwardness for RGV's other NBA affiliate.  I also wonder if, just as the D-League is a training ground for refs and coaches just as it is for players, the Rockets intend to use RGV as a training ground for their own front office and marketing department.

The Rockets and Vipers are committed to bringing top quality opponents to the Rio Grande Valley every year. The Rockets are lining up top teams such as the Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs for the pre-season game 2010. The opponent has not yet been finalized and is subject to teams’ travel schedules.

The 2010 game will follow three days of practices in the Rio Grande Valley. This year, the Rockets will practice at the McAllen Convention Center on October 4 and 5, and host an exhibition game against the 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics on the Vipers’ court at Dodge Arena on October 7. In addition, the Vipers will host the inaugural RGV Rocket Launch 2009 at the McAllen Convention Center from October 3-5.

I'm a little skeptical about advertising the "top opponents" that will be coming in, especially for preseason games, but I suppose it's preferable to, say, the Kings' training camp team.  It's not in the press release, but I've been told the practices will be open to RGV season ticket holders, so that's neat.  (I also hope that McAllen has a Cheesecake Factory.  Actually, I kind of hope they don't so that professional basketball players can make more interesting dining choices.)  In fact, a lot of this press release reads like ways to increase the Rockets' visibility in the Rio Grande Valley rather than make Rockets fans aware of their new D-League affiliate.  Which is fine and all, and certainly a smart thing to do on Houston's part, but I'll be interested to see what exactly the Vipers get out of this deal.  Remember, the Rockets don't own the team themselves, they're just in charge of the basketball operations now.

There are two former Vipers currently on the Rockets’ roster – starting point guard Aaron Brooks and forward Joey Dorsey. Brooks played in two games for the Vipers during the 2007-08 season while Dorsey was with the Vipers for seven games this past season. Both were NBA-assignees. Brooks returned to the Rio Grande Valley on June 4 to sign autographs for fans for free. Los Angeles Clippers forward Steve Novak was also an NBA-assignee by the Rockets during the 2007-08 season, playing in nine games with the Vipers.

It's certainly great that players are meeting fans, etc., but I'm not sure that two games a D-Leaguer makes.  Also, Steve Novak! for some reason.