Since cutting ties with the Springfield Armor after the 2013-14 season, the Nets have been one of the few teams without a direct affiliation to a D-League team. They have spoken about the future in coded terms: back in June, Nets CEO Brett Yormark said in a letter to season ticket holders that they would announce their D-League “commitment” “in the coming weeks,” but things got held up.
This week, Nets general manager Billy King shed a bit more light on their plans, though it was hardly anything concrete. Per NBA.com’s David Aldridge, the team expects to have a D-League team in place in Brooklyn next season, and “perhaps on Long Island in subsequent years”:
One general manager of an unaffiliated NBA team said Friday that his team has an unofficial arrangement with an NBA team that owns its D-League team outright.
“You’re almost better off having an arrangement with one team,” the GM said. “The only thing is they’re not using your system. But they weren’t using your system in Fort Wayne, either.”
The Nets, which had a hybrid agreement with the Springfield Armor for three years before the team was sold and moved to Grand Rapids in 2014 — where it became the Pistons’ D-League team — hope to have a new D-League team in place that would play in Brooklyn in 2016, and perhaps on Long Island in subsequent years.
“The goal is to have one next year,” GM Billy King said Friday. “Not having a team [last season], we didn’t use Fort Wayne. We worked with Boston and Maine. The way it worked last year … we timed it so when we had Markel [Brown], we worked it so we could send him to Maine.”
At the time, the Nets sent Brown (as well as Cory Jefferson, who has since been waived) to the Maine Red Claws, operated by the Boston Celtics, as part of the D-League’s “flexible assignment” rule, which basically states that if Fort Wayne — the “hybrid affiliate” of roughly a dozen teams — has more than four NBA players on its roster, that players can be sent elsewhere. It’s a complicated rule that requires a franchise to send its players somewhere that doesn’t teach their franchise tenets.
They also didn’t last long. Brown suffered a knee injury in his very first game in a Red Claws uniform, and the two returned to the Nets a week later. That was the only D-League assignment the Nets made all season; when affiliated directly with the Armor, the Nets made frequent use of the D-League.
Logically, it makes sense for every team to have a one-to-one D-League affiliation, and the league is clearly moving in that direction. Given the new TV deal, they have the money to afford to D-League their D-Leagues. But the infrastructure can’t be built overnight; you need arenas set up for both basketball and other events (because no arena can subsist on a D-League team alone), the right people to oversee the D-League franchise from the business and the basketball side, not to mention coaches, trainers, and assistants you trust to implement your team philosophy.
These things all exist and are attainable, and it’s why you should expect to see every team with a D-League affiliate within a few years. But we won’t wake up tomorrow and boom, the Nets will have a shiny new D-League team ready to go.
But even though the team expects to move their D-League team out to Long Island — and it should come as no coincidence that team brass won the bid to renovate Nassau Coliseum — it would be cool to have a D-League team in Brooklyn. The problem in staying is, again, logistics: they’d likely have to play at Barclays Center (note: edit below), which is far too big for a D-League team (the Springfield Armor played at Mass Mutual Center, capacity 7,331), and they would compete with Nets games and other events that generate more revenue than a D-League game.
Update: As a few people have pointed out, the Nets could host a D-League team at LIU Brooklyn. It makes sense, as Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment brings entertainment to LIU’s Paramount Theater, and LIU has advertised at Barclays Center before. It also helps that the college is a stone’s throw from Barclays Center. The only downside: the gym holds approximately 2,500 people, which was below the average attendance for a D-League team two years ago… and the D-League set record numbers this past year.