D-League tips off with strengthened affiliations
The NBA Development League tips off its 2012-13 season this week with 11 of its 16 teams now having single-affiliation deals with NBA clubs, continuing an increase in the NBA-owned minor league.
Nine D-League teams had direct affiliations with NBA clubs last season. That number was five in 2010-11 and four the season before that.
The D-League begins its 2012 season on Friday.
Of the 11 direct affiliations, five include an agreement by an NBA team to fund the basketball operations of the affiliated D-League franchise, creating a hybrid ownership model between NBA owners and D-League team owners. The latest NBA teams striking such deals for this season are Boston and Portland.
Five other NBA teams own their own D-League teams outright, the same number as last season. The Texas Legends are an independent team, but with Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson as the majority owner of the team, they are a single affiliate of the Mavericks.
“The hybrid model is an accelerating trend, and several more NBA teams are interested in either acquiring their own [D-League] team outright or entering into a financial partnership with a D-League team,” said Dan Reed, president of the NBA Development League.
Reed would not disclose any of the league’s specific financial information, but as one measure of the league, past sales of D-League teams have surpassed $2 million.
Helping drive the NBA’s interest in the D-League are changes in the league’s collective-bargaining agreement. The new CBA, which took effect last year, allows NBA teams more flexibility in shuffling players between the parent team and its affiliated D-League franchise.
The D-League last season had a record 60 player call-ups to the NBA, and 92 players on 2012-13 NBA rosters have D-League experience.
The D-League projects that its total attendance for this season will surpass last year’s mark of 1,055,239. Last year was the third consecutive season the league surpassed the 1 million mark.
As of Nov. 14, full-season-equivalent ticket sales were up 7 percent, and team sponsorship revenue was up by double-digit percentages, though Reed would not disclose specifics.
“Clearly we have seen an increased commitment, more attention and more expertise around the basketball operations,” said Erie BayHawks owner Steven Demetriou. “We can focus as owners on the commercial side, where we feel we have success.”
Four D-League teams have local jersey deals, with the latest deal signed by the Springfield Armor with MGM Springfield. That deal was expected to be announced as early as last week. The other teams with jersey deals are Rio Grande Valley (Lone Star National Bank), Erie (Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine) and Texas (Choctaw Casino Resorts).
One major change for the 2012-13 D-League season is on television. CBS Sports Network will broadcast a 12-game regular-season schedule along with postseason play for a total of 20 games. Last year’s media partner, Comcast Sports, broadcast a total of 80 games regionally.
In addition to the new deal with CBS Sports Network, NBA TV will broadcast more than 30 games, the same number as last season, Reed said.