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Volume 20 No. 42
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D-League, CBS Sports Network to renew

The NBA Development League is expected to renew its TV deal with the CBS Sports Network in time for the start of the 2013-14 season, which tips off Friday.

The one-year deal will mirror last year’s agreement, which provided for 12 regular-season games along with postseason coverage for a total of 20 games broadcast. The D-League also will air 30 games on NBA TV, the same number as last season. Add in local broadcasts, and the D-League will have roughly 200 games on television this season, about the same number as last year.

The D-League earlier this month also announced a renewal of its deal with YouTube, providing for live streaming of more than 350 games again this season.

“We saw a 67 percent increase in the number of D-League games televised and saw an exponential increase in digital consumption,” said D-League President Dan Reed, comparing last season with the 2011-12 season. “We had over 200 games televised last year, and we are excited to continue that growth.”

Comment from CBS was not available at press time.

This year’s D-League season brings the return of one of the league’s past franchises. The Philadelphia 76ers this spring bought the dormant Utah Flash, then renamed the club the Delaware 87ers and moved the team to Newark, Del. Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but D-League franchises have been valued at a reported $4 million.

Reed would not comment on any specifics of the sale but said the 87ers sold for a record price.

The Sixers’ deal also provides the latest instance of an NBA team buying its own D-League club. The 87ers are the sixth D-League team to be owned outright by an NBA franchise. Additionally, the Texas Legends are owned by Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Walsh, and the Mavs have a direct affiliation with the Legends.

Seven other teams in the 17-team league have hybrid ownership deals, where the funds for the basketball operation of the D-League club come from an affiliated NBA team.

The three remaining D-League teams have multiple affiliations across the 16 NBA teams that are without direct ties to a single D-League club.

Reed said he expects each NBA team eventually will have a direct, one-on-one affiliation with a D-League franchise. “We will eventually expand to 30 teams, and every NBA team will have their own D-League team,” he said.

On the floor, the D-League continues to serve as a laboratory for the NBA. The league in the past has experimented with a composite ball, which ultimately was rejected by the NBA; tested lightweight uniforms, which were adopted by the NBA; and tested jersey advertising patches, which were discussed but have since been tabled by the NBA.

This season, the prime experiment aims to shorten games to fit into two-hour television windows. Teams will have seven instead of eight timeouts apiece, and the length of the timeouts will be cut to 30 seconds from 60 seconds, except for four mandatory two-minute TV timeouts. The league also will institute a rule that limits teams to two timeouts in the last two minutes of the game.

“This is year one of a multiyear process,” Reed said. “It is something we will closely measure and evaluate this season. We think two hours is a good target. We feel we can retain and enhance the fan experience without hurting the integrity of the game.”