Cavaliers acquire New Mexico Thunderbirds, who move to Canton, Ohio

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers will own and operate their new NBA Development League franchise in Canton, Ohio. The announcement was made today by NBA Development League President Dan Reed, Cavaliers/Quicken Loans Arena President Len Komoroski, Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant and Canton Mayor William J. Healy II. The Cavaliers acquired the former New Mexico Thunderbirds franchise, which has ceased operations, and will now become the 5th NBA team to currently own and operate their own NBA D-League affiliate, joining Golden State, the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City and San Antonio.  As owner/operators, the Cavaliers will have exclusive control over all basketball and business elements for the franchise.

“Having the ability to own and operate a D-League franchise in Canton once again illustrates our ownership’s outstanding commitment to creating a culture of success,” said Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant. “Player development is at the core of our process and being able to operate our own franchise so close to home will place us in the most strategic position to take an active part in the player development process.”

Jeff Lenchiner, the editor of, sees this as a positive move for the Cavs.

Entering its 11th season, the NBA Development League is the NBA’s official minor league. Canton becomes the 16th team in the league and will begin play in the upcoming 2011-12 season at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.

“We are thrilled to be the home of minor league basketball for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  This is an incredible opportunity for the citizens of Canton to experience professional basketball in their hometown, and I am grateful that the Cavaliers recognized Canton as an ideal market for their next generation of basketball operations,” said Mayor Healy. “Thanks to the hard work of the Cavaliers, the NBADL, SMG, and the City of Canton, I believe that the Cavaliers have secured a fan base that is hungry to support minor league basketball for years to come.”

Last season, the Erie BayHawks were the Cavaliers’ D-League affiliate and that affiliation was shared with the Toronto Raptors. The New Mexico Thunderbirds served as the affiliate for the New Orleans Hornets and Orlando Magic.

“We’re very excited to welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers to a rapidly-expanding group of NBA teams realizing the advantages of an exclusive relationship with their NBA D-League affiliate,” said NBA D-League President Dan Reed. “The combination of supportive city leadership and an outstanding organization in the Cavs leads us to believe the future of the team in Canton is very bright.”

Leading the new Canton team’s local business operations as senior vice president and chief operating officer will be Scott Woodruff. Woodruff is a veteran of the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization and spent the past two seasons with the American Hockey League’s Lake Erie Monsters as the vice president of ticket and corporate sales. The Monsters are part of the Dan Gilbert family of sports and entertainment interests. Business offices for the franchise will also be located in the Canton Memorial Civic Center.

“We are very excited and looking forward to a great partnership with the City of Canton, fans and the surrounding community,” said Cavaliers President Len Komoroski.  “We have a strong connection with the Canton regional market and we are excited to further engage our fans with a first-class basketball and entertainment experience. We will be active in the community and will work hard to earn support from our fans here.”

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