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Old 07-26-2013, 04:18 AM   #297
Xiao Yao You
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Default Re: The sure to be epic 2013 Jazz off-season!


The remaining 16 NBA teams share three D-League affiliates. While teams with single affiliations hire their coaches, provide support and direct on-court decisions, others like the Jazz have to live with the decisions of their independently owned affiliates.

"There certainly is a breaking point where the system might not work as well for everyone involved," said Dan Reed, the D-League president.

The NBA is moving toward a day when every NBA team has its own affiliate — one D-League executive hopes within five years — but it remains unclear how the Jazz will get there. The Larry H. Miller Group-owned organization attempted to partner with Reno before its alignment with Sacramento. Jazz president Randy Rigby has expressed an interest in putting an expansion team in St. George.

What’s clear at this point, however, is not only that the D-League model is evolving rapidly, but that teams like the Jazz are at a competitive disadvantage.

"The disadvantage," said David Fredman, the Jazz’s director of player personnel, "is you don’t have full control of your players. The coaches cooperate, but now they have all these teams they have to cooperate with. So if you have multiple players at the same position, they have to figure it out."

As an executive with the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, Dennis Lindsey saw the benefits of mining the D-League. There, the Rockets and Spurs found players such as Chuck Hayes and Danny Green.

The D-League is not just a training ground for players, but also for coaches, executives and support staff. Since 2002, every new NBA referee has come from the D-League. Three former head coaches of the Austin Toros, the Spurs affiliate, are now assistants on NBA benches, including Jones, who led the Toros to the 2011 D-League championship.

Lindsey has implemented a number of the Spurs’ methods since being hired as the Jazz GM a year ago, including a camp for veteran free agents and, in the fall, an open gym.

"I knew when they were able to work it out and [Lindsey] took the job," Fredman said, "I knew we would eventually have a D-League team. I felt very strongly that we would."

To be true to his philosophy of seeing and working with as many players as possible, it would only make sense that the Jazz would have their own D-League affiliate, and utilize it as the Spurs do with Austin and Oklahoma City and their affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers, freely sending players back and forth.

"That’s safe to say," Lindsey said, "but not at any cost."

Cost is where things begin to get tricky.

When it comes to single affiliation, there are two paths. A "hybrid" model, in which the D-League team is locally owned, but operated by the parent organization (Reno and Sacramento is one example). The other model is outright ownership. While ideas within the organization differ, Rigby said the Jazz are less likely to buy a team outright.

"The cost is expensive to buy the ownership of the team right now," he said. "As we’ve seen the models, it’s a break-even to maybe a losing half a million dollars."

He estimates that a hybrid affiliation would cost up to $400,000 a year.

In the big money world of NBA basketball, where luxury is a prerequisite, that’s pocket change.

Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey says it won't be easy, but he would like to put a D-League franchise in St. George at some point in the next few years.

Fredman puts it this way: "If teams are going to pay $3 million for a draft pick, why wouldn’t you invest ‘X’ amount of dollars to develop that draft pick?"

The Jazz are willing to spend that money. They were active in talks with Reno owner Herb Santos Jr. before he decided Sacramento provided a better geographic fit and more opportunities for cross-promotion. For example, the folks of Sacramento may be more responsive to advertisements of Reno’s skiing and outdoor activities than Utahns, who have the same benefits in their backyard.

Santos is sympathetic, though, to the remaining independent D-League teams that are juggling so many NBA teams.

"Multiple affiliates makes it a little bit more of a puzzle," he said. "There’s only so many players that can be get sent down, it may be a little more difficult for the NBA teams."

Flash in the pan

Any study of the Jazz’s D-League future must consider its past, namely, the Utah Flash. The Orem-based affiliate was part of an ambitious development plan by tech millionaire Brandt Andersen, but suspended play in 2011. The rights to the team were sold this year to Philadelphia, which revitalized the franchise as the Delaware 87ers.

Rigby blames the market for the Flash’s failure, as its proximity to an NBA market and popular college basketball teams pushed it down the list of basketball options for fans.

Beyond that, Andersen had made his money fast, and desperately wanted to be a professional sports team’s owner. Jones, who coached the team its first season, said Andersen thought "everything he touched was going to be great" but that "his business model was not valid."

"He just got a little ahead of himself," he said. "He just though the world was his oyster, he thought he was going to be Mark Cuban."

Fredman, who started his career with the Jazz in New Orleans and had recently been fired in Denver, was hired as the team’s general manager. A longtime advocate of a minor league basketball system, he vowed to run the team like a smaller version of the Jazz.

"I said, ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it like it’s a Triple-A minor league baseball team,’ " Fredman said. " ‘We’re going to do every single thing the Jazz do.’ "

While the Flash were also affiliated with the Boston Celtics, it was the closest the Jazz have come to the preferred D-League model.

Since the team folded, the Jazz have been watching for opportunities. The Idaho Stampede would have been a logical partner, but Portland swooped in last year and "at the time," Rigby said, "we were not ready."

Bakersfield, the Iowa Energy (based in Des Moines) and the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Mad Ants are the only D-League teams that have multiple affiliates, and if history teaches us anything, they will be very popular candidates for single affiliation.

Chris Alpert, the D-League’s director of basketball operations, mused about the possibility of one of those teams affiliating with one team, leaving seven and eight NBA teams sharing two D-League teams.

Because Alpert said the D-League wouldn’t be likely to put a moratorium on affiliations, there’s only one alternative.

"We’re going to have to seriously consider expanding," he said.

Said his boss, Reed, the D-League president: "We’re terrified of growing too fast and losing all our momentum. But at the same time we’re seeing a lot of demand in the marketplace right now."

All of which feeds Rigby’s dream scenario.

He is careful with his phrasing, and at this point it’s only a nugget of an idea, tucked away for a time when an opportunity may arise: St. George. The city and its surrounding area is home to more than 100,000 people — a half-day’s drive or a short flight from Salt Lake City — and is a place untapped by professional sports.

Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey says it won't be easy, but he would like to put a D-League franchise in St. George at some point in the next few years.

"That would be a market that is four hours away," Rigby said. It "has a very good fan base. We maybe would have an interest in doing something like that."

Twitter: @tribjazz

16 teams for 3 D-League teams is ridiculous! What if they all want to send guys down not that the Jazz have taken advantage of it much even when they had a team down the highway in Orem. I assume Lindsey will use it more though like the Spurs do. Needs to be like minor league baseball or at least hockey eventually. The sooner the better.
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