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Utah Jazz may need their own D-League team — soon
NBA » As league trends toward single-team affiliations, Utah is seeking its own club.


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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.

At a glance

D-League affiliations

Austin Toros* » San Antonio Spurs

Bakersfield Jam » Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz

Canton Charge* » Cleveland Cavaliers

Delaware 87ers* » Philadelphia 76ers

Erie BayHawks » New York Knicks

Fort Wayne (Ind.) Mad Ants » Charlotte Bobcats, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic

Idaho Stampede » Portland Trail Blazers

Iowa Energy » Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards

Los Angeles D-Fenders* » Los Angeles Lakers

Reno Bighorns » Sacramento Kings

Rio Grande Valley Vipers » Houston Rockets

Santa Cruz Warriors* » Golden State Warriors

Sioux Falls SkyForce » Miami Heat

Springfield Armor » Brooklyn Nets

Texas Legends » Dallas Mavericks

Tulsa 66ers* » Oklahoma City Thunder

*Owned outright by parent organization

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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 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.


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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."

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