SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The D-League will likely have a new home for the Showcase next season after two years in a row on the California coast, possibly in a venue that would accommodate two games at a time and maybe in a city without a team, president Malcolm Turner said in the latest sign of expansion for the NBA’s minor league.
While the process is in the early stages and a decision is many months away, growing from 19 to 22 teams in 2016-17 with the addition of new direct affiliates for the Hornets, Bulls and Nets makes it inevitable the D-League will need a location with two courts rather than extend the event that already lasts five days with games that run from morning until night. The feeling within the league is that if the change is going to happen, it might as well happen next season if officials can reach agreement on a site.
That leaves out Santa Cruz despite receiving high marks as a host, although a new venue would probably happen anyway after 2015 and ’16 at the home of the Warriors affiliate immediately after two years in Reno, Nev. League officials would like to take the event that combines the best in-season scouting opportunity for NBA teams — the one-stop shopping of every team in one building brings dozens of top executives and scouts — with an important marketing opportunity for their own operation to a different part of the country.
That, in turn, decreases chances the Showcase will be in Las Vegas next year, something that had been considered for 2016 and facility wise would be a natural fit with the two arenas at UNLV that are used for NBA Summer League. Las Vegas remains an option moving forward, but is not a match for the D-League’s geographic preferences.
One neutral site remains a possibility, and maybe even a strong possibility: the Disney complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the former home of the NBA pre-draft camp that now takes place in Chicago. The drawback would be losing the potential marketing push of the Showcase in the city of one of its teams, although the Magic have indicated they would like to operate a team close to home, possibly in that immediate Orlando area or possibly in another part of the state, rather than sending players to Erie, Pa.
“I think we’d like to (go to a venue with two courts), only because we know it’s coming,” Turner said. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s when. If we can start to grow into that model and if we identify a solution that allows us to do so sooner, we’ll take a look at that. Is it an absolute requirement or mandate? No, I don’t think so. We’re right there at that line. We’re starting to think about it as this platform approaches in our business, we need to think a little bit differently and little bit bigger.”
The D-League will be tracking the progress of construction in some cities amid the possibility one of the locations with a team will have a facility large enough a year from now. That includes the potential of being in the same general area as the team, as in the case of potential venues in the Dallas suburbs other than Frisco, the home base for the Texas Legends. Or, the Showcase could be held in 2017 similar to the current format, with one court and more days (not the preferred outcome) or the same five days while starting earlier or going later than now, and then shifting to two courts in 2018.
The D-League may also begin announcing sites multiple years in advance, similar to the NBA with All-Star weekend, rather than months ahead of time. That could be with disclosing the same venue two years in a row or two different locations.
“I would say by summer we’d like to have a decision,” Turner said. “I think what we’d really like to do is get a lot more ahead of it in terms of our planning process going forward. The way this property is growing and evolving, it’s not out of the question that, just as you would with an All-Star in terms of really projecting well out in advance your markets and your venues, we have to adapt similarly as we continue to grow. Not only in terms of the number of teams, but in terms of capacity and some of the pure logistics we just talked about. I would say summer we’d like to have a really good handle on what we’re doing for next year and not just for next year.”