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Orlando Magic are in discussions with a D-League team to create a hybrid affiliation

PHILADELPHIA — With expansion of the NBA Development League into the Southeast potentially years away, the Orlando Magic have begun discussions with an existing D-League team to create a one-to-one affiliation arrangement that could begin as early as the 2014-15 season, Magic CEO Alex Martins told the Orlando Sentinel.

Magic executives want to create a hybrid relationship with a D-League team in which the Magic would run a D-League team's basketball operations but would not own the team and would not run the business side of the team.

Martins would not disclose the identity of the existing D-League team that the Magic have targeted as a potential partner. But the Erie (Pa.) BayHawks' three-year partnership with the New York Knicks is scheduled to end this season, a BayHawks spokesman said.

Having a one-to-one affiliation with a D-League team would offer several benefits to the Magic. It would enable the Magic to use the same terminology and concepts with their D-League team that they use in Orlando. That would make things easier for the Magic if they want to send young, inexperienced players to the minors in order to develop those players and keep them in game shape.

The Magic's current D-League affiliation is with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, but the Magic share the Mad Ants with the Charlotte Bobcats, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies and Milwaukee Bucks. That arrangement — and the Indiana location — is less than ideal for the Magic. The Magic haven't sent any players there this season and also didn't use the D-League in 2011-12 or 2012-13, when the Magic and other NBA teams shared an affiliation with the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

This season, 14 NBA teams have one-to-one partnerships with D-League teams. About half of the D-League teams are owned completely by NBA franchises.

The Magic would prefer to have a hybrid relationship with a D-League team that's located within Florida. But there are no D-League teams in the Sunshine State, and there are no D-League teams in the Southeast outside of Texas.

That's a significant problem for the Magic.

NBA officials want to place any new D-League teams into geographic clusters in order to reduce travel costs.

For example, there currently are D-League teams in Austin, Texas; Frisco, Texas; McAllen, Texas; and Tulsa, Okla. There also are current D-League teams in Portland, Maine; Springfield, Mass., Newark, Del.; Canton, Ohio; and Erie.

According to Dan Reed, the president of the D-League, expansion into the Southeast is not imminent.

"We're not at the point where we're ready to expand in that area of the country at this time, but the interest is there, and so we're interested in listening to people's interest," Reed told the Sentinel. "As we look to expand going forward, I think that would be a region that we would be actively interested in.

"We will expand relatively soon, but it will be a measured expansion. We're not going to grow by 13 teams in a year or two. Our mantra is 'steady, sustainable growth.' But we are at the point where it's time to grow the league based on the stability of the league and the interest that we're seeing out in the markets."

Asked what region is most likely to see expansion soonest, Reed said, "probably in the Northeast and filling out the geographic areas that are closest to our existing teams."

jbrobbins@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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