D-League close to adding teams for 2017-18 season

President Malcolm Turner also discusses options for annual D-League showcase

Scott Howard-Cooper

MISSISSAUGA, Canada – The NBA D-League is close to adding at least two teams for 2017-18 while also considering picking three or four cities to rotate as host of the annual Showcase or even choosing a single site as a permanent location for its largest regular-season event, president Malcolm Turner told NBA.com.

An announcement on expansion could come within weeks, before the NBA All-Star game Feb. 19 in New Orleans. Two of the new operations are close to being finalized to serve as direct affiliates for NBA franchises, with the possibility of a third addition that would bring the D-League to 25 teams.

There is no definitive word on the NBA teams or the locations of the impending clubs. Within D-League circles, though, speculation includes the Hawks replacing the Magic in Erie, Pa., as Orlando shifts its minor-league team to Lakeland, Fla., the Wizards within or very close to the District, and the Bucks beginning an operation in a city in Wisconsin other than Milwaukee. The Clippers have been looking into Southern California venues, but that appears more likely to be resolved next year, not next month.

Meanwhile, the 2017 Showcase ends Sunday at the Hershey Centre in suburban Toronto with D-League officials considering a new direction for the event that brings together all 22 teams in a one-stop shopping scouting opportunity for executives from every NBA front office, along with several from international clubs. Rather than move it around in similar fashion to All-Star weekend for the NBA, while occasionally going to the same city two years in a row, there is a strong likelihood officials will choose a new approach moving forward: holding Showcase in the same place every year for the foreseeable future or deciding on three or four locations and establishing a set rotation, with the single location more of a long shot.

Both plans would help the league and local leaders better market the games, an especially relevant issue with bad attendance, often with a couple hundred fans inside 5,000-seat Hershey Centre, as one of the few problems this time. There will be a strong preference under either outcome for venues with two courts, to accommodate the growing number of teams, which makes UNLV and the Disney complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., two neutral-site contenders along with D-League cities. That Mississauga is a possibility for the rotation despite little fan support is a sign of what officials think of the facility, the organizing and execution of the event and the support from the Raptors905 and the parent club 20 miles away in downtown Toronto.

“I couldn’t tell you specifically where, but I do think we would like to explore, A, whether or not there is such a thing as a permanent home for Showcase or, B, are there two or three venues that we can have in a rotation to different parts of the country, different parks of North America,” Turner said. “Those are a couple scenarios that we would like to spend a little bit of time understanding.”

As with expansion, the D-League could announce the home for at least the 2018 Showcase, and possibly beyond, around the All-Star break. That would be months earlier than in the past, a calendar shift officials hope would allow them to better market the event in the host city and avoid the attendance dropoff from Santa Cruz, Calif., the previous two seasons, to Mississauga.

The lack of a second gym in the same facility in Santa Cruz virtually eliminates the Warriors’ affiliate from consideration as part of the rotation, despite receiving high marks as host in 2015 and ’16.

“The optimal scenario is going into a Showcase event you’re already ready to announce the next one,” Turner said. “We’ve got some catching up to be able to fit into that cycle, so I would expect for at least for next year’s Showcase, purely based on where we are with the calendar, our announcement will be somewhere in the All-Star-to-summer league window. I’d like to be closer to the All-Star window frankly, but ultimately the goal is that as we go into a Showcase event we’ve already got the next year’s location set. That’s our goal for next year.”

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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