Suns, Bakersfield Jam Enter Into Single Affiliation Partnership

by Matt Petersen

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns, Bakersfield Jam, and NBA Development League today announced that the Suns have entered into a single-affiliation relationship with the Jam beginning with the 2014-15 season. With the partnership, the Suns become the record 15th NBA franchise to have a one-to-one relationship with an NBA D-League team, solidifying half of the NBA’s 30 teams as singly-affiliated.

Through this, relationship, also known as a “hybrid” partnership, the Suns will oversee and fund all aspects of the Jam’s basketball operations while the local ownership in Bakersfield, led by Stan Ellis and David Higdon, will continue to manage the team’s business operations and community outreach. Executives and players from both teams will celebrate the partnership with fans in Bakersfield at an event in September.

“This investment by the Suns not only demonstrates how important an exclusive NBA D-League affiliation has become to an NBA team, but is also a strong endorsement of the excellent organization and resources Stan Ellis and David Higdon have put in place in Bakersfield,” said Dan Reed, NBA D-League President. “This partnership also commemorates a very important milestone for the NBA D-League, as half of all NBA teams are now investing in an exclusive ‘one-to-one’ affiliation with an NBA D-League team.”

Phoenix has named Bubba Burrage, the Suns’ Head Pro Personnel Scout for the past three seasons, as the General Manager in Bakersfield. Burrage brings 21 years of experience in the NBA, holding scouting, coaching, video and front office positions. Burrage will continue scouting in addition to serving as General Manager of the Jam.

The Suns have also hired long-time NBA D-League coach Nate Bjorkgren to helm Bakersfield for the 2014-15 campaign. Bjorkgren joins the Jam having amassed a 92-58 record as a head coach for the Dakota Wizards, Santa Cruz Warriors and Iowa Energy. Bjorkgren led the 13-14 Energy to the Central Division Championship and the 12-13 Warriors to the NBA D-League Finals.

“We are pleased to be working with Stan Ellis, David Higdon and the group in Bakersfield in our new single-affiliation relationship,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. “We have worked well as part of a multi-affiliation with the Jam since 2011 and have the utmost confidence in their organization. The hybrid model enables us to manage all aspects of the Jam’s basketball operations. This provides an important opportunity for us to enhance the development of our young players. For example, by implementing the Suns’ style and system of play in Bakersfield, we can make the NBA D-League experience seamless for our players. Bubba and Nate will help make this another important step in our focus on player development.”

The Suns have been affiliated with the Jam since 2011, sharing the affiliation with the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz last season. During the teams’ three-year affiliation, the Suns assigned first round NBA Draft picks Archie Goodwin and Kendall Marshall, as well as Diante Garrett, to develop their games with the Jam. Additionally, the Jam has developed eight players who earned GATORADE Call-Ups during the team’s eight-year history.

"Stan and I are excited to begin this exclusive partnership with the Phoenix Suns," said Higdon, Managing Partner of the Jam. "As we have worked together the past few seasons we have come to appreciate the tireless dedication the Suns place on building a winning culture. We share that vision in Bakersfield and look forward to contributing to their continued success."

During the 2013-14 campaign, the NBA D-League’s 13th and most successful season, 33 percent of all NBA players at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, including seven Suns, boasted NBA D-League experience. A record 62 NBA players were assigned a record 187 times to hone their skills in the NBA D-League, while an additional 36 players earned 49 GATORADE Call-Ups to the NBA.

The Suns become the seventh NBA team to enter inter a hybrid affiliation with an NBA D-League team for the 2014-15 season, joining the Boston Celtics (Maine Red Claws), Detroit Pistons (Grand Rapids NBA D-League Team), Houston Rockets (Rio Grande Valley Vipers), Memphis Grizzlies (Iowa Energy), Miami Heat (Sioux Falls Skyforce) and Sacramento Kings (Reno Bighorns). Seven additional NBA teams will own and operate their NBA D-League affiliates for the 2014-15 season: Cleveland Cavaliers (Canton Charge), Golden State Warriors (Santa Cruz Warriors), Los Angeles Lakers (L.A. D-Fenders), New York Knicks (Westchester NBA D-League Team), Oklahoma City Thunder (Tulsa 66ers), Philadelphia 76ers (Delaware 87ers) and San Antonio Spurs (Austin Toros). Additionally, the Dallas Mavericks have a single affiliation with the Texas Legends by way of Mavericks’ General Manager Donnie Nelson’s ownership of the Legends.


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