Back in July, Justin presented the question of whether or not the Clippers should invest in a D-League franchise. With an owner with deep pockets that is willing to spend on the success of the franchise, it seems that the real question should be when, and not if. With the Indiana Pacers completing the purchase of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, every D-League team is now owned by an NBA team, leaving the Clippers, as well as 10 other NBA teams, without a D-League option for the upcoming season.
NBA Teams without NBDL Affiliation:
Los Angeles Clippers
With this change in the NBDL landscape, it is now time for the Clippers to move full steam ahead and invest in a D-League team. But where should this new team be located? There are actually many viable options, with a fair amount of cities that would definitely be interested and able to support a D-League team. Here are a few options:
The city of Seattle has been desperately trying to obtain an NBA franchise ever since the Sonics bolted for Oklahoma City in 2008 to become the Thunder. As part of the move, it was agreed that the city of Seattle would hold on to the Sonics name and team history, which will allow whichever team that ends up there, an already deep history, including a NBA championship in 1979.
Seattle actually came very close to hosting an NBA team again in 2013, when the Maloof brothers were in serious discussions to sell the team to an ownership group based out of Seattle, led by Chris Hansen, Eric and Peter Nordstrom, and Steve Ballmer. The NBA did everything it could to avoid relocation, with the NBA Board of Governors Relocation Committee voting 7-0 against relocation to Seattle, and eventually, the Kings were sold to a group of investors led by Vivek Ranadivé, keeping the team in Sacramento.
With relocation looking like a long shot, and the NBA pretty happy with the number of teams in the league, basketball fans in Seattle might have to come to terms that it will be a while for the city to host a NBA franchise. The next best option would be to host a NBDL team, and prove that the city can and is ready to support a professional basketball team.
The Clippers, with new owner Steve Ballmer, have the money and the city connections to be successful in Seattle. The city is in the stages of trying to build a new arena to replace KeyArena. Chris Hansen, who Ballmer was involved with in the attempt to bring the Kings to Seattle, is the primary investor in the new arena. In the meantime, the new D-League team could play at KeyArena. Other options for the team, if they want a smaller venue, would be Xfinity Arena in Everett, or ShoWare Center in Kent.
What better option for the Clippers D-League affiliate than their former home city, San Diego, CA. With a team based in San Diego, they would not only help provide basketball to some of their long time and loyal fans in the south, but would also have a team that is close enough to Los Angeles to be able to call someone up in a pinch.
The only problem with San Diego is the stadium options. The Clippers former home, Valley View Casino Center, is not what one would call state of the art. Other stadium options in the area would be Viejas Arena, home of San Diego State basketball, and the much smaller Jenny Craig Center, home of the University of San Diego basketball.
Sin City has been trying to get involved in professional basketball for a very long time now. Last summer, the Clippers held training camp there. Also, the US Mens Basketball holds its annual summer camp in Las Vegas. The city of Las Vegas could promote the D-League team as a tourist attraction, while local residents would get a chance to watch potential future NBA players.
Vegas, with all the resort hotels, has plenty of options to host home games of a basketball team. Thomas & Mack Center usually comes to mind first, as they already host college basketball and the UNLV Runnin' Rebels. Better than Thomas & Mack is a new arena being built on the strip, currently named Las Vegas Arena. This brand new arena will be able to host over 18,000 people for basketball games. Other arena options would be Orleans Arena and MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Orange County, always part of Los Angeles, but never wants to be. Look at the mess that is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. But, it is still a viable sports market, with proven success in baseball and hockey. With a D-League team based out of Anaheim, the Clippers would have a team very close to home, that their fan bases in Los Angeles and San Diego would be within a reasonable drive to see.
Anaheim has always been interested in a basketball team, ever since Honda Center (then known as Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim) opened in 1993. The Clippers actually played a few games a year at the Pond from 1994-1999, but once Staples Center opened in Downtown Los Angeles, the city of Anaheim was left with no professional basketball. Another smaller option just outside of Anaheim would be the Bren Events Center on the campus of UC Irvine, where the Clippers will hold their training camp prior to the start of this season.
Another close to home option would be the city of Ontario. Many basketball fans in the Inland Empire might feel left out at times, opting to miss out on attending live basketball games to avoid the commute to Los Angeles in the heart of rush hour traffic. But, what if a professional team played closer to home? Would Ontario be able to support a D-League team?
One thing that is not a problem is a venue. The city of Ontario already has an arena that is the perfect size for a NBDL team. Citizens Business Bank Arena can hold just over 10,000 fans for a basketball game, giving it a "not too big" feeling for a minor league basketball team, but also, not to small as to feel like you are playing in a high school gym.
Albuquerque New Mexico would be a long shot for a Clippers D-League team. It has neither the great location, or great connection that the above cities have. But, it is an option, having hosted a D-League team in the past. There are also some already available options for a team to play. But, can the city support a team? They already had a chance, but lost their team when the Cleveland Caveliers purchased the Thunderbirds and moved them to Canton, OH.
Santa Ana Star Center would be the probable choice for an arena, being that the venue has already hosted a D-League team. Other options would be WisePies Arena, better known as The Pit, home of the University of New Mexico Lobos, and the Tingley Coliseum.