The NBA Development League, or more commonly known as the D-League, tipped off it’s 2012-13 season Friday night with the first games in a 50-game season. The D-League, founded in 2001, was the brainchild of the NBA Board of Governors and was formed by a vote by the board in 1999. The first year saw eight teams with direct ties to NBA franchises play, but over the years the league has expanded to the current stable of 16 clubs, spread across the United States and divided into three Divisions (East, Central and West).
It wasn’t until 2005 that NBA Commissioner David Stern drafted a plan to expand the D-League into what would be considered a true ‘farm system’, where each club would be associated with at least one NBA team, but they could be, and often are, associated with multiple teams. His plan was to build the league up to 15 teams in the 2006 season and to move out of just the Southeastern part of the US, into various other markets across the country such as Texas and Florida. When Stern made his announcement, the league had only six teams since two of the original eight had folded. In 2005 two new clubs were added, then in 2006 they nearly double the size of the league with three clubs in Southern California and four teams from the Continental Basketball Association moved to the D-League. That season marked the first year an NBA team, the LA Lakers, funded a team to put in the D-League. In 2007 four new teams joined the league, while two dropped out, in 2008 an additional two clubs began play. As of Friday night, the opening day schedule showed the league with 16 teams, five in both the Eastern and Western Divisions and six in the Central Division.
|Canton Charge||Canton, Ohio||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Erie BayHawks||Erie, Pennsylvania||New York Knicks|
|Fort Wayne Mad Ants||Fort Wayne, Indiana||Charlotte Bobcats,
|Maine Red Claws||Portland, Maine||Boston Celtics|
|Springfield Armor||Springfield, Massachusetts||Brooklyn Nets|
|Austin Toros||Cedar Park, Texas||San Antonio Spurs|
|Iowa Energy||Des Moines, Iowa||Chicago Bulls,
New Orleans Hornets,
|Rio Grande Valley Vipers||Hidalgo, Texas||Houston Rockets|
|Sioux Falls Skyforce||Sioux Falls, South Dakota||Miami Heat,
|Texas Legends||Frisco, Texas||Dallas Mavericks|
|Tulsa 66ers||Tulsa, Oklahoma||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Bakersfield Jam||Bakersfield, California||Atlanta Hawks,
Los Angeles Clippers,
|Idaho Stampede||Boise, Idaho||Portland Trail Blazers|
|Los Angeles D-Fenders||El Segundo, California||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Reno Bighorns||Reno, Nevada||Memphis Grizzlies,
|Santa Cruz Warriors||Santa Cruz, California||Golden State Warriors|
Most of the teams are independently owned, but over the last few years, starting with the Lakers, more NBA teams are investing in the teams to provide a more solid financial base and to strengthen the affiliation. Of the 16 teams that will suit up in 2012-13, 12 clubs are independently owned. The four remaining clubs are owned by an NBA team: the Austin Toros are owned by the San Antonio Spurs; the Canton Charge are owned by the Cleveland Caveliers; the Los Angeles D-Fenders are owned by the LA Lakers; and the Santa Cruz Warriors are owned by the Golden State Warriors.
As the above table shows, five of the teams are affiliated with multiple teams, which was the norm in years past, but now most of the teams are affiliated with a single club.
Players have multiple ways of ending up on a D-League roster, which is currently limited to 12:
The D-League clubs have a salary cap of $178,000 for the season and have to play a luxury tax dollar-for-dollar if they go over the cap. Players have three pay categories they can be placed in, $25,500, $19,000, and $13,000 per season. They also are provided a $40 per diem while their team is traveling.
The NBA notes that 96 current NBA players having had at least some time with a D-League club.
Also of note, when Texas Legends coach Eduardo Najera and Tulsa 66ers coach Darko Rajakovic stepped on the floor this past Friday for their NBA Development League season openers, they were both achieving a first. Najera, born in Mexico, and Rajakovic, born in Serbia, will become the first coaches from their regions to coach a game under the NBA umbrella.