Wizards: No timetable in making a decision

MIKE McCLEARY/Tribune Joe Lacob, one of the owners of the Wizards, has no timetable in making a decision to relocate the team.

For Joe Lacob, it's a $2 million question, the first one Dakota Wizards fans have for the team's new owner. Even Mayor John Warford posed it when Lacob was in town for the Wizards' tipoff celebration last week.

Do the Wizards' have a future in Bismarck beyond this season?

When the Warriors - who are owned by Lacob and Hollywood mogul Peter Guber - bought the Wizards in June, they acknowledged that they would consider relocating the team after the 2011-12 season.

"I'm very open and honest about the fact that we're going to look at that," Lacob said. "We're going to see how this develops over the year, and then we're going to make a decision. We don't know. We're going to look at all the aspects.

"... We knew it was strategically important to get a D-League team - that this was a great specific opportunity, that this community would support it and has supported it," Lacob said. "But we have to evaluate what's the best thing for us long-term, obviously."

Lacob said he has no timetable for making a decision, pointing out that the NBA labor negotiations have been his top priority.

"Frankly, at the NBA level we have a number of issues we're trying to resolve," Lacob said with a laugh. "We bought the Warriors less than a year ago, and we've had a lot of management changes. We've had a lot to do."

Lacob said the trip to Bismarck for the tipoff celebration, which drew approximately 600 fans to the Civic Center, was an important early step in the evaluation process.

"So far we feel like we've gotten a very warm reception," Lacob said. "We've sold a fair amount of tickets. Hopefully we'll sell some more, bring in some more sponsorships, as people start to understand our commitment and our passion to integrating the Wizards and the Golden State Warriors."

Lacob said that he believes that buying a D-League team puts the Warriors at the forefront of a trend.

"We do believe firmly that long-term that is the way it's going to be in the NBA," Lacob said. "We think that every team will have a single organization it will be affiliated with and perhaps own its own D-League team. We see it more like major league baseball than it has been in the past."

"I think it's been a very under-utilized platform to this point."

As the Warriors stated when they purchased the Wizards, the top criteria used to evaluate whether to stay in Bismarck is how well they can develop talent. Relocating the franchise to northern California would seem to help in that regard, but Lacob said that is not necessarily the case.

Lacob said that a number of other factors, including attendance, will be weighed as the Warriors decide the future of the Wizards.

"I think it's multi-faceted," Lacob said. "Obviously it's very important for the community to continue to show support for the team. It's important for us as a business that this business does well and is self-sustaining, let's put it that way. But I think it's also very important what goes on on our end in terms of how the integration between the Warriors and the Wizards is working.

"We have this grand plan," he added. "We have to see how it works at a distance. Maybe it works from a long distance. Maybe it works fine. Maybe it doesn't. I really don't know the answer to that. None of us do.

"We're going to experience it with you."