D-League: Warriors want their affiliate close to home

WILL KINCAID/Tribune Marcus Dove, left, and the Wizards will probably not be playing in Bismarck next season.


The Warriors have taken advantage of owning a D-League team, assigning Chris Wright to the Wizards twice and Jeremy Tyler once. Wright has been instrumental in helping the Wizards wrap up a playoff spot.

Both sides say the arrangement has worked well — but the Warriors think it could be better.

Ultimately, that is the main reason the Warriors are planning to move the Wizards to Santa Cruz, Calif., for the 2012-13 season.

The proposal still has to be approved by the Santa Cruz city council and the D-League. Joanna Shapiro, the manager of basketball communications for the D-League, said president Dan Reed would not address the issue at this point.

“We have yet to receive formal application (for relocation),” Shapiro said. “Until we receive that, it’s not appropriate for Dan to comment.”

The Warriors have emphasized that player development was their top priority in owning a D-League team.

“As we pursued things and looked at other models where NBA teams owned D-League teams, almost all of them had somewhat of a geographic (closeness) that we’re attempting to duplicate,” Warriors general manager Larry Riley said.

The obvious benefit of having a minor-league affiliate close to home is that it’s easier to send players back and forth. Riley said that on one occasion the Warriors had a player they wanted to assign to Dakota but had travel concerns.

But the advantages go beyond that. When the Warriors have assigned players to the Wizards, they have sent coach Kris Weems to Bismarck to monitor their progress. Having both teams close together will result in a closer working relationship between the two coaching staffs.

Another major plus from the Warriors’ perspective is the ability to scout other teams. Having home games right down the road will make it convenient to assess new talent.

Riley said that Wizards president Jim Weyermann, who formerly worked in the San Francisco Giants farm system, advocated the benefits of proximity.

“In talking to Jim Weyermann, I know it’s worked quite well for the San Francisco Giants to have minor league teams close by, like in San Jose and so on,” Riley said.

Kirk Lacob, director of basketball operations for the Warriors and general manager of the Wizards, said the Warriors made overtures to several cities in the Bay Area.

The Santa Cruz proposal, which includes $2.5 million for a new 3,200-seat arena, was the one that best suited the Warriors’ needs.

“A couple of cities came back stronger than others,” Lacob said. “When it came down to it, Santa Cruz became by far the most possible destination. ... When we were able to come to the agreement that we would have a new facility there, and that it would be customized to specifications we wanted, that was a very, very important tipping point.”

Having their own arena would help the Warriors have complete control of their own schedule. Wizards chief operating officer Dawn Kopseng said the Civic Center is accommodating, but sometimes other events cause conflicts.

“The Civic Center is very busy,” she said. “We’re the primary tenant, but a lot of events have priority over us in getting the dates. We can only have a couple of games in January, a couple of games in February. It’s loaded in the beginning, and it’s loaded in the end.”

The new arena would be less than half the capacity of the Civic Center, which the Warriors consider an ideal size. And because it is “a semi-permanent dome fabric structure” — as Lacob described it — it would be inexpensive to build.

“They were able to step up and build a really nice facility for us, that’s going to be a great size,” he said. “It’s going to offer opportunities for the future of the D-League. Instead of building a $25 million dollar building, you can build these things for much, much cheaper and still have a great facility.”

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Reach sports editor Lou Babiarz at 250-8243 or Lou.Babiarz@bismarcktribune.com.