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Cavs Buy D-League Team


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CANTON, Ohio — As the NBA lockout enters its second week, the Cavaliers are keeping themselves busy with their new, as yet unnamed NBA Development League team that will play in the Memorial Civic Center here.


The team acquired the former New Mexico Thunderbirds franchise, which folded, and moved it here, about 45 minutes south of the Cavs' practice facility in Independence.


Scott Woodruff, who spent the past two seasons as the Lake Erie Monsters vice president of ticket and corporate sales, will act as the senior vice president and chief operating officer of the team, which will feature the same sorts of in-game entertainment as the Cavs and Monsters.


The Cavs became the fifth NBA franchise to own and operate their own D-League team, joining the Golden State Warriors (Dakota Wizards), Los Angeles Lakers (Los Angeles D-Fenders), Oklahoma City Thunder (Tulsa 66ers) and San Antonio Spurs (Austin Toros.) As owner-operators, the Cavaliers will have exclusive control over all basketball and business elements for the franchise.


Three other teams -- the Houston Rockets (Rio Grande Valley Vipers), New Jersey Nets (Springfield, Mass., Armor) and New York Knicks (Erie BayHawks) -- have one-on-one partnerships. In addition, the Dallas Mavericks are solely affiliated with the Texas Legends, which are owned by Mavericks General Manager Donnie Nelson.


According to Cavs General Manager Chris Grant, it makes perfect sense for an NBA team to control its D-League affiliate, similar to the situation in major- and minor-league baseball. Since 2008, the Cavs shared their D-League team in Erie with the Toronto Raptors.


"It gives us another step in our player development," Grant said. "It gives us an opportunity to run the same system, have the same type of defensive principles, use the same vocabulary, have the same type of culture. From a proximity standpoint, this is fantastic. A player could practice with us in the morning and play [in Canton] that night. It doesn't disrupt what's going on.


"Sometimes when you do that with another team, where it's not your coach, you feel bad. You're sending a guy down and expect him to play. That puts the coach in a difficult position, particularly if they're trying to make the playoffs. It streamlines everything for us. It's very strategic. It's very methodical. It's part of our process in player development, which we think really helps."


In spite of the lockout and the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming NBA season, NBA D-League President Dan Reed said there would be a 50-game D-League season, starting with an eight-round draft in early November.


The Cavs will be in charge of the player acquisition, although no current NBA players or draft choices can play in the D-League during the lockout. According to information provided by the D-League, 23 percent of the players on NBA rosters at the end of last season spent some time in the D-League.

I LOVE this acquisition. Now we can ensure that we have a legit farm team...one that utilizes our offense and defense...allowing our prospects to learn how to play Cavaliers basketball...and not just NBA basketball. This will allow our D-League players (when we need them) to be much more ready to play for us.

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