By MIKE SMITH
On March 10, the New York Knicks officially announced a partnership with the NBA Development League and Westchester County at a press conference welcoming the Knicks’ D-League franchise to its new home at the County Center.
The new franchise will be the 18th team in the NBA’s Development League and will be the exclusive affiliate of the Knicks organization when the team begins play in the 2014-15 season.
According to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, talks to bring a D-League franchise to Westchester began in earnest last September, and the chance to bring a professional sports franchise to the area seemed like too good a proposition to turn down.
“We all loved the idea of bringing a D-League team to Westchester,” Astorino said. “And then the lawyers got involved. Six months later, we’re here for an announcement, but it’s a great day.”
Former Knicks star Allan Houston, who will serve as the team’s general manager, said the partnership will allow area fans the chance to experience professional basketball at an affordable price while the team helps the Knicks’ organization build from the ground floor.
Serving as something of a minor league to the NBA, the D-League has been home, at one point or another, to 30 percent of players on current NBA rosters. Fourty percent of NBA draft picks in the last five years have spent some time in the Development League.
“This is something [the Knicks] will take seriously and be very active with,” Houston said. “We feel like the proximity is a more effective way to develop our players, both professionally and personally.”
Astorino said the D-league’s presence in Westchester should be a boon to the county. The agreement with the Knicks will not be a burden on the taxpayers, he said, but will help promote job creation in the area. As fans from outside Westchester County flock to the County Center, Astorino said, they will be more likely to spend their money at nearby establishments.
The new team’s lease at the County Center, which runs for five years with a five-year renewal plan, will also help fill county coffers.
“The county tax payer is at no loss for this, that was something that was going to be the most important in any deal,” Astorino said. “The county stands, if…this grows and is successful as we hope it is, to make potentially $300,000 dollars a year with this league.”
In addition to the fiscal merits of the deal, Houston said he expects the D-League team to be active in local affairs, as Development League squads take part in 1,000 local events annually in their local communities. In the team’s first outreach effort, he said, fans will have a direct say in the building the team’s brand.
“Our first action is going to be fun,” Houston said. “We’re going to ask fans [for] help…naming our team.”
To purchase tickets for the 2014-15 season or to suggest and vote on possible names for the D-League franchise, fans can log on to NYKnicksDleague.com.