NBA approves Lakers' ownership of D-League team

Updated: April 19, 2006, 5:38 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN Insider

NEW YORK -- Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss received approval Wednesday to own his own D-League team, the first time the NBA has allowed one of its clubs to control its own minor-league franchise.

Buss' team is expected to join the NBDL next season and play at the Staples Center, already home to the Lakers and Clippers, before possibly moving in a few years to Ontario, a suburb east of Los Angeles.

The league's Board of Governors had to approve an amendment to the NBA's constitution to permit the move, which was set in motion earlier this season when the Lakers purchased the rights to an NBA Development League expansion team. (Such rights can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000).

"I think we're going to see a lot of teams go down this road. One of the teams may be the Knicks," commissioner David Stern told ESPN.com following the conclusion of the annual mid-April meeting of team owners. "This is a long-term thought that's beginning to make more sense to our teams."

But the Lakers will still be bound by the same rules as the other 29 NBA teams when it comes to assigning players to their D-League affiliate. Only players in their first and second years are eligible, and no more than two players can be sent at one time to a D-League assignment. Also, the D-League's central office assigns players to their teams, preventing the Lakers from using their minor-league team as a place to stock prospects.

"The other players on their D-League roster will be free agents available to every team in the league," said Joel Litvin, whose promotion from general counsel to president of league operations also was approved by the Board. "The Lakers are going to be given their players by the league, so they're not going to be able to curry favor with players."

The Lakers' addition to the D-League will give the NBA's minor league an expanded presence in California, with expansion teams also coming to Bakersfield and Anaheim next season as the league expands from eight teams to 15. Also coming aboard are four teams from the CBA -- the Dakota Wizards, Sioux Falls Skyforce, Idaho Stampede and Colorado 14ers -- to join the league's current franchises in Austin and Fort Worth, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Arkansas; Tulsa, Okla.; Fayetteville, N.C.; and Roanoke, Va.

"We approved the Lakers' purchase of a D-League team about a month and a half ago, but we told the owners we'd have a full discussion on the subject at this meeting," Litvin said. "There was really not a lot of opposition to the idea."

In other Board of Governors news:

• Six minor rule changes for next season were approved, including an end to the prohibition against coaches calling timeouts. Also, clear path fouls will now result in two free throws (instead of the current one) and possession of the ball.

• The promotion of Adam Silver to deputy commissioner won unanimous approval. Also promoted was Heidi Ueberroth, will become president of international marketing and business operations.

• Owners were briefed on the ownership situations in Seattle and Portland and arena issues involving the New Orleans Hornets and Sacramento Kings. Stern said developments on a new arena for the Kings were gaining speed.

• A briefing was also given on possible changes to the playoff seeding system, with outgoing deputy commissioner Russ Granik favoring a system in which division winners would be seeded no lower than fourth, possibly with automatic first-round home-court advantage, to replace the current system in which division winners earn the top three seeds but home court still goes to the team in any series with a better regular-season record.

• Players wearing tights, a pet peeve of Stern's, are an endangered species. They'll be outlawed next season, with exceptions given only when a medical need is shown. "On this one there was a pretty good consensus," Granik said.

• Stern said he was not disturbed by anything related to the Grizzlies-Clippers game Tuesday night, in which both teams would have been better served by losing. The Grizzlies won, putting themselves into the fifth seed and a postseason matchup with Dallas. A loss would have allowed Memphis to open at home against third-seeded Denver. "Always with respect to who plays where, [intentionally losing] was always an issue. It's something we're going to live with," Stern said.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN.com.

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