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Springfield lands NBDL franchise

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  March 31, 2009 10:15 AM

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Springfield is the birthplace of basketball as well as the home to the archive of the sport's history, the Basketball Hall of Fame. So it's only appropriate that the city should have a professional team to call its own.

Beginning next season, it will.

The NBA has awarded Springfield a minor league franchise in the NBA Development League, as first reported by MassLive.com and the Springfield Republican this morning.

The news regarding the franchise, which will begin play next season at the MassMutual Center, was formally announced by NBDL president Dan Reed at a press conference this afternoon at the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The ownership group, led by Michael K. Savit of Newton, has been awarded the right to relocate the Developmental League team currently know as the Anaheim (Calif.) Arsenal. Savit, who also owns a stake in several minor league baseball teams, told the Republican that Springfield's place in basketball history was a major factor in choosing the franchise's home.

"We could have approached the NBA about any location, in or out of New England," said Savit, whose group reportedly made a $2 million investment in the team. "But here, we will be located in the sport's birthplace, where there is a rich tradition of high school and youth basketball. It also borders a basketball-crazy state [Connecticut]. There is no team in Hartford, no team in Worcester. We're the only team in the region."

Each Developmental League -- or "D-League" -- has an affiliation with one or two NBA teams, each of whom will assign a couple of prospects not quite ready for prime time. It is uncertain which NBA teams will be involved with the Springfield club, but it is very unlikely to be the Celtics, who have indicated their affiliate will be the franchise recently awarded to Portland, Maine. Springfield and Portland are the first two New England-based teams in the league.

He said he is confident the team -- which is yet to determine its nickname, logo, and colors --
will be a draw even without a direct connection to the Celtics.

"The building holds 6,600 people, so we hope to have 6,600 fans each night," Savit told the Republican. "But we are really looking at 3,500 to 4,000. We think that is realistic."

After the NBA franchises make their personnel assignments, the remaining spots on the roster will in part be filled with players acquired in the November draft. The 48-game schedule begins in late November and continues through April, followed by playoffs.

“Today is an exciting day for Springfield,” Savit said at the announcement. “I’m thrilled to be a part of the group that brought professional basketball back to the game’s birthplace and I can’t wait to contribute to this city’s great basketball history and become part of the fabric of the community."

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