First reported by BANG Warriors beat writer Marcus Thompson (via David), the Golden State Warriors are buying the D-League’s Dakota Wizards franchise with an eye on moving it to the Bay Area. Both Thompson and Tim Kawakami think the eventual landing spot will be San Jose, which could create a plant-the-flag situation a la Bill Neukom buying into the San Jose Giants.
The ownership change will make the W’s only the fourth team to have sole control of a D-League team, the others being the Lakers, Spurs, and Thunder. All others have shared development pacts with one other team. That doesn’t mean that it always works. While it allows the parent team to install the exact offensive and defensive systems used by the big boys, it doesn’t always mean that the parent club will take advantage of it. The Lakers actually pulled back and didn’t operate the D-Fenders last season because they hadn’t figured out a way to effectively transition players from the D-Fenders to the Lakers. Operating a club is also expensive. The Lakers struggled figuring out a proper venue for the D-Fenders before settling on having the games be part of an early doubleheader with Lakers game. Given the notoriously late-arriving Lakers crowd at Staples, you can imagine how poor the attendance was. For the upcoming year, home games for the D-Fenders will be at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. The Spurs and Thunder have traditional out-of-town satellite relationships with their D-League teams (Austin and Tulsa respectively).
If you’re wondering where the Dakota Wizards might play after their last season in Bismarck, don’t think big as in the HP Pavilion. Too costly to do the changeover, and much too big for a D-League franchise, where the average attendance is around 3,000 per game. Instead, look to an ancient one-time barnstorming home of the Warriors, the San Jose Civic Auditorium. The Civic holds 3,000 and generally has a wide-open schedule. That lineage could also a factor. My favorite Rick Barry anecdotes are about playing in old arenas, including one where he chased a loose ball out of bounds along the baseline at the Civic and ended up running through a door and completely out of the arena onto San Carlos Street.
Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center would also be a good candidate, though I understand it would require some unknown amount of improvements before it was ready to host games again. There’s also the possibility of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium being in play.
Update 1:30 PM – SJ Giants CEO Jim Weyermann has been named VP of Franchise Development for the Dakota Wizards. Given Weyermann’s South Bay ties, chances are that the franchise will move to the Bay Area once the sponsorships are lined up.