The Armor finished their home schedule Friday night, beating the Canton Charge before a sellout crowd of 7,111. The top NBA prospects on Springfield all played well or well enough: Willie Reed, who's averaged close to 20 and 15 over the last ten, Adonis Thomas, who turns 21 this week, continued shooting well from deep; Khalif Wyatt kept up his consistent play and Lorenzo Brown while having a rough night shooting again ran the floor well.
How many will be in Orlando for summer league or East Rutherford for training camp is unknown. So too is the Nets future in Springfield. Their three year hybrid deal with Armor owner Michael Savit ends May 1. There's no suggestion that the Nets will abandon the D-League. With so few draft picks in the first or second rounds over the next five years, they'll need to find alternative ways to develop young talent. (There's been some concern that the Nets haven't used the Armor as well as they should but with the loss of so many picks, it's now more of a priority.
So what are the options? Other than renewing their deal in Springfield? The Nets could buy a D-League team or set up up an expansion team, as the Knicks just did, abandoning Erie and setting up shop at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. They could change affiliations, although that seems unlikely.
It appears all options are on the table. In fact, the Nets ownership considered buying a team in 2011, but opted for a hybrid affiliation, in which Savit, who's long owned minor league baseball teams, runs the business side and Milton Lee, the Nets GM for minor league operations, is in charge of the basketball side. Running a team is not a big deal financially, costing on average a little more than a quarter million dollars a year.
The Nets would like to see the D-League become more like minor league baseball with prospects tied directly to NBA teams. Now, any club can grab a player you've developed, as happened earlier this season when Thomas and Brown were called up by Philly and Orlando. That, said one team insider, is still years away ... or until every NBA team has an affiliate. Only 17 do now.
Another Nets insider said the Knicks move will not "affect our decision," but didnt elaborate. One thing the Nets did like in the Knicks deal is how close it brought their D-League operations to New York.
The front office would like, all things being equal, to have a D-League closer to Brooklyn. That's led to speculation the Nets could move D-League operations to the revamped Nassau Coliseum but the new Nassau won't be ready until 2016 ... and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders minor league team, are already committed to play 25 dates at the arena that winter. Having two minor league teams eat up 50+ dates in the winter might not appeal to those running Nassau.
The Nets have a lot on their plate in the next few weeks, so a minor league agreement isn't likely to be a priority, but as noted, there's a need to figure out how to best compensate for lost picks and having a D-League operation is one way.