Baton Rouge is one of finalists for Pelicans D-League

New Orleans  (The Advocate) – The future home of the New Orleans Pelicans’ NBA Development League team was narrowed to six cities Tuesday.

The franchise announced just six of their proposed 10 sites responded to the team’s Request For Proposal, leaving in-state suitors Baton Rouge, Shreveport and St. Tammany Parish in the picture as well as Jackson, Mississippi, Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida.

The Pelicans did not receive RFP responses from Lafayette, Monroe, Alexandria and Biloxi, Mississippi, removing them from contention.

There was no firm timetable announced for selecting a site, and the team won’t begin play until the 2018-19 season.

“We are excited to the see the excitement which this process has generated among the six locations,” Pelicans owner Tom Benson said. “All of them have stepped forward with legitimate and sincere interest and are going to make a case via their proposals for why they would like to be the home of our NBA (D-League) team in 2018-2019. The process is underway and we know that this will be a very significant addition for a city/parish near us as it will add global exposure and bring professional basketball to their town.”

The Pelicans initially announced its intentions to start a D-League team on March 31 and team president Dennis Lauscha said it’s a “process that’s been in the works” for several years, but recently became a top priority.

The NBA has shifted emphasis into the D-League recently, consistently adding teams and inserting a “two-way” contract that allows NBA franchises to more easily affiliate with players at the lower level. By the start of next season, 25 franchises will operate D-League teams.

“We are really excited about this opportunity,” Pelicans’ general manager Dell Demps said in March. “It’s a great way to develop not only players, but also coaches and staff — and what I mean by staff, I mean medical (personnel), and the business side as well. It’s just going to be great for our organization.”

Coach Alvin Gentry said it also provides a significant boon to the coaching staff, allowing them to send young players back and forth to their affiliate, providing reserves an opportunity to log playing time without losing touch with the organization’s structure.

He pinpointed proximity as a primary benefit, and five of the six locations remaining are within a three-hour drive of New Orleans. Only Shreveport (326 miles away) is beyond that threshold.

“To have your own D-League team and be able to run it and basically have them run your same offense is important,” Gentry said. “When I was at Golden State (who operates the Santa Cruz Warriors), I thought that was one of the big advantages we had, because we had coaching and players within proximity of us and we could send someone down and bring them back in the day. So, to have those guys be able to run down and play and still come back and play with us, I think it’s really important.”

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