Pensacola, Florida
Monday August 21st 2017

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Outtakes—Pelican Positivity

By Rick Outzen

We see nothing but positives about Mayor Ashton Hayward bringing an NBA G League team to Pensacola. Yes, there are challenges but great opportunities, too.

The National Basketball Association appears to be committed more than ever to the developmental league. Following the MLB model, NBA teams have become more dependent on their affiliates to supplement their rosters.

In the past, college players who didn’t make NBA rosters had to play overseas to sharpen their skills. However, the 2016-17 season saw 44 percent of NBA players on end-of-season rosters with NBA G League experience.

The NBA developmental program began in 2001 with only eight teams. By 2009, the league had doubled in size, fielding 16 teams. This year, the G League will have 26 teams and plans to expand to 30 for the 2018-19 season.

However, there are risks in hosting a G League team. Ownership hasn’t been stable for the past 16 years. Twenty-one teams have shut down or relocated to other cities. The league folded the Mobile Revelers, Roanoke Dazzle, Greenville Groove, Florida Flame and Fayetteville Patriots.

This year, five NBA teams either purchased expansion teams or current ones. The Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, and Memphis Grizzlies acquired expansion teams. The Orlando Magic bought the Erie BayHawks and will debut the affiliate as the Lakeland Magic. The Minnesota Timberwolves purchased the Iowa Energy and renamed the team the Iowa Wolves.

A plus for the Pensacola Pelicans is billionaire Tom Benson and the New Orleans Saints front office that runs the New Orleans Pelicans. They should provide stability to the affiliate.

In this issue, reporter Duwayne Escobedo writes that NBA insiders think the G League might become the preferred path for talented high school players to the NBA if the league drops its rule that a player must be one year removed from high school to become NBA draft eligible.
The talent of the G League could improve vastly overnight, drawing more nationally televised games.

If done right, the Pensacola Pelicans could raise the trajectory of the city’s presence nationally, building on the momentum of the Cincinnati Reds-affiliated Blue Wahoos and the independent Ice Flyers hockey team. Our polls show city voters want the team, and the majority favor the mayor working with the private sector to build a new arena.

The devil will be in the details. Mayor Hayward needs to pull together his staff and the business community to figure out a win-win deal for the Pelicans and Pensacola. Time is ticking away. Reportedly he has until the end of August to present the team with his proposal.

We look forward to seeing his plan.