Multiple sources have told D-League Digest that the Los Angeles Clippers are preparing to join the NBA D-League for the start of the 2017-2018 season.
This news comes on short notice, as the Clippers are moving quickly to join the G-League for next season. There had previously been talks that the Clippers were eyeing its own D-League franchise. A year ago, Clippers’ Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations, Doc Rivers discussed the possibility of adding a D-League franchise:
“We’re going to discuss it (adding a franchise), for sure. I don’t know if we’ll be able to do it by the start of the season, but it’s something we want to do. We’re a ways away from it, but we’ve had discussions with some outside forces that could make that happen, possibly.”
According to sources, the Clippers had considered five locations near the team facilities in Los Angeles: Long Beach, Anaheim, San Diego, Bakersfield, and Ontario, California. But the same report from D-League Digest suggests that the Clippers have set its sights on Ontario.
Ontario is a Los Angeles suburb 40 miles away from the Clippers’ home at Staples Center. The team has a strong desire to play there but are still pending league approval. There is already an arena suitable for the Clippers in Ontario: Citizens Business Bank Arena. The arena opened back in 2008, and has hosted various minor league sports teams, including the Lakers’ Los Angeles D-Fenders back in 2014-2015. The building can seat up to 9,000 for a basketball game, well in the range for a D-League franchise.
If Ontario does not work out, the second choice would be Bakersfield, which housed a D-League franchise for a decade (the Bakersfield Jam). The Jam were the only remaining independent D-League franchise until selling the team to the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, who moved the team to Prescott Valley, Arizona this past season. Since then, the former owners of the Jam, Stan Ellis and David Higdon, have worked hard to obtain another D-League franchise to plays its games in Bakersfield. The Clippers would seemingly be the city’s last chance to bring D-League basketball back to Bakersfield.
I wrote last week that the Pelicans announced plans to add a D-League franchise starting in the 2018-2019 season, becoming the D-League’s 26th team. With this news, it appears the Clippers will become the 27th team to join the league. That leave just the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, and the Washington Wizards without formal announcements for a D-League franchise.