UPDATE, 2 p.m.: Just had an interesting conversation with Steven Haney, CEO of the new American Basketball League that will begin play in January with a franchise in San Antonio (see below).
Haney said the ABL’s overarching purpose is to develop players for competition in various leagues around Europe. The majority will be homegrown American players, but Haney said the ABL has gotten “tremendous” feedback about possibly serving as a farm system for young foreign players who aren’t getting time at home, similar to the loan system in professional soccer.
While there has been contact with the NBA, Haney said there are no immediate plans to serve as a direct, affiliated farm system. Haney does, however, see the ABL as direct competition to the NBA’s D-League, which he said has largely failed in its attempt to become a full-fledged developmental league.
“I think our league could develop into that type of league, but we’re realistic,” he said. “If you’re not paying players a certain amount of money, you’re not going to have fringe NBA talent on your team. That’s the problem the D-League has. Those guys are going to play for six figures in Europe. We aren’t going to pay a lot of money, either. But we have a very specific goal, which is to provide young college athletes a stepping stone to play in Europe, not to have them wallowing in a minor league not paying a lot of money.”
Haney, who served as Magic Johnson’s attorney and ran a professional team in Sweden for the former Lakers star, has extensive experience in European basketball. The ABL will also rely on executive vice president Tony Parker Sr., once a standout player in Europe and the father of Spurs star Tony Parker, to strengthen its ties overseas.
Nicknamed the Texas Surge, the ABL’s San Antonio franchise will play at the George Gervin Youth Center. Haney said the league hopes to draw 800-1,000 to its games, which will be played at smaller venues.
“We’re not the NBA, we’re not trying to be the NBA,” he said. “We’re going to do grassroots marketing, get youth teams involved, go into junior highs and high schools. We think there’s a market for that kind of product.”
A new hoops league named the will include San Antonio among its 12 franchises, according to a from Marc Spears.
A brief synopsis: Music executive has joined forces with the new league in the hopes of rivaling the NBA’s D-League and serving as a sort of farm system for overseas teams.
The league, which will use FIBA rules, is slated to begin in January of 2013 with a 24-game schedule. The season will conclude with a “Final Four” culminating in a single-game championship. Spears reports that the ABL will pay players as much as $3,000 per month, which would challenge the D-League.
The league comprises Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Fort Meyers, West Palm Beach, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City and Sebring in the Florida-based Tropics Conference; and San Marcos, Sugarland, College Station, Corpus Christi and San Antonio in the Texas-based Lone Star Conference. The San Antonio franchise is nicknamed the Texas Surge.
A call to team contact Marlon Minifee was not immediately returned on Tuesday morning.
A couple of quick thoughts until then:
* Just how well can a start-up minor-league team expect to do in a smaller market dominated by an established, successful NBA franchise?
* Will there be any interest from the Spurs in building a relationship with the Surge having already established a pipeline with the D-League’s Austin Toros?
* How will the overseas partnership develop considering many foreign teams already have healthy development programs in place?