Wednesday night, the Magic will take on the Pelicans at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. It will mark the second time the Magic will have played at the arena after squaring off with Miami in 2008. And really it makes sense with Jacksonville a mere two and a half hours away and Orlando being the closest NBA team by geography to Jackonsville.
And with the Magic desiring their own D-League team, Jacksonville seems like a perfect location for them to try and place a D-League team.
According to Don Coble of The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, this is very much in the Magic's plans. Alex Martins told the paper the Magic have made it clear to the NBA they want a D-League team nearby. It appears Jacksonville is the target at the moment.
The interest from the city appears to be mutual and the process to bring a team has already begun.
Jacksonville is currently home to the ABA's Jacksonville Giants. They have won back-to-back championships in that minor league. Much like Orlando City Soccer, the Jacksonville Giants were established in the ABA with the thought of becoming a D-League franchise.
“When I started the Jacksonville Giants, the five-year goal was to make the Giants a premier ABA team and to become a D-League single-team affiliate,” Giants owner Ron Sholes said. “We’ve talked with the city; they’re behind it. But it’s a process. It’s just a matter of getting the talks going.”
The only problem is that there are no other teams located in the Southeast. The closest team is located in Frisco, Texas. The NBA wants at least three teams in the Southeast before proceeding. The league also wants teams to have their own one-on-one affiliations. For example, the Magic's currenty affiliate is located in Fort Wayne, Ind., and is shared with five other teams.
Orlando has shied away from using the D-League because it lacks really any control over the organizational structure and because of the distance. The Magic would not be able to hire coaches and staff to make sure their culture is being instilled at the D-League level. Further, many teams ahve started using the D-League more to shuttle players back and forth on a short-term basis. It would be difficult to send and recall players quickly if the team were in Fort Wayne as opposed to Jacksonville.
Establishing a team on the First Coast seems to be what the Magic think they need to do to accomplish their D-League goals.