The Magic will be affiliated with the D-League's Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the NBA announced today, sharing the affiliation with five other teams, the most in the D-League. The Magic needed a new D-League team after their previous affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, announced an exclusive relationship with the Miami Heat.
Nearly half the teams have an exclusive relationship with their own D-League affiliate and only three D-League franchises are splitting the teams that do not. The Magic are not one of those teams obviously, and they have rarely used the D-League. Only Marcin Gortat, James Augustine and Daniel Orton have been "sent down" to the D-League from the Magic.
During the Otis Smith regime, the Magic preferred to have their young players practicing with the team and learning that way rather than with an organization that it cannot control. Many NBA teams who have a one-on-one D-League affiliation control the coaching staffs and direction of the teams, allowing the players on the team to learn their system and principles while playing at the D-League level. It is a more true minor league system.
Orlando does not have that. It does not even have the convenience of having the D-League team nearby if it needs to recall players quickly -- such as what Oklahoma City has with Tulsa or Houston has with Rio Grande. Fort Wayne, Indiana, is better than Sioux Falls, North Dakota, but, as Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, points out, it is not ideal.
There simply are no D-League teams in the Southeast and, thus, few teams in the Southeast Division use the tool at their disposal. There was a team located in Fort Myers starting in 2001, but it folded in 2007.
The Magic will share the Mad Ants with the Bobcats, Pistons, Pacers, Grizzlies and Bucks.
Fort Wayne finished last season 27-23 and second place in the East Division, finshing fifth for the D-League Playoffs. Last year's roster included at times Pacers guard Orlando Johnson, Pistons guard Kim English and former Notre Dame sharpshooter Luke Harangody.
They also feature a really awesome mascot.