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NBA getting bold with D League expansion; Could it be coming to Buffalo?

TORONTO -- Could professional basketball be coming back to Buffalo?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver noted Saturday night aggressive expansion is planned for the NBA Development League.

Buffalo could be a fit for NBA's official minor-league system. Maybe the Pegula Sports and Entertainment portfolio has room to grow.

Large arenas aren't required. In the past, the University at Buffalo has not been amenable to minor-league teams using Alumni Arena. But the Flickinger Center or Buffalo State would suffice.

"What we've talked about with our owners," Silver said before All-Star Saturday Night events here in the Air Canada Centre, "is the desire to expand relatively quickly and to get ultimately to a 30-team Development League."

The D League began with eight teams in 2000-01 and has grown to 19, with three more coming next season. The league encompasses locations as small as Erie, Pa., Canton, Ohio, and the Brownsville, Texas, area and as large as Los Angeles and Oklahoma City.

Next season's expansion teams will be in Chicago, Long Island and Greensboro, N.C.

The D League averages 2,475 fans a game, according to SportsFranchiseTracker.com. The Texas Legends lead with an average of 5,249 fans, while the Los Angeles D-Fenders average a league-low 375 fans.

NBA teams own some D League affiliates outright. Others are co-op enterprises, with the NBA club managing and funding an independently owned affiliate.

NBA teams without an affiliation for next season are the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers and the Washington Wizards.

Silver noted NBA and the NBA Players Association would need to collectively bargain how minor-league contracts should be structured as the D League blossoms.

"We'd also potentially like to see Development League team players where there is some form of contractual arrangement with NBA teams," Silver said, "so they have a greater incentive to develop those players under their system."

At the end of last NBA season, 170 players (38 percent) had D League experience. Every NBA roster opened this season with at least one former D League alum.

As basketball continues to grow in popularity around the world, Silver said the league anticipates an ample supply of talent to stock 30 D League rosters.

"There is a global market for great basketball players," Silver said. "As we expand the Development League, we'll be looking to attract more of those players."

The D League regular season lasts 50 games and runs from November to April. A champion is decided after three best-of-three rounds.

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