MINNEAPOLIS — After losing their longstanding minor league partner, the Timberwolves have turned to another neighboring state to meet whatever NBA D-League needs may arise next season.
Minnesota announced Monday it’s entering into a one-year agreement with the Iowa Energy, based in Des Moines. The Sioux Falls (S.D.) Skyforce had been the Timberwolves’ D-League affiliate for seven years before entering a one-to-one, hybrid relationship with the Miami Heat last month.
“We are pleased to be establishing a relationship with the Iowa Energy as our D-League affiliate,” Timberwolves president Chris Wright said in a release. “Iowa is a first-class organization with great local ownership and a solid fan base. The D-League continues to be a great opportunity for young players to improve their game, benefiting both the players and NBA teams.”
The Energy are one of three D-League teams that have yet to move to a hybrid format, along with the Bakersfield Jam and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Their newly-established deal with the Timberwolves doesn’t look much different than the agreement with Sioux Falls, save for Iowa’s eccentric purple, orange and red color scheme. Sioux Falls and Des Moines are roughly the same distance — about 240 miles — from Minneapolis, and the Skyforce were also affiliated with several NBA teams before matching up exclusively with Miami.
The only thing lacking is Saunders’ previous relationship with the new affiliate. He coached Sioux Falls for one season when it was a member of the Continental Basketball Association.
It was that connection that fueled talk of a possible hybrid affiliation between the Timberwolves and the Skyforce. Not long after his May hiring, Saunders had spoken to the value of such an agreement.
But the NBA champion Heat beat them to the punch, forcing Saunders to take at least the next year to assess any further one-to-one possibilities. With an all-time-high 14 NBA teams now in hybrid relationships, the 17-team D-League would likely require expansion to add any more.
Minnesota will share the Energy with Chicago, Denver, New Orleans and Washington.
Owned by a group of Iowa businessmen, the Energy have been around seven years. They won the 2011 championship and tied a D-League record with four straight playoff appearances from 2008-2011.
“We are very excited to partner with the Minnesota Timberwolves this season,” Energy general manager Chris Makris said. “Not only is Minnesota the closest NBA franchise to Des Moines, but they are a first-class organization with an exciting roster. We anticipate this relationship being very beneficial for both parties.”