Hornets acquire D-League team, Kings invest in virtual reality firm

NBA basketball franchise the Charlotte Hornets has acquired the right to own and operate a team in the organisation’s D-League development competition, while the Sacramento Kings have made a strategic investment in virtual reality media company Voke.

The Hornets’ new D-League team will be based in Greensboro, North Carolina, and enter into the competition in the 2016-17 season. The yet-to-be-named team will play its home games at the Pavilion in the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, a facility that will be converted into a basketball fieldhouse.

The Hornets will become the 11th NBA franchise to fully own and operate a D-League affiliate, with the development league expanding to a record 20 teams. Last season, the Hornets assigned two of its player to play in the D-League as part of their development process.

Michael Jordan, basketball legend and Hornets Sports & Entertainment chairman, said: “This is an important step for our franchise. Having our own team will allow us to use the NBA D-League in a more efficient and worthwhile way.  By operating our own club, it will be a seamless transition for our players, coaches and front office when we assign a player because the NBA D-League team will follow the same principles and run the same sets as the Hornets.”

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings have made a strategic investment in virtual reality and real-time on-demand media company Voke. The deal represents the latest venture by the franchise in the technology sector, having struck up a number of other partnerships.

Under the agreement, the Kings will link up with the NBA’s India division to live stream its opening game of the 2015 season against the Los Angeles Clippers. The game, which takes place today (Wednesday), will be broadcast in real-time virtual reality at Dhirubai Ambani International School in Mumbai, India and the Kaiser Permanente Women and Children’s Center in Roseville, California.

Voke will use its multiple point-of-view stereoscopic panoramic camera system to allow fans to view the game from various locations, while a 180-degree view allows viewers to follow the action in every direction. Virtual add-ons including scoreboards, advanced player metrics and custom video will also be on offer.

Vivek Ranadivé, owner and chairman of the Kings, said: “Around the world, there are fans who may never have the chance to be a part of the spectacle of NBA basketball. By partnering with Voke, we can share the in-arena excitement in an unprecedented way. Through technology, we’ll connect with emerging fans, find new ones, and provide a truly unique experience.”

Elsewhere, the Milwaukee Bucks have announced the opening of its new arena will be delayed by 12 months. The franchise had hoped to move into the arena in time for the start of the 2017-18 season, but the Associated Press news agency reports that this will now not take place until the 2018-19 campaign, with a Bucks spokesman stating that the earlier date “simply isn’t realistic”.

The NBA had threatened to move the team if a new arena was not built in time for the 2017-18 season. However, an NBA spokesperson said the league is “comfortable with the revised timetable”. The Bucks currently play their home games at the 27-year-old BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The new 17,000-seat arena and plaza will cost approximately $500m (€439.8m), with the team hoping this will lead to an additional $500m being spent on additional development of the downtown area.