PORTLAND, Maine — Since the Maine Red Claws came into existence three years ago, the NBA Development League club has consistently been among the highest-drawing D-League teams. Either Mainers are really into basketball and are happy to have a professional team in their state, or they are desperate for any indoor entertainment during the brutal winter months.
No matter the reason, Red Claws fans are among the most passionate Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he has encountered in his travels among the NBA's minor league system. Ainge cited that as a reason for his enthusiasm behind the Celtics' and Red Claws' announcement Thursday that they will enter into a single affiliate partnership.
"As much as how much sense it makes for us for on the basketball side, another exciting thing is the fans and the environment here," Ainge said. "I go to a lot of D-League games around the country over the last decade and there's no better place to watch a D-League game than in Maine that I've seen yet.
"I think that atmosphere creates a better opportunity for development when you have real fans cheering, capacity crowds, I think that enhances the development among players. I've never been to a game where the intensity on the court is good when there's very few people in the building, so I'm excited about that, too."
The Celtics become the fifth team to hold a so-called "hybrid" partnership with a D-League affiliate. Under such an arrangement, the D-League team maintains independent ownership and most business control while the NBA team assumes control of basketball operations. Six NBA teams directly own their D-League affiliate.
Check out more of Ainge's comments in the video above.