PORTLAND — Although longtime Boston Celtics fans who remember Andrew Toney as The Boston Strangler may recoil in mock horror, the Philadelphia 76ers have joined the Celtics and the Charlotte Bobcats as NBA affilliates of the Maine Red Claws.
The move came about after the NBA Development League’s Springfield Armor switched to a single affiliation with the New Jersey Nets. Last winter, both Philadelphia and New Jersey sent players to Springfield.
“This is the best of all worlds for us,” said Jon Jennings, president and general manager of the Red Claws. “The NBA D-League changed the affiliation rules last year, so any player who goes to the affiliate training camps and they get cut, we have the rights to. They don’t immediately go into the draft.”
Kenny Hayes, a Red Claws guard who is in Maine to assist with a series of summer basketball clinics, performed the official unveiling Thursday afternoon at team offices on Congress Street. He lifted a red tablecloth off a sign bearing the 76ers logo.
Jennings said he requested Philadelphia in part because of his relationship with the 76ers’ front office, which includes pro personnel scout Chris Ford. Jennings was a Celtics assistant coach when Ford was head coach in the early 1990s.
Jennings chuckled at the notion of bad blood stemming from a Celtics-Sixers rivalry that peaked in the ’80s and involved Toney, Larry Bird, Julius Erving and Moses Malone. Three separate fights broke out during a 1983 exhibition game between the teams.
“The Andrew Toney days are long past,” Jennings said. “In our league, we really don’t see that as a competitive situation for the Celtics and the Sixers. It’s really more of an opportunity for them to send their players to us and let us help develop them.”
The Red Claws become one of seven D-League teams with three affiliates. The other nine D-League teams are affiliated with either one or two NBA teams.
The D-League season begins shortly after Thanksgiving, following a training camp and draft earlier in November. Jennings said the Red Claws will play regardless of the status of the NBA lockout.
Of course, under a lockout, no players affiliated with any NBA team would participate in the D-League.
Jennings also said he hopes to have an announcement shortly on a new head coach. In May, Austin Ainge, coach for the team’s first two seasons, took a job as Boston’s director of player personnel.
“I’m excited about who we’re talking to,” Jennings said. “I think everyone will be very impressed with the coach we unveil shortly. It’s a coach (with) a lot of experience.”
All D-League affilations are one-year contracts, although Jennings said the team has a special connection to the Celtics.
“We have had a great relationship with Boston and Charlotte for the past two years,” he said, “and now adding Philadelphia will only strengthen the franchise.”