Move over Phoenix Suns, there's a new basketball team in town. The Arizona Scorpions are an American Basketball Association (ABA) expansion team set to begin its first full season on November 5. The new team will be headed by general manager Randy Risher, co-owner Cedric Ceballos and coach/co-owner Ron Tilley.
First, a word about the ABA. This isn't the old ABA franchise of the 1970's that constantly competed with the NBA until the ABA-NBA merger of 1976. The contemporary version of the ABA is a semi-professional basketball league that started up in 1999. A league that began with only eight teams during its inaugural season in 2000 has grown to over 60 teams across the nation today, and the Scorpions are one of several expansion teams that are set to enter the league this season.
The timing of the move is perfect: with the NBA lockout threatening Suns basketball in 2011-12, the Scorpions can hope to capitalize and draw in lots of interest in their first year. The Scorpions, who will play at Phoenix College this season, want to draw in lots of families and provide good entertainment.
The team could also take advantage of the NBA lockout to sign players looking for a way to stay in shape and have some fun. According to Ceballos, the team could employ Suns players and NBA players in general at some point in the season, if the lockout continues:
"The ABA Office has been contacted by 70-plus NBA players, current NBA players, to play in our league. All the agents have been calling and they're gonna go by region; if you live in an area it'll be easier to stay home and play some ball," Ceballos told SB Nation Arizona.
Ceballos thinks that several current NBA players who have homes in Phoenix may be willing to play for the Scorpions this season. Players such as Mike Bibby, Eddie House, Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa and Amare Stoudemire could suit up for the Valley's newest team in just a few months.
The ABA recently released this statement about NBA players in their league:
ABA | American Basketball Association » ABA PROVIDES EXEMPTIONS TO NBA PLAYERS
“We’ve had many calls from our teams and NBA players as well as their agents/reps about the use of NBA players during the lockout,” stated Dick Packer, ABA President/COO.
“We definitely welcome having NBA players on our teams. It is a great way for them to stay in shape and to play competitively as well as being able to play in the US. We decided not to include NBA players added to rosters under the salary cap or the 12-man roster limitation. We do not want the exemption to cost any ABA players their positions on their team. This exemption will exist during the NBA lockout only.”
We are a long way yet from seeing Amare Stoudemire and Mike Bibby suit up for the Scorpions at Phoenix College, but Ceballos at least has the connections and credibility to explore the possibility.
Being an owner, of course, has revealed a new side of basketball to Ceballos. The 11-year former NBA player and 1992 NBA Slam Dunk champion is pursuing his first basketball ownership venture, and he has turned to close friend Mark Cuban during this period of transition.
Asked about the most important lesson that Cuban has taught him, Ceballos responded, "Don't worry about wearing your passions on your sleeve...(Cuban's) been hurt in the past, those first-round knockouts in the playoffs, but it ended up being a great championship for him."
Ceballos wants to replicate the success that the Mavericks had last season in Phoenix this year.
"I want to win it all...I love to compete and I want to win it all," Ceballos stated.
The team will partner with various charities, such as the Boys and Girls Club, as the season progresses. For Ceballos (who played not only for the Suns but also for the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat during his NBA career), the Boys and Girls Club has held a special place in his life since he started helping out the organization, long before his basketball fame.
As Ceballos said, "The fact that I came into a Boys and Girls Club as just a normal, tall guy and (changed) lives by goofing around with (the kids) for a few hours just made me feel good, and when I did become successful, it was a no-brainer for me to want to give back."
The Scorpions are poised to help out the community, and that gesture should in turn help the organization develop a healthy relationship with the public in the coming years.
Regardless of how well the Scorpions perform this season, the team should provide good entertainment for an audience that may be deprived of NBA action for a while. Phoenix has always been a basketball-crazy city, and the Scorpions may give Valley residents a reason to get just a little bit nuttier.