Albuquerque, N.M. - The National Basketball Association announced today the affiliation system for the 2008-09 NBA Development League season.  Each NBA team has one NBA D-League affiliate to which it may assign players in their first or second NBA season.

This year the Albuquerque Thunderbirds will be the D-League affiliate for the Miami HEAT and the Dallas Mavericks

In response to their new D-League affiliate, Dallas Mavericks President Donn Nelson said the following:

"The Dallas Mavericks are excited about our new affiliation with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds. They are a terrific organization and we look forward to sending our young up-and-coming players there to develop this season."

The Mavs have a history of utilizing their D-League affiliate with players such as Maurice Ager, Jose Juan Barea and Nick Fazekas all having improved their skills while on assignment from the Mavs in

The Miami HEAT are equally excited about their new affiliation with the Thunderbirds; HEAT President Pat Riley said:

"The Miami Heat received valuable contributions from former D-League players last season and we look forward to utilizing this upcoming year as a great source for young talent."

Over the first three seasons of the NBA D-League's assignment system with the NBA, NBA teams have assigned 76 players a total of 130 times to play in the NBA D-League.

The Miami HEAT ended their 2007-2008 season with D-League standouts:   M.V.P.  Kasib Powell from the   Rookie of the Year Blake Ahearn from the Dakota Wizards, and Co-Defensive Player of the Year Stephane Lasme from the

The NBA D-League continues to be a breeding ground for elite basketball talent, with more NBA players than ever boasting NBA D-League experience. Twenty-nine of 30 NBA teams featured players with NBA D-League experience during the 2007-08 season, and these former NBA D-League players made up over 15 percent of NBA players on 2007-08 end-of-season rosters. 

Former Thunderbirds’ NBA parent team, the Phoenix Suns, saw marked improvement in players D.J. Strawberry and Alando Tucker after their time spent in The Suns have since been redistributed to the Iowa Energy while fellow former Thunderbirds parent club, the 76ers, will head to the new Erie Bayhawks. 

“The affiliation system has proven over the last three seasons that it provides significant benefits to both NBA teams and their NBA D-League affiliates,” said Stu Jackson, Executive Vice President, NBA Basketball Operations. “NBA teams have seized the opportunity to accelerate the development of their young players through in-game experience, while the NBA D-League teams have been helped on and off the court by outstanding young NBA talent.”

Thunderbirds Chief Operating Officer Chris Holland celebrated the Thunderbirds’ affiliation announcement by saying:

“We're excited to have the opportunity to help develop the next potential player for the Dallas Maverick's and Miami Heat. When fans attend a Thunderbirds game this season, they could be seeing the next Dirk Nowitzki or Dwyane Wade in the making.”