“Over the years, the G League and the Red Claws have become increasingly important to the Celtics and our player development efforts. We look forward to deepening both our ties with basketball operations and within the community, and further bringing the Celtics experience to fans in Maine,” said Rich Gotham, Boston Celtics Team President in a press statement.
The Red Claws were one of the last independently owned G League teams, as most G League teams are now owned by their NBA partner. The Red Claws and the Celtics have been affiliated since the launch of the team at Portland Expo in the 2009-10 season. Terms of the purchase have not been released, and it’s still subject to G League approval.
“The Celtics have been great partners with the Red Claws over the last ten seasons. We are thrilled that the Celtics will continue to build upon the success we have had in making the Red Claws an important part of the Maine community,” said Bill Ryan Jr., Maine Red Claws Chairman and Principal Owner.
It’s unclear what will happen to the Red Claws. The team’s Portland Expo lease expires after the 2023-2024 season. From the Portland Press-Herald:
But it’s unclear what the long-term relationship between the Celtics and Portland might be. The Celtics and Red Claws said in the news release they will not have further comment until the completion of the purchase, which must be approved by the G League.
In some cases, NBA teams have purchased their minor league affiliate and moved it closer geographically. For example, the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder purchased the Tulsa 66ers in 2008 and moved the franchise 107 miles to Oklahoma City six years later, rebranding them as the Blue.
After selling out every home game their first two seasons, the Red Claws have seen their attendance drop every season since. In 2015, the Red Claws spent $360,000 on renovations to the Expo, including new stadium-style chairs and back rests for bleacher seats. Still, attendance has dropped from more than 73,000 annually in the first two years to a franchise-worst 44,633 last winter.