The NBA took its final step toward officially establishing a minor league system yesterday when it announced how players will be dispersed to the new NBA Development League. Under the system, each of the eight teams will be affiliated with either three or four NBA teams, while NBA teams will be able to assign players in their first two seasons. The latter was agreed upon in the collective bargaining agreement that was ratified in July.

The Washington Wizards and two other teams will send players to the Roanoke Dazzle.

No NBA team can have more than two players on assignment at the same time. No player can be sent down to the D-League more than three times, and there is no maximum or minimum length for an assignment. A player on assignment will be listed as inactive on the NBA team's roster.

"This is another step in the right direction to assist in the continuing development of players," said Stu Jackson, NBA senior vice president of basketball operations.

The NBA teams were matched up primarily according to geographic proximity to the D-League teams, which are mostly located in the southeast and southwest part of the nation. The Wizards, New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers will send players to Roanoke. The Dazzle and the Fayetteville Patriots, two of the original teams from the league formerly known as the NBDL, are the only teams that will draw from a pool of three NBA teams instead of four.

The Patriots will share players from Charlotte, Detroit and New York, with the remaining team allotments going as follows: Albuquerque Thunderbirds (Phoenix, Sacramento, Seattle, Utah); Florida Flame (Miami, Orlando, Boston, Minnesota); Arkansas RimRockers (Atlanta, Memphis, Cleveland, Toronto); Fort Worth Flyers (Dallas, Golden State, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland); Austin Toros (San Antonio, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles Clippers); and Tulsa 66ers (New Orleans, Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee).

Oklahoma City Hornets?

Oklahoma City is making preparations to become the temporary home of the New Orleans Hornets. An announcement that the Hornets will play at least part of their 41-game home schedule at Ford Center could come as early as tomorrow, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said yesterday.

"We are hoping by that time to have a deal worked out," Cornett said. "Right now, we still don't have a deal. We're still working on the details [but] that's where we're headed."

A league source confirmed yesterday that the NBA is discussing a proposed lease agreement for the three-year-old, 19,675-seat Ford Center. The Hornets have been without a home after Hurricane Katrina left the team unable to play games at New Orleans Arena until at least February, if it all. Cornett scheduled a city council meeting for tomorrow to review the contract proposal.

NBA officials toured Ford Center on Sept. 9 and Cornett said they left with a favorable opinion. The NBA is also considering playing games at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge. Training camp begins on Oct. 4.