Lincoln Thunder Ceases Operations; Will Not Go To USBL
Thunder cancels rest of its season
BY RON POWELL / Lincoln Journal Star
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Since the Lincoln Thunder have not played a game since Dec. 29, the official announcement Tuesday that the American Basketball Association (ABA) team has ceased operations for the 2005-06 season was a mere formality.
Pro basketball, however, is not dead in the Capital City. Thunder owner Michael Jefferson says the team will return to Lincoln for the 2006-07 campaign with confidence that the game scheduling problems, which eventually led to this season’s demise, will be solved.
Jefferson is working with league officials to seek out potential investors to add at least six new ABA franchises in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, creating a seven-team regional division that will cut down on travel costs. Jefferson will own the franchise rights in each new city and be part of the ownership group. He says Omaha and Grand Island are among the cities being considered.
“I want to have a group of stable ABA teams in the Midwest, like there is on the East and West coasts,’’ Jefferson said. “We want to make this part of the country as strong as possible with good, competitive teams.’’
Jefferson said all season tickets and corporate sponsorships from this winter will be honored next season at no additional cost.
“We promised 18 games and only gave them five,” Jefferson said. “They’ll get all 18 next season.’’
The Thunder were 4-0 on Dec. 1 when the George Gervin Division they played in disintegrated. Texas, Kansas City and St. Louis decided not to continue this season and the two New Mexico teams — Gallup and New Mexico — picked up games against teams on the West Coast.
It left Lincoln without a schedule and no one within 700 miles to play, a dilemma the ABA league office was unable to rectify.
The ABA teams in the Freddie Lewis Division, the closest to Lincoln, already had full 36-game schedules, although Jefferson was able to land a two-game, home-and-home series with Indiana, the No. 1 team in the league. Lincoln lost both games, the last one 138-129 at the Pershing Center.
The Thunder also had a four-game home-and-home series with Florida fall through because of travel difficulties.
As of last week, Jefferson was still trying to line up games for this season with the hope that the Thunder could qualify for the ABA’s postseason tournament and, perhaps, send one or two players to the all-star game in two weeks in Florida.
League CEO Joe Newman said the ABA bears some responsibility for the Thunder’s eventual shutdown, but Newman said he sees a bright future for the ABA in Lincoln for next season.
“Michael didn’t do anything wrong, we simply didn’t deliver the competition for him after Lincoln got put in that terrible situation,” Newman said. “I felt (before the season) Lincoln would be a great market for this league, and I still feel that way.”