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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NBA Arenas to House Summer Women's League

LOS ANGELES -- The Lady Lakers? The Lady Celtics? The Lady Knicks?

Women's professional basketball is coming to an NBA arena .

The National Basketball Association announced Wednesday that it will sponsor a women's league for a 1997 summer season, though the league did not announce details.

Beginning in June 1997, the NBA expects to run an eight-team women's league in NBA arenas yet to be identified, sources said. The teams will play a 28-game, June-through-August schedule.

The NBA plans to hold a draft next April, training camps would open in mid-May and the season would begin in mid-June.

No decisions have been made on which cities with NBA franchises will have women's teams, NBA Commissioner David Stern told owners Wednesday.

According to one NBA owner, Stern and other NBA staffers made a presentation pointing out a steady growth of television ratings in recent years for women's college games, rising attendance and interest generated by the 39-0 U.S. National Team, on its way to the Atlanta Olympics.

The owners were told some players with strong geographic identities would be assigned to hometown areas before the draft -- Sheryl Swoopes (Texas Tech) to a Texas team, Lisa Leslie (USC) to a Los Angeles team, Rebecca Lobo (Connecticut) to Boston, if women's teams are placed in those areas.

Women's basketball coaches across the country applauded the NBA's move, but many also expressed concern over the possibility of competing leagues.

The American Basketball League was founded last year by a Palo Alto, California, public relations firm, Cavalli and Cribbs; an Atlanta investor, Bobby Johnson; and former Silicon Valley executive Steve Hams.

They announced plans to form a league for the next basketball season, then signed most members of the U.S. national team.

Of the NBA announcement, Pat Summitt, coach of NCAA champion Tennessee, said: "It's certainly an indication of how far we've come in the last 10 years. The women's game now has solid support at every level, from high school to AAU to the college game, and now we're going to the next level. It's a great day.

"One thing that concerns me, though, is two or more leagues working against each other. No one wants to see that, not after we've waited so long.''

The ABL sounded undaunted this week, saying it wasn't surprised at the NBA's move.

"We knew when we started there was a 900-pound gorilla [the NBA] down the street,'' said Gary Cavalli, an ex-Stanford associate athletic director.

"We're going ahead with our league. We'll see what happens.''