Although traveling to Bismarck, N.D., was only an airplane flight away for Jeremy Tyler last year, it's difficult to compare that to the ease of a short, scenic drive down Highway 17.
Scenic and perhaps even easy, that is, when the Central Coast isn't experiencing monsoon-like conditions, of course.
But there's no question what Golden State had in mind when it moved the North Dakota Wizards to Santa Cruz in the offseason. Assigning players to the Development League, which was difficult logistically when the team was located in the Midwest, is a relative cinch when the Santa Cruz Warriors are less than a gas-tank drive away from Oakland.
Enjoying a bit of star power from Golden State is something Santa Cruz fans can get used to this season.
On a night when the pyrotechnics perhaps rivaled those at Oracle Arena, Santa Cruz -- led by a pair of players who were on the bench when Golden State hosted the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night -- debuted at Kaiser Permanente Arena with a 93-88 victory over the Bakersfield Jam.
Tyler, who was assigned by Golden State to Santa Cruz on Sunday morning, dropped 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for Santa Cruz.
His Golden State teammate Kent Bazemore, who was assigned on Sunday morning as well, led the Warriors with 18 points and five steals.
"I'm definitely thankful for the Santa Cruz team being as close as it is," said Bazemore, who was previously assigned to Santa Cruz for one game earlier this season and recalled a bumpy flight upon landing in Reno, Nevada.
Much to his delight, he won't have to experience that coming to Santa Cruz.
"We get to drive down here," he added. "It's not like I had to take a flight -- three or four stops to Dakota."
Bazemore, a rookie, never had to make the trip to North Dakota. But he heard about it from Tyler and some of his other teammates.
While Golden State made it work last season when the team was in Bismarck, there's no doubt the process is simpler with the team so close. And with Santa Cruz having just a single affiliation with Golden State -- visiting Bakersfield, for instance, is affiliated with four NBA teams -- Santa Cruz fans will only benefit.
The entire process was on full display Sunday night in Santa Cruz.
"Well, it certainly makes it easier," said Santa Cruz general manager Kirk Lacob, whose father, Golden State CEO Joe Lacob, sat courtside on Sunday night. "Last year (with Dakota) was a little bit of a test run for us, to see how well we could do it. And as difficult as it was logistically, it still worked out.
"But this year ... obviously, the actual geographic proximity really helped. We had guys up there at Oracle last night, drove down this morning and made it to a 10 o'clock shootaround. Now they're going to play tonight and they're not jetlagged and tired."
Bakersfield could perhaps best speak to the latter part of that.
Bazemore's outside shooting and ability to drive to the basket helped Santa Cruz stay afloat in the fourth quarter, while Tyler's inside game provided a tough 1-2 punch.
"Coming down here is an opportunity to get in shape, keep my confidence up, keep playing and keep working on my game," Tyler said.
For the rest of the team, it was an opportunity to perform in front of the CEO of the NBA club.
For the fans, it was like a mini Oracle -- even the Warriors Girls danced at halftime.
While Bazemore and Tyler might not always find Golden State coach Mark Jackson's rotation on a given night, an assignment to Santa Cruz will prove otherwise.
"If you look on blogs and the pieces by beat writers, it's 'I'd love to see Kent Bazemore get out there. I'd love to see Jeremy Tyler get out there.' Well, this is their chance to see them get out there and see what they can prove," Lacob said. "I know there's a lot of fans that feel the same thing. They want to see what's next. They want to see something they haven't seen before."
Like Andrew Bogut in Santa Cruz? The star big man for Golden State has been out with an ankle injury, and he could come to Santa Cruz on a rehab assignment -- even if it's just for practice.
That probably wouldn't happen if the team was in North Dakota.
The chances of him playing in a game for Santa Cruz are perhaps low, based on the NBA standard. New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire, who has been out all season with a knee injury, recently practiced with the D-League's Erie BayHawks at the Knicks' training facility.
Similary, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard worked out his left knee during practice with the D-League's Austin Toros.
"Again, we've got an opportunity because of proximity and the actual arena we put here, it's nice enough that any NBA player would feel comfortable here," Lacob said. "So there's a chance we try some things down the road. And that definitely could include some sort of rehab stint."
In other words, it's an option.
Because it's not a flight away anymore -- just a short, scenic drive down Highway 17.
Santa Cruz fans could get used to this.
Andrew Matheson is a sports reporter for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. He can be reached at: email@example.com