The Detroit Pistons watched the naming of their NBA D-League affiliate get announced at a press conference today: the Grand Rapids Drive. Drive team president Steve Jbara made the announcement, and the president of the D-League and the Pistons’ CEO were in attendance. The name, which works perfectly as the automotive counterpart to the Piston name, was chosen by fans in an online vote last month after it was narrowed down to four finalists. The other choices were the Chairmen, the Horsepower and the Blue Racers, so it’s a good thing the fans went with Drive.
Jbara, who purchased the former Massachusetts-based team with the SSJ Group, LLC, unveiled plans to move to Grand Rapids with a direct affiliation to the Pistons in April. The single-affiliation partnership means that the Pistons will handle all personnel decisions and basketball operations while Jbara’s group will manage the team’s day-to-day business operations. The Pistons have yet to name the Drive’s coach or general manager.
The D-League has been on the rise in recent years and the trend doesn’t seem to be stopping. In fact, the New York Knicks just announced in March that they are creating the D-League’s 18th member, the Westchester Knicks who will play their home games just outside the city in White Plains. Organizations want to be involved and reap the benefits of having an affiliate in the league and it’s easy to see why: The D-League easily allows organizations to give their players game experience.
According to the league website, 149 current NBA players have D-League experience, which is more than 30 percent of the league’s player pool. Also, 62 NBA players played in the D-League on assignment from their respective teams this season, while 36 D-League players were called up. NBA champion Danny Green knows about the D-League. After struggling to find his footing in the league, Green emerged as a pure shooter for the D-League’s Reno Bighorns. The San Antonio Spurs signed him after he drained 43.1 percent of his 3-pointers across 16 games.
The implementation of a D-League affiliate in Grand Rapids follows a trend the league has seen in recent years. NBA teams continue to bring their affiliates closer to home base in order to be more involved in the development process. Bringing the team that develops young players closer to their NBA organization seems to make perfect sense.
If you are the Miami Heat, why would you want your D-League affiliate to be all the way in South Dakota? Bringing the Drive two hours away from the Pistons will help the organization be as involved as possible. Imagine this: the guy who is just outside of the playing rotation can now practice with the Pistons during the afternoon and still have plenty of time to get to Grand Rapids to play in a D-League game that evening. This opens up all sorts of similar windows of opportunity for Detroit.
The Pistons are hoping they can find or develop a few Danny Greens of their own with the Grand Rapids Drive. The Drive will debut in November when the D-League’s 50-game season kicks off. The team will play at DeltaPlex Arena.