The NBA Development League today announced that SSJ Group, led by Steve Jbara, has purchased the Springfield Armor and relocated it to Grand Rapids, Mich., for the 2014-15 season, when the team will be singly-affiliated with the Detroit Pistons. The announcement was made at the DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids in front of a large contingent of local basketball fans, including coaches, athletes and others from the Grand Rapids metro area.
The single-affiliation “hybrid” partnership with the Pistons will see the NBA team’s basketball operations department oversee all personnel and basketball-related aspects of the team in Grand Rapids, while Jbara’s group, including a number of prominent local investors, will manage the team’s day-to-day business operations and community relations.
“We’re excited to work with an outstanding ownership group, led by Steve Jbara, and the Detroit Pistons to bring the NBA D-League to Grand Rapids and greater Western Michigan,” said Dan Reed, NBA D-League president. “The team will not only showcase the highest level of basketball outside of the NBA, featuring up-and-coming Detroit Pistons, but will enrich an already vibrant community via its fun, family-friendly and affordable brand of entertainment and commitment to broader community needs.”
“We’re pleased to be aligned with Steve Jbara and the new NBA D-League ownership group in Grand Rapids and we view our affiliation as an exciting opportunity for our organization,” said Dennis Mannion, CEO of Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Detroit Pistons. “This unique hybrid relationship gives our franchise the opportunity to impact this team from a business and basketball operations standpoint, provides a vehicle for developing our younger players and creates a platform for evaluating potential NBA talent. This is an initiative that was important to our owner, Tom Gores, and our basketball operations personnel. The NBA D-League is thriving and we’re excited to play our part in delivering basketball entertainment to the west side of the state.”
The team will call the 5,000-seat DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids home between November and April, while also competing in two games during the NBA D-League’s annual Showcase in January. The DeltaPlex will have the opportunity to host up to an additional six NBA D-League playoff games each April.
Fans are invited to join the team’s online family by following the club Twitter and Instagram @grdleague and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/grdleague to stay in step with the latest news. Those fans interested in season tickets can log onto www.grdleague.com or call 616-536-0220 to place deposits on season and premium tickets for the 2014-2015 season.
“The NBA D-League is becoming an integral part of the NBA’s future and, after two years of working to make it happen, we are ecstatic to have the opportunity to bring high-level, professional basketball to the Grand Rapids area,” Jbara said. “The media spotlight and increasing viewership will help continue the trend of exciting things happening in this region. We look forward to celebrating the strength of the existing community and positively impacting areas of focus through our NBA/D-League Cares initiatives.”
SSJ Group purchased the Armor following five successful seasons in Springfield, Mass. During the team’s tenure in the birthplace of basketball, the Armor helped develop nine players who went on to earn GATORADE Call-Ups while qualifying for the 2012 NBA D-League playoffs.
The squad in Grand Rapids will be one of 18 NBA D-League teams competing for the 2014-15 season, including another new team in White Plains, New York, which is owned by the New York Knicks. The 2013-14 NBA D-League season, which came to a close on April 5, featured 17 teams from Maine to California with 14 single affiliations.
More than 30 percent of current NBA players, including three current Pistons, have NBA D-League experience, while more than 40 percent of players drafted into the NBA over the last five years have spent time in the NBA D-League. To date, 36 NBA D-League players have earned 49 GATORADE Call-Ups to the NBA this season, while 62 NBA players have seen action in the NBA D-League on assignment from their NBA parent clubs during the 2013-14 campaign.