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Grand Rapids Drive opts out of G League season, ending affiliation with Pistons

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

The G League basketball season will go on, but the Grand Rapids Drive will not be cruising along with it.

The Drive announced Friday it will opt out of the 2020-21 G League season, which will be held in a secure bubble environment outside Orlando, Fla. in February. The bubble will mimic what the NBA did to complete its regular season and playoffs last year because of the pandemic.

Former Pistons Ben Wallace is a co-owner of the Grand Rapids Drive.

With the announcement, the Drive will end its connection with the Detroit Pistons, as they reached the end of their affiliate agreement.

The Drive was on an affiliate agreement, but were not owned by the Pistons. In July, the Pistons purchased the Phoenix Suns’ affiliate, the Northern Arizona Suns, giving them their own franchise. The Pistons renamed the team the Motor City Cruise.

“I’ve loved all the guys with the Pistons and get their decision as it relates to basketball,” Steve Jbara, president and co-owner of the Drive, told The Detroit News. “Everything’s been great, and we’ve enjoyed the assignments and playoff runs.”

The Cruise will relocate to Detroit and play in a new arena on the campus of Wayne State University beginning with the 2021-22 season.

More: Pistons mailbag: Trading Derrick Rose, finding time for Deividas Sirvydis

The Drive will remain in Grand Rapids and plan to pursue a new affiliation, which could be announced before the start of the next season, which is scheduled to begin in the fall.

“This was the right decision for our team, as we discussed both the safety and logistics surrounding a shortened, single-site season in Orlando,” Jbara said in a team statement. “Our focus turns now to the 2021-22 season, including an exciting new affiliate that will allow us to further elevate the professional basketball experience in West Michigan for our partners, players and fans.”

Along with the Drive, 11 other G League teams opted out of the bubble, leaving 18 total teams to play out the season, which will culminate in an eight-team, single-elimination playoff format.

The Pistons still have the option to send players from their main roster, including their two-way contracts, to flex assignments with participating teams if they choose. That option would subject those players to the NBA’s COVID protocols, which would require having them quarantine before returning to the Pistons’ mini-bubble.   

It’s a disappointing end to the connection with the Pistons, but having a team in Detroit provided more benefits to their development and training. Staying in Grand Rapids was a priority for Jbara and co-owner Ben Wallace, a Pistons icon.

“Our team remains committed to Grand Rapids,” Wallace said in the team statement. “A new affiliate announcement may mean a new team name and logo, but this is home and we’re looking forward to sharing more details about our future soon as decisions are finalized with both our new affiliate and the NBA.”

The teams participating in the bubble:  Agua Caliente Clippers (LA Clippers), Austin Spurs (San Antonio Spurs), Canton Charge (Cleveland Cavaliers), Delaware Blue Coats (Philadelphia 76ers), Erie BayHawks (New Orleans Pelicans), Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Indiana Pacers), (Charlotte Hornets), Iowa Wolves (Minnesota Timberwolves), Lakeland Magic (Orlando Magic), Long Island Nets (Brooklyn Nets), Memphis Hustle (Memphis Grizzlies), Oklahoma City Blue (Oklahoma City Thunder), Raptors 905 (Toronto Raptors), Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Houston Rockets), Salt Lake City Stars (Utah Jazz), Santa Cruz Warriors (Golden State Warriors) and  Westchester Knicks (New York Knicks).

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard