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Grand Rapids Nets NBA D-League Franchise for 2014-15 Season

The NBA Development League announced Tuesday its Springfield, Mass., franchise is moving to Grand Rapids for the 2014-15 season. Pictured are, from left, Rick Mahorn, a Detroit Pistons radio analyst and former Pistons player; Dan Reed, NBA D-League president; Steve Jbara, president of the Grand Rapids D-League club; Dennis Mannion, CEO of the Pistons; Joel Langlois, DeltaPlex Arena & Conference Center president; and Hooper, Pistons mascot. (Photo: Townsquare Media Grand Rapids)

The NBA Development League today announced that SSJ Group, LLC, led by Steve Jbara, has purchased the Springfield Armor and is relocating the Massachusetts club to Grand Rapids for the 2014-15 season with a direct affiliation with the NBA‘s Detroit Pistons.

The announcement was made this afternoon at The DeltaPlex Arena & Conference Center.

The single-affiliation partnership with the Pistons means the NBA team’s basketball operations department oversees personnel and basketball-related aspects of the team in Grand Rapids, while Jbara’s group, comprised of about 25 West Michigan investors, manages 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 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.”

He added that “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.”

Dennis Mannion, CEO of Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Detroit Pistons, said: “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 home from 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 six additional NBA D-League playoff games each April.

“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.”

Fans are invited to join the team’s online family by following the club’s Twitter and Instagram accounts and on Facebook to stay in step with the latest news.

Fans interested in season tickets can log on at www.grdleague.com or call (616) 536-0220 for season and premium tickets for the 2014-2015 season. A naming contest for the club is being held on the team’s website, said Wes Weir, the team’s vice president.

SSJ Group purchased the Armor, which had five seasons in Springfield, Mass. During the club’s tenure in basketball’s birthplace, the Armor helped develop nine players who earned call-ups while qualifying for the 2012 NBA D-League playoffs. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Grand Rapids will be one of 18 NBA D-League teams competing for the 2014-15 season, including a new team in White Plains, N.Y., owned by the NBA’s New York Knicks.

The 2013-14 NBA D-League season, which is now in the postseason after its regular season ended April 5, featured 17 teams from Maine to California with 14 direct affiliations. Those include the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pistons’ current affiliate in Fort Wayne, Ind.

More than 30 percent of current NBA players, including three current Pistons, have NBA D-League experience. More than 40 percent of players drafted into the NBA over the past five years have spent time in the NBA D-League.

To date, 36 NBA D-League players have been called up to the NBA this season, while 62 NBA players saw action in the NBA D-League on assignment from their NBA parent clubs during 2013-14.

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