Grand Rapids Drive says they are staying in West Michigan

Posted at 11:30 AM, May 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-03 19:38:36-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — After Wednesday's news of the Detroit Pistons partnering with Wayne State University to house the franchise's G-League affiliate, there were several questions as to what would happen with the Grand Rapids Drive.

On Friday morning, Drive founder and president Steve Jbara called a press conference at the team's downtown office to address the media and give more detail on the future plans.

"I'm sure everyone saw the article regarding the Pistons locating a G-League team in the Detroit area," Jbara began. "We've known they've wanted to bring a G-League team there for a while, so yesterday's announcement wasn't a shock to us."

The Pistons then had a choice of either purchasing the Drive or get an expansion team from the NBA.

"As everyone saw in our statement, we aren't interested in selling," Jbara added. "We have a two-year agreement with the Pistons, so it will be business as usual here in Grand Rapids for two more seasons. Then we'll be spending the next couple of months to figure out what our future is after that."

Grand Rapids Drive, Oct. 2018

The Drive have the choice of either partnering with another NBA franchise or remain independent in the G-League. The only two NBA franchises without a direct G-League feeder are the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers, but Jbara added the Drive has not had contact with either team.

Jbara admits building a roster without a direct franchise affiliation could be difficult.

"We'd have to be pretty creative," he said. "We'd lose the homegrown two-way player, but we could have the option to grab two-ways off of any other team that doesn't have an affiliate, in which case we'd have two (Denver and Portland). We'd still have access to the NBA G-League Draft just like any other team and we'd still have our rights players that we've accrued over the past couple of years."

While the plan beyond the 2020-21 season is yet to be seen, Jbara says they will be here in West Michigan.

"This team started in the community, we raised investment in the community, we have community sponsors and we're committed to doing everything in our power to leave the NBA G-League team right here in Grand Rapids," he continued.

Jbara says the Drive have been reaching out to season ticket holders and fans to make sure they understand the team's commitment to remain here in West Michigan.

"The first thing we want to emphasize is we're going to be business as usual for the next two years," he said Friday morning. "Moving forward, we want to give [fans] the confidence that 'hey, look you can continue to invest in this team and this club, we're here,' in fact, more than ever, we need community support to help us figure out what our next options are going to be."

The Drive also have two years remaining on their lease with the DeltaPlex, where the team plays home games, but Jbara also added they could look to relocate to Van Andel Arena and have been in talks with the arena for many years.

"We're still focused on building our brand that if we go there, we can go there with vengeance and it works and there's no hesitation," Jbara continued.