Grand Rapids Drive to become affiliate of NBA’s Denver Nuggets

Courtesy Grand Rapids Gold

The Grand Rapids Drive entered into a single affiliation “hybrid” partnership with the Denver Nuggets beginning with the 2021-22 season.

The hybrid affiliation will allow the Nuggets to control the Drive’s basketball operations while existing local ownership in Grand Rapids led by Steve Jbara and a team of investors will oversee the franchise’s business operations and community engagement.

The Grand Rapids team will announce its new name and identity in the coming weeks.

“The NBA G League continues to be an essential destination for player development, and I’m so pleased to welcome the Kroenke family and the Denver Nuggets to the league,” NBA G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim said. “Steve Jbara and his team in Grand Rapids run an outstanding organization, and I’m excited for this partnership to take both teams to new heights.”

“We are extremely excited about this partnership and look forward to what the future holds for our franchises,” said Tim Connelly, Nuggets president of basketball operations. “We know that Grand Rapids is an excellent organization and the collaboration we can have with our own G League team is something that will be hugely beneficial to our players, staff and organization. It’s just a great situation for all parties involved.”

Prior to this announcement, the Denver Nuggets did not have a G-League affiliate. However, the team has used the NBA G League for player development over the last four seasons, assigning seven players and transferring seven two-way players through the flexible assignment and transfer processes.

Additionally, Denver assistant coaches John Beckett and Jordi Fernandez have NBA G League coaching experience with the Delaware Blue Coats and Canton Charge, respectively. Since the start of the 2014-15 season, 10 Grand Rapids players have earned Gatorade Call-Ups to the NBA. Former Drive head coach Rex Walters currently is an assistant coach with the New Orleans Pelicans.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to announce our partnership with Denver and am excited to welcome the Nuggets to Michigan and the Grand Rapids family,” Jbara said. “This partnership is a true testament to the Nuggets’ commitment to development, and we’re so happy to be able to help the team continue those initiatives in Grand Rapids for years to come.”

The news comes after the Drive opted out of the 2020-21 season, the final year of its affiliation with the Detroit Pistons. The Grand Rapids team was an affiliate of the Pistons since it originated in 2014.

The Detroit Pistons announced in 2019 that it would not extend its 2020-21 agreement after the Drive decided to stay put in Grand Rapids. As a result, the Pistons decided to bring their own G League team to Detroit and play in a new arena at Wayne State University.

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