The Detroit Pistons have agreed to purchase the National Basketball Association G League’s North Arizona Suns from fellow NBA team the Phoenix Suns.
The rebranded affiliate team will play in a new $25m arena currently being constructed on the campus of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, beginning in the 2021-22 season.
The Phoenix Suns will continue to operate the Northern Arizona Suns for the 2020-21 season, while the Pistons’ affiliation with the Grand Rapids Drive will also continue through next campaign. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The move is designed in large part to generate revenue and usage for a new indoor arena at Wayne State University following a multifaceted partnership between the Pistons and the college in May 2019. It also allows Pistons owner Tom Gores to have direct control of the team’s Detroit-based G League affiliate, as opposed to the Drive that have separate ownership.
As part of the deal, the Pistons will work with Wayne State administrators to create programs and internship opportunities for students in fields like sports marketing, community relations, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and sports and entertainment business operations.
The Pistons last fall opened their new $90m training facility, the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center in midtown Detroit, and the Wayne State athletic campus where the new arena will be located is slight more than a mile away. That close proximity will solve prior distance issues stemming from the 150 miles between the Grand Rapids team near Michigan’s western border and the Pistons.
“This is another important investment in our franchise and in the city of Detroit,” Gores said. “Having an NBA G League team near our new performance center will be an advantage for our front office, our coaching staff, and our young players. It will also generate more economic activity in the area and serve as a catalyst for additional development.”
The future of the Grand Rapids Drive now remains unclear.
“The Drive stand committed to the city of Grand Rapids and we look forward to our continued future here in West Michigan within the NBA G League,” the team said in a statement. “We’ve begun discussions about the future of our affiliation; details of which we hope to have in the coming weeks. Our focus has been, and will continue to be, providing the people of West Michigan with a great professional basketball experience.”
NBA G League players recently formed a union in the search for greater salaries, benefits, and working conditions, with assistance from the National Basketball Players Association.