Wiz­ards ac­quire right to own, op­er­ate G League team

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

The Wash­ing­ton Wiz­ards have ac­quired the right to own and op­er­ate a G League team start­ing in the 2018-19 sea­son. The deal be­tween Mon­u­men­tal Sports and En­ter­tain­ment and the NBA’s mi­nor-league sys­tem, formerly known as the D-League, was an­nounced Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

The agree­ment will make Wash­ing­ton the 27th NBA team to own and op­er­ate a G League fran­chise.

The team will play its 24 an­nual home games in the new sports and en­ter­tain­ment arena slated for con­struc­tion on the St. El­iz­a­beths cam­pus in Ward 8 in south­east D.C. The project is ex­pected to seat 4,200, be ready for the 2018-19 sea­son and pro­vide a home to Wash­ing­ton’s G League team and the Wash­ing­ton Mys­tics. The Wiz­ards will also have a prac­tice fa­cil­ity on the premises.

The arena is part of an ex­pan­sive ren­o­va­tion project on the cam­pus of the for­mer psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal. Events DC — which is re­spon­si­ble for the build­ing, Mon­u­men­tal is leas­ing the space — projects a Septem­ber of 2018 open­ing and ex­pected work to be­gin in early June. Keep­ing to that time­line is cru­cial for the Wiz­ards’ plans there. Wiz­ards train­ing camp be­gan Sept. 29 last sea­son. The then-D-League opened last sea­son Nov. 5, 2016.

Wiz­ards coach Scott Brooks has men­tioned mul­ti­ple times that hav­ing a G League team would be ben­e­fi­cial for de­vel­op­ment con­ti­nu­ity within the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Wash­ing­ton spent last sea­son with three un­drafted free agents sitting on the end of its bench. Those play­ers -- and oth­ers -- would have been wellserved by spend­ing time in the D-League. Shel­don Mac, for ex­am­ple, bounced be­tween the D-League and the NBA. When he went to the D-League, Mac played in a dif­fer­ent sys­tem and parachuted into a ros­ter of play­ers that had been with the team for months.

“The NBA G League has been a great re­source for us over the years, both for call­ing up tal­ent and for al­low­ing young play­ers on our ros­ter to gain more on-court ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Wiz­ards Pres­i­dent Ernie Grun­feld in a state­ment. “Hav­ing our own team, se­lect­ing the front of­fice and coach­ing staff and be­ing able to im­ple­ment our sys­tem will al­low us to fur­ther en­hance our player and staff de­vel­op­ment pro­gram mov­ing for­ward.”

The arena will hold 4,200 seats in a split-bowl setup (down from 5,000 seats in the orig­i­nal plans which had a sin­gle-bowl con­fig­u­ra­tion). The cost pro­jec­tion has moved from $55 mil­lion to $65 mil­lion, in part be­cause of the change in seat­ing model. Mon­u­men­tal Sports’ con­tri­bu­tion re­mained the same. Fund­ing over the course of the 19-year lease in­cludes an in­vest­ment by the city of nearly $23 mil­lion, plus $37 mil­lion from Events DC, an event-man­ag­ing arm of the city which will also be re­spon­si­ble for the con­struc­tion of the new fa­cil­ity, and $5 mil­lion from Ted Leon­sis’ Mon­u­men­tal Sports to­ward con­struc­tion.

Grun­feld said the Wiz­ards have tar­geted the 2018-19 sea­son since the project be­gan, as op­posed to play­ing one sea­son at a re­gional lo­ca­tion un­til the arena was ready.

“It was quite a process to get this thing go­ing,” Grun­feld said.

When the project was first touted in Septem­ber of 2015, G League Pres­i­dent Mal­colm Turner said teams usu­ally need a 12- to 18-month time­line to put a team in place. Wash­ing­ton’s agree­ment with the league is an­other step to­ward meet­ing that time­line. Mon­u­men­tal now has an agree­ment for the team, a planned lo­ca­tion and strat­egy to move for­ward. How­ever, it needs the fa­cil­ity to be built, an ac­tion it does not con­trol.

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