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Attn. West Michigan: The Grand Rapids Drive Have Arrived and They Can Fly

Undoubtedly flying under the Michigan sports radar, the Grand Rapids Drive – aka the Detroit Pistons’ brand spankin’ new minor league affiliate – celebrated their home opener this past Wednesday in front of a sellout crowd with a 127-99 victory over Manny Harris (yes, that Manny Harris) and the Los Angeles Defenders.

Formerly, since 2007, the Pistons had been affiliated with the D-League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants, sharing their affiliation with up to three other teams (the Bucks, Pacers, and Bobcats) before opting to establish their own home-state farm program for the 2014-2015 season. Local owners opted to purchase the Springfield (Mass.) Armor and relocate them to Grand Rapids, undertaking an auto-inspired name change and organizational makeover.

Grand Rapids DriveNow calling the DeltaPlex home, the Drive features an eclectic mix of players who’ve found themselves straddling the threshold between making an NBA roster and not. Some may recognize Drive guard Ben Hansbrough from his productive career at Notre Dame (and the time his brother memorably came to his aid while teammates with the Pacers). While others may recall the likes of Tony Mitchell and former #2 draft pick Hasheem Thabeet from their cups of coffee with the Pistons in a mix of Summer League and preseason appearances.

Winning Time is the PERFECT sports ... x
Winning Time is the PERFECT sports drama

For fans of high-flying, above the rim action, the Drive may prove to be a hidden gem. Grand Rapids features a trio of dunkers capable of hammering an NBA-level poster at any possible moment. In Wednesday’s game alone against the Defenders (interesting name considering their sieve-like defense), forward Willie Reed punched home a breakaway 360 while Pistons draft pick Tony Mitchell contributed a legit open floor windmill. Add to the equation former NCAA dunk contest competitor Renaldo Woolridge (yes, Orlando’s son) and the west side’s got themselves some top flight air walkers over there.

While the state of Michigan remains ripe with enough basketball viewing opportunities at both the professional and amateur level to keep things interesting, entering the Grand Rapids Drive into the fold should be a welcomed addition for the pocket of basketball fans nestled to the west of the Breslin. With tickets starting at $10 a pop, a trip up to the DeltaPlex could serve as a nice winter diversion for those caught in the lake effect snow belt.

The Drive host Kalin Lucas and the Iowa Energy this Saturday at 7 p.m. Check out their full schedule here.

2014-2015 Grand Rapids Drive

15 Kelsey Barlow G 6-5 200 Illinois-Chicago
22 Josh Bostic F 6-5 230 Findlay, O.
17 Lorenzeo Brown G 6-5 189 North Carolina State
19 Brandon Fields G 6-4 195 Nevada
7 Ben Hansbrough G 6-3 206 Notre Dame
18 Kammeon Holsey F 6-8 230 Georgia Tech
21 Willie Reed F 6-10 220 St. Louis
34 Hasheem Thabeet C 7-2 270 Connecticut
14 Adonis Thomas F 6-6 232 Memphis
12 L.D. Williams G 6-4 210 Wake Forest
24 Renaldo Woolridge F 6-9 225 USC
32 Tony Mitchell F 6-8 235 North Texas
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