As head coach of the Toronto Raptors from 2011-2018, Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey was deeply entrenched in their renowned player development system. The Raptors' G League affiliate, Raptors 905, launched in 2015 and quickly became an integral part of their operation.
Two of Toronto's best players, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, spent significant time with Raptors 905 before carving out roles in the NBA. VanVleet, who averaged 17.6 points and 6.6 assists this past season, went undrafted in 2016, and Siakam, who won the NBA's Most Improved award in 2019, was the 27th pick of the 2016 draft.
Both Siakam and VanVleet were core players for Raptors 905 in 2016-17, helping the franchise win a D League-best 39 games that season and leading them to a championship.
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Current Raptors role players Norman Powell and Chris Boucher, as well as Mavericks guard Delon Wright and Spurs center Jakob Poeltl, also spent time with Raptors 905. The franchise is located in Mississauga, Ontario, and plays most of its home games 18.6 miles (or roughly 30 kilometers) away from the Raptors' home, Scotiabank Arena.
The Detroit Pistons' new G League team, the Motor City Cruise, which will start play for the 2021-22 season, will be located even closer. The Cruise will play their home games in a new arena on Wayne State's campus, about two miles north of Little Caesars Arena, and share the Henry Ford Pistons Performance Center with the Pistons. The proximity should allow a great level of synergy, and the affiliation will allow both franchises to run similar systems on the court.
Casey is excited. The Pistons have several young players, including Sekou Doumbouya and their upcoming draft pick, who could benefit from having a G League team nearby, though those two will not likely derive the benefits, considering the wait for the team's relocation.
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But as the Pistons continue to retool under the watch of general manager Troy Weaver, they're sure to add additional young players who'll spend significant time with the Cruise.
"I can say it's the single-most instrumental tool that the Raptors had in building their players, building their infrastructure as far as players, front office staff," Casey told reporters on Friday. "It was a training center for the players. It really allowed that team, and those players, to have a venue where they could practice with the varsity team in the morning and come back and go back and play with the G League team in the afternoon. This is going to be a huge teaching tool, laboratory for us, right here in close proximity of our practice facility."
After purchasing the Northern Arizona Suns from the Phoenix Suns in July, the Pistons announced the franchise's new name and logo on Friday. The Motor City Cruise honors Detroit's history as the automobile capital of the world, and were named by Grandville resident Dylan Martin, the winner of a naming contest held from July until August.
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Martin was the first of 10 fans to pitch the "Motor City Cruise" name and will receive four courtside tickets and a VIP package for the Cruise's inaugural season in 2021-22.
"I enter every contest (the Pistons) put out, so I never really expect to win anything," Martin said. "And then seeing that I got the name picked, it's super cool. Seeing the logo this morning put it all together. It's been a totally crazy experience."
"With it being in Detroit, I wanted to stay away from using 'Detroit' and use something different to try to differentiate it. Motor City is the other iconic name for Detroit. Sticking with the car theme, I thought of the Woodward Dream Cruise, so I took the Cruise from that, paired it with Motor City, and there you have it, the name."
The logo and jerseys feature the Pistons' traditional red, white and blue colors, and the logo is a basketball with a pair of flaming tailpipes.
"The new mark includes the firing tailpipes that are symbolic of the classic muscle cars, and also serve as a nod to the Pistons brand from the early 2000s," Pistons chief content officer Mike Zavodsky said.
The Pistons' current "hybrid" affiliation with the Grand Rapids Drive will expire after the 2020-21 season, after which the Drive will become an independent G League franchise.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons get 'instrumental' boost from Motor City Cruise