The Golden State Warriors are already more than 10 percent of the way through their 2017-18 regular season schedule, but for the franchise’s G League team in Santa Cruz, the fun is just getting started.
That’s right, the Santa Cruz Warriors opened their season Friday on the road in Ontario, CA, and will host the South Bay Lakers in their home opener on Saturday, November 4th, at Kaiser Permanente Arena. The new season marks the beginning of a new era in Santa Cruz, as the Sea Dubs debuted a new head coach in an entirely rebranded league.
First things first: for those of you unaware, what was formerly known as the NBA D-League is now the NBA G League. Beginning this season, the NBA G League will feature 26 teams – an expansion of four teams since last season – 22 of which are owned and operated by NBA franchises.
The NBA G League has more than tripled in size since it debuted with eight teams during the 2001-02 season. Last season, nearly 1.5 million fans attended games, marking the eighth-straight year the league has surpassed one million fans. It’s been a valuable developmental ground for NBA teams, as 44 percent of players on 2016-17 end-of-season NBA rosters had NBA G League experience, while 65 percent of players selected in 2016 NBA Draft spent time in the NBA G League last season, including more than half of the first-round picks.
Whichever players spend time in Santa Cruz this upcoming season will do so under the tutelage of new first-year Head Coach Aaron Miles. Miles, the former University of Kansas guard and all-time Big-12 assists leader, is the third coach in Santa Cruz franchise history.
Miles, 34, most recently served as an assistant coach at Florida Gulf Coast University, helping the Eagles to a 26-8 record, the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Championship and a berth in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. A native of Portland, Oregon, Miles appeared in 19 games with the Golden State Warriors during the 2005-06 season and later appeared with the Fort Worth Flyers and Reno Bighorns of the NBA G League.
“I’m really excited to join the Warriors organization and to become part of the Santa Cruz community that has supported the team through 31 consecutive home sellouts,” said Miles. “I look forward to building upon the success of the organization’s first five seasons into one of the NBA G League’s model franchises.”
Supporting Miles in his debut season will be Assistant Coaches Michael Lee and Kris Weems, as well as Strength and Conditioning Coach Robert Hornett.
The Santa Cruz Warriors’ season-opening roster is comprised of 13 players, including four returning players, four affiliate players, two 2017 NBA G League Draft selections and two players acquired with the new two-way player rule.
What’s a two-way player, you ask? As part of the revamped league structure, NBA teams can now sign up to two “two-way” players to NBA contracts. These contracts allow “two-way” players to be with their NBA parent team for up to 45 days, spending most of the season in the NBA G League. Golden State has elected to use their two “two-way” player designations on Chris Boucher and Quinn Cook, who will be with the Sea Dubs for the home opener and frequently throughout the upcoming G League season. Additionally, Golden State center Damian Jones is currently with Santa Cruz on G League assignment. For a closer look at Santa Cruz’s roster, click here.
So, let’s see. New league, new coach, new players and new rules. What else? It only makes sense that in addition to all that, the Santa Cruz Warriors and all G League teams will wear new uniforms in the season ahead. In keeping with the ‘testing ground’ theme, the NBA G League will also collaborate with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) on programs to enhance player sports performance and recovery. Gatorade will begin to incubate its latest product and equipment innovations into NBA G League locker rooms, and teams will have the opportunity to collaborate with Gatorade to help players maximize their athletic potential and on-court performance.
All of this is to say: this isn’t your grandfather’s G League. With an intimate venue that seats just under 3,000 people and the type of family-friendly atmosphere you might encounter at a minor league baseball game, Santa Cruz Warriors games are – to steal an old Warriors’ slogan – a great time out. Perhaps best of all, for fans that live in the Bay Area, Kaiser Permanente Arena is less than 70 miles south of Oracle Arena in beautiful, lively downtown Santa Cruz. Heck, you can even hit the Boardwalk before the game.