- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2017

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. 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 well-served 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.

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 has an agreement for the team, a planned location and strategy to move forward. It now needs the facility to be built.

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