Birmingham squadron: a look at what to expect from the Pelicans G-League squad

Welcome to the life of the G-League, Pelicans fans!

Since the team was originally announced in November 2018, basketball fans will soon be able to watch the pros play in Alabama for the first time in a long time – this will be the first-ever NBA-affiliated team in the state. And as announced at the end of July, we have a name: Birmingham Squadron.

The name connects to both the local market and the parent club – and you must love the connection to the Greek god of fire, Vulcan. Good choice.

It also marks, of course, the first time the Pelicans will have their own minor league affiliate, which is a complete upgrade for the franchise as a whole.

29 teams will face off in the league next year, almost matching a 1-to-1 adjustment with the 30 parent NBA clubs. It took years to get to 29 teams; Just 10 years ago, many of, say, 20, 22, or 24 teams were independently owned but had basketball operations relationships with, at times, as many as four clubs in the NBA.

Birmingham Squadron

The squadron is owned by the Pelicans, offering a clear line of responsibility from Gayle Benson to David Griffin to Trajan Langdon, who will act as the primary basketball decision maker for the parent club’s new club; Marc Chasanoff and Billy Campbell will lead basketball operations from Birmingham. David Lane, General Manager of Commercial Operations, will focus on ticket sales, game day experience, communications and all other non-basketball related tasks.

Randy and me

Randy Livingston is almost certainly the greatest high school basketball player in New Orleans history; the hype and performance of these winning Newman State teams in the 1990s was iconic of Crescent City then and is fondly remembered now.

Honestly, just Googling the guy: he’s a legend. Livingston is now Newman’s head coach and expects his team to compete for a state title starting this year.

I worked with Randy when he was the head coach of the Idaho Stampede from 2010-2012 (since renamed SLC Stars and moved to Salt Lake City as a Jazz Affiliate). He was also a Stampede player earlier in his career, leading the team to the D-League Championship in 2008, a team coached by returning assistant Bryan Gates, who, coincidentally, replaces Willie Green on the Monty Williams bench in Phoenix.

“The relationship with the owner was important at the time [The Stampede were independently owned by a collection of about 10 local businessmen. They *could* at times have influence on the roster. Other teams were run similarly back then.]. For most teams now, it’s the relationship with the GM or the parent club’s basketball operations, ”Livingston said. “It’s a bonus to win a championship, but ultimately the orders that come from the parent club are about development. Maybe a rookie needs a few minutes, or they want to see certain things on the pitch, there are guys with two-way contracts or with 10 contracts.

There’s also the development of the coaches, the front office folks, the ticket sellers, or heck, even the mascot. Livingston noted recent G-League coaches like NBA champion Nick Nurse, OKC’s Mark Dagnault, former Pels man Chris Finch and recently fired Nate Bjorkgren. There will be more in the future. So be sure to check out the full list and front office when considering who can be called.

One of Livingston’s most talked-about moves was bringing former NBA All-Star Antoine Walker to Idaho, which brought in a veteran presence to support young players trying to make their mark. name.

“The league is built around young people,” said Livingston. “You need a balance between the veterans and the young people who are trying to be called. Sometimes NBA teams need a veteran who can play in running or even in the playoffs. But if you have a roster of 12 players, probably eight could be young.

What matters: families, beer and money

Here’s a duh for you: The main goal of every NBA franchise is to win the NBA Championship. Apart from tanking teams, every team wants to win every game.

Trajan Langdon and Birmingham general managers Mark Chasanoff and Billy Campbell would love to win a G-League title, but the Birmingham squad exist to allow New Orleans to thrive.

“The G-League is different now,” Livingston told me. “You are playing for development now. When I played, it was for development, but it was also for the spirit of competition, victory and the establishment of a winning culture. Development is probably the first priority of the parent club.

“There are more opportunities to be exposed to high performance basketball in the region,” Livingston said. “The locals or the players of LSU, UNO or Tulane all have a place to go to see what professional basketball is like. It might not be the NBA, but an opportunity is enough, and you get a 10 day deal and the next thing you can turn into a $ 50 million deal.

Birmingham Squadron

David Lane, general manager of commercial operations, sees it like other minor league sports: “We are all trying to sell tickets and popcorn, and create a first class experience for fans and sponsors. “

As a former employee of the G-League (D-League, at the time, actually), I can attest to this: the employees on the ground in Birmingham want to attract attention, sell tickets, get butt in the seats and ensure that their game day experience brings fans back year after year. Winning improves every part of the day, but the rosters change so much between – and even during – seasons, the game can be uneven. One day your top three players are on a hot streak; the next day they can all be called up to various NBA teams (or overseas) and games can be lost. But as long as the fans (families!) Love the mascot, the dance team, and the lower NBA prices; sponsors and big players have fun (beer!) at the games; and the city supports (money!) their success, it is the real victory for the franchise. Halftime shows are often as good as what you see in NBA games.

Whoever has sold the most tickets is the real MVP. Special jerseys can represent something unique like Star Wars, Seinfeld, or Barack Obama.

“Make no mistake, I’m not the general manager of basketball,” Lane said to clarify his role. “During our NBA Draft Watch Party, I get asked, ‘Who are we going to draft? Do I have an idea? ” No. No, I don’t {laughs}. Smarter people on the basketball side will bring the players here.

“We’re going to be making a first class experience for all of our fans from day one in Legacy Arena. I want our fans to have a good time. The whole gaming experience might be for them to have a good time and at the end of the night they don’t even know who won the game. We want to organize 24 nights for 24 home games. We believe it will keep people coming back, bringing them something unique and memorable. “


Bottom: assignment; Up: call

Unless a player is currently signed by an NBA team and “sent” to the G-League (or “assigned,” as the league prefers), that player remains under the control of the mothership. So if we see a 2021 NBA Draft pick playing for BHam, don’t worry, he’s still ours.

BUT, any G-League player who is not on a regular or two-way contract with an NBA team can be called up by anyone. So when you put down roots in the squadron, a lot of these guys could end up playing for any NBA team next week.

Other questions? The G-League has a great FAQ page here:

Who ARE these guys?

Look up recent NBA G-League rosters and you’ll essentially recreate the old Deadspin feature: “Remember some guys.”

Did you know that former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet played nine games for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in 2019-20? Or that former Hornets legend Emeka Okafor played 26 games for the Delaware Blue Coats in 2017-18? I remember Antoine Walker very well who played two seasons with my Idaho Stampede in 2010-12. And Andre Ingram, Renaldo Major or Blake Ahearn? My favorite is Morris Almond. Guys. Each of them is a guy.

They come from all over: Thousands of college graduates dream of becoming the NBA, but of course only around 400 play at the highest level each season.

Fans should expect more than 20 players to rotate on the roster each season, with little to no carry-over from year to year. 20 players this year, maybe 20 next. As with any minor league team, it’s hard for fans to hang on to guys who show up year after year, hence the emphasis on the game experience and the culture of basketball development. .

“Birmingham is a growing city with good financial stability,” said Livingston. “Fans will want to see these games and will want to see them supported and remain financially stable. It’s really exciting. “

Information from the US Census Bureau shows that the city of Birmingham is losing its population slightly over the years, while neighboring suburbs and satellite towns increase. Soon Birmingham is likely to lose its long-standing position as Alabama’s most populous city; this seems to be more due to the prodigious growth of Huntsville than to an exorbitant number of Birmingham leaving.

Birmingham Squadron

Lane said of the market, which shows growth including the suburbs and surrounding communities, “There are a lot of businesses moving downtown. We see more and more traffic, buzz. UAB will play in the new football stadium under construction, which will accommodate 45,000 people. The legacy is $ 123 million, which is part of the more than $ 400 million earmarked just for this part of downtown. We bring people downtown.

So, Birmingham and all the surrounding areas: stand up, buy tickets and enjoy the Squadron ball!

For more pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on itunes, Spotify, Stapler or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @Trabeta.

Comments are closed.