The D in D-League stood for dreams Sunday, as the Santa Cruz Warriors debuted their new mascot and announcers and let the kids in the audience shoot hoops with the Developmental League players.
The whole league is about dreams, said D-League president Dan Reed. Everyone including the players, coaches, executives and even the dancers wants to make it to the NBA.
"We're turning NBA dreams into reality," he said of the league, which at only 12 years old is the junior minor league to baseball's 100 and hockey's 50-year-old programs. "The players will be competitive, because if they aren't, they won't make it to the NBA."
The home season starts Dec. 23 with a sold-out game, the first in the new downtown Kaiser Permanente Arena, which was finished in 12 weeks, a speed record that seems like a dream.
Dreams also came true Sunday for youngsters who lined up to meet players and get autographs.
"I told my son Jerry West was going to be there and he said 'the Jerry West?' said Joe Sherer. "He knew who he was." His son, Kian, is 7, and the Sherers have season tickets for the big and small league Warriors.
"Now my kids will have a chance to love basketball as much as I do," said the agricultural salesman from Capitola.
A big dream came true for Kim Luke, the only female who made it to the final round to be the team announcer. The 865 full season ticket holders and the 458 partial season ticket holders voted by applause after five candidates read a script announcing the team. Luke, who is the announcer for the Santa Cruz Derby Girls roller derby team, got by far the most applause and she will partner with Bryan Day, a high school announcer in Salinas, who came in second.
Team owner Joe Lacob said he was seeing his dream come true in developing this minor league team that will work hand-in-hand with its big league brother. Lacob said he had lunch at the Santa Cruz Diner before the 2 p.m. showcase at Aptos High School. He'd had lunch there a year ago, when he and team president Jim Weyermann began talking about the possibility of moving to Santa Cruz.
The Warriors really put on a show for the fans, including having rookie Carlon Brown try out to be an announcer. He was a natural and really gave a feeling for the spirit of the team (see video to the right).
A dream came true for at least one sea turtle, who will not go extinct. Mav'Ricks, the Sea Turtle won out over a Sting Ray and an Octopus, to be the team's mascot.
Brad Brown, in charge of the team's operations, explained that the suits for the Ray and the cephalopod mollusc were just too cumbersome. The team got hundreds of nominations for a mascot. The Turtle was sent in by someone in Canada.
Team president Weyermann had kids in the audience sit on the floor and interviewed them Art Linkletter style, asking what they thought the mascot should be. A warrior and Poseiden were popular choices, but Brown explained that human mascots tend to look too cartoonish, so they went with the sea turtle.
The turtle, whose name wasn't released, in real life also works for the San Jose and San Francisco Giants and the Golden State Warriors. Check the video. He's got some moves.