SANTA CRUZ -- To hear Jerry West tell it, the NBA draft was a little different when he passed through it in 1960.
"I was the second player taken in the draft, the second player," West told a packed house at The Crow's Nest restaurant along the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor on Tuesday afternoon. "And today, when get you drafted today, you know about it pretty quick.
"I found out the next day I was drafted No. 2 in the draft. So, it's come a long way."
No matter how or when they find out, West and his Golden State Warriors business partners have given even the most tepid basketball fans in Santa Cruz a reason to pay close attention to the NBA Draft on June 28.
The Warriors currently have four picks in the draft, and odds are that at least a couple could end up playing here for the NBA team's soon-to-be-relocated Developmental League team, the Santa Cruz Warriors.
"The `Golden State~ Warriors are going to be a lot better this year, and you're going to see some players because we have four draft picks this year," West said, "and I'm sure you will see some of them and eventually they're going to wind up on the Warriors' squad."
West, a consultant for the NBA team, spoke at a Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce event on Tuesday as part of what was deemed the official kickoff party for the Santa Cruz Warriors. Kirk Lacob, the Warriors' assistant general manager and the son of owner Joe Lacob, and Jim Weyermann, the vice
franchise development, also spoke at the event.
Last month, the Santa Cruz City Council unanimously approved a $3.5 million loan for the team to build a temporary arena for its D-League team on Front Street, at the base of Beach Hill. The facility, which the team announced Tuesday will be called Kaiser Permanente Arena, can be rented for recreational purposes and concerts when not in use by the team.
But for at least 24 games between late November and early April for the next five years -- as long as permits go through and a deal is struck with the Seaside Company, which owns the land -- the Santa Cruz Warriors plan to call it the home of some of basketball's best up-and-coming talent.
"This is a unique opportunity to see good basketball," West said. "They're here to prove a point, and the point is: I want to be an NBA player. I'm here to fulfill my dream.'"
Fans, including an estimated 250 who have already bought season tickets, can expect to see the college and international players selected in this month's draft picking up experience. They will join picks from the November D-League draft and local tryouts, as well as players returning from the team that was formerly the Dakota Wizards.
And on a few special occasions, they may even catch NBA stars trying to work their way back from injuries.
Kirk Lacob noted that 25 percent of NBA players spend time on D-League rosters.
"If we draft a guy who's not the 10th pick, you can expect that he will come down here quite a bit," Lacob said.
The Warriors hold the Nos. 7 and 30 picks in the first round and Nos. 35 and 52 in Round 2. There's a chance they'll trade the No. 7 pick for an established small forward, the biggest gap in their lineup.
No matter how many draft picks they keep, nor who actually makes the roster, Lacob promised the Santa Cruz Warriors players won't just be passing through.
"The players should be in the community to develop other players in the community," said Lacob, 23, who added that he had played against Santa Cruz High star guard Junior Russell and was attending Menlo School when the Cardinals' boys basketball team won the state Division III championship under coach Pete Newell Jr. in 2005.
That's what Deidre Hamilton, whose son Austin Swift played on that 2005 championship team, and many of the other people attending the kickoff seemed to be looking forward to. Even more than seeing their favorite professional players in town for a game, they anticipated watching young local players emulating the pros and kicking their play up a level.
"Having something like this come to town gives the kids something to look up to, something to shoot for," Hamilton said. "So from that perspective, it's very exciting."
For more information, visit www.nba.com/warriors/santacruzwarriors. ------ (c)2012 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) Visit the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) at www.santacruzsentinel.com Distributed by MCT Information Services