The NBA G-League is determined to continue its season despite the challenges posed by the COWID-19 pandemic, sources of the league told ESPN. In view of health and financial concerns, the main motivation is to prevent the league’s Ignite team from collapsing in the first campaign of the programme. Some of the best prospects in the country are in Ignite’s team.
Ignite, who became official in April as an alternative to highly coveted recruits paid up to $500,000 for their first year of high school instead of college, has in his ranks Jalen Green, the number one in the 2020 class on ESPN 100, and Jonathan Kuminga, the number one in the 2021 class for his move to the 2020 class, as well as several other five-star recruits.
Based in Walnut Creek, California and coached by former Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, the team played its first home exhibition game this week. Ignite faced an experienced G-League team and lost 113-107 despite 26 points from Cuminga and 22 from Green. They played their second scrimmage on Thursday and lost 125-99 with Kuminga (21 points) and Green (20 points) again eye-catching.
To support the season, the G-League plans to pursue the NBA bubble model and is considering making Atlanta a temporary home after he also told Orlando, Florida, league sources ESPN. The Champions League season, which normally consists of 50 matches from the beginning of November to the end of March, followed by qualifying, will be shortened to the period from January to March, according to sources.
And just like the NBA bubble, which invited only 22 of the league’s 30 teams to finish the season at the ESPN Sports Complex in Orlando, the league’s G bubble can’t handle the logistics of hosting all 29 teams in one place. Similarly, G-League President Sharif Abdur-Rahim recently asked franchisees to voluntarily withdraw from the season and hopes to see 14 to 20 teams finish the season, sources told ESPN.
So far, 10 teams, including the South Bay Lakers and Maine Red Claws (affiliated with Boston Celtics), have indicated that they will withdraw, according to ESPN sources. The G-League has received pledges from a dozen teams, including Ignite, sources told ESPN, and is awaiting final decisions from a handful of other franchises. With the details of the coming season so fluid, the teams on the fence are not sure exactly what they will do, sources told ESPN.
The average salary of a G-League player is about $35,000. The influx of money to Ignite was intended to provide a better basketball environment for players like Green to play more NBA basketball while earning a competitive salary that would prevent a player of this calibre from pursuing a career in professional leagues overseas, as Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Tyler did earlier, or going to college.
Without the G-League’s exhibition games and other organized competition against the national youth and junior teams for the NBA scouts to watch Green and Cuminga – potential lottery picking in the NBA’s 2021 design – there is concern that the university’s future interest in the G-League’s path may diminish.
The G-League continued its 2019-20 season on March 12 and eventually cancelled the rest of the season in June due to concerns about the coronavirus.
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