SPORTS

Adam Silver realizing that G League Ignite was doomed to fail

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You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. But the only way to improve your jump shot is through shot correction. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is realizing that a shot his league took a few years ago — that many thought looked good when it came off their hands — was always going to be an airball.

Back in 2020, a year and some change before NIL went into effect, many in the basketball world drank the Kool-Aid and believed that a change was coming to the sport due to the decision of two teenagers — Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd. Fast forward to this past weekend, and Silver sounds like he now understands why that was never the case.

“I think given that that’s happened, I think we are in the process of reassessing Team Ignite,” said Silver during his annual All-Star Weekend news conference. “Because now some of those same players who didn’t want to be one-and-done players because they felt it was unfair and they wanted the ability not just to earn a living playing basketball but to do commercial deals that weren’t available to them at college, to hire professional agents, an opportunity that wasn’t available to them at college, they now — all of those same opportunities have become available to them.

“I’m not sure what the future of Team Ignite will be, because before there was a hole in the marketplace that we thought we were filling before doing that, and now my focus is turning to earlier development of those players.”

When the G League Ignite Team launched in 2018, it was supposed to be a sexy option that top prospects could choose if they weren’t all that interested in being unpaid college students. Big salaries for three to four players on a team full of veterans, who would play and practice against grown men in the G League for one season before they were off to be top picks in the NBA Draft. In theory, that’s how it was supposed to work. But in actuality, you were going to be a well-paid teenager living in an apartment by yourself, away from your friends and people your age who were enjoying the college life, as you played against grown men who were routinely coming at you on the court, in gyms that many have never heard of, as the G League only has a handful of games per year aired on television.

You got an early jump on training and development, but you were also out of sight and out of mind, as you watched all your friends at Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, and North Carolina play on TV every night, getting ready for March Madness.

Oh, yeah. The huge caveat was that if you got injured or weren’t drafted, nobody owned your “rights,” and you weren’t guaranteed another contract with the Ignite team. If those things happened in college you could just come back to school for a sophomore or junior year, with the G League option, there wasn’t a legit backup plan.

“I wanted to get better overall and prepare myself for the NBA because that’s my ultimate goal,” Green told Yahoo Sports back in 2020, as he took the pro route that came with a salary of over $500,000 instead of choosing between Memphis and Auburn. “Everything was planned out right and set up for me to succeed. I think this was a good decision at the end of the day. I’m still going to be able to go back to college and finish school. So, it’s not really that I’m missing out on college because I can go back and finish whenever I need to. School is a big thing in my family.”

That same day, it was reported that Todd, a five-star recruit and former Michigan commit, was going to join Green with G League Ignite. Fans and media members lost it. They just knew this was the death of college basketball, as it was coming off an investigation by the FBI.

Four years later, they have egg on their faces.

Over the years, the team has produced top draft picks like Scoot Henderson (No. 3 in 2023), Dyson Daniels (No. 8 in 2022) and Green (No. 3 in 2021). Green is the most productive player the team has ever produced, as he’s the second option for the Houston Rockets — who sit at 24-30, which is third in their division. Todd was a second-round pick in the 2021 draft and has played a handful of games in the league. He’s also spent time with the Capital City Go-Go, putting him back where he started, the G League. This season the G League Ignite team is 6-31.

A year after Green and Todd told college basketball no, the collegiate landscape changed forever when NIL came into play, as it allowed athletes to stick around a little longer since the ones who had a shot of going pro had money in their pockets now. Between the influx of players from overseas coming to the league in droves and the NCAA Tournament still serving as a springboard got stardom, the sexiness of G League Ignite quickly faded away. It was never an added option like many thought it was, given that it’s always been nothing more than a way to cheat the process. It was fast money, and you know what they say about quick cash.

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