Here’s a handy explainer about the upcoming NBA G League season, the ‘first-of-its-kind’ Ignite team that India’s Princepal Singh will be part of, and what makes Princepal’s stint in the G League different from his compatriots before him.
Two Indians have played in the NBA G League so far. On Wednesday, 20-year-old Princepal Singh could become the third, should he take the court when the NBA G League tips off at Florida inside a bio-secure bubble.
Here’s a handy explainer about the upcoming NBA G League season, the ‘first-of-its-kind’ Ignite team that Princepal will be part of, and what makes Princepal’s stint in the G League different than that of his compatriots before him:
What is the G League?
The G League is the NBA’s development league. It used to be called the D League, but was renamed the G League for sponsorship reasons.
What’s new this year?
Given the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first year that the NBA G League is going to happen in a bio-secure bubble. Just like the NBA season last time around, the G League’s bubble will be held at Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort.
Many teams have opted out of the bubble, so this season will see just 18 teams take the floor. The G League will also have a new team in the mix this season called Ignite.
As per the NBA, the Ignite is a “first-of-its-kind program dedicated to developing the world’s top young prospects in preparation for the NBA Draft”.
Ignite is a professional pathway for draft-eligible young basketball players to be part of the NBA G League. The contract given to these players helps them sharpen their skills on the court and grow off the court before they can enlist for the NBA Draft. Currently, USA has a rule requiring American players to wait a year after graduating high school before enlisting for the NBA Draft.
The NBA decided to start Ignite after talented prospects such as LaMelo Ball (the brother of New Orleans Pelicans star Lonzo Ball) and RJ Hampton skipped college to go play abroad in the Australian league. Many elite players too would have followed suit in the following years because the NCAA doesn’t allow college athletes to make money, and leagues abroad such as the one in Australia pay lucrative amounts to players to skip college and play for them instead. As part of Ignite, though, top players are paid a decent salary and get more exposure to scouts from all 30 teams.
Ignite has been training at Walnut Creek in Oakland since August last year.
How will the G League season pan out?
Each of the 18 teams will play 15 games in the regular season. The top eight teams will then advance to a single-elimination playoff, which will begin on 8 March and conclude with the NBA G Final on 11 March.
What’s in it for fans from India?
Princepal Singh, a precociously talented 20-year-old from Punjab’s Gurdaspur, will be part of the Ignite team. A 6’9” power forward, who can also play as a centre, Princepal is an NBA India Academy graduate.
Have Indians played in the G League before Princepal?
Yes, Satnam Singh and Amjyot Singh Gill have played in the NBA G League before Princepal. Palpreet Singh was on the verge of breaking into the G League, but was unpicked in the Draft.
What will be different in Princepal’s time in the G League as compared to Amjyot and Satnam?
As part of the off-court development of Ignite’s elite draft-eligible young prospects, the league has held the following training and speaker sessions:
# NBA players like Darius Miles, Jamal Crawford, Quinn Cook have spoken to Ignite players
# Parents of NBA stars including Quinn Cook’s mother, Chris Paul’s parents and the Holiday brothers’ parents have spoken to the parents of Ignite’s draft-eligible players to help temper their expectations
# Business of Basketball class through Arizona State University
# Financial literacy sessions with Mike Haddix of Empower3d
Besides these, Princepal and his teammates have also been part of sessions teaching them about facets like media training and branding, communication and team building, mental health, managing and maintaining healthy relationships, goal-setting, and sleep therapy.
How much game time will Princepal get?
The initial plan for Ignite was to get some games against G League opposition and international teams. However, when only 17 teams committed to playing in the bio-secure bubble, an opportunity opened for Ignite to become the 18th team in the mix and get at least 15 high-quality match-ups. They will start on Wednesday with a clash against the Santa Cruz Warriors, led by Jeremy Lin. This will translate into more competitive playing time for the young players than before, particularly for Princepal.
However, coach of the team, Brian Shaw, has tried to temper expectations by saying that Princepal won’t get “significant minutes”.
Who else is with Princepal at Ignite?
The Ignite team is a mixture of draft-eligible elite players such as Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Daishen Nix, Kai Sotto, Isaiah Todd and veteran players such as Jarrett Jack, Amir Johnson and Bobby Brown. Between the three of them, Jack, Johnson and Brown have made 1,895 appearances in the NBA, and are tasked with mentoring the youngsters.
Green and Kuminga have been projected to be among the top 5 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Who is Princepal’s coach at Ignite?
Brian Shaw is the coach of Ignite. He has been a part of five NBA title-winning Los Angeles Lakers teams in his career, three as a player (2000, 2001, 2002) and two as a coach (2009, 2010). He has also taken the court with legends of the game like Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
How will Princepal benefit?
While veteran players in Ignite such as Johnson and Jack have been giving Princepal practical basketball tips, the Indian is also benefitting from sessions like financial planning, mental health, and English language lessons.
Being on the same team as top-rated players in the upcoming Draft will also shine a spotlight on the Indian. Princepal’s teammate Green has 1.1 million followers on Instagram. His presence, along with that of Kuminga’s, in Ignite has already raised plenty of interest in the development team, and should Princepal give a good measure of himself over the season, it could lead teams to take a chance on the Indian.
Shaw has said that the Indian’s stamina and strength are getting better. “His range (has also gotten better) — from what I saw before he got here, he was a pretty decent inside player and mid-range player. He has been able to extend his range to the three-point line because in today’s game, big guys have to be able to space the floor and shoot threes as well. His understanding of what we call a player of a defensive scheme… that has grown as well,” said Shaw during a recent media interaction.
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