by Brian Gewecke
Graphic by Yiying Zhang
Lately, numerous people have expressed excitement about the new NBA G-League team coming to Walnut Creek, but many people are likely unfamiliar with this league, and may not know about the new team.
The NBA Gatorade League, or G-League, previously known as the Developmental League, serves as a league of borderline-professional teams, many of which are affiliated with NBA teams. Although not all 30 NBA teams have a G-League affiliate, teams like the Golden State Warriors do, with their affiliate Santa Cruz Warriors. NBA teams can send their young, rarely played players down to their G-League affiliate to receive playing time and an opportunity to develop more than they would sitting at the end of the bench on a team. The G-League also serves as a possible path for previously undrafted players, or players who failed to stake out their place in the league. For these players, the G-League provides a shot to be noticed by an NBA team, and can change players’ careers for the better.
Traditionally, upcoming recruits have had a low amount of options for paths towards going pro. Because of the “One-and-Done” rule, which may end up being removed from basketball in upcoming years, players cannot go directly to the NBA from high school. They must attend at least a year in college, playing overseas, or training privately after graduating high school. However, this summer, the NBA announced the opening of a new pathway: one in which top recruits could play a year in the G-League while getting paid, play in an environment that more closely resembles professional basketball, and still have the opportunity to receive a college education.
The G-League Select Team, or Ignite, is the team that all of the top recruits in the G-League are playing for. Potential 2021 top-five recruits Jalen Green and Jonathon Kuminga will be preparing for their NBA careers right here in Walnut Creek. “I am most excited to see Jalen Green on the team. I followed his basketball career all of high school, and he’s a fantastic player,” said senior Braedon Lynch. As shown by Braedon, this team isn’t a random G-League team. It consists of players that fans have been watching since middle school or high school. The fact that some of the country’s top recruits will play locally, as long as the team stays in Walnut Creek, is almost unimaginable for basketball fans. With this team, local residents will watch future NBA players, and potentially even future All-Stars, play games live.
Before deciding on Walnut Creek, the NBA considered placing the team in a much larger and more prominent basketball city like Los Angeles, but luckily it didn’t go that way. Senior Josh Stemmerich appears to feel the same sentiment, as he said, “I think it’s huge that they chose Walnut Creek out of all places to bring a new G-League team to, and I’m really excited to see how it all turns out.” As Josh said, the NBA’s decision to bring the team to Walnut Creek is a true testament to the city’s progress and development over recent years. Mark Lewis seems to share Josh’s opinion, saying, “I was surprised to hear that Walnut Creek would be a location for a G-League team. It speaks to how much Walnut Creek has grown and has become sort of a ‘hub’ of the East Bay.”
Of course, although bringing such a team to Walnut Creek is an amazing thing, it may have some negative consequences on the local community. “With the excitement of such a large new entertainment source in Walnut Creek, I think it’s possible that it can cause prices to go up at local businesses, and I think that it may bring a lot more people to the city that will contribute to the clutter,” Josh said. His sentiment makes perfect sense, as local companies will undoubtedly attempt to reap the benefits of an increased consumer population. This will serve as a great way for the local community to make its way back up from the recent economic recession, but in the future it may cause some problems for local consumers. Another issue noted by Stemmerich is the continued increase in clutter. Over recent years, Walnut Creek has undergone a large level of development, with remodeling and apartment-building increasing. With a new large, local entertainment source, Walnut Creek will receive an even more significant increase in population and visitors. Although it is arguable as to whether this is a bad thing, the draw of the G-League team will bring numerous more people to Walnut Creek.
Local residents, whether basketball fans or not, will surely be excited to watch some of the nation’s top athletes compete right in their backyard. “If we can, I definitely want to go to some games with my friends. I think that would be super fun,” stated senior Grant Askins. These games can provide experiences to the current youth that previous generations never had. Despite possible minor negative effects, for local basketball fans, the addition of the G-League Select Team to Walnut Creek is one of the most exciting things to witness for years to come.