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PUNCHING THEIR TICKET
PUNCHING THEIR TICKET
PUNCHING THEIR TICKET
PUNCHING THEIR TICKET

PUNCHING THEIR TICKET

The World of Sports Making the big show is the ultimate goal for the hundreds of players in the NBA G League. Of course, winning a championship, like the RGV Vipers have done a record three times, isn’t bad either. To start the 2019-20 NBA season, an all-time high 208 players on NBA Opening Night rosters had NBA G League experience — including those under two-way contracts — representing a record 42% of the league. That number is an increase from last season’s record total of 198 players (40%). Just seven years ago, the figure stood at 84 (19%). Every NBA team had at least three NBA G League veterans on its start of season roster. More than half of NBA teams (18/30) have at least seven NBA veterans on their start of season rosters The L.A. Clippers, Philadelphia and Washington lead the league with 10 NBA G League veterans on their 19-20 start of season rosters. Other leaders include Dallas (9), Oklahoma City (9), San Antonio (9), Brooklyn (9), Detroit (8), Houston (8), Indiana (8), Memphis (8), Milwaukee (8), Minnesota (8), Denver (7), Golden State (7), Portland (7), Sacramento (7) and Toronto (7). “That’s the ultimate goal for the entire organization, from players to torches to trainers and front-office,” former Vipers head coach James Blair, who led the Vipers to the title last season and was then hired by the Philadelphia 76ers as an assistant head coach. “We are just a stepping stone and here to help them reach their goals.” Nick Nurse is another example from the coaching ranks. Nurse became the first coach to lead a team to a G League title (Iowa in 2011 and RGV in 2013) and an NBA Championship (defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors). Players who bounce back and for from an NBA team to a G League team are sent down for several reasons. Most of the time is to provide those players with more playing time so they can reach a level to remain on the “mother ship.” Vipers center Isaiah Hartenstein is a prime example. The 7-0 center can be seen almost regularly taking that quick flight back and forth from the Valley to Houston, and vice versa, often. “I know what the Rockets expect from me and I’m working to get back there and stay there,” Hartenstein said last season. “But when I’m with the Vipers I’m working hard to help them as well and provide some guidance ...

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