This article is sponsored by the Texas Legends. Featured image credit: Chris Covatta/NBAE via Getty Images.
The G-League suspended its season on March 12 and officially canceled it on June 4. I wept both times. I felt bad for all of these players that had opportunities taken away from them through no fault of their own.
When the NBA started back up with their bubble vision, it also offered opportunities for out-of-work G-Leaguers. Not only did NBA rosters expand to 17 players to provide extra help in case someone contracted the virus or had to leave the bubble, but some NBA players opted out of rejoining their teams for various personal and health reasons.
This opened up a handful of roster spots for G-League players who either were already under NBA contracts or were available to any team who wanted their talents.
2019-2020 Legends Living the Disney Dream
These four gentlemen called Frisco home this year and because of their skills and hard work at the Comerica Arena, they were noticed and called up by NBA teams to get a taste of the action.
The good news is that they’re getting a chance that they might not have otherwise had this season. The bad news is that they might be making a name for themselves and you won’t get to watch them in a Legends uniform next season. Bad news for Frisco, of course. Good news for them.
Phoenix Suns — Averaged 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 22.9 minutes in 8 regular season games
Payne’s professional career started in 2015, but he landed with the Legends in January of 2020. In a short time, he asserted his dominance and won G-League Player of the Week in the first week of March before the shutdown. It did the trick because Phoenix, a team that was a long shot to make the playoffs, picked him up on a full contract to fill a roster need and contribute in the bubble.
Contribute he did. The Suns went an unblemished 8-0 during the regular season seeding games. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to put the Suns into the playoffs, but I wouldn’t bet against the Suns next year or Cam Payne being a huge part of their roster going forward. He’s fun to watch.
Dallas Mavericks — Averaged 1.2 points, 0.8 rebounds, 0.2 assists, and 4.6 minutes in 5 regular season games
I’ve said it before. This dude has a name straight out of an Elmore Leonard novel. It’s one of the coolest names I’ve ever heard that’s not fictional. Cleveland did a quick stop with the Legends in 2017, but he was very involved in this 2019-2020 season before the shutdown.
Since he was a Mavs two-way player, he got the chance to experience time with the squad in the bubble, and he has made the most of it. He might not be truly experiencing the NBA Playoffs as it usually would be constructed, but for a guy trying to prove he belongs he’s in a great spot to do so. In my opinion, he belongs in this league and will continue to prove it every practice and every game.
Dallas Mavericks — Averaged 4.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 13.5 minutes in 2 regular season games
Reaves is the other Mavs two-way player who took advantage of the opportunity afforded him. How so? He scored his first professional NBA points and then yelled out, “I’m going to Disney World!” That’s not true. He was already there. But he endeared himself so much with his teammates that everyone on the bench was the kind of happy for him that you love to see.
When he got his time, he didn’t waste it. Much like his fellow Legends/Mavericks teammate Cleveland, he will get to continue his NBA experience in the bubble in the playoffs, and this is where he has something in common with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. They’re all making the NBA playoffs for the first time.
Portland Trailblazers — Yet to play
Hoard has been a two-way player for the Trailblazers (who don’t have their own G-League team) all season, but he played for the Legends to get the minutes and experience. While he’s yet to see time on the court in the bubble, he’s no doubt gaining practice experience at the highest level and seeing what some of the greats in the game bring to the court.
He’s sharing practice time, a bench, and social (distancing) time with at least two future Hall-of-Famers in Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony plus a great coach in Terry Stotts, who was an assistant coach for the Mavs when they won the title in 2011. Jaylen Hoard is in good hands right now, and I hope he prospers from it.
Legend Alumni Blowing Up the Bubble
There are a handful of former Legends that are making the most of their NBA opportunities in Orlando as well. Some have former ties with the Dallas Mavericks, some have ties with other NBA teams but were designated to the Legends for extra playing time, and some were Legends hoping to be noticed and get a chance. They’ve all been given a chance now, and they’re making the most of it.
Brooklyn Nets — Averaged 3.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 13.0 minutes in 7 regular season games
I’m still upset about Anderson being traded from the Mavs largely because it brought back a player who never really wanted to be here or give effort. But I also don’t like it when a solid player drafted by the Mavs and spent time with the Legends leaves the family.
Anderson, now with the Brooklyn Nets, spent his time with the Legends in the 2015-2016 season. The Nets are in the playoffs so Anderson will get an opportunity to gain experience and notoriety as he provides the Nets’ bench some help for a team that their opponent shouldn’t take lightly.
Los Angeles Lakers — Averaged 3.5 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists, and 7.5 minutes in 2 regular season games
You know the name. His older brother, Giannis, is the reigning NBA MVP. This kid suited up for the Legends during the 2018-2019 season before he was picked up by the Lakers because they see something in him the same way the Mavs and Legends did.
He hasn’t played much in the bubble, but that’s easy to explain when you’re on a team with Lebron James and Anthony Davis and stacks of championship dreams. This dude is worthy regardless off his pedigree. But if the Lakers do manage to make it that far, Kostas will have himself experience for days.
Can you imagine if he and the Lakers meet his brother and the Milwaukee Bucks in the Finals? Cue national television media clips.
Miami Heat — Averaged 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 25.7 minutes in 7 regular season games
Another Mavs trade I’d love to have back because trading Crowder brought back inexcusable petulance. Crowder is a perfect example of how the G-League works for players who are drafted by teams but need real game action to hone their skills.
Crowder has been a significant contributor to many NBA teams, but if he’d been drafted and stuck at the end of an NBA bench, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity and experience to play thus possibly wasting his skills. With some time in the G-League to get minutes and shots he wouldn’t have otherwise received, Crowder developed a solid pedigree that has allowed him to carve out a very respectable NBA career.
New Orleans Pelicans — Averaged 10.8 points, 1.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 17.5 minutes in 8 regular season games
Drafted by the Charlotte Hornets and traded to the Pelicans immediately after, Jackson has built upon his time with the Legends to become a significant role player in the Pelicans’ rotation. Unfortunately, the Pelicans fell short of the playoffs, but Jackson put up solid numbers during the bubble time.
The son of a former Utah state senator, he leaves diplomacy to the side when he takes the court and starts raining threes. The Pelicans are yet another young team on the rise, and hopefully, this experience ensures that Jackson will continue to be a contributing factor.
Gary Trent Jr.
Portland Trailblazers — Averaged 15.9 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 34.2 minutes in 8 regular season games plus a play-in game for the playoffs
This dude is a talker. He has no issues jawing with his opponents during a game, and he backs it up with his play. It makes sense, because his father, Douglas Peterson, was the same way. Obviously I’m joking. His father is Gary Trent Sr., who also played for the Trailblazers and spent a little time with the Mavericks from 1998-2001. Google Gary Trent Jr. Trash Talk and there are clips for days.
Trent is the type of player that works so perfectly on this Blazers squad because he hits the shots he’s supposed to hit and he does the dirty work to keep the main guys clean. It’s all about making the most of your opportunity, and Trent the Second is making his own name in this bubble.
(Side note: My favorite memory of Gary’s father in a Mavs uniform was the infamous “Chalupa Game.” The Mavs had a promotion where if they won the game and surpassed 100 points (which most teams surpass by the third quarter these days), then the crowd got free chalupas. The Mavs were up by 20-something points but only had 98 points with seconds to go in a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Gary Trent had the ball and at the crowd’s behest, he scored the chalupa basket to make the crowd excitedly ecstatic yet utterly unnerved the rival team.
Legends owner Donnie Nelson was coaching that game for the Mavs and almost came to blows with the coach from the other team. Wesley Person took umbrage with Trent Sr. and tried to fight him, emphasis on “tried.” Mark Cuban, a very new owner of the team, ran out on the court and got in trouble. It was magical. All for a chalupa. Seriously one of the best Mavs stories ever, and I hope his son shouts “chalupa” every time he launches a mid-range jumper for the Blazers.)
Not Much Trouble in the Bubble
Some players have had to leave the bubble for personal reasons. The ones who left and returned have gone through the quarantine and testing protocols. A few players broke the rules and were sequestered and fined. But for the most part, this experiment has gone as well as one could hope.
There haven’t been any positive tests for anyone (players, coaches, staff, etc.) for weeks inside the bubble. The NBA even developed a saliva-based COVID-19 test that has proved so convenient and effective that it’s being used outside the bubble now.
The basketball has been exciting, the players seem to be embracing the concept, and quality players from the G-League and the Texas Legends are getting a chance to make a name for themselves in the happiest place on Earth.