Reggie Hearn

G League Ignite Eager To Start Season Under Veteran Leadership

Driven by veteran leadership and featuring several high-level young players, the G League Ignite are finally ready to tip off their inaugural season, with games set to begin on Wednesday in a familiar bubble format at Walt Disney World in Florida.

The Ignite, founded as a development program by the NBA last year, possess a unique roster: veterans Jarrett Jack, Amir Johnson, Reggie Hearn, Donta Hall, Bobby Brown, Brandon Ashley, Cody Demps, and Jessie Govan will play alongside young prospects Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Isaiah Todd, Daishen Nix, Kai Sotto, and Princepal Singh. It’s an intriguing mix that has quickly gelled during its time together, led by former NBA head coach Brian Shaw.

“Jarrett Jack, Amir, Donta, Reggie, Bobby Brown, Brandon Ashley, Cody Demps — they’re all like big bros to us,” said Green, a projected 2021 lottery pick. “They get on us when we’re not doing good, they talk to us, watch film with us, talk about life with us. We connect with them on that level. It’s been very helpful just to have someone there that we call a big bro.”

A professional alternative to college basketball, this program aims to give young players like Green unique training and education — both on and off the court — to ensure they’re prepared for the road that lies ahead. They learn from veterans, participate in essential life programs coordinated by the G League, and compete against other professionals, all while being eligible to earn up to $500K in salary, depending on the specific terms of their contract.

Green became the first player to join the Ignite back in April 2020, bypassing top schools such as Auburn, Memphis and Oregon. Soon after his announcement, fellow five-star recruits Todd and Nix also formally committed to the Ignite, with the 7’3″ Sotto making his decision to leave the Philippines and join the team a short time later. Kuminga, who was touted as the top player in the class of 2021, re-classified to the class of 2020 and fortified the Ignite’s young core by signing in July. Singh joined shortly thereafter.

“I think everybody understands that our team is unique in terms of the other G League teams. We’re not a feeder team for one particular NBA team,” Shaw said. “So, in terms of that, even though our title is the ‘G League Ignite,’ we’re not a ‘G League’ team, per se. This team was specifically created for this pilot program to develop and teach these young guys how to be professionals on and off the court. 

“Everyone here was kind of hand-selected and pieced together to fit as best possible. That part has been nice because I think the group of veterans we have fit seamlessly with the young guys we have. They all like each other. They’ve all been good teammates to each other. It’s been a pleasure to coach them all.”

Brian Shaw speaks to Luka Walton prior to the Lakers' game against the Kings at Golden 1 Center in December 2016.Shaw started his coaching career as an assistant with the Lakers in 2004. The run included two NBA championships and lasted until 2011, when he left to join the Pacers’ coaching staff. Shaw helped guide Indiana to Eastern Conference Finals berths in 2012 and 2013, then served as head coach of the Nuggets from 2013-15 before returning to the Lakers as an associate head coach for the next three seasons. He was hired as the Ignite’s first coach last summer. 

Simply put, the man knows basketball, but he also recognizes the importance of giving back. Shaw entered the league in 1988 as part of a veteran-laden Celtics team, with future Hall-of-Famers such as Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish showing him the ropes as a rookie. The process has continued with the Ignite this year, where veterans have done their best to assist young players as the regular season nears.

“For us young guys, it was great having a steady core of veterans to teach us the right way to do things — how to have some longevity in the league, eat right, take care of your body and things of that nature,” Shaw explained. “In putting this whole thing together, it was important to get the right veterans to do the same thing for these young guys.”

The Ignite added veterans in waves. Johnson, Hearn, Brown, Demps and Ashley joined the team in November, with Jack and Hall coming aboard in January and Govan filling out the roster last week. The final two additions are certainly noteworthy; Jack holds 13 years of NBA experience, while Hall logged NBA minutes with the Pistons and Nets last season. Hall played with Brooklyn during the 2020 summer restart, meaning he’s back for a second stay at the Disney bubble, a subject his teammates constantly joke about with him.

“I feel like the talent around, the up-and-coming (ability) of these guys is just amazing,” Hall said of his teammates. “And we have Coach Shaw. I’m telling you, the man is intelligent with the game. And he breaks it down so simple for the guys. Even me, I’m still learning small aspects of the game. He’s been in (coaching) about 13, 14 years. It might be even longer than that. But I’ve been picking his brain a little bit also. I’m learning the game just like the rest of us. The whole process has been great.”

Despite being 23 years old and the youngest veteran on the team, Hall holds valuable experience — and he’s eager to help his teammates in any way possible. The 6’10” big man might have been thrown into the mix late, but that hasn’t stopped him from sharing any knowledge he can.

“When I first got here, it was nothing but love,” Hall said. “I was getting my brain picked about small stuff I do on and off the court. Especially guys like JG (Green), Prince (Singh), IT (Todd), and those guys, asking me a couple questions and stuff. It’s good that I can be there. I’ve experienced (the NBA) for a year or so now. I’ve been through the upper league and the G League, stuff of that nature.”

The Ignite initially began training in Walnut Creek, California back in August. The team started without its veterans, but as they arrived, things started to change. Like all new teams, the Ignite required a feeling-out process. After all, this wasn’t just the first time most of the players were sharing the court together — it was the first time most had even met one another.

“At first, I think the young guys were a little shy,” Shaw recalled. “They kind of kept to themselves. But as they started working with the vets, started developing a little bit more trust and started opening up and sharing things — they’ve all kind of gravitated toward different vets at different times — but it’s been really organic, the way that it’s come together. 

“I haven’t had to script anything or premeditate any messaging that I want the veterans to get across to the young guys. They’ve just kind of done it organically and naturally. When they see an opportunity to jump in and make a point of saying something on the court, they do it.”

When the team first began its workouts, young players mostly held individual sessions. But as the veterans joined and the bubble continued to near, practices were gradually ramped up. The competitive fire of both the veterans and prospects increased, with scrimmages later being introduced to the schedule.

“It gets very intense,” Green said. “We talk trash. My team always wins for sure, though.”

Even as the intensity of practices and scrimmages has escalated, the goals have remained the same: make sure the team is ready for Disney, but at the same time, keep an eye on the future by ensuring each young player is mentally and physically prepared for what comes next. Some veterans may be looking to prove they still have something left in the tank, but that hasn’t interfered with those overarching goals.

As Shaw noted, different players have gravitated to different veterans to this point. One veteran from whom Green has frequently sought advice is Hearn, a 29-year-old otherwise referred to as “Uncle Reg” by his teammates (don’t believe us, check out this recent social media post by the man himself). This is Hearn’s eighth season in the G League, making him one of the NBAGL’s longest-tenured players — only four players have appeared in more career G League games than Hearn’s 271.

“Uncle Reg was one of the first veterans here,” Green said. “We got to connect on a good level. He was already open to sharing the problems that he went through and just trying to help us. So that was a big, cool thing for us, just so we could feel comfortable. With us in general, you know, they’ve been here before. They’ve been in this position. They just try to give us as much knowledge as they can.”

As one of the first veterans to arrive, Hearn set the tone early. He embraced the role of a veteran leader and was always willing to give advice and pointers, sometimes in the middle of practice.

“When situations come up or I see various things that happen when we practice, if it’s not right away pointing it out, I might take a guy aside afterward, show them particular things that I’ve seen and give them suggestions,” Hearn explained, noting that the onus isn’t just on the coaches to do this. “In both of those ways, like I’ve said before, help them to prepare for what the program is like. Help them transition from what I think is a very different style of ball in high school and AAU to what they need to be prepared for in the NBA.”

This month’s Disney bubble will provide most G League players with the opportunity to play in competitive games for the first time in several months — or even upwards of a year. COVID-19 has complicated the Ignite’s plans, but it hasn’t diminished the palpable energy within the team. Despite the wide gaps in age and experience among various members of the roster, the Ignite are a well-connected unit. 

“They’re young, but they learn very, very quick,” Hall said of his teammates. “Small things on and off the court. They love the game, they study the game — stuff they should and shouldn’t do — they already know things of that nature. With them picking our brain and stuff like that, it also helps them in the long run.”

“Most of what any of us learned comes from what we’ve seen or been taught,” Hearn added. “So, as a leader, someone has taught me. I would be neglecting the natural chain of events, the natural way of things moving if I didn’t try to teach what I know. Hopefully the guys can take some of the best of what I do and say, along with some of the best of what other vets do and say and combine it all. 

“Going forward into these games, I would hope some of the things we’ve been saying to them will stick in their mind. Hopefully we could get them into pretty solid routines and habits that will just naturally come out when they play. Most people will tell you that when you’re out there on the court, most things are subconscious and instinctual. So we’re going to see what’s been sticking with them once we get out on the court. We’re going to see what’s come out based on what we’ve practiced.”

At long last, the Ignite are ready to show what they’re about. The condensed G League season officially starts on Wednesday, and the Ignite will tip things off later this morning with a matchup against Jeremy Lin and the Santa Cruz Warriors.

Each team will play a total of 15 regular-season games between February 10 and March 6, with the top eight teams advancing to a single-elimination playoff tournament from there.

“My mindset is locked in on that championship,” a confident Green said. “I’m very happy with where our team is right now and how much we’ve grown together. We’re just locked in.”


Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Amir Johnson, Four Other Vets Join G League Ignite

Five veteran players have joined the G League Ignite, the NBAGL’s Select Team, the league announced today in a press release. Those vets are big man Amir Johnson, guard Bobby Brown, guard Reggie Hearn, forward Brandon Ashley, and guard Cody Demps.

The G League Ignite’s roster is made up of those five veterans and several young prospects, including Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Isaiah Todd, Daishen Nix, Princepal Singh, and Kai Sotto.

The program’s aim is to provide top prospects with an alternative path to college or international ball during the year before they become draft-eligible. The veteran players are meant to help provide leadership and stability as those prospects prepare for the NBA.

Johnson, 33, is the most notable name among the Ignite’s additions. He has appeared in a total of 870 regular season games since making his debut in 2006, averaging 7.0 PPG and 5.4 RPG in 21.1 minutes per contest for the Pistons, Raptors, Celtics, and Sixers. He didn’t play in the NBA last season after making 51 appearances for Philadelphia in 2018/19.

Brown also has a solid NBA résumé, having made 158 total regular season appearances since 2008 for five NBA teams. The 36-year-old guard also has extensive international experience, spending time in leagues in Germany, Poland, Greece, Italy, China, Turkey, and Montenegro.

Hearn, Ashley, and Demps are G League veterans — of the three, only Hearn has played in an NBA regular season game, logging limited minutes in three contests for Detroit during the 2017/18 season.

It remains to be seen exactly what the NBA G League’s 2020/21 season will look like, but the Ignite – led by head coach Brian Shaw – have already begun training in Walnut Creek, California.

Lakers Sign Reggie Hearn, Cut David Stockton

The Lakers have made a minor change to their roster, announcing in a press release that they’ve signed guard Reggie Hearn and waived guard David Stockton.

Hearn, who appeared in three games for Detroit during the 2017/18 season, has spent much of his professional career in the G League, appearing in 227 total regular season games at that level. Last season, the 28-year-old played 40 games (29 starts) for the Stockton Kings, averaging 11.4 PPG and 4.5 RPG with a .429/.408/.873 shooting line.

The South Bay Lakers, L.A.’s G League affiliate, acquired the NBAGL returning rights to both Hearn and Stockton in a trade with the Kings’ G League affiliate last month, so it’s a safe bet that both players will suit up for South Bay this season.

Assuming Hearn and Stockton remain with the Lakers’ G League team for at least 60 days, they’ll be in line for Exhibit 10 bonuses worth up to $50K.

And-Ones: Team USA, Walton, J. Crawford, Draft

USA Basketball has announced its 13-man roster for the upcoming 2019 World Cup qualifiers, with the squad once again made up of NBA G League players. Of the 13 players on the roster, Reggie Hearn, Xavier Munford, Cameron Reynolds, and Travis Trice have suited up for previous World Cup qualifiers.

They’ll be joined by nine newcomers, including players with a little NBA experience like Chinanu Onuaku and Emanuel Terry.

Josh Adams, Kyle Casey, Chris Chiozza, Charles Cooke, Michael Frazier II, D.J. Hogg, and Tanner McGrew round out the roster.

Team USA, having gone 8-2 in previous qualifiers, has already earned its spot in the 2019 World Cup, so there won’t be as much pressure on this group for the games taking place in Greensboro, North Carolina on February 22 (vs. Panama) and February 25 (vs. Argentina).

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former Michigan and Heat point guard Derrick Walton, who recently left his team in Lithuania, has signed with ALBA Berlin in Germany, according to the club (Twitter link; hat tip to Sportando). Walton was on a two-way contract with Miami last season and was in training camp with the Bulls in the fall before heading overseas.
  • Veteran NBA guard Jordan Crawford saw his one-month contract with Israeli club Ironi Nahariya expire and is once again a free agent, as Nicola Lupo of Sportando relays.
  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) has released an updated 2019 mock draft at ESPN.com, with Murray State’s Ja Morant moving up to No. 3 to break up a run of Duke prospects at the top of the draft.
  • In an entertaining piece for SI.com, Jake Fischer spoke to a number of role players who have been traded along with stars to find out what it’s like to be an afterthought at an introductory press conference.

Pistons Waive Hearn; Lofton Gets Two-Way Deal

2:30pm: The Pistons have officially announced both moves in a press release.

1:25pm: The Pistons will reach the regular season roster limit by converting Zach Lofton‘s Exhibit 10 contract into a two-way deal and waiving two-way player Reggie Hearn, sources inform James Edwards III of The Athletic (Twitter links). The moves will leave Detroit with 15 players on standard contracts and two on two-way pacts.

Lofton, who turns 26 in November, played college ball for four different schools, eventually finishing his college career at New Mexico State in 2017/18. The 6’4″ shooting guard averaged 20.1 PPG and 5.0 RPG with a .456/.380/.772 shooting line in his senior year, but went undrafted in June. After signing a camp deal with the Pistons, Lofton reportedly impressed the team this fall — we heard last week that he was making a strong case for a two-way contract.

As for Hearn, he was one of the Detroit’s two-way players last season, having inked a two-year deal with the club. Although he was solid in the G League, averaging 14.8 PPG and 4.8 RPG on .423/.370/.842 shooting, he appeared in just three games for the Pistons.

Given the positional overlap between Hearn and Lofton, it makes sense that Hearn would be the odd man out if the Pistons were determined to keep Lofton.

Team USA Announces Camp Roster For September World Cup Qualifiers

Fourteen players will participate in a Las Vegas training camp beginning this Thursday, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. Of those 14 players, 12 will be named to Team USA’s roster for the club’s upcoming qualifying games for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

This set of games – the first window for the second round of qualifiers – will take place later this month. Team USA will face Uruguay on September 14, then play against Panama on September 17.

The following players will be vying for Team USA roster spots for these qualifying contests:

In the first round of qualifying games for the 2019 World Cup, Team USA was made up predominantly of G League players. That’s the case to some extent again this time, with guys like Hearn and Warney returning. However, many of the players this time around are currently under contract with NBA teams, including Bacon (Hornets), Ellenson (Pistons), Hicks (Knicks), Mason (Kings), Trice (Bucks), and White (Spurs).

“With our September second-round games marking the start of the most critical part of the World Cup Qualifying, I think it is imperative for us to look for players who possess mental fortitude, who are tough, and who have experience,” said Team USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy. “All of our second-round games are going to very, very difficult and competitive battles. Argentina, Panama and Uruguay are all really good and well coached.”

The second round of the World Cup qualifiers will take place over three windows of competition in September, November, and February. Team USA will play two games apiece vs. Argentina, Panama, and Uruguay during that stretch.

Having posted a 5-1 record during the first round of qualifiers, Team USA is tied for first with Argentina in Group E, which is made up of six teams. If Team USA remains in the top three of the Group E standings by the end of February’s games, the squad will qualify for the 2019 World Cup, which will take place in China next September.

Pistons Notes: Robinson III, Nori, Hearn

The Pistons nabbed former Michigan Wolverine Glenn Robinson III for two years at just north of $8MM. His goal this season, Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press writes, is to contend for a starting gig.

Before joining the Pistons, Robinson III made a name for himself as a sharp-shooting reserve on a Pacers team but an early ankle injury early last season threw a wrench in what could have been a breakout year in 2017/18.

Looming large ahead of Robinson on the Pistons’ depth chart is Stanley Johnson but the new addition could carve out a meaningful role for himself thanks to his long-range shooting regardless.

There’s more out of Detroit this evening:

  • The Pistons will bring Micah Nori aboard to join Dwane Casey‘s coaching staff, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The club will also bring aboard former Warriors analytics ace Sammy Gelfand, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes.
  • The Pistons will return a number of key rotation players this season, while integrating a number of fresh faces eager to compete for minutes. Rod Beard of The Detroit News breaks down what fans can make of each player currently on the roster.
  • The Pistons retain the rights to 2017/18 two-way player Reggie Hearn, Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press tweets and the guard is hopeful to return to the team’s G League affiliate this season.

And-Ones: Brown, Motiejunas, Broekhoff, USA Basketball

Longtime NBA coach Larry Brown will sign his contract to become the head coach of the Euroleague’s Fiat Torino on Sunday, according to a Sportando report. Brown’s agent, Massimo Rizzo, said his client has already signed a letter of intent to coach the club but won’t ink the official contract until his press conference this weekend, the report adds. The 77-year-old will be taking his first head coaching position since resigning from Southern Methodist two years ago.

We have more international and domestic basketball news:

  • Forward Donatas Motiejunas will remain in China next season, Sportando relays. He re-signed with Shandong for approximately $3MM, the report adds. Motiejunas played 34 games with the Pelicans in 2016/17 after beginning his career with the Rockets, but long-terms concerns over the soundness of his back sidetracked his NBA career.
  • Australian swingman Ryan Broekhoff has visited several teams this week hoping to land an NBA contract, HoopsHype tweets. Broekhoff, who went undrafted out of Valparaiso in 2013, was scheduled to visit and work out for the Wizards, Timberwolves, Bucks and Nets, HoopsHype adds.
  • Reggie Hearn, Jonathan Holmes, Amile Jefferson, David Stockton and Xavier Munford are among the 14 players who will be on the training camp roster for the USA World Cup Qualifying Team, according a USA Basketball press release. Training camp begins on Wednesday and the final roster will be pared to 12 players.  In the FIBA World Cup Qualifying games, the U.S. will face Mexico on June 28th in Mexico City and Cuba on July 1st in Havana.
  • The Hornets and Raptors are interested in adding Sergio Scariolo, who is currently the head coach of the Spanish national team, to their staffs, according to another Sportando post.

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Ellenson, Jackson, Smith

The Pistons’ faint playoff hopes were officially snuffed out on Wednesday night, when Detroit’s loss to Philadelphia eliminated the club from postseason contention. While the Pistons don’t have a ton to play for in the season’s final four games, injured star Blake Griffin continues to push for a return from his ankle injury and Stan Van Gundy hasn’t ruled out that possibility, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com details. Still, Detroit’s head coach doesn’t sound desperate to get Griffin back on the court.

“I don’t know if that’s going to come or not,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve only got six days left. Four games in six days. Whether we see him again, I have no idea. But it’s certainly no better than 50-50.”

With Griffin still on the shelf for now, expect to see plenty of Henry Ellenson down the stretch for the Pistons, writes Langlois.

Here’s more out of Detroit:

  • How different might the Pistons’ season have looked if Reggie Jackson had been able to stay healthy? As Ansar Khan of MLive.com notes, Detroit had a 25-16 record in games Jackson played, which is a stat Van Gundy could point to when he meets with owner Tom Gores after the regular season ends.
  • Although the Pistons are officially out of the playoffs, there are still some important developments to watch down the stretch, says Rod Beard of The Detroit News. As Beard observes, Ellenson, Luke Kennard, and Stanley Johnson should get a significant chunk of minutes in the club’s final four games — and the Pistons could get to .500 without compromising their lottery position by winning their remaining games.
  • Ish Smith has seen action with 10 different teams in eight NBA seasons, but he has finally found a home with the Pistons, Beard writes in another piece for The Detroit News. Smith has one more year left on his contract with Detroit after this season.
  • With the 2017/18 season now in the books for the Grand Rapids Drive, expect two-way players Kay Felder and Reggie Hearn to be with the Pistons the rest of the way, tweets Beard.

Pistons Notes: Trade Talks, S. Johnson, Griffin

The Pistons have already completed a deal that will likely go down as the biggest in-season trade of the 2017/18 season, acquiring Blake Griffin last week from the Clippers. Still, that doesn’t mean Detroit is ready to sit out this week’s deadline.

“[GM Jeff Bower] is always working,” president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy said today, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link). “I don’t know that we will do anything or we won’t. I couldn’t put a percentage on the possibilities, but Jeff is still working.”

With Griffin and Andre Drummond – the latest Eastern Conference player of the week – leading the frontcourt, Van Gundy was asked about the possibility of adding a third star to that duo and creating a “Big Three” for the Pistons. In Van Gundy’s view though, the club already has a solid third option on the roster.

“To me, the third piece is Reggie [Jackson],” Van Gundy said, per Beard (Twitter link). “That’s pretty good. That’s a pretty good three. We’ve got it in place. We just don’t have it on the court right now.”

Here’s more on the Pistons:

  • With the possibility of another trade looming, Ansar Khan of MLive.com runs through the entire Pistons’ roster, examining each player’s value and odds of being dealt.
  • Stanley Johnson‘s name has surfaced repeatedly in trade rumors this season, and according to Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link), the Knicks are one team that has been monitoring the third-year forward. Ellis adds that he’d be “stunned” to see Johnson moved, however.
  • The acquisition of Griffin has re-energized the Pistons and their fan base, Beard writes for The Detroit News. Within the same piece, Beard notes that two-way players Kay Felder or Reggie Hearn could be in line for a call-up from the G League if Detroit’s need for backcourt help persists.
  • Earlier today, we passed along the latest on the Pistons’ reported interest in Rodney Hood.