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Why Mark Cuban thinks elite basketball recruits are 'crazy' if they choose college over G-League

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Why Mark Cuban thinks elite basketball recruits are 'crazy' if they choose college over G-League

WASHINGTON -- Mark Cuban has "crazy" thoughts on drawing attention.

Before last week’s matchup between his Dallas Mavericks and the Washington Wizards, the outspoken entrepreneur and NBA owner spoke with NBC Sports Washington on several topics including NBA ratings should LeBron James not participate in the playoffs, anonymity among NFL and NHL players, and why elite basketball recruits are "crazy" if they don't bypass college for the G-League. 

Cuban discussed the concept of dodging college basketball during a discussion on about another sport. 

The new Alliance of American Football league generated some decent buzz at launch. The “Shark Tank” star believes the AAF could work if the league avoids becoming the NFL's "stepchild" and instead develops players cast aside by the NFL and then sells player contracts back to the NFL in a way similar to the international basketball system.

“All that falls apart unless people show up to the games,” Cuban warns.

The topic then shifted to whether the G-League, the NBA’s minor league organization, could receive similar attention. “We will,” Cuban stated confidently. 

He then offered a rather specific and entrepreneurial reason citing Lavar Ball and a 5-foot-7 high school basketball player from central Florida Cuban follows on social media.

Julian Newman, a member of the 2020 recruiting class, became a viral video sensation starting at eight years old.

“He’s got a few 100,000 followers on Instagram, and after every one of his games, he’s selling merchandise. He’s his own little business,” said an impressed Cuban. “I don’t know if he’s good enough to make the NBA… but people recognize what the Ball’s did with Big Baller Brand and what others have done. There are building businesses and brands around themselves.”

The G-League is where Cuban sees basketball, branding and capitalism colliding.

In October the G-League, which is comprised of 28 teams including the Wizards’ Capital City Go-Go affiliate, announced it would begin offering "select contracts" worth $125,000 annually starting with the 2019-20 season to prospects not yet eligible for the NBA. Often these prospects join the college ranks for a “one-and-done” season.

Cuban sees another path for those headliners armed with a social media following.

“If you’re a strong enough brand and a good enough basketball player, you’re crazy I think if you don’t take the [$125,000 salary] in the NBA G-League (because) they can also do their own marketing deals. They’re not constrained by the NBA players association.”

Duke’s Zion Williamson, the consensus no. 1 overall prospect ahead of the 2019 NBA Draft and a YouTube sensation before stepping on campus, suffered a knee injury last month. The episode sparked a new round of debate over the restrictions of paying college athletes.

“Pick a very popular player that has a couple of million Instagram followers,” Cuban said. “You can go right to the G-League and probably sign a multi-million shoe deal. Why wouldn’t you do that instead of going to college? Because you’re going to play against better players. You don’t have the ridiculous NCAA  rules that say you can only practice X number of hours against your teammates. You can only spend so much time with your coaches. You can’t earn any extra money.”

Cuban said players joining the Texas Legends, the Mavericks’ G-League team, would receive help with finding an appropriate education path should they desire. This “Snapchat generation” would also get paid. 

“They already have followings,” Cuban said. “They can sell merchandise. They can do marketing. They are already Instagram and online influencers. They can finally get paid for that. … If by chance you ‘re not good enough for the NBA, at least you don’t find yourself going from none-and-done to one-and-done to two-and-done to three-and-done to never-and-done and not making a penny. The world has changed.”

The NBA may be on the verge of changing in a rather profound way starting next month.

The playoffs have included three-time NBA champion LeBron James, 34, each year since 2006. Barring a miracle by James’ Los Angeles Lakers, that streak ends this season. Not having the sport’s biggest star likely negatively affects television ratings. 

Cuban pushed back on such thinking.

“Not that big a hit. The good news/bad news is – and this applies to every player no matter who – father time is undefeated and fans recognize that, and there are always new guys coming up that fans get interested in. That’s been the nature of the beast. People said we’d never replace Michael Jordan and it happened," Cuban said.

Even without James, several famous stars with massive q-ratings remain including Stephen Curry and 2019 MVP favorites James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

“The NBA is more of a talent driven league, and the NFL is more of a league driven league,” said Cuban. He put the National Hockey League on the NFL’s side of the aisle.

“I couldn’t name you who the best player in the NHL if it’s not Sidney Crosby. I heard someone say (Edmonton forward and two-time NHL scoring leader) Connor McDavid. I don’t know who that is or where he plays. 

“With football, if the entire Redskins’ team just happened to be in the arena here and they said (they were) football players, and you could tell by their size, I don’t know if I could name anybody anymore,” Cuban said. “What was the guy’s name, Griffith, that was the quarterback from Baylor?”

Do you mean Robert Griffin III, Mark?. 

“Yeah, RG3,” Cuban continued. “That’s the last guy I could name that played for the Redskins.”

Now that's a guy who was all in for generating attention. 


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Rookie Rui Hachimura does full practice with Wizards, return not far away

Rookie Rui Hachimura does full practice with Wizards, return not far away

WASHINGTON -- The long-awaited return of Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura is getting closer, as he participated in a full practice on Saturday for the first time since suffering a groin injury back on Dec. 16.

Hachimura, 21, had no limitations, per head coach Scott Brooks. He went through all of their drills and full-contact scrimmages.

"He did well. He went through everything. That's another good day," Brooks said.

The final hurdle for Hachimura at this point involves getting into game shape. His conditioning is not close to midseason form after missing seven weeks of games.

Brooks said Hachimura definitely will not return before the end of the team's current road trip, which ends on Tuesday in Milwaukee. After that, however, it could be a matter of days.


The Wizards will return to Washington after playing the Bucks for a six-game homestand. It seems likely he is back by the time it's over.

The ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Hachimura has had a strong rookie season so far, averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 48.2 percent from the field. The Wizards have gone 7-12 since he's been out.

Hachimura suffered the injury when he was inadvertently kicked between the legs by teammate Isaac Bonga. He required a minor procedure and was away from the team for weeks before slowly working his way back to basketball activities and then participating in practices.

Saturday was a big step in his recovery and it now puts the finish line into focus.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.


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Watch: We mic'd up Thomas Bryant when he cheered on Indiana in matchup vs. Maryland

Watch: We mic'd up Thomas Bryant when he cheered on Indiana in matchup vs. Maryland

When the Maryland Terps faced Indiana for the first time in Big Ten play this season in early January, one famous former Hoosiers player sat in the stands cheering his team on. Wizards center Thomas Bryant allowed NBC Sports Washington to follow him throughout the game, where he showed his trademark enthusiasm for his former team. 

"It feels great," he said when asked by NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes how it feels to be watching his alma mater. "It seems like yesterday I was just playing against Maryland myself."


Unfortunately for Bryant, the Hoosiers lost that game. But they'll get another shot at the Terps on Sunday. 

But Bryant, who will have his own game to suit up for when the Wizards take on the Hawks, won't be there to cheer. But when he did have the chance - he was vocal. After all, he told Hughes, that's just the type of fan and teammate he is.

"No matter if I'm out there or not, I'm going to be on my brother's side," he said.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.