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G League's new path to the NBA intrigues coaches Doc Rivers and Billy Donovan

The NBA G League’s creation of an alternative path to reach the professional ranks has been received positively by those already at basketball’s highest level although they remain skeptical of its potential to bring widespread disruption to the college game.

The NBA’s developmental league this week announced “Select Contracts” that will pay $125,000 to a small number of players who are 18 but not yet eligible to enter the NBA draft. The move will begin next summer and offer players other potential avenues of making money that are off-limits to NCAA players — namely inking marketing deals that allow athletes to profit off their image and likeness.

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“It’s a very good option,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t want to hurt college ball but I do think guys should have the right to go to the NBA. At 18 I can go to war. If there’s a draft, I could get drafted to go to the war but someone is telling me I can’t go to the NBA? That’s ludicrous. I think it’s a good option.”

Nothing stopped high school players from going straight to the G League before, but the option often meant less exposure than many colleges and the G League pays base salaries of $7,000 per month over the course of a five-month season.

A test case nearly arrived this season but Darius Bazley, who rescinded his commitment to Syracuse with the intent of going the G League route, announced in the spring he would instead sit out this season to train.

Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan, who won a pair of NCAA titles in 21 seasons coaching in college, believes the college level has its benefits, namely enhancing players’ draft value, but didn’t discount the new initiative.

“I’ve had a chance to see it from both sides because I think a lot of times college coaches look at the G League as something like, ‘Why would you do that when you can stay in college?’” he said. “My feeling on that has always been the NBA game is totally different than the college game and if a guy can financially help himself in the G League and get accustomed and acclimated to that, that could be a great situation for a player.”

Sitting at their lockers before Friday’s matchup with the Thunder, Clippers guards Sindarius Thornwell and Jerome Robinson lit up when they heard about the G League’s offering.

Robinson said he doubted they would be enough to entice recruits who otherwise would be one-and-done college players.

The highest-profile colleges, he said, are already positioned to provide plenty of national exposure and a scholarship, if not an official paycheck. G League president Malcolm Turner told ESPN that teams will not pursue players who have already committed to colleges.

“I don’t think it’s going to be for the top, top guys,” Robinson said. “I think they’ll still go to college because when you go to college pretty much everything is paid for.

“I think exposure in college and experience just being able to play in college, especially those guys going to high major schools and you’re on ESPN every night, I think going through that kind of culture can help.”

The “select contracts” won’t be for every recruit but Rivers said it’s only a matter of when, not if, the first players take a chance.

“It’s going to happen,” Rivers said. “What people are missing is it’s going to be a lot more money than that for that kid. The marketing end, all that, and that can start right then. There’s a lot of guys who need it family-wise. There are guys that are … good, and they should go.”

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