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EXECUTIVES & ENTREPRENEURS

G League Ignite vs. Overtime Elite? Malik Rose Won’t Rule It Out.

Malik Rose’s career has taken him everywhere, and his latest job is head of operations for the G League. He would welcome a game against the best young players from Overtime Elite.

Malik Rose was an excellent college player at Drexel before spending 13 seasons in the NBA. He was also a scout, team executive, broadcaster, and the owner of three cheesesteak restaurants in San Antonio from his days with the Spurs.

Yeah, he is the epitome of a basketball lifer. And when an idea was tossed his way regarding his new job as head of the NBA’s G League, he liked it … in theory.

Overtime Elite vs. the G League Ignite? A game between the players from two organizations that are competing for the same young professional players?

Why not?

“I’ll play anybody,” Rose told Boardroom. “Anything’s possible, and I haven’t had time to think about it, and that decision would probably be made by someone higher up than me.”

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The only people higher on the organizational chart at the G League are deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, president of league operations Byron Spruell, and G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Whether they would go for it is a question for another day, but it is not the worst idea.

After all, the G League and Overtime Elite — though competitors for talent — are both striving for the same thing: to prepare young, elite basketball players for the rigors of the NBA and the NBA lifestyle.

So consider the concept as something to be debated and decided at a later date. Heck, once upon a time the ABA and the NBA were fierce rivals competing for the likes of Julius Erving, Rick Barry, and Wilt Chamberlain. Those leagues hated each other in the late 60s and early 70s but finally ended up merging, which gave the NBA the three-point shot (and the Nets, Spurs, Pacers, and Nuggets).

Another interesting wrinkle here is that Overtime Elite, which plays against the top high school teams in the country, is run by Rose’s former teammate with the Spurs, Brandon Williams.

The G League Ignite are currently operating out of Walnut Creek, Calif. and split a pair of games against the Mexico City Capitanes last weekend in Las Vegas. They will travel east beginning Jan. 21, which is when Rose will get his first opportunity to spend some face time with the players he hopes to help shape into NBA players.

“I’m not sure that’s even been talked about at the senior level, and my focus is really just on our guys and how the G League is doing so well at what is was designed to do,” Rose said. “We had almost 100 call-ups recently [because of NBA players being sidelined by COVID health and safety protocols], and we’re still trying to get bodies back into G League arenas. The big difference is that the Ignite only plays against other professionals, whereas the three teams in Overtime Elite play against some of the nation’s top prep teams and top sports academy teams.

Both leagues are paying players who are in their late teens, and the Ignite even has one 17-year-old, Scoot Henderson, who would be a high school junior had he not chosen to go pro. The Ignite had three players — Jalen Green (No. 2, Houston Rockets), Jonathan Kuminga (No. 7, Golden State) and Isaiah Todd, (No. 31, Washington via trade) — selected in last year’s NBA Draft. This year’s team is highlighted by Henderson, Michael Foster Jr. (18), Dyson Daniels (18), and Marjon Beauchamp (21), but also includes NBA veterans Amir Johnson (34), C.J. Miles (33) and Pooh Jeter (38), whose jobs include teaching their teammates about the work habits and life experiences they will need to know in order to have sustained success at the next level.

“We have all good kids,” Rose said. “We don’t have any knuckleheads.”

The Ignite, coached by another of Rose’s old teammates, Jason Hart, is only one of 30 G League teams whose season had to be suspended after a flurry of COVID-related positive tests wreaked havoc with the NBA in late December. The Capitanes are not even playing out of Mexico City (they are in Dallas-Fort Worth) because of cross-border travel restrictions related to the pandemic.

At the upcoming All-Star Weekend in Cleveland, the Ignite will be showcased against the Canton Charge, the Cavs’ affiliate, in what is being called the Next Gem Game on Sunday afternoon prior to the NBA All-Star game. NBA TV will carry the game.

For Rose, this is not his first experience with the G League. He ran the Erie Bayhawks and was named executive of the Year in 2018, and he also helped get the Delaware Blue Coats up and running when he was working in the Philadelphia 76ers organization. Rose also worked for the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks, and his playing career took him to Charlotte, San Antonio, New York and Oklahoma City.

It was in San Antonio, where Rose played for seven seasons and won two championships, that he opened Malik’s Philly’s Phamous cheesesteak restaurants. They were in business for nearly 10 years and taught Rose an invaluable lesson about the business world: Time management is crucial, as is fighting for every penny.

Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

“When it comes to restaurant money, we did well, so it was a success for many reasons and a disaster for a couple of reasons,” he said. “In hindsight, it took a lot of time away from basketball because it was making me put in 15-hour days.”

For Rose, who also has been a player rep and a member of the executive board for the National Basketball Players Association, the G League position is the latest addition to an extensive resume with jobs that have taken him all around the world, including to Belgrade, Serbia, where he got to witness the madness that is also known as a Red Star-Partizan game.

“I’m from West Philadelphia and have seen some crazy stuff happen in arenas, but never anything like that. Not even close,” Rose said.

Maybe, just maybe, he will one day find a gym to put his league’s best young players against Overtime Elite’s best young players (OTE would have to assemble an All-Star team, because its signees are split up on three rosters). The thought here is that it would be good for everyone, and many of these players have faced each other before and will be facing each other in the future.

“OTE is definitely open to exploring playing G League Ignite. We’re in the business of developing next generation talent and competition against high-level opponents. It is an important piece of our players’ growth,” Williams, said through a spokesman.

Let’s hope it happens some day. We already know Rose is open to it. Do his bosses feel the same way?

We’ll eventually find out.

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