Day 2 of my D-League tryout for the Reno Bighorns was a success. Day 1? Not so much.
The event most integral in improving my performance on the second day occurred before the days activities even started. At the beginning of the morning session, while everyone was milling about and stretching, a player I did not know approached me. He said “You’re a good player, man. You’re a real point guard, and that’s hard to find out here.” And then he walked off.
Goddamn that made me feel so good. In a span of 2 seconds I went from feeling sluggish, annoyed, and silly for making the trip in the first place, to simply radiating good vibes.
It’s amazing how a small compliment from a stranger can change your entire outlook on things. I was of the impression that no one could have come away impressed by my performance on the first day. That one compliment let me know that there are people that notice the little things, and it gave me the hope that the coaches might be taking note of my contributions as well.
I took the momentum from that moment and ran with it. I played at a much higher level than I did the previous day. I attribute a lot of that to my suddenly improved mindstate, but a big part of my success was due to the simple fact that the coaches finally allowed us to run pick and rolls.
The first day we were forbidden from setting any on ball screens. This policy mystified me, but I have to remind myself I am neither omniscient nor a professional basketball coach, so there was probably a good reason for it.
Once day two started, and we added the pick and roll, it was a whole new ballgame. (Pun intended.)I was making positive things happen on basically every screen. I got to the rim, I found shooters, and I threaded passes to my big men. I finally felt like I was having an opportunity to show what I could do in the context of a real offense. It was liberating.
After a couple of hours of drills and games we were told to gather around the head coach. He said that he was going to read 24 names, and those that didn’t get called could take a hike. I was the 4th to last name called. I don’t know if it was in any particular order, but it felt like I squeaked in.
And I’m glad I did, because I played my best games of the whole camp. I tend to raise my level to that of the competition, and this was no exception. Playing with good players, on a full size court, and with big men that set real screens, I was able to thrive. I had several assists that carried a high degree of difficulty. It’s always fun to elicit a few compliments from spectators after a pass.
I wasn’t spectacular, but I made my teammates better, played solid defense, and consistently made the correct read out of the pick and roll. I feel like that is all you can ask of a point guard, and I think I did that at least as good as any other guard at the camp. I still struggled with my outside shot, but I didn’t take very many, so hopefully that damage to my reputation was minimized.
Alas, my chances are still very slim of having anything tangible come out of this experience. The team is only submitting 5 names to the league office. Those people are then eligible to be drafted by any team, but they are players of particular interest to Reno.
Assuming they submit the names of two of the talented big men and at least one of the solid, 6’5 wing players, that leaves two open opportunities. I got some inside info from one of the players that two of the guards have connections with the coaching staff and are shoe-ins to get draft tickets. That leaves…let me calculate…exactly 0 open training camp spots. Fantastic.
It was also disconcerting that when I said thanks and goodbye to one of the assistant coaches he said, “You played really well. If it doesn’t work out here I am going to call you about some ABA opportunities.” That was meant to be encouraging, but something about his tone of voice, coupled with my (slowly changing) tendency to look at the glass half empty, made me hear that as “you were better than we thought you would be, but we are not convinced you can actually play in the D-League. But hey, remember the ABA? Bet you didn’t know that still existed!”
But despite all the politics, and the poor day one performance, and the travel costs, I am happy I came. I am completely satisfied with the effort I gave, and you never know what might happen.
So now I hope for a D-League miracle, tentatively probe around in Israel, and look toward the future. Should be an interesting next couple weeks.