ISR Senior Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – Often times, we use the label “journeyman” too loosely. Indiana Pacers guard Donald Sloan probably feels it’s been used too much.
Since entering the league in 2010 with the Sacramento Kings NBA Summer League team, Sloan spent time in the NBA’s Developmental League before playing in the Philippines. Since 2011, Sloan has fought for 10-day contracts, many of which opportunities he’s seen come-and-go too soon, trying to find an opportunity to prove he belongs on an NBA roster for the entire season.
After another demotion to the D-League and a short stint in China, the Pacers finally gave Sloan that opportunity. Originally expected to be on the fringe at the end of training camp, likely to be released, Sloan was kept around a team that had high preseason expectations.
“It’s been a great experience. To go from bouncing around the NBA D-League, playing overseas and then to have a full season under my belt, I couldn’t ask for a greater team to be on than the Pacers,” Sloan said. “This team is going through a rough patch right now but it’s still been a learning experience.”
Not only was Sloan kept around by the Pacers, he also saw playing time early in the season with the Pacers second unit while George Hill sat out due to a minor injury, not to mention he survived a roster addition and a trade deadline where a guy in his position traditionally might have seen the end of his time on the team.
The playing time early on this season helped Sloan prove his worth to the organization and, more than likely, did wonders preparing him for the late-season curve ball thrown at Indiana when backup point guard C.J. Watson went out with an elbow injury. Watson has almost missed the last month while trying to recover to full health. In that time, Sloan has taken a role as the backup in some of Frank Vogel’s lineup shuffles. While you never like to get your opportunity by way of injury, Sloan knows there is not time for sympathy when your time is now.
“I wish no man to go down. C.J. is the guy I’m closest to on the team, we need him back. We want him back, but definitely think the time I have had to get on the court has matured me and my game for the future,” Sloan said.
“Im always leaning on them, they know I’ve been around the league and matched up with those guys quite a bit, they know what I can bring and they respect my game and my ability. Anytime I’m not in the know they are more than happy to help me and give me information”
Sloan has seen action in 42 games this season. But particularly against tonight’s opponent, the Detroit Pistons, Sloan has seen results. Sloan scored five points and added three assists in an earlier meeting with the Pistons this season and over the last ten games where he has had to fill Watson’s void, Sloan has contributed with an assist and three points per game. The numbers may not have the crowd chanting “M-V-P” each time he is at the foul line, but it’s certainly still a developing process that hasn’t reached its ceiling yet thanks to the guidance of fellow guards.
“As far as coverages and reads I will go to CJ and PG (Paul George). For tempo and opportunities, game flow, I go to Lance (Stephenson). I feel like the second unit has to play faster, be a little scrappier, and that’s what I’m trying to bring. I don’t know if the other guys feel the same way but I feel like to relieve the starters, the only way we will be able to help them is if we are a running scrappy team,” Sloan said.
A relief that has been much, much needed over the last month-and-a-half during the Pacers dismal demise from the top of the Eastern Conference. The bench has been ranked as low as 28th in the league, fluctuating between 25th and 28th this season. Sloan understands the necessity to take advantage of opportunities for himself, but for now, the Pacers and a shot at an NBA championship are the main priority.
“Everybody knows we have to better on all cylinders, offense and defense. For me I feel like I’m letting the team down, I feel like If I bring more maybe we can get out of it. Now I’m sure that’s not the case, we all need to do a lot more, but I feel like I need to and can do more and hopefully lift everybody else up.”
Don’t take Sloan the wrong way. He understands his role and his place on the team. However, its nice to hear somebody wanting to alter the outcome of a game. Even if the Pacers aren’t producing wins, there are still signs from guys like Sloan and the second unit that this is not a lost cause. The Pacers host Detroit tonight at 7p.m.
Corey Elliot is a Senior Writer at the Indy Sports Report and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access. Follow Corey and the ISR on Twitter