Chasin’ The Dream: Picking A Camp
A chronicle of Donald Sloan’s journey to make the NBA.
Sloan was, in my opinion, the D-League’s best player, posting averages of nearly 25 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds per game while also establishing himself as a lockdown defender. Coming full circle, Sloan was faced with another dilemma: What NBA training camp to go to?
“It was a 50/50 split between my agent and I doing the homework on the teams. We looked at the rosters who we felt they were going to keep, who they drafted, etc. The teams were pretty honest with us, though,” admitted the soon-to-be NBA signee on how things went this time around deciphering which camp would be a good look. “My agent would ask ‘Do you see anything in him? Or do you just want my guy to come to camp and be another body?’ Certain teams would say ‘Oh we like him a lot,’ but weren’t willing to commit enough to us, so we felt like those teams were spots that we didn’t want to be in.”
Coming down to the wire, there were two suitors left for Sloan: The Knicks and The Hawks. The Knicks had traded for him on draft night and allowed him to emerge as a star in Erie, but the Hawks had shown him more love and needed a back-up point guard. Decision Day was Friday morning and as of Thursday night, he was torn with the clock ticking. It felt like the college recruitment all over again for Donald.
“Atlanta, they were calling every single day telling my agent ‘He’s a guy who we like and could see being our backup.’ I did my homework, as well. I called one of my contacts to see what a few teams were going to do as far as free agents. At the end of the day, we decided that this was going to be the best option. On Thursday night [the night before NBA camp started], I received a call from Coach Drew.”
“He’s like ‘Sloan, what’s going on? This is Coach Drew. What’s it going to take to get this done.’ My response: A fair chance.
“Coach Drew started laughing and said ‘A fair chance, you’ve got more than a fair chance!’ That right there made me lean towards Atlanta a lot more because of the commitment. They could have had any other guard to go to camp. They didn’t have to go through all that to get me. To have him call me and say what he said, it made me smile to say the least. It definitely wasn’t like that last year.”
Deciding which NBA training camp is as difficult as deciding which college to attend, especially when many options are available, like in Donald’s case. Of the NBA teams, Orlando, Phoenix, Cleveland, Miami, Utah, and others had all put in calls for Sloan. At the end of the day, it’s all about open spots and who’s going to have you a legit shot to make the team. Ultimately, Donald and his agent decided the best fit was with Coach Drew and the Atlanta Hawks.
“At the end of the day, we felt that Atlanta presented the best situation for me to come in and compete for a spot. It’s nothing like Sacramento, where I went in and had zero shot of making the team,” Sloan stated while comparing the two training camp experiences. “Here in Atlanta, the coaches are willing to work with you, have a conversation with you, rebound for you, stuff like that.”
He added: “I talk to Larry Drew on a daily basis about different principles that he has. It’s like they actually want me here.”
Playing under a “players coach” like Drew and with an exciting young team known as the highlight factory, there seems to be plenty of opportunities in Atlanta. In fact, Sloan started for the Hawks in their final preseason game on the 22nd, as they let primary playmaker Jeff Teague take the night off. Playing 25 minutes, he put up a respectable 5 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. More importantly, the team was 19 points better when he was on the floor. Many bloggers feel that Sloan is getting the job done, so we asked him give himself a grade.
“I’d give myself an ‘A’. I think that I’m doing really well, putting a lot of heat on the ball. I’m starting to get fluid in the offense. It’s new to all of us, but we’re all doing the best that we can,” Sloan informed SLAMonline of the Hawks new offense. “Grasping the offense as fast as I have has been amazing. It’s a motion offense. It’s pretty challenging and I think that I’m definitely impressing them with how well I’m grasping it.”
With the majority of NBA offenses built around the high ball screen, Sloan’s description of ATL’s new offense sounded different from the base offense most NBA teams run. So much different that I had to ask him, based on his descriptions, if he felt the Hawks offense was more similar to a college offense than a typical NBA offense. Sloan agreed.” To tell you the truth, it really is. There are so many options within this one play. Of course we’re going to some play high pick and roll, and side pick and roll….but there are so many more options than just coming down and doing one thing every time. There are so many different things that you can do that it’s never the same each time you do it.”
Donald Sloan has learned a lot during his tenure with the Hawks, playing behind budding star Jeff Teague and Coach Drew, a former NBA point guard. One bit of advice that stuck out for Sloan was to become a more vocal leader, on and off the court. “Coach Drew has definitely taught me to become more of a vocal leader,” the mild-mannered 23 year old explained. I was always a guy who led by example, but they stressed to me that I literally have to tell guys where to go every time on the floor.”
Playing the way that he has to far this pre-season, it’s looking like there will be a lot of players following the lead of Sloan once opening day hits for the Hawks.