When basketball takes you from Sacramento to Reno to Barangay (Philippines) to Atlanta to New Orleans to Cleveland to Sioux Falls to Guangdong (China), all in the space of three years, you’ve experienced a lot of new things.
Among them: interesting food, arenas better described as gyms, climates that make Indiana seem predictable, a sampling of cut-rate of hotel rooms, airlines you didn’t know existed and a whole bunch of 10-day contracts.
Now safely ensconced in Indianapolis, Donald Sloan is experiencing something else for the first time: certainty.
Relatively speaking, of course.
The 6-3 point guard was the first free agent officially signed by the Pacers this offseason, putting his name to the first two-year contract (for slightly less than $1.7 million) of his career earlier this week, and has quickly set about impressing the coaching staff with his performance in the team’s rookie and free agent camp at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“He’s got tremendous strength and quickness and a lot of know-how,” said summer league coach Dan Burke. “He’s a true point guard. His eyes are always moving, his head’s always moving, he sees the floor, he’s anticipating already what the defense is going to do a lot of the time. I like what I’ve seen so far.
“He shows a real knack to finish around the rim, too. We’ve had point guards in the past that had the ability to penetrate, but then what? He’s showing a little bit of toughness and again the ability to finish and find guys. He’s going to make the game easy for some of our guys.
“We knew he was tough. There was never any question of that. But I didn’t really understand how skilled he is, so we’re excited.”Undrafted out of Texas A&M in 2010, Sloan began the circuitous journey that would lead him to the Pacers. He had brief stints with the Hawks and Hornets in 2011-12 but played little. He landed with Cleveland late that season and appeared to find a home, playing well enough to start 11 games and stick with the team to open 2012-13.
That lasted till December, when he was released again. He went back to the Hornets for another 10-day and, well, you know how that goes. But Sloan took something from each experience and put it to use, particularly in his D-League stints. After averaging 22.3 points, 7.5 assists and 6.4 rebounds in 10 games with Sioux Falls last season, he vaulted to the top of the D-League prospects list.
After some time in China, he opted to take another shot at the NBA. Lo and behold, Sloan hit the bullseye.
“With the Pacers, it’s great,” Sloan said. “Everything I stand for as far as grit, fighting, bleeding, sweating, everything, they see it and I see it – it fits right in.
“I see myself doing anything and everything. A lot of guys say that, coming in fighting for playing time and position, but whatever the coach needs me to do, whatever my teammates need me to do, it’ll be done.”
With veteran C.J. Watson reportedly joining the team as a free agent next week, the Pacers will have excellent depth at the point. They may also have a healthy competition for the backup minutes behind starter George Hill.
“If you know you can play at this level, GMs tell you you can play at this level, it’s just about timing,” Sloan said. “So what you have to do is make sure you’re in shape and ready because the opportunity’s going to be given sooner or later and it’s up to you what you do with it when it’s there.”
He may not have realized it, but Sloan tilted his head and raised his eyebrows when he spoke the words “sooner or later.” When I pointed this out to him, he laughed.
“Who knows how long you’re going to be waiting,” he said with a broad smile. “But sooner or later, you’re going to get there.”