In the NBA, no job is safe. The cliché saying “the NBA is a business” is prevalent for a reason, and it could take years to finally make it in the right situation at the right time.
Matt Janning found that out last season when he signed a deal with the Phoenix Suns after the preseason only to be cut on Nov. 16, 2010. Now thanks to the lockout, Janning is accepting the life of a basketball journeyman.
On July 16 Janning signed a one-year, $120,000 deal to play for Junior Casale of the Italian League – the same team Zabian Dowdell played for in 2008-09.
To prove how quickly things can change in the NBA, it was Dowdell who Janning beat out for a Phoenix Suns contract after training camp.
But Janning was eventually released and when the Suns needed another guard when Steve Nash went down later in the season, they turned to Dowdell rather than the Northeastern product.
“That’s just how it goes,” Janning said. “There’s no hard feelings anywhere.”
Added Dowdell: “It’s a small world, man. At the end of the day this is a business. I wish him the best.”
Now Janning finds himself in Italy where he’ll begin an overseas experiment that he hopes will be as productive as it was for Dowdell and land him back in the NBA.
“Without the season here, I haven’t been part of the NBA long enough to kind of sit and relax and not go where there’s money so this is kind of what I’ve got to do to keep my career going,” Janning said in a recent phone interview with ValleyoftheSuns. “I think Europe will be a good experience this year, but I’d like to be able to come back and be a part of the NBA sooner than later.”
Dowdell said he talked to both Janning about Junior Casale and the team’s head coach, Marco Crespi, about Janning as a player. He had nothing but good things to say in both regards and expects Janning to flourish in the Italian League.
“I talked to Matt because he wanted to kind of know how the team operated and how the coach was and stuff like that so I had a chance to talk to him,” Dowdell said. “I also talked to the coach and for the way he wants to play, Matt’s a good fit. He was very impressed with Matt as well so I really didn’t have to tell him that much and I think he’ll do well over there in that system.”
Dowdell, who said he “had my best year with that team”, said he still keeps in touch with the coaches and the fans still “hit me up on Facebook and Twitter.” Janning has been hoping for that same success with Junior Casale ever since he inked a deal that will keep him in Italy until at least June.
Although Janning didn’t stick in Phoenix, he’s using that “learning experience” to bolster his Italian League career and get back to where he feels he belongs.
“I just tried to take every day, take every practice and just watch guys like Steve, watch guys like Grant and just try to learn. Not even the basketball side of it but just how they carry themselves as professionals every day,” Janning said. “Those guys, they’re there early, they stay late. They’re what it means to be a true professional. You ask anybody in that locker room and they’ll say the same thing. I just try to learn from those guys on every aspect of basketball.”
Janning said he contacted Josh Childress about going overseas, still talks to Channing Frye every once in a while and stays in touch with assistant coach Dan Majerle, who’s still helping Janning develop to this day.
“I talked to coach Majerle a little bit earlier right after the season ended. I just kind of picked his brain on what I should work on,” Janning said. “He gave me a few things to focus on and try to perfect over the summer. That’s kind of what I’ve been trying to do.”
Since his stint in Phoenix, Janning’s played for the Maine Red Claws and Rio Grande Valley Vipers and will now add Junior Casale – who recently joined the A division after winning the second division last season – to his basketball resume.
He’s continually developing as both a player and professional and, as are hundreds of NBA hopefuls, is looking for that right situation that he wasn’t able to find in Phoenix. He said he’s improved his point guard skills and defensive versatility all in hopes of landing back in the NBA.
“I think I have some real good talents that would fit in with a team,” Janning said. “Just being able to find the right situation and the right niche would be great for me. The motivation level is real high.”
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