Zabian Dowdell couldn’t have had worse timing.
Prior to being released by the Suns on Tuesday, the 27-year-old basketball journeyman was finally establishing himself in Phoenix.
Dowdell was poised to use last year — when he appeared in 24 games and averaged 5.0 points, 2.1 assists and 0.8 steals — as a springboard to his first complete season on an NBA roster.
But pain under his right kneecap kept Dowdell out of informal workouts and the first few days of training camp, robbing him of that opportunity.
Dowdell was on his way to battling Sebastian Telfair for Phoenix’s backup point guard spot. He was on his way to further proving to NBA teams that there is a market for the 6-foot-3, 191-pound guard.
It’s hard not to feel for Dowdell. He’s been all over the basketball map — France, Italy, Spain along with the NBA’s Developmental League — and it appeared that he finally found a home, at least for the short term, in Phoenix.
“I love it (in Phoenix),” Dowdell told me this summer. “I could definitely see myself playing in that system for years. But this is a business and you already know how that goes, but I would love to stay there as long as possible.”
Dowdell also said that he was “hungry” to return to Phoenix and further prove what he can do after being on the outside of the NBA for so many seasons. Thanks to a bum knee, along with the availability of Ronnie Price, Dowdell won’t have that chance.
It’s been a long journey for Dowdell. Two seasons ago Phoenix was close to adding Dowdell to its roster after training camp, bringing his NBA dream full circle, only for him to go down with an injury and lose his shot at his first contract.
Last season the Suns chose Matt Janning over the defensive-minded lefty after training camp. Dowdell eventually signed with the Suns later in the season, but it’s no secret his road to the NBA hasn’t come easily.
Then add in the fact that if training camp weren’t shortened due to the lockout that the Suns may have opted to wait for Dowdell to heal up, and Dowdell’s situation becomes that much more difficult.
But while Dowdell’s run of bad luck couldn’t have come at a worse time, there’s no doubt he’ll find another gig in the NBA. Dowdell showed coaches and GMs enough last season that he’ll be able to sign somewhere as a third-string point guard.
If coaches turn on last year’s game against the Rockets when Dowdell brought the Suns back from a 22-point deficit by scoring 11 points, dishing out five assists and collecting four steals, they’ll see what he can do on the floor. He’s physical, athletic, plays with a ton of energy and confidence, and is capable of running a second unit for stretches.
Dowdell will be fine, and he’ll continue an NBA career that he worked so hard to capture. But even with that said, he went from battling to back up Nash in Phoenix to unemployed in a matter of days all because of a knee injury. For any player, especially one who’s been through as much as Dowdell, that’s hard to swallow.