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Zabian Dowdell not about to let lockout thwart NBA dream


On Monday Lockman wrote a piece on the four types of players most affected by the lockout: aging stars, stars in their prime, rising stars and rookies.

Let me add one more to the discussion: the mid-20s journeyman who fights all his life for a shot at the League and right when he has a chance to stick with a team from training camp through exit interviews the lockout hits.

We can lament the possibility of Steve Nash and Grant Hill losing one of their final seasons and Markieff Morris potentially losing a good chunk of his rookie year, but how do you think Zabian Dowdell feels right about now?

Dowdell is so close to truly realizing the dream that he verbalized on paper as a 16-year-old when he wrote a letter to himself stating: “Nothing will stop me from making it to the NBA. I am on a mission.”

Technically speaking, Dowdell made it to the NBA last season.

He played in 24 games, averaged 5.0 points and 2.1 assists per game and provided some solid minutes at the backup point guard spot.

But he shot just 40 percent and often only played major minutes when Steve Nash was hurt.

He was cut in training camp after a pair of stints with the Summer Suns, signed to a pair of 10-day contracts in January and then was inked for the rest of the season in February.

Now Dowdell wants to stick. He wants a team to make a commitment to him and he doesn’t want to have to sweat out the final days before a contract becomes guaranteed for the season.

Zabian will now have to wait a few weeks, a few months and perhaps even a few years for the NBA to be open for business, but after all the waiting he has done the previous three years after going undrafted in 2007 this isn’t a guy about to give up on his NBA dream because of a little labor turmoil.

“Adversity is something that comes with the territory,” Dowdell said during the latter weeks of the past season, speaking about his wild journey. “You can’t quit when things don’t go your way. I just tried to keep working, stay positive, stay humble, and that’s just my approach to life period.”

Other players in Dowdell’s position have quite the decision on their hands. They can make a nice living in Europe instead of waiting out the lockout only to have a chance at securing an NBA roster spot that could be gone by Thanksgiving. I have a feeling that’s a risk ‘Z’ won’t mind taking.

Dowdell looked like a bonafide NBA player in spots last season, sometimes outplaying fellow backup point guard Aaron Brooks. He went for 11 points, five dimes and four steals March 14 in Houston and 14 points and five assists April 1 against the Clippers.

He’s Phoenix’s best defensive point guard by far (I know, that’s like saying it’s kind of hot outside these days), and he plays with a relentless energy that makes him a nice change of pace point point guard. Dowdell also does a solid job setting up teammates although his jumper isn’t quite NBA quality yet.

During his long summer Dowdell plans to work on “everything. I don’t want to leave anything out. I want to be a complete player, complete point guard, just be prepared for anything the defense throws at me.”

Perhaps his best quality is his brash demeanor. You can see that he feels like he belongs on the court even if he’s a guy on a 10-day contract going up against an All-Star. He brings that swagger no matter what.

As much as the Suns like Dowdell, his future could be most closely tied to the fate of Brooks. With Phoenix committed to continuing to build around Nash, they might not have anything more than a bit role to offer Dowdell if Brooks returns on his qualifying offer or if he receives a long-term deal.

If the Suns trade Brooks or let him walk, Dowdell very well may be the Suns’ backup point guard next year even if they might still be in the market for a point guard of the future. It’s also possible the Suns let AB go because of Dowdell.

So close to his dream of a legitimate role on an NBA team, this summer is crucial for Dowdell. It doesn’t take much for a player like him flickering between the NBA and a career overseas to be jettisoned to Europe for good so he’s undoubtedly taking the lessons he learned this season to heart so he can come back a much improved point guard.

When the lockout is lifted, Dowdell will resume his journey to convince the Suns’ brass that once and for all he deserves to be a full-fledged NBA player.

“Any time whether it’s in practice or in the game it’s an opportunity to show these guys I belong here,” Dowdell said. “I feel that way, and it’s my job to make them feel that way. Any time I can get a chance to get out on the court in game situations and get some meaningful minutes that’s my mindset, I’m trying to show these guys I belong.”

A couple days before the lockout, Dowdell tweeted: “Planning is a waste of time. Everything happens when God wants it to happen not when you want it to happen…”

Dowdell did not want to wait three long years for his cup of coffee in the NBA and he did not want a lockout to strike just as he was beginning to establish himself in the league.

At this point Dowdell’s only plans consist of locking down an NBA rotation spot, however long it may take.