RENO, NV - On Wednesday, we took the Cowbell Kingdom bus up the hill to Reno to check out the 10th annual D-League Showcase. While the basketball was not the same quality we’re accustomed to covering, it was a chance to gain a little perspective on what it is to have a basketball dream.
That is exactly what the D-League is. Young men race up and down the court, hoping to have a magic moment in front of the right set of eyes.
There were some familiar faces in the crowd. Players like 35-year-old Chris Porter, who last played in the NBA 13 years ago for the Golden State Warriors. Or rookie point guard Peyton Siva, who won an NCAA Championship last season as a member of the Louisville Cardinals.
Have dream will travel is the name of the game.
The Reno Bighorns, the Sacramento Kings’ D-League affiliate, put on a show late, running all over the Springfield Armor yesterday evening. They may not have a marquee player or even a player on assignment from the big club, but they do have a few interesting prospects.
Trent Lockett played in summer league and spent training camp with the Kings, but unfortunately got lost in the numbers game. He is in Reno honing his craft, with hopes that the Kings or some other NBA team will give him a shot later this season.
“He carries himself like a veteran and sometimes you forget that he’s a rookie,” Bighorns head coach Joel Abelson said of Lockett. “So you’re watching him on the court (and) I’m like ‘Trent, how do you make that mistake?’ And really, it’s cause it’s his first 15 games playing professional basketball.”
While Lockett didn’t blow anyone away with his numbers (17 points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range), he showed leadership and composure in his 28 minutes. He is developing a consistent corner three and Abelson already calls on him to cover the opposition’s best perimeter scorer.
“He’s improved a lot,” Abelson said. “This is a great experience for him. I’m hoping by the end of the season, he gets called up by the Kings or somebody else. He deserves it.”
CK: When you were cut by the Kings, you had a couple different career options to choose from. Instead of going overseas, you opted to come here to Reno. Tell us about the process behind your decision to pick the D-League.
TL: You know, it was a fairly accelerated process between the time that I got cut from the Kings and the D-League deadline was approaching within like five days. So, I talked to my agent, I talked with my manager and my mom and we kind of sifted through some different scenarios that we had and opportunities. And at the end of the day, I decided my best opportunity was to come here and play for the Reno Bighorns.
CK: Now the Bighorns have a hybrid affiliation with the Kings. Choosing to play in Reno, how much of that was influenced by wanting to continue to grow within the Kings’ system?
TL: That was definitely a big part of my decision. Being with them through the summer, in summer league like you said, and three months before the season started, getting to know the coaches and the front office and the owner – Vivek is a great guy – and I really just loved the program and the organization. And to have an opportunity to play here with the Bighorns and stay in communication with those guys and them to have an eye on me is a real good opportunity.
CK: What has this experience in the D-League been like for you in comparison to the NBA? It has to be pretty a pretty humbling stop on the journey that is your professional career.
TL: Yeah, it’s a tale of two different games and a tale of two different worlds, coming from the NBA to the D-League. But I went through two training camps and went through an injury (knee issue), it’s been definitely a trial of tribulations so far, but I’m really happy with where I’m at right now.
CK: You’ve been with the Bighorns now for a few months. Tell us about where you think your development as a player is today versus where it was when you were cut loose by the Kings.
TL: You know, I’m really taking this opportunity for what it is. With the Kings, I’m definitely a role player, 15th man and doing all the intangibles, which I continue to do here. But here, I have an opportunity to be on the court, 30-40 minutes a game and to continue be in different situations and work through things. Whereas with the Kings, I’m almost a specialist I would say.
Sacramento’s roster is still incomplete. With more moves expected, there may come a time when the Kings turn back to the 23-year old wing out of Marquette.