During a season that both the players and fans of the Phoenix Suns are looking to forget, Zabian Dowdell offers a memorable story looking to live on past the team’s last game on April 13.
As a player who isn’t used to being given minutes outside of NBA Summer League games though, the challenge for Dowdell is to prove those aren’t the only minutes he deserves.
The 26-year-old point guard has been waiting for his NBA opportunity since going undrafted in 2007 and finally found it with the Suns this season. In an effort to limit starter Steve Nash during practice, Dowdell was signed to his first 10-day contract in January.
He received something he’d been working toward for four years: an NBA jersey, sported in purple and orange, with his last name sewn on the back.
What he wasn’t receiving, though, was the playing time he was working so hard to earn. Only a couple days after signing his second 10-day contract, the Suns found themselves needing Dowdell more than anticipated when backup point guard Goran Dragic went down with a toe injury to open February’s slate of games.
Dowdell was presented with the dream situation of getting to fill Nash’s shoes for an average of 13 minutes a game.
In an effort not to overstep his boundaries while on the court, Dowdell didn’t take too many shots and didn’t make too many, either. He averaged only 4.5 points and 2.8 assists through the seven games as backup, not necessarily giving onlookers the impression that he had learned much from Nash.
But then again, at that time, he had only been given 20 days.
The trade deadline passed with Dragic on his way out of the Valley and Aaron Brooks on his way in. The Suns were looking to give Brooks the playing time he expected and Dowdell was back to finding significant minutes on the practice court, instead of the one under the spotlights.
Since then, Dowdell has been given his most playing time in the four games Nash sat out of due to injuries. While both Dowdell and Brooks played 24 minutes in Friday’s victory over the visiting Clippers, the undrafted guard had 14 points and five assists to the 2010 Most Improved Player’s 12 and six.
Dowdell has slowly been gaining confidence, apparent in his increased number of shot attempts, but is still having difficulty turning them into points. He’s learned to take advantage of the players he’s surrounded with when on the court and has shown backup point guard potential at times.
For a player Suns fans had never heard of outside of the summer league team, Dowdell provided them with a memorable story during a forgettable year.
What has yet to be seen though is if Dowdell will come out of the upcoming offseason with an NBA contract or just the memories.