GREENSBORO, NC – The G-League has continued to illustrate its tremendous value as a resource for the NBA. It not only serves as the talent pipeline for up-and-coming players to the NBA but also as an outlet for NBA players to go down and rekindle their fire and catch the spark they lost due to inconsistent playing time in the NBA.
Wednesday afternoon, Hornets’ guard Dwayne Bacon utilized the G-League for that exact purpose. After receiving five DNP-CD’s in the Hornets’ last nine games, he initiated his G-League assignment to the Greensboro Swarm. Not the other way around. ‘Bake’ wanted to compete and get on the court and play and his wish was finally granted.
“I asked them [the Hornets] a month ago when I wasn’t playing a lot to just come down to Greensboro and play,” Bacon told The Painted Lines. “They just flat out told me no. Buzz [Peterson] and I have a great relationship and he told me no and didn’t think it would benefit me. I was like ‘Man, just let me go down there for a few games, just to get a feel for the game and get comfortable again.’ I appreciate him letting me come down. He knows how hard I work and how I just like to play the game…
“I felt like coming down here was an opportunity to play. Buzz just told me to be careful and told me, ‘You know you don’t have to go down there you know that. You know that. It’s your option.’ I just really wanted to come down here and play and compete again. Get a feel for the game again and just feel good about what I’m doing out there.”
You don’t see players’ in Bacon’s shoes initiate a G-league assignment. It’s always the other way around.
The fact that Bake took the lead, knew what he wanted and went through with what he felt was right for himself, is a testament to his truly humble character. The G-League is not seen as the most glamorous scene for an NBA player. Bake could care less, he only cares about his craft, not listening to the outside noise.
He told told me earlier this year that during his rookie season that, then Hornets head coach, Steve Clifford thought the best way for Bake to develop was sitting on the bench with the Hornets to watch and learn.
Bake did not agree with that.
Last season when he got the opportunity to go and get minutes in Greensboro with the Swarm he said he immediately asked the Hornets to send him back down again. He just wanted to play and get live in-game reps, ccrediting his time in the G to his ascension late last season.
Many did not expect Bake to go down in Greensboro this year. Beginning the year in the starting lineup, moving to the bench after an injury, to getting DNP-CD’s. This season has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for Bake. He saw this as a golden opportunity to go get some live action with the Swarm and honestly “just hoop.”
Last night he got that opportunity and ran with it.
A 51-point outbreak
Hours after getting his G-League assignment, Dwayne Bacon suited up for the Swarm as they faced off against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Indiana Pacers affiliate). It was a last-second ordeal so Bacon didn’t even have a proper jersey, rocking a nameless “0” uniform Wednesday evening.
Bacon completely lit the Fieldhouse on fire last night. He poured in 51 points, shooting 16-29 from the field, 5-11 from three, en route to breaking the Swarm’s single-game franchise record for points. Additionally, he set the G-League’s new season-high in points.
Bake’s downhill attack mentality paid dividends for him Wednesday, as he drove past opponents with ease all night.
“I just came down and just kept trying to get to my spots, trying to get to the basket,” Bacon said. “I feel like I can get to the basket at any time, just trying to make the game easier for me. Honestly, I feel like my problem is a lot of times I find in my head that I find it too easy to get to the basket and so I settle with threes. I just got to stay with the easy stuff. Me continually trying to get to the rack was my mindset tonight. Just trying to get downhill and if I don’t have anything, kick it out.”
That mindset obviously worked for Dwayne as he helped the Swarm to a 124-117 win.
“When I come down here I look at it as trying to win and not just get my numbers. I was willing to do anything it took tonight to get a win… I knew these guys’ schedule, I knew their record, I know about them… So just coming out here and helping these guys win and feel good is all I cared about tonight.”
Bacon getting back to just “hooping”
What stood out the most from Dwayne Bacon’s 51-point performance was the fact that he played the entire game with a smile on his face. Guys on G-League assignment typically look at it as a punishment, a demotion. Bacon saw it as a tremendous chance to get reps and improve his craft. It was obvious how delighted he was going out there playing the game he loves.
“I just have the mentality of wanting to hoop,” Bacon said. “Every guy wants to play in the NBA but there’s nothing to complain about for me here, it’s just getting in the gym and working. Coming down here to play is a step towards getting better… Getting the opportunity to come down here to compete and win as a team, that’s all I care about.”
Wednesday night, Bacon continued to state how much he loves to just play the game of basketball. Sitting on the bench not playing is not enjoyable, no one prefers it. Basketball players just want to play. It’s simple. Bake did not mind where he got minutes, last night it just happened to be with the Swarm.
“It just feels great to play, honestly,” Bake told The Painted Lines. “It feels so good to just get a chance to play up and down, continuously. The times I’ve played recently up in Charlotte it’s been a couple of minutes, throwing me in here and there. It just felt good to play, play through the little mistakes I made and continue to work and get better and compete.”
Timing is everything
We often hear this sentiment echoed when we are going through obstacles in life. Timing is everything. This especially applies to Dwayne Bacon. Keeping your confidence through times of trial is imperative. Scoring 51 points in the G-League can also help with that. Most importantly, Bake staying in Greensboro can be an opportunity for him to rekindle the fire he gained from the G-League last year. It resulted in Bake starting the last 12 games of the season for the Hornets, averaging north of 25 minutes per game in the team’s final 18 games.
“Last year down here is where I got my spark starting the last 20 games and found myself playing well,” Bake told TPL. He hopes to use his time in Greensboro for that same purpose. There is about one-third of the season left so that’s plenty of time for Bake to get back on top of his game.
“Honestly, I don’t know how long I’m going to be down here. I could play today and I could go back up tomorrow. I really have no clue. I’m just going with the flow, taking it one day at a time. Buzz and I talk every day so whatever he feels is best, and whatever my agent and I feels is best.”
In the meantime, Bacon will sit tight and continue to benefit from consistent minutes he can get with the Swarm. Maintaining confidence is not something Bake is worried about.
“There’s never a doubt in my mind that I don’t think I can play in the NBA,” Bake said Wednesday. “You’ve seen me play in Charlotte. I’ve scored 20, 25 points in the NBA, so it’s never me doubting myself that I can’t play the game of basketball. It’s simple, now is just not my time up there.
“It’s not that I lost joy this year, it’s strictly the fact that everybody goes through obstacles. I can’t sit here and blame it all on the Hornets, like ‘Oh they’re not playing me,’ because I feel like they believe in me a lot… I don’t feel like the organization gave up on me… They know how hard I work. It’s just simply staying with it, waiting for the opportunity that comes and just execute on it… I just wanted to take this step for me and what I have going on to just compete.”