WASHINGTON, D.C. — It was just a few months ago that Dwayne Bacon was finishing off his fourth NBA season by playing in every game for the Orlando Magic, starting 50 of them. But in the sort of lesson that reminds players that the NBA is a business, he finds himself in Knicks training camp trying to fight for the 15th and final spot on the roster.
Bacon was cut loose by the Magic in August and 10 days later was signed to a non-guaranteed contract by the Knicks. Now he finds himself competing not only with the players currently in camp but with the names that float as possible cuts from other teams.
"It’s not really strange," Bacon said after the Knicks’ morning shootaround at Georgetown University’s John R. Thompson Center. "But that’s how it goes. Maybe this summer just wasn’t my time.
"It doesn’t mean that I’m done in the league. I started 50 games, I played all 72. I’m going to be available. But you know you’ve just got to play it out, do my part, do what I can to be the best me. That’s what I did this summer — got better. So I feel like I’m a lot better. I’m in a lot better shape than I was last year, and I played 72 games. So just got to keep going."
He hasn’t gotten a chance in the games yet, but neither have many of the players he’s battling with for a spot. In the Knicks’ 117-99 win over the Wizards at CapitalOne Arena on Saturday night, the most impressive performance may have come from rookie Jericho Sims. He currently is on a two-way contract, but if injuries linger for Mitchell Robinson or Nerlens Noel, it could be converted.
The Knicks have 14 guaranteed contracts and a pair of two-way deals. In camp, Bacon and Wayne Selden are the most likely candidates, but coach Tom Thibodeau said last week that the front office is scouring the league to see who might be available.
"We have a number of guys who are battling it out. Good competitor and obviously his length, his wing play,’’ Thibodeau said, referring to Bacon. "Wayne Selden has been terrific, along with Dwayne. Both guys are really solid veterans that can add to a team. And we have a couple young guys in there — MJ Walker has played well. Aamir [Simms] has played well. So it’s what the team needs and how it fits the team and what you’re looking for out of that 15th man.
"And to me, that position, the thing is probably the most important thing is how you practice each and every day. What are you bringing to the team? So there’s a lot that goes into it and what fits us best. And we’ll wait till the end to make that decision."
Bacon is searching for a chance to prove himself in a game, having been kept on the bench thus far. He averaged 10.9 points per game but shot only 28.5% from three-point range after shooting 43.7% in his second year in the league. But as Thibodeau said, proving themselves in practice is just as important for these players trying to find a place.
"I can score the ball," Bacon said. "I can defend. I can be that locker room guy that I am. Every day I wake up, I smile, just because I’m blessed to be in this situation. When my number is called, I’ll take care of business. And the same way, when everybody else is out there, I take care of business sitting down cheering on everybody else. That’s just my role right now."
He does have close ties with Kemba Walker, with whom he spent the first two seasons of his career in Charlotte.
"Me and Kemba don’t talk about stuff like that," Bacon said. "He don’t have to call and say, ‘Hey, yeah, we want you.’ Me and Kemba had a relationship since Charlotte. He was my vet my rookie year and I had him for two years before he went to Boston. And we just built a great relationship.
"He saw what type of guy I was, a worker, always kept the locker room happy and joyful. It just bonded into a brotherhood. He’s a guy that I can’t really explain it, helps me out a lot, helped my family out a lot. He’s just a great guy that you really don’t run into too often, and I’m just blessed to have that friendship that we have."