Sloan knows the pain of a Christmas cut
Donald Sloan thought he was the only one.
“Ever. In history,” he said.
As it turns out, he’s just one of 19. One of 19 NBA players to be released by a team on Christmas Day, that day of fellowship and good cheer. As in, “Merry Christmas, kid, we bring you bad tidings, now get out of here.”
Actually, coach Byron Scott and general manager Chris Grant were polite about it when they called him into their office two years ago. Sloan had showed up for that afternoon’s practice, and planned to fly out with the team to Washington D.C. that evening. But he knew he was in a danger zone. His contract wasn’t guaranteed, and the Cavs had just signed yet another point guard, Shawn Livingston, to a roster already overflowing with them.
“I figured something was going to shake,” Sloan recalled. “I didn’t expect it on Christmas Day, but I thought it was coming.”
Scott and Grant said they were sorry that it had to happen on that day of all days, but it was going to happen nonetheless. Sloan went back to his apartment, called a friend, and went out for a drink. Merry Christmas, indeed.
It wasn’t the first time Sloan had been rejected by an NBA team. He has a history of it, in fact. He went undrafted out of college in 2010, and then Sacramento whacked him early in training camp that fall. He bounced around the minor leagues, from the D-League to the Philippines, and then got a chance with Atlanta. The Hawks cut him in January of 2012. After the Cavs released him in December of 2013, he signed two 10-day contracts with New Orleans, starting on Jan. 26. After those expired, he played in China and then caught on with the Pacers the following summer.
Sloan has plenty of company in his holiday misery. The list of Christmas cuts is as follows, according to the Hoopshype.com website:
Marcus Cousin, Houston 2011
Ben Uzoh, Charlotte, 2011
Eddie House, Miami, 2011
Nate Robinson, Oklahoma City, 2011
Marko Jaric, Memphis, 2009
Sharrod Ford, Phoenix, 2005
Marcus Haislip, Indiana, 2004
Slavko Vranes, New York, 2003
Pat Cummings, Utah, 1990
T.R. Dunn, Denver, 1990
Leon Wood, Sacramento, 1990
Mike Woodson, Cleveland, 1990
Dave Popson, Boston, 1990
Kelvin Upshaw, Dallas, 1990
Reggie Williams, San Antonio, 1990
Avery Johnson, Denver, 1990
Jim Farmer, Philadelphia, 1990
Pete Myers, San Antonio, 1990
Sloan is in a more secure place now with the Pacers. Barely. His contract is guaranteed through the end of this year. And, with injuries to George Hill and C.J. Watson, he’s had the opportunity to establish himself in the league like never before. He’s averaging 10.3 points, and has started 19 games. He’s already played more minutes than in any other season, and has had games of 31 and 29 points. But he’s also been left on the bench in four of the past 11 games, as the backcourt health improves.
Does having been cut – on Christmas Day, even – make it easier to accept a bench role?
“Not at all,” he said. “Just knowing what you can do. Just waiting all those times, sitting on the bench for certain teams, going here and there, waiting, waiting to see if things are going to pop for you. And then tasting it. And you’re like, ‘See, I told you.’ And then going back to the bench.
“It doesn’t make it any easier at all. I want to establish myself in this league and if I want to do that, I have to play. We’ll see.”
Still, Sloan will board the Pacers’ chartered flight to Detroit on Christmas Day, for a game on Friday. He’ll have had worse days, by far.