NBA All-Star 2017
D-League vets Langston Galloway, Tim Frazier serve as examples at All-Star 2017
Both undrafted, Galloway and Frazier turned D-League stints into NBA jobs, most recently with the New Orleans Pelicans
NEW ORLEANS — They are the examples for so many.
On Saturday, when the D-League is being celebrated here at All-Star 2017, their unofficial hosts will include Langston Galloway and Tim Frazier. Both are guards for the Pelicans. Both found their way to the NBA from the D-League.
“As a kid, not a lot of people thought I would be able to do what I was able to do,’’ said Frazier, the 6-foot-1 point guard who was D-League MVP in 2014-15 with the Maine Red Claws. “I was skinny. I was 145 pounds when I went to college. I just fought, I had a couple of people believe in me, and I’m still trying to grow and become a better player, a better person.’’
He and Galloway will join fellow D-League alum Jonathon Simmons of the Spurs as judges for the finals of the dunk competition at halftime of the D-League All-Star Game. Those events — joined by a D-League 3-point contest — will be held in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, next door to the Smoothie King Center where Frazier and Galloway play.
Frazier, 26, is one year older than his teammate. And yet Galloway — a 6-foot-2 shooting guard averaging 9.0 ppg off the bench for New Orleans — has almost twice as much NBA experience.
“We have similar routes, and at the same time I think Tim has had a harder route,’’ said Galloway, who, like Frazier, went undrafted. “He blew his Achilles out and had to come back from that. He plays with so much passion. It’s a contagious thing and it builds up over everybody.’’
Frazier, born and raised in Houston, suffered a ruptured left Achilles in 2012 at the start of his senior year at Penn State. He redshirted and one season later made third team All-Big Ten while winning the conference’s Sportsmanship Award.
Galloway was team MVP as a sophomore, junior and senior on his way to becoming the No. 2 career scorer (behind Jameer Nelson) at St. Joseph’s. After beginning his rookie 2014-15 season with the Westchester Knicks, he was called up on a 10-day contract that led to a two-year partially guaranteed deal with New York. He averaged 13.2 points in 45 games (41 as a starter) and was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team, becoming the first undrafted Knick to earn such an honor.
After coming off the Knicks’ bench for his 11.1 ppg last season, Galloway was signed as a free agent last summer to a New Orleans homecoming by the Pelicans. For he was born and raised in Baton Rouge, which was flooded in August by a storm that dropped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina.
“The way Baton Rouge has come back has been great,’’ said Galloway, who has been involved in several charitable measures. “We’ve been slowly but surely trying to help everyone that we can.’’
Roughly 40 percent of current NBA players have D-League experience, including more than half of rookies who were drafted in 2016. A record 81 NBA players have been assigned to the D-League this season for rehabilitation or development.
Frazier values the perspective he earned while bouncing back and forth between the NBA and its minor league.
“It definitely hurts,’’ said Frazier, who is averaging 8.7 points in 41 games with the Pelicans this season. “You feel like you made it — not necessarily made it, but you got an opportunity to be in the best basketball league in the world. Then you get sent back down, and it hurts to say the least. But this league isn’t for the weak. You’ve got to be strong mentally and physically to be able to make it. You’re sad for a day or so, but at the end of the day you’ve got to bounce back up and get back out there.’’
During parts of two seasons that he spent in Portland, Frazier earned the respect and friendship of Trail Blazers’ All-Star guard Damian Lillard.
“He didn’t back down to me,’’ Lillard told ESPN last year of his team practices against Frazier. “That made me better. I got better because I played through contact, I was able to hit jumpers through him holding my jersey. He was there every time. He wasn’t going away. I think that’s one of his strongest qualities.’’
“That’s the only way I know how, and I think that’s why we kind of hit it off,’’ said Frazier, who helped lead New Orleans to a December OT win over the Suns with a triple-double of 14 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds. “As a point guard you’ve got to be a leader on the court. I’m playing with guys that were drafted No. 1. You got to be mentally tough to go out there and tell them, ‘I’m the point guard, this is what we need to do. This is going to help us to win and I’m going to try to help you out as much as possible.’’’
That stubborn resiliency to fight for a place on the roster every day at practice is a priceless quality that enhances the Pelicans.
“We as an organization really value those types of guys,’’ said GM Dell Demps. “It is a little different when you are not on the guaranteed contract, and you are here on the tryout run, almost an audition. I remember Tim last year, when we signed him late in the season, he came out and wanted to show you how much he belongs.”
“We have guys that have had to battle every step of the way to be in this league,” said New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry, referring to E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill in addition to Gentry and Frazier. “So we have hungry guys. I like hungry guys.”
The court will be brimming with the hungry Saturday at the D-League All-Star Game. And their role models, including Galloway and Frazier, will be watching.
Ian Thomsen has covered the NBA since 2000. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here or follow him on Twitter.
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