Buycks’ number called, so he ‘goes out there and makes the best of it’
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MIAMI – To a guy who’s played on a 10-day contract, having 45 days to prove yourself feels like a four-year deal.
Dwight Buycks’ basketball odyssey has taken him to the other side of the world – he’s spent the last three seasons in China – with stops in France, Belgium and Spain, places where contracts sometimes don’t carry the same ironclad guarantee they do in the NBA.
So when Buycks took the court in Miami late in Wednesday’s first quarter – his first real shot at winning backup minutes behind Ish Smith while Reggie Jackson spends the next several weeks rehabilitating a grade 3 ankle sprain – he wasn’t distracted by the tick-tock of the NBA clock in his head. He’s dealt with the pressure of auditioning for a job on a daily basis since going undrafted out of Marquette five years ago.
“No, I think it’s more about making the best out of the opportunity,” Buycks said after scoring 14 points with four assists and one turnover in 17 minutes of Wednesday’s loss to Miami. “That’s what I’m trying to do. Wish we would’ve gotten the win, but that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Buycks is limited to 45 days as one of the NBA’s first class of two-way contract players, a new wrinkle created this season. He’s not even sure how many days remain before the Pistons would need to either convert him to a standard contract or release him and he’s not thinking about it, but decision day will come roughly in the first week of February.
“I’ve been around, so it’s more just being a pro with everything you do, whether that’s watching more film than you need to, going head up overall for everything. Just try to take as much on the court as I can and adjust to play at the same time.”
Buycks has been on NBA radars since his college career ended. Toronto signed him as a free agent that first summer out of Marquette and he made the roster, spending his rookie season bouncing between the Raptors and the D-League. When his season in China ended in spring 2015, Buycks got a 10-day look from the Lakers and scored 15 points in a game at Denver.
When the Pistons were fishing for some point guard insurance last summer – they signed Langston Galloway mostly to play off the ball but passed on signing a No. 3 point guard, penciling Galloway in as their insurance behind Jackson and Smith – they reeled in Buycks on a two-way deal for precisely this type of situation. Buycks was one of the top players in the Orlando Summer League, starting for Dallas and leading the Mavs over the Pistons in overtime of the championship game.
The confidence Buycks played with against the Heat – helping the Pistons stay in the thick of it despite playing without Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson and Jon Leuer in addition to Jackson – didn’t surprise his teammates.
“A dog – that’s what I see from him. A dog,” Reggie Bullock said. “I knew that he always had that in his game. It was more about opportunity for him. He’s been around the league for a while and he knows how to play, so I wasn’t surprised at all.”
Buycks was Smith’s backup in Saturday’s win over San Antonio, but that was driven purely by necessity with Galloway needed at shooting guard when both Avery Bradley and Johnson sat out. With Bradley returning at Miami, Stan Van Gundy could have gone with Galloway at point guard and bypassed Buycks. Van Gundy hasn’t settled on Buycks as Smith’s permanent No. 2, but chances are pretty good that he won himself another test run with his Miami audition.
“I thought he played well. I was pretty happy with him,” Van Gundy said. “A couple of things, execution wise, we’ve got to clean up. But in terms of his attacking and stuff, I thought very, very good. And eventually, maybe if he plays a few more games, maybe they’ll give him a call once.”
Not getting a whistle, waiting for a phone call and another opportunity, playing with a clock ticking in the background – nothing much fazes a guy who hasn’t known anything but uncertainty for the entirety of his pro basketball life. From junior college to China and now to the NBA, there isn’t much in basketball that Dwight Buycks hasn’t experienced.
“Just playing different styles and getting used to it,” he said, the survival skill most necessary for a basketball vagabond. “I had been around with a few teams in the NBA, so I’ve kind of got the feel of how things would be. It’s more about having patience, staying ready, doing what you’ve got to do, being a pro. All that matters. And when your number is called, go out there and make the best of it.”