The NBA offseason serves as a perfect time for the various young guns who hope to break into The Association to sell themselves, make connections, and build relationships in hopes of reaching the next level.
NBA Summer League proved to be an ideal opportunity for many of the aspiring NBA athletes to do so, but the door doesn't just close there. The summer is filled with national tryouts, individual team workouts, showcases, dinner meetings, and more.
But of course, such an opportunity isn't limited to those who are currently dreaming of hitting the big league hardwood some day. With many rosters changes and staff positions to be filled for the upcoming season, this is also the perfect time for those players looking to transition into coaching and/or a front office role to let their voices be heard.
With that in mind, former NBA player Zendon Hamilton has been doing his part this offseason to make sure his presence is felt wherever necessary. In addition to acting as a bit of a mentor in Las Vegas this past week for the younger players, Hamilton also served as a coach during last month's NBA D-League national tryout in New York City.
"The national tryout is a great program. I was there with guys like Sean Rooks and other former players, just looking to pass our knowledge on so that these younger guys can make the transition to not playing, to being an effective D-League player," said Hamilton.
When asked what kinds of things he aims to instill in some of the young guns, be it while he was in New York or Las Vegas, the big man added, "For me, it's all about professional. Making personal relationships is also very big. Getting into a routine and making sure you're doing the same things everyday is important. Nutrition, too. My things are basic things that you need to be a basketball player. There are other things they'll be able to learn once they get there."
Of course, while it may be a bit of a letdown, the reality is that most NBA Summer League participants will likely end up back in the D-League and/or playing overseas after going through training camp with an NBA team this fall anyway. Getting to The Association once and for all is undoubtedly a journey, which is something Hamilton says he can relate to.
"I'm all about the journey, if that makes sense. Because I took one. I took the hard way to get there," he added. "The only way to get better is to take the journey. A lot of times, people can jump over the building, but sometimes, you've got to walk through it, too."
A journeyman true to the definition, Hamilton played for seven NBA teams in six seasons through 2000-06. But his career in no way stopped there. He went on to play ball overseas, touring an array of different countries in the process. Not too far off from his last stint, the big man actually also played in the D-League last year as well. The Big Apple native played 12 games for the somewhat local Springfield Armor, averaging 6.8 points and 5 rebounds per contest.
Ironically enough, such numbers are extremely similar to those he put up in the NBA as well. And though he actually looks like he's in even better shape than from his days in The Association, Hamilton recognizes it may indeed be time for a new challenge.
"[Coaching] is a space I'm definitely trying to get into," he said. "I am still playing, but I'm really crossing over and getting my feet wet. I have been for the past two or three years now. This was my second year doing the D-League national tryout. I was down in Virginia doing the P.I.T. also. It's all about passing knowledge down to the kids."
As mentioned, Hamilton has been involved in various different coaching and/or mentoring this offseason. But as far as where he may soon end up finding a new gig, Hamilton adds he'd be more than open to the minors. He asserted, "I would not mind the D-League. The value of that league is big. I was around when we had the CBA, so I'm old school. But I enjoy this."
Though he could truly end up employed anywhere in either the NBA or D-League (Hamilton's seven NBA teams, international experience, commitment, and vast involvement this offseason only prove that), admittedly, it'd be nice to see the journeyman come home.
Having grown up on the border of Long Island & Queens, New York before moving on to play for St. John's University (alongside the likes of Felipe Lopez & then Ron Artest), Hamilton is a Big Apple guy at heart.
"Whenever somebody asks about [New York], I can't stop smiling," he said. "I love being a New Yorker. I've been here for a long time. St. John's has always been good to me. I was just over there for Walter Berry's Hall of Fame dinner. But that's why I love doing all of this. This is my give back. I love helping along these kids that have opportunities I never had."
Hamilton is an interesting testament to the type of impact a true basketball journeyman can have on the league, even after his playing days are over. From seeing the likes of Chris Whitney, Anthony Johnson, Scott Williams, and other storied veterans filling different roles for various teams in Las Vegas, there's doubt the door is open for Hamilton to do so as well.