Gary Neal stared at the ball intently while watching it roll over on the ground during their basketball practice. His basketball career had been more like a ball, gyrating up and down and sometimes moving towards another direction, making a different path. However, no matter how high or low it always comes back right into the person guiding it.
Gary could have been part of the 2007 NBA draft. He was always the ever reliable combo guard who could distribute the ball and the same time shoot way beyond the arc. However, he came out undrafted and had to play three seasons overseas. He knew if he was in the NBA, he could have cut his career short. It was like going to war without enough ammunition or going to an exam with an unsharpened pencil. He could have been D.J. Strawberry or Javaris Crittenton, who had tons of potential but never got the opportunity they’ve wanted. There are a few who are born to be there on the top and the rest it’s just finding the right niche or the right pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. A team only needs two or three superstars, and the rest can be called role players. It’s just finding the right team with the right place which is more like finding a needle on a stack of hay.
Gary knew his role when the San Antonio Spurs signed him to a three year contract. When speed and athleticism clearly belong to Tony Parker, George Hill and Manu Ginobili, Gary is there to provide the consistency. The spot-up shooter who could distribute the ball and to ease up the scoring load on their aging veterans. It was always his shooting touch that got him to where he is now. His solace, whenever things don’t go the way he wanted it to be. He literally shoots his way out of everything.
The Spurs still cruise their way to the NBA, topping the standings with a 46-9 record. It’s not just about Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. It’s all about playing as a unit and finding the right mix. Gary Neal will be their dependable scorer. He would be there when the team needs him to be.
He knows he had been through a lot, but it was all worthwhile. After being undrafted, and going through different teams it was always a welcome experience. It was the right sharpener to get him ready for a bigger test ahead.
Gary Neal smiled as he picked up the ball and dribbled it.
Life could take you up or down but it’s always reassuring to know, you still control your own destiny…
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