Willie Reed has bounced around that tier of basketball just below the NBA ... the D-League, summer leagues, training camps, even a little bit of Europe.
He's played for D-League teams in Springfield, Des Moines, Reno and Grand Rapids, spent time in Eilat, Israel; Girona, Spain; and Santiago in the Dominican Republic. There were summer league stints with the Kings, Grizzlies, Pacers and this year the Heat and Nets, training camps with the Kings, Grizzlies and Nets. He's actually been on the rosters of the Grizzlies and Kings, but has never played a minute for either.
The 25-year-old St. Louis product has never lost faith in his skills -- creating a hashtag #callWillieUp when playing D-League ball -- or his God.
"God makes no mistakes. I didn’t stick the first couple times, but he’s put me in the perfect position now." he told Tim Bontemps Wednesday after another solid summer league performance.
"The perfect position," as he calls it, is a mostly guaranteed contract with the Nets, signed last week after he had played well for the Heat's summer league team. That stint engendered comparisons among Heat writers to Hassan Whiteside, another basketball vagabond who almost got Miami into the playoffs last season.
Lionel Hollins, who has been Reed's coach three times, thinks he's improved, particularly in recent weeks.
"This summer he’s really shown strides of improvement, and we just thought we wanted to bring another big so we could have a big," Hollins said.
Reed, who calls himself a "legitimate 6'11", sees himself as the ideal back-up to Brook Lopez. He told Bontemps.
"I think I can be a really good backup five to Brook," he said. "Playing with the second unit, we can play a lot faster, and bring speed. But whatever coach needs me to do, I’m happy to give him."
Reed will have plenty of incentive. He's already received $500,000 on a vets minimum deal of $947,000. He will get the rest if he makes the team and finally gets on an NBA court.