Dan Dickau feels pulled in a couple of directions.
There's the sharp tug of knowing that his wife, Heather, is at their home in Battle Ground, Wash., temporarily corralling their three young children. Dickau has been away only a couple days and misses them already.
Then there's the game of basketball, which grabs Dickau and won't let go, compelling him to take one more shot at returning to the NBA.
“It's hard on both of us,” Dickau said. “I know it's probably harder on her because she's handling things on her own right now. But, 10 years from now, I don't want to sit back and (say), ‘Man, I should have given it one more shot.' And she knows that.”
Dickau's “one more shot” starts in Fort Wayne tonight. After being cut by the Phoenix Suns in training camp, the six-year NBA veteran looked into playing in Europe but decided last week to put his name in the D-League pool. The Mad Ants acquired him over the weekend by trading rookie guard Kyle McAlarney to the Springfield Armor for the rights to Dickau.
Dickau will make his Fort Wayne debut against the Reno Bighorns at 7 tonight in Memorial Coliseum.
“To get a good player, you have to give up a good player,” Ants coach Joey Meyer said. “Kyle's a good player, but we just think Dan is more of a true point guard and more of a veteran and we needed more of that to run our team.”
Dickau, 31, was a first-team All-America guard for Gonzaga as a senior in 2001-02, when he averaged 21 points per game. He was a first-round pick of the Sacramento Kings in the NBA Draft, and then traded to the Atlanta Hawks on draft night. He has played for six NBA teams, including two times with Portland. His best season came in 2004-05, when he averaged 13.2 points and 5.2 assists per game for the New Orleans Hornets.
He suffered an Achilles heel problem that sidetracked his season the following year with the Boston Celtics. Last season, he had short stints with teams in Italy and Germany before returning home.
“I wouldn't be here if I didn't still have a huge passion to play basketball,” Dickau said. “If you're in the D-League, your ultimate goal is to be in the NBA and for me it's to get back to the NBA. …I'm excited because I'm back playing the game I love at a high level.”
Dickau has spent much of his career defying critics who look at his size (6-foot, 180 pounds) and consider him too small for professional basketball.
But he thrived in college his final two seasons at Gonzaga and his high-water season with the Hornets proved he could perform given the opportunity.
“Like with so many guys in the NBA, it's all about the opportunity to get consistent minutes,” Dickau said. “That was the only time in my career where I've gone to every game knowing I was getting ‘X' amount of minutes on the floor. When you have that, you can kind of let the game come to you and you don't have to press to get shots or make shots or make some play to stay in the game. When you're able to get comfortable, you play much better.”
Dickau said he has known Mad Ants center Jared Reiner for four or five years and forward Rob Kurz for two years, but is unfamiliar with the rest of the players.
He's had only one full practice with the team. A Sunday workout was without Kurz and swingman Ron Howard, who were returning from the D-League All-Star game.
But Dickau said he feels his experience will allow him to adjust quickly to his new team. He'll rotate initially with Ants point guard Oliver Lafayette.
“One thing about my time in pro basketball, I've seen so many things - trades, how to handle different players, different personalities,” Dickau said. “Basketball is basketball. I'll pick up on things pretty darn quick and I think one advantage I'll have in this league is the understanding of the game.”
The Ants (10-18) will need to put together a significant winning streak to get into the D-League playoff race. The addition of Dickau gives the team four players with NBA experience. The others are Reiner, Kurz and Milwaukee Bucks assignee Joe Alexander. Dickau and Alexander give the team two former first-round NBA draft picks.
“No matter what level I've played at, I've never been the most athletic, I've never been the biggest,” Dickau said. “But I've always out-fought and out-worked guys. One of the things that make you a professional is your work ethic. I believe that will help me have success and if I have success here, I hope to have a legitimate shot to get back (to the NBA).”
Fort Wayne can be a long way from the NBA, but you can get there from here.
That fact pulled Dickau back into the game and onto the Ants roster.