Phil Pressey is accustomed to being on this side of the NBA’s fringe.
Three years ago, the undrafted guard out of Missouri defied the odds to not only claw his way onto the Celtics roster, but earn a spot in the rotation.
Boston had Pressey step onto the court 75 times during his rookie campaign, with seven of his appearances lasting more than 30 minutes.
Ever since, Pressey has struggled to find his place in the league.
The Celtics waived Pressey following his sophomore campaign, prompting a journey across the country and to a stint in the NBA Developmental League.
Pressey earned an invitation to Portland’s training camp, only to be waived a week before the start of the regular season. Utah immediately claimed him, only to release him 24 hours later.
The next week, Pressey earned a contract with Philadelphia, only to be waived a month later, leading him to join the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Developmental League.
Following the All-Star break, the Suns signed Pressey to a pair of 10-day contracts, only to once again send him into free agency by waiving him.
Even though Pressey has struggled to carve out a consistent role in the NBA, he has proven to be an exceptional passer, dishing out an average of 2.9 assists in just 13.6 minutes a night during his career.
In his three plus seasons in the league, Pressey has posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.69, an impressive feat for a player constantly adapting to a new system and playing with a rotating cast of teammates.
The promise of the ability to compete for a roster spot convinced Pressey to join Detroit’s squad for the 2016 NBA Summer League.
Following the Pistons 81-49 victory over New York, Shatter the Glass spent some time with Pressey to discuss his battle to remain in the league and much more.
Last season you bounced around the NBA and the Developmental League, how difficult is it to constantly be fighting for an NBA opportunity?
It’s a good thing that someone wants you, because that gives you an opportunity to show what you can do. That’s always a good thing. Yeah, it’s tough going from team to team and city to city, but it’s part of the game. A lot of guys have been through it, I’m not the only one. So it just gives you an idea of how the NBA works. Sooner or later I’m going to stick, so I just have to keep going at it and keep your head up.
How difficult is it joining a new organization and trying to adapt to their system?
It’s very hard, especially from a point guard prospective. The coaches expect you to know every play and know where everybody is at on the court. I like knowing all the plays, I like knowing how my guys shoot, who posts up and who doesn’t like to post up. So coming into a new situation is tough, you’ve got to be able to learn on the fly. I’ve done it since I’m young, just learning new plays, continuing to grind. I know sooner or later it is going to pay off.
Playing for Detroit has to once again be a new experience for you, how is this different from your time in with Boston at the NBA Summer League?
I was there for two years, so I kind of had a feel for the coaching staff and the whole team. Now, I’m learning a new team again, just like I did a couple of months ago. You just really have to pay attention to detail in practice and really lock in so the game comes to you.
What was the draw of playing for the Pistons for you? The team has a need for back court players, was that the primary reason for you to come here?
I talked to (coach) Stan Van Gundy and there was a need for a point guard. There is a spot there, so if I go out there, show them what I can do, I feel like I have a good shot.
Today against the Knicks your shot wasn’t dropping, but you found a way to make a major contribution, grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds. How important is it for you to find a way to provide an impact, even if your shot isn’t falling?
It’s really about finding a way change the game without scoring. You have guys on the team making $100 million to score the basketball. So nine times out of 10, coaches and general managers aren’t going to bring you in to score the basketball. You have to show what you can do on the defensive end, change the game without scoring the basketball. I feel like that’s how some guys stick in this league, just figuring out their niche and going with it.
No, I haven’t yet.
In the letter, he tells players a place in the NBA essentially boils down to a few things, continuously hitting the gym, preparing to be humbled, always be ready to prove yourself and maintain good relationships with everyone you come into contact with. How have you been able to achieve those feats in your career?
A few of those things, I have done my whole life. Whenever I talk to people, I just try and make a good connection with them, just make sure I look them in the eye, this way next time I see them, they know who I am and vice versa. Staying in the gym is major, the NBA is a long season. Guys get hurt, guys get traded and if you aren’t playing and thinking you won’t play, then you get that call and you’re not ready, then you’re really not going to play. Everything you just said nails it on the head about being a professional, and that’s what being a professional is, just staying ready when your name is called.
Have you ever considered playing overseas? Is that something you would be open to if there isn’t a spot in the NBA for you?
I haven’t even really thought about it. I had two good years in Boston, then last year, I was in the D-League for a little bit, then I made it back into the NBA. As long as I keep pushing the rock, I’m going to be all right.
What do you think is going to be the key for you to earn a spot in Detroit, or with another team in the league this year?
Just continue to do what I’m doing. Teams have to like me, this year I’ve been on four different teams. I’m doing something right if I keep getting my name called. I just have to stick with it and hopefully I can stick with a team sooner or later.