Rookie road finally leads to playing time for Hawks’ Tyler Dorsey

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Tyler Dorsey went from being a star for Oregon during its run to the NCAA Final Four to a spot on the end of the Hawks bench with a frequent-flyer card to Erie, Pa.

Welcome to the NBA, rook.

As has been the Hawks’ way under coach Mike Budenholzer, most rookies have been brought along slowly, with time to learn the NBA game and develop trust.

Take Taurean Prince, a first-pick in 2016 who spent time on the bench and G League before earning a spot in the starting lineup in the playoffs last season and a permanent spot this season.

Take Dennis Schroder, a first-round pick in 2013 who played in 16 of the team’s first 42 games his rookie season. He played in just 49 games and a total of seven playoff minutes that first season before taking over as the starting point guard last season.

The Hawks selected Dorsey in the second round, No. 41 overall, of the 2017 draft, and he has of late earned time in the Hawks’ rotation at shooting guard. Dorsey has played the past six games and has averaged 4.7 points in 11 minutes. He totaled 9-of-27 shooting, including 7-of-15 from 3-point range.

“It’s part of being a rookie,” Dorsey said Sunday, a day before he had five points, three rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes of a win over the Spurs. “It’s being patient. That is what it really comes down to. Keep working and when your time is called, it’s time to go and prove (you can play) and show that you can have an effect on being in the rotation.”

In the Hawks’ first 37 games, Dorsey appeared in 11 and played a total of 51 minutes. He was a Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision 19 times and missed seven games on three different stints with the Erie BayHawks, the team’s G League affiliate.

In 10 G League games, Dorsey averaged 19.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals as he shot .424 from the field and .427 from 3-point range.

Schroder has offered advice to young players such as Dorsey. After all, he can speak from experience.

“I tell them every time you just have to work on yourself,” Schroder said. “You are doing it for you. When you get on the court you have to be ready because Coach is going to throw you out there and see if you are ready. Coach likes to do these games, mental, to see how tough you are. If you take it the right way, it’s going to take you all the way up.”

An opportunity arose for Dorsey as Malcolm Delaney has moved to more of a backup point guard role, taking time from the shooting guard position, and Marco Belinelli missed a game with an ankle injury. Enter Dorsey.

“It’s been part of my journey, going back and forth between the G League and here,” Dorsey said. “The message is getting better, working on the things they want me to work on and staying patient.

“I knew coming into it, it could be like that. I was mentally prepared and physically prepared to do that. Right now, I’m getting more time and more minutes and I’m being ready to perform in however many minutes I get and taking advantage of the opportunity.”

Dorsey said during his team stuck on the bench that he watched Belinelli and players on other teams. He watched how they moved without the ball, even within the confines of set play, to create space and a shot opportunity. That’s all a shooter, like Dorsey, needs. His confidence never wanes.

Budenholzer said he likes that Dorsey is more than a shooter.

“He has a knack for scoring,” Budenholzer said. “He is more than just a shooter. He gets to the basket and finds different ways to score. He is certainly a shot-maker.”

A spot in the rotation is not guaranteed. Dorsey said that Budenholzer singled him out as after a lapse in practice Sunday.

“If you want to start playing more, you better not forget the plays in practice,” Dorsey recalled another well-driven home point.

In the Hawks’ 102-99 win over the Spurs, Dorsey played 7:08 of the fourth quarter before exiting with just under five minutes to play of the close game. He had a reverse layup with 6:56 remaining that gave the Hawks an 85-82 lead.

It’s a long way from Dorsey’s 21-point effort in Oregon’s 77-76 loss to eventual champion North Carolina in the national semifinals.

“This is my job now,” Dorsey said. “I get to do this however many hours I want. I’m loving it. I don’t have to go to class or anything like that. … The first half of the season has been going up and down for me. I think I’m going to be ready for this next half of the season.”

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Credit: Kevin C. Cox