He has landed in a place he never wanted or expected to be. But give Marcus Banks credit. While he might not be thrilled about being out of the NBA and playing in Boise, Idaho, he refuses to grouse about his situation.
The former UNLV and Cimarron-Memorial High School star guard hasn't flown charter or stayed in a five-star hotel in the nearly 18 months since the Toronto Raptors traded him to New Orleans on Nov. 20, 2010, and the Hornets basically told him not to report. Instead, the 6-foot-2-inch Banks is playing for the last-place Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League in hopes of catching a general manager's eye and getting back to the big time.
The reality is the odds are not in his favor. Banks is 30 years old. He's had
injury issues. He has been with five NBA teams in his eight-year career and has averaged 16 minutes and 5.9 points over his run with Boston, Minnesota, Phoenix, Miami and Toronto.
Finally, assuming an NBA team wants him, Banks probably will have to settle for a lot less than the $4.8 million he made a year ago not to play. According to the NBA, a player with eight years of service such as Banks would make a minimum of approximately $100,000 were he to sign a 10-day contract with an NBA team.
"I'm good. I'm grinding," Banks said in a brief phone interview last week. "I'm getting myself back in shape, and it's fine" in the D-League.
Mike Higgins, Banks' longtime Las Vegas-based agent, said he hasn't abandoned hope that his client can make it back.
"I really believe he can still play" in the NBA, Higgins said. "He's got some tread left on his tires from having not played much the last couple of years. He doesn't have the wear and tear that a lot of other players his age and his experience have.
"But this league is not easy. It's all about timing."
Higgins points to two moments in Banks' career when, had things gone differently, he probably wouldn't be in Idaho today.
"When he signed the (five-year, $21.3 million) deal in Phoenix (in 2006), everything was set up for Marcus to back up Steve Nash," Higgins said. "But then Leandro Barbosa blew up. He was (the NBA's) Sixth Man of the Year (in 2006-07), and, as the third man (in the rotation), Marcus got squeezed out. If Barbosa doesn't play the way he did, Marcus gets those minutes, and maybe he's still in Phoenix."
Higgins' other ill-fated scenario regarding Banks involved Miami. In 2008, the Heat traded for Banks and another former UNLV star, Shawn Marion, for Shaquille O'Neal. But Banks had injury issues during his time with the Heat, most notably a hip flexor that limited his minutes and availability.
Right around the All-Star break in 2008-09, Banks and Marion again were on the move, this time to Toronto. Banks never got comfortable with the Raptors, playing 31 games over parts of three injury-plagued seasons in which he dealt with hamstring, foot and back issues.
"Had he not gotten hurt in Miami and missed a month, it might have been different," Higgins said. "He had played well in training camp, and (Heat coach Erik) Spoelstra really liked him. But once he got hurt, everything changed."
When the NBA was going through its lockout last fall, Banks said he was exploring his options. He had offers to play overseas. But he and Higgins believed the D-League was the quickest way to get back to the NBA, even though the atmosphere is truly minor league and attendance is sparse most nights. Last season, for example, the D-League averaged just more than 3,000 per game.
"There's more (NBA) scouts watching you in this league," Banks said.
Since joining the Stampede in early February, Banks has averaged 25 minutes, 16.4 points, 5.4 assists and 3.2 turnovers. On March 17, he scored a season-high 25 points in Idaho's 106-105 loss to the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
"Marcus has been great," Stampede coach Randy Livingston said. "We had no idea we would get him. We put in a claim for him, and he's been all-in since he got here. He's involved in the community. He bought a bunch of tickets for a group of kids the other day. He's working hard on the court, and he'll be the first to tell you he still has to get himself into great basketball shape.
"But he still defends at a high level, and he's gotten comfortable with our system. I'm trying to teach him to make the simple play instead of going for the home run. He's never been taught how to play point guard, which I find amazing given who he has played for" in the NBA.
Banks, who played for UNLV in 2001-02 and 2002-03 and was taken No. 13 by Memphis in the 2003 NBA Draft and traded to Boston on draft night, said he doesn't hold any grudges. He understood a long time ago how things work at the NBA level.
"That's the business of basketball," he said. "It's not what you're used to. But it's still basketball, and I still love to play. Eventually, I'll be back."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.