In his own words, Andre Dawkins admits to the 2016-2017 season being an “interesting” one. Dawkins began the year with the same team he ended the last one with, the Texas Legends. On December 1st, the former Duke Blue Devil was traded to the Windy City Bulls. Almost two months later on the 28th of January, he was traded again…back to the Legends.
“It was my first time getting traded in the D-League,” says Dawkins, whose rights were dealt in a 2016 trade between Texas and Sioux Falls, a deal he was not physically a part of. “And then the second time. It was exciting to come back. Obviously having gone through camp with these guys, I know all of them. I’m comfortable with the system. It was just exciting to come back and get a chance to play with these guys.”
Not even 60 days since playing with the same team, there had been some turnover with the roster he said goodbye to a short time ago. Four players had gone (Jaleel Cousins, Deng Deng, Patrick Miller and Courtney Fells) and four had come in (Pierre Jackson, AJ Hammons, Ben Gordon and DeJuan Blair).
“It was a weird experience. I don’t think very many people have had an experience like that. But it was great to come back, I was excited to come back. It’s a lot warmer in Texas, you don’t have to deal with the snow and stuff like that. It was good, I’m glad to hear that they wanted me back.”
“I was excited to make the 13-hour drive back,” he states sarcastically.
“Obviously (Coach) Bob (MacKinnon) has been here the whole time. Then you have guys like Jameel Warney, Kyle Collinsworth andManny Harris who have been here the whole year. Definitely still have some familiar pieces and the system was still the same. We went through a similar thing last year when I was here so you kind of get used to it, the seeing new faces and just trying to plug new guys in and keep playing the same way. It was a little bit different but at the same time it was a lot of familiar faces and it was pretty easy to get integrated back in.”
When the 25-year old was reacquired, he brought someone with him who he not only would continue call a teammate, but a friend in the form of 6’8” power forward J.J. Avila.
After two seasons each at Navy and Colorado State, Avila ventured overseas to Belgium and is now playing in his first D-League season. Coming from the Bulls to his home state of Texas, he had an inside track to his new destination. “I texted (Andre) and just asked how the coaches were and the team, all that stuff. He pretty much told me in a nutshell how it is. He wasn’t there that long at first but being there it helped me make the transition.”
“It was cool to have another guy come with me,” says Dawkins. “J.J. and I hung out a lot in Windy City, it was cool to have J.J. come to town with me. He’s an alright guy.”
A ringing endorsement echoed by Avila. J.J.: “For sure. Like he said we hung out a little bit in Windy City. Just having him have been there, I could ask questions about what the team does.”
Born in the Southern Texas city of McAllen, Avila has since played in Annapolis, Maryland, Fort Collins, Colorado, Chicago, Illinois and Leuven, Belgium. A return to the warmer (albeit infamously inconsistent) Texas weather was an added bonus for the fellow 25-year old. “It makes getting to the gym easier,” Avila admits before entering into the same scornful territory Dawkins has fun treading in. “I mean we play inside. If we played outside it would make more of a difference.”
That it would, that it would. Thankfully the guys do their work indoors and inside the walls of Dr Pepper Arena, where they get to play for the best crowd in the D-League, something Dawkins is appreciative of.
“I think it’s pretty cool. They get the kids involved, there’s a lot of noise. I think Byron (Bogar, Legends’ arena host) does a good job of keeping the crowd involved and keeping people invested in the game. I think it’s a lot of fun for families and kids to come out and not only get a chance to watch the game but they get to have fun and there’s a lot of things for kids to do. I think the whole experience is a lot of fun for a lot of people and that’s why so many people come out.”
“I feel like it’s louder here during the games,” Avila echoes. “There’s a lot of stuff going on during the games. It’s a nice experience. I really like that at the end of the games we’re able to interact with fans and sign autographs instead of just sitting at a table and not really being able to interact. This is a great place. It’s well put together and it’s run really well.”
Embracing the interactive extension with fans that the Legends organization takes pride in is important for players and these two players have a genuine affinity for meeting up with their esteemed followers after games, as Avila notes.
“Seeing us and not only being able to look up to us but to actually stand next to us and literally look up to us, that’s definitely a good experience for the young kids. It’s really cool, they should do that everywhere.”
With great fans come some very excitable ones as both guys recall some unique postgame encounters. “I think it’s strange when they ask us to sign their arms. I mean that’s permanent Sharpie, that’s not gonna come off anytime soon,” Avila laughs. “But hey, if their parents are cool with it.”
“Signing the body parts,” Dawkins agrees. “I had a kid that wanted me to sign his forehead once. I think I passed on that.”
Obviously sharing a lot of memories on the court, the two are great friends off the court. So what do these two professional basketball players like to do in their free time?
“We both like movies,” Andre points out. “When movies come out we like to go see them. That’s something we do a lot. Logan was pretty good!”
“Get Out was good, too!” J.J. chimes in.
Andre excitedly agrees. “I love movies, I love movies. We’ll probably go see King Kong (Kong: Skull Island) soon.”
The big question, however: To popcorn or not to popcorn?
Andre defiantly says no. “I don’t do popcorn.” A no from J.J. as well, “I just drink a lot of water.”
The Legends have had an up and down season, but recently there have been a whole lot of good things happening on the court and the team is in the midst of a playoff push with less than 10 games to go.
“I think it’s tough when you have so many moving pieces like we’ve had this year,” Dawkins, who appeared in four games with the Miami Heat in 2014, explains. “Guys coming in and out, guys getting called up and then coming back down, things like that. It’s tough to build a camaraderie with moving pieces like that. But for the last couple weeks we’ve pretty much had the same guys so it’s been a little easier. We’re starting to figure each other out and it’s starting to show on the court.”